Bob Kerrey

Editor’s Note: We’ll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home. Enjoy! Mickey Mouse in Bollywood: An exclusive look at Disney's attempt to conquer the Indian market. Caravan Magazine | 44 min (11,050 words) A decade has passed since Bob Kerrey left the Senate. Now, armed with new idealism, he wants to go back to Washington. Can he matter again? New York Times | 14 min (3,615 words) The next golden age of oil is here.

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Plenty of liberals and other Americans of good conscience no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when AmeriTrade founder and Chicago Cubs co-owner Joe Ricketts distanced himself yesterday from the $10 million racially-tinged Jeremiah Wright ad blitz that the New York Times had reported he was considering buying. But it would be a mistake to consider that any sort of significant victory against the disproportionate power wielded by super PACs.

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Race Man

After several weeks of swooning, news reports are finally being filed about the gap between Senator Barack Obama’s promises of a pure, soul-cleansing “new” politics and the calculated, deeply dishonest conduct of his actually-existing campaign.

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I never wanted to see Barack Obama elected president because of his race. In fact, I was hoping that, in 2008, we might actually make choices based not on questions of identity, but on our country's global isolation as well as the deliberately wrought domestic inequality of which Republicans are so proud. Obama's opponents and critics have convinced me otherwise. The ugliness of their rhetoric and the seediness of their tactics have made it obvious just how racially wounded we remain and how healing that wound may be the single most important duty we have to each other.

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I guess we'll never know exactly what Bob Kerrey was thinking when, over the weekend, he referred to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama" and mentioned his Muslim father and grandmother, or when he referred to Obama's childhood school in Indonesia as a "secular madrassa" on CNN yesterday. But maybe that's exactly the point. You have to admit there's a certain tactical brilliance at work here either way: Using people like Kerrey as surrogates--which is to say, people with a reputation for slightly offbeat pronouncements--means never having to say you're sorry.

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The Boss

Robert Shrum, John Kerry's chief strategist and speechwriter, is considered the poet laureate of populism--the man who injected the phrase "the people versus the powerful" into Democratic vernacular. Over his 35-year career, Shrum has been responsible for many of the memorable lines to leave the mouths of such Democratic eminences as Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, and Al Gore. But one of his most telling speeches won't ever be collected in an anthology of great oratory. For many years, Shrum plied his trade on behalf of Richard Gephardt.

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REPUBLICANS SAY THEY ARE dismayed by the partisanship of the 9/11 Commission and, if you define partisanship as criticism of the Bush administration--the working definition on much of the right--they are exactly right. But, if you define partisanship the way it's traditionally understood--as placing party interests above national ones--then the 9/11 Commission hasn't been very partisan at all. And that's what really irks the GOP: They're dismayed that the 9/11 Commission isn't partisan enough.

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The Operator

On May 28, George Tenet delivered for the Bush administration. Nearly two months had passed since the fall of Baghdad. U.S. forces had turned up no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, raising the specter of gross misjudgment on the part of the U.S. intelligence community and allegations of presidential dishonesty. But, that day, the CIA announced that two trailers found in northern Iraq the previous month were actually mobile biological-agent production facilities.

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Premium Idea

If the liberals on the just-dissolved National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare are to be believed, the reform plan pushed by its chairman, Democratic Senator John Breaux, and backed both by commission Republicans and by Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, is about as evil as health policy can get. "They're jeopardizing the health and welfare of frail old people," says former Medicare program chief Bruce Vladeck. "These guys don't want to protect senior citizens from the industry," says Democratic Representative Jim McDermott of Washington.

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  "I can't believe we've lost it all," said a bleary-eyed Bill Clinton in the early morning hours before the polls opened for the New Hampshire primary. He had gathered around him in the Days Hotel in Manchester his political directorate for the unveiling of the last tracking poll numbers. Before the story in the Star broke about Gennifer Flowers, his numbers had climbed steadily to a 10-point margin over his nearest rival, Paul Tsongas, a native son from neighboring Massachusetts.

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