Man Versus Wild
March 16, 2011
The earthquake and potential nuclear catastrophe in Japan have brought home a set of questions that have haunted philosophers for hundreds of years—and have played an important role in American politics for over a century. They have to do with the relationship between humanity and nature—not nature as “the outdoors,” but as the obdurate bio-geo-physiochemical reality in which human beings and other animals dwell. To what extent does nature set limits on human possibilities?
The New Middle East
February 10, 2011
The president has found his fall guy, his collective fall guy, for his failure to see that several sort-of U.S. allies were in terrible trouble: The intelligence community, we are now told, was to blame. But the truth is that, if anyone is at fault for misreading the Arab world, it is Barack Obama himself. Not that many other presidents and their administrations have seen these realities clearly. (John Foster Dulles, secretary of state to Dwight Eisenhower, believed he could transform the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser from a Soviet satrap into a pro-Western republic.
January 27, 2011
Washington—Be ready for the paradoxical phase of Barack Obama's presidency. Many things will not be exactly as they appear. Paradox No. 1: Because over the next two years he can't get sweeping, progressive legislation through the Republican-led House, Obama will be doing far more to make the core progressive case that energetic government is essential to prosperity, growth, and equity. Paradox No. 2: His talk about the new, the bold, and the innovative is in the oldest of political traditions.
Obama At His Best
January 26, 2011
I thought that my reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union speech was colored by having spent the day listening to Chicago mayoral candidates talk about pensions and potholes, or by the two Scotches I downed afterwards, but upon rereading the speech this morning, I’m once again convinced that this was Obama’s best speech as president.
Why I Miss President Eisenhower
January 20, 2011
As preparation for President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, I’ve reread two noted presidential speeches delivered days apart, half a century ago. I need not dwell on JFK’s inaugural; many of us know its stirring cadences by heart. Its cardinal virtue is courage; its mood, audacity; its ambition, not just global but galactic. It is a young man’s speech, self-consciously so. Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address is the surprise. It is remembered, of course, for its warning against the “acquisition of unwarranted influence ...
Are Republicans Serious About Fixing the Economy?
January 06, 2011
It has been widely reported that economic growth and job creation will be the principal focus of President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, and the president’s comments in recent weeks add credibility to those reports. At first blush this sounds promising: Not only would a speech along these lines track public concerns, but it would also invoke a goal that both parties ostensibly share. Most conservatives say they are gung-ho for growth; most liberals understand that without it, not much else is possible.
Yes, We Hate Congress
December 20, 2010
I recommend an excellent essay from political scientist Josh Huder about why Congress is so unpopular, both in general and right now. As he notes, it has to do with the nature of the institution itself, not the (mis)behavior of its Members: “disapproval is built into the institution’s DNA.” Best cite: to a study that shows passage of major legislation actually tends to hurt Congressional approval, although note that the finding there is not uncontested.
Neoconservatism long ago ceased to have any meaningful ideological difference with just plain old conservatism. Perhaps the one remaining vestigial trait of the ideological tendency is a mania for forming committees and stuffing them with progenies (of both the ideological and the literal sort). The glory days of neoconservatism in the 1970s revolved around such committees as the Committee on the Present Danger and the Coalition for a Democratic Majority.
Democrats Discover Their Base
March 21, 2010
Health care reform would not have happened without the political skill and tenacity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or without the last minute round of arm twisting by President Barack Obama. But equally important was the energetic public campaign that Obama and liberal and left-wing organizations waged on behalf of it. This campaign altered the chemistry of the debate within Congress and among Democrats.
Repealing Health Care Reform
March 21, 2010
Dana Milbank is turning into the Washington Post's in-house American historian: "This is the largest tax bill in history," the Republican leader fumed. The reform "is unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted and wastefully financed." And that wasn't all. This "cruel hoax," he said, this "folly" of "bungling and waste," compared poorly to the "much less expensive" and "practical measures" favored by the Republicans. "We must repeal," the GOP leader argued. "The Republican Party is pledged to do this." That was Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon in a September 1936 campaign speech.