What the people of Egypt have accomplished in recent weeks is nothing short of extraordinary. If you are born in America, you are born into freedom; most of us will never have to decide whether to go into the streets of our cities, risking imprisonment and worse, in order to demand our freedom. To watch the Egyptian people make this brave decision, and today to watch them triumph where so many other courageous people in similar situations have failed, has been exhilarating. The job of American policymakers is now to help the people of Egypt ensure that this victory does not evaporate.
The spread of democracy around the world is a natural American aspiration, but sometimes the sincerity of that aspiration is tested by the disruptions of democratization. The astonishing events in Egypt are such a test. They are so thrilling in their purpose and so unclear in their outcome. They provoke exhilaration and anxiety. But they demonstrate to a new generation that the democratic longing is itself one of history’s most powerful causes.
Last week, on the same day that Hu Jintao was dining with Barbra Streisand and Jackie Chan at the White House, there was another piece of less welcome news about China: According to a statement issued by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a network of activists, Hu’s government had recently disseminated a list of “requirements and prohibitions” for journalists during the coming year. The rules included a ban on the use of the phrase “civil society.” This revelation was not front-page news, of course—and, in the sense that it represented nothing out of the ordinary, it shouldn’t have been.
Today, The New Republic announces that Marty Peretz, who has been editor-in-chief of the magazine for 37 years, will become editor-in-chief emeritus. In addition, he will move from writing his blog, The Spine, to writing a column for the website. Marty’s stewardship of The New Republic has been the liveliest and the most intellectually consequential in the long history of the magazine. Though he will no longer be at the top of the masthead, he will remain in the thick of things.
Nothing is harder to achieve in a time of turbulence than clarity. In an inflamed moment, there may be no greater public service than the drawing of a distinction. In 1953, for example, Sidney Hook published a book called Heresy, Yes—Conspiracy, No. His subject was the threat posed by communism, and his argument was that an open society needed to distinguish between heresy, which was to be celebrated, and conspiracy, which was to be condemned and fought. In the aftermath of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, we could use a similar distinction. The one we propose is: Incivility, yes.
The education reform movement has taken some heavy blows recently. Washington, D.C. lost its excellent schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, the reform movement’s poster child, after her employer, Mayor Adrian Fenty, failed to win a second term—in part because teachers’ unions, unhappy with Rhee, shelled out $1 million to defeat the incumbent.
It wasn’t terribly hard to predict the public’s turn toward tea-hurling rage. When Barack Obama came to Washington, he could have hardly anticipated the size and scope of the Great Shellacking of 2010, but he certainly could see something like it coming. From the start of his presidency, his advisers privately warned that all economic downturns generate wild flashes of incumbent-melting heat. This awareness of a looming populist backlash could have suggested a different political course than one the White House chose.
No one expected the deficit commission’s report to get a warm welcome. But the reaction, particularly from liberal groups, to a draft version commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson released Wednesday was positively frigid. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that it amounted to telling “working Americans to drop dead.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi labeled it “simply unacceptable.” There is plenty wrong with the proposal, but does it actually deserve the sneering, dismissive response it is receiving? Not even close.
Franklin Foer: "The Passion of Joshcka Fischer" by Paul Berman. Intellectual history can be thrilling! Paul is the heir to Edmund Wilson, another alum on the magazine. And this is the piece that unlocks the politics of the late twentieth century. "The Choke Artist" by Jason Zengerle. This is a baroque story about America's most famous doctor that keeps twisting and twisting. Bizarre and completely gripping. "Pin Prick" by Ryan Lizza. Ryan essentially destroyed George Allen's political career with this piece.
In a 1998 editorial that was otherwise skeptical of campaign finance reform, The Wall Street Journal wrote, “If there’s one thing all the players agree on it’s the need for better disclosure of contributions and a crackdown on violators.” And who, indeed, could object to the principle—more necessary than ever after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United paved the way for corporations to get more involved in funding elections—that voters should know who is paying for political ads? Well, it turns out a lot of people object—including The Wall Street Journal’s editorial writers circa 2010