Jonathan Cohn

Senior Editor

Going to the Matt

So this is how serious the controversy over Karl Rove has gotten for the White House: On Monday, Press Secretary Scott McClellan actually had to dodge a question from Fox News. It came from correspondent Carl Cameron: “Does the president continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?” Relatively speaking, it was one of the softer inquiries McClellan fielded in an ugly briefing that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank described as “perhaps the worst” of McClellan’s two-year tenure.

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Health Inspection

Poor Wal-Mart is feeling a little bit, well, picked upon. Sure, the company just generated $285 billion in sales and $10 billion in profits. And, yes, it is rapidly expanding into such far-flung places as China. But, here in the United States, Wal-Mart's growth plans have suddenly run into political opposition from labor unions and liberal politicians--who, according to the company, aren't being fair.While critics have long attacked Wal-Mart for everything from destroying mom- and-pop stores to exploiting cheap foreign labor, the focus of the present controversy is health insurance.

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Losing Hope

Not so long ago in a political galaxy that only seems far away, George W.

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It is no great secret that Democrats have been losing political fights over abortion for a while. And it's no great secret why. Although a majority of Americans agree with liberals that abortion should be legal, the right has succeeded in starting political debates that end up making liberals look like extremists. One method has been to focus on partial-birth abortion, a practice that most Americans oppose because it seems cruel.

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Kill Phil

Things look relatively good for the Democrats right now. Social Security privatization is practically dead, Tom DeLay is actually on the defensive, and President Bush's approval rating is below 50 percent in many polls. But then there is Phil. Phil is the cartoon star of a new political advertising campaign to preserve the filibuster--the parliamentary maneuver that allows members of the U.S. Senate to delay votes indefinitely and that has, for the last few months, enabled Democrats to prevent the full Senate from voting on a handful of conservative Bush judicial nominees.

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Tax Alternative

Alan Greenspan's appearance before Congress early this month provoked plenty of criticism. And rightly so. The longtime chairman of the Federal Reserve had been asked to comment on the government's failure to control budget deficits and the economic danger those deficits pose. But Greenspan was no innocent bystander to this act of gross fiscal negligence. In 2001, back when the budget was still in surplus, Greenspan urged Congress to enact President Bush's proposed tax cuts; two years later, even after those surpluses were gone, Greenspan endorsed yet another round of Bush tax reductions.

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Hey, Big Spender

IN A CLASSIC EPISODE OF “The Simpsons” that first aired in 1993, Grampa Simpson, the doddering family patriarch, unexpectedly starts receiving checks in the mail. But, rather than ponder the source of his good fortune, he just shrugs and takes the money. Eventually somebody asks, “Didn’t you wonder why you were getting checks for absolutely nothing?” Grampa answers, “I figured ’cause the Democrats are in power again.” No, this was not a ham-handed effort to channel Fox News dogma through the network’s famous cartoon show.

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Career Fair

In my house, there is no debate about which gender is better at math and science. Clearly the women are. I have an undergraduate degree in government and emotional scars from my high school calculus course. My wife has a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics, a doctorate in operations research, and a tenure-track job at one of the nation's top universities. I would like to think that crafting the sentences you are now reading takes some intelligence. But don't expect me to solve discrete optimization problems using binary variables that involve multiple simultaneous decisions.

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A Little Trim

Republicans complain that they are unfairly caricatured as heartless corporate lobbyists who get their jollies yanking health insurance away from little old ladies in wheelchairs. Fine, I say. So how do they explain Haley Barbour?Most of Washington remembers Barbour as the former Republican Party chairman and a consummate K Street insider. But lately, Barbour has been gaining a different sort of notoriety in Mississippi, where he became governor in 2004.

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Second Look

It looks like I'm wrong about which candidate benefited from tonight's debate. And, boy, am I glad.The commentators on television seem virtually unanimous. On CNN, Jeff Greenfield thinks Kerry looked "presidential"; on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough calls it "Kerry's best performance ever." But maybe the most telling verdict comes from the Fox News panel. When host Brit Hume asks his guests which candidate would gain in the polls after tonight, non-ideologue Ceci Connolly and centrist Morton Kondracke both say Kerry, while Bill Kristol refuses to register an opinion.

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