Daniel Webster

The President’s speech last night was beautiful but ultimately, a magnificent punt. It was brave for Obama to crisply dismiss the idea that partisan rhetoric is what drove Jared Loughner to kill, given how much currency that idea now has among the bien-pensant kinds of people who elected him.

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First, Entanglements. As we sat around searching for the right word, a friend remarked that Entanglements abraded even his own frankly coarsened sensibilities. Why? Entanglements, after all, neatly summarizes the foreign policy challenges to which one administration after another has provided no adequate response. But the word also has a toxic resonance. Casting a glance backward to George Washington’s farewell address, my colleague knew the admonition against foreign entanglements, and its historical abuses, all too well.

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Click here to read letters by Fred Kaplan, Michael Kazin, John Stauffer, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The following is Sean Wilentz's response to their letters. I wrote a 25,000 word essay about Abraham Lincoln, not Barack Obama. My aim was to review some of the most prominent scholarly books interpreting Lincoln on the occasion of his bicentennial, and to offer a different view of Lincoln as, first and foremost, a democratic politician.

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The fault is in the speakers, and in the hearers, too.

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