Calvin Coolidge

“The chief business of the American people is business,” Calvin Coolidge famously said. But not all business is the same: The policies that assist some may injure others, and the organizations that represent different kinds of business often work at cross-purposes. This reality, which the Republican mantra of “job creators” obscures, could be the key to determining the success of President Obama's second term.

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The unlikely president who set the precedent of treating natural disasters as a proving ground.

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Which past president stood up most stalwartly for the anti-tax, anti-welfare, anti-union principles that animate today’s conservative movement? Of course, most activists on the right would confer that honor on Ronald Reagan.

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Which past president stood up most stalwartly for the anti-tax, anti-welfare, anti-union principles that animate today’s conservative movement? Of course, most activists on the right would confer that honor on Ronald Reagan.

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Pundits and, for that matter, the Obama campaign were right to ding Mitt Romney’s foreign policy address Tuesday for banging the table instead of putting anything substantive on it. But what could Romney do? Obama has given him almost nothing to work with.

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Strategist and Scourge

George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.

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When Rick Perry lays down his head on Saturday night, he’s going to be one tired Texan. By then, the consensus GOP front-runner will have endured a 48-hour gauntlet of events in Orlando, Florida, including a televised presidential candidates’ debate, an ideological beauty contest sponsored by the American Conservative Union, and a state party straw poll. Moreover, all this is occurring in a state that will hold a crucially timed 2012 primary, is considered a must-win for Republicans in the general election, and has demographic characteristics that could pose a real challenge to Perry.

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Doom!

Mitt Romney has shed the dark blue suit, white shirt, and pale blue tie of his 2008 campaign for an open-neck tattersall shirt with its sleeves rolled up. His sideburns are graying, and his eyes are lined, but he still sports a boyish grin and radiates the can-do enthusiasm of a man who is promising to turn the country around the way he once turned around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

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It was not so long ago that George W. Bush seemed to embody the future of conservatism. He had entered office amid doubts about his rightful place there, but pressed ahead nonetheless with grand ambitions, conducting an ideologically potent foreign war while also promising much at home. Which led some to wonder: Was this lavish spender really a conservative? Bush’s champions rushed in to explain.

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I have to admit I don't know very much about Rick Perry yet. I don't have a strong feel for how radical his beliefs are, and how far to the right he intends to position himself in the campaign. Andrew Romano has a good scoop on Perry's total opposition to Medicare and Social Security, at least as federal programs: I spent the better part of an hour talking to Perry about his political philosophy and policy prescriptions back in the fall, right before he released Fed Up!, his first book.

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