Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. In early 2010, Karl Rove convened a group of businessmen for lunch at a private club in Dallas. The guests included some of the richest and most influential people in Texas. T. Boone Pickens, the corporate raider from Amarillo, was there, as was Harlan Crow, the prodigal son of Trammell Crow, the most prominent real estate developer in the country in his day.
Last week marked the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the British throne. The government has already declared a four day public holiday in June, during which Her Majesty will lead a flotilla of a thousand boats along the Thames and a chain of fiery beacons will be lit across the United Kingdom. For a country in recession and at conflict with the European Union over its right to govern its own finances, this offers us a unique opportunity to reassert confidence and historical identity.
On a warm Saturday in early July, an employee at the Maryland Historical Society placed a call to the police. He had noticed two visitors behaving strangely—a young, tall, handsome man with high cheekbones and full lips and a much older, heavier man, with dark, lank hair and a patchy, graying beard. The older man had called in advance to give the librarians a list of boxes of documents he wanted to see, saying that he was researching a book. At some point during their visit, the employee saw the younger man slip a document into a folder.
At the public screening of The Descendants I saw, there was gentle but earnest applause as the film ended. It’s merited, and I suspect it came from a middle-aged audience that is weary of noise and violence in our films, and respectful of anyone prepared to deal candidly with family material. That doesn’t mean this is softer than PG. It’s an R film, with a lot of rough language, most of it coming from a ten-year-old and a seventeen-year-old.
When I was an undergraduate at Oxford University my tutor—a deeply eccentric but profoundly decent man who claimed to both “loathe this century” and be surprised by the fact that he had lived to see it—had a map on his wall. The map showed the world. The continents were outlined in black on a white field. Shaded red were all of Britain’s former overseas possessions, from India to swathes of Africa to North America.
Colonel Roosevelt By Edmund Morris (Random House, 766 pp., $35) I. The reputation of Theodore Roosevelt has become as bloated as the man himself. No one of course can deny his fundamental significance in American history, as a central player in the transitions from republic to empire, laissez-faire to regulated capitalism, congressional government to imperial presidency. It should come as no surprise that professional historians still pay close attention to his career. What is surprising is the cult-like status that Roosevelt enjoys outside the academy, especially in Washington.
The Escorial: Art and Power in the Renaissance By Henry Kamen (Yale University Press, 291 pp., $35) The historian Henry Kamen has spent a distinguished career presenting what he calls a “revisionist” history of early modern Spain.
On Saturday night, April 24, 2010, five days before John Edwards’s mistress Rielle Hunter sat down with Oprah to talk about the by-then-infamous sex tape and other embarrassments that had destroyed his political career, the former presidential candidate showed up at the West End Wine Bar in downtown Durham, North Carolina. It was around ten o’clock, and Edwards wanted a glass of wine after finishing dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant. When he got to the door, Edwards was disappointed to learn the bar was closed for a private event.
Last week at a forum on local government’s fiscal straits, Mayor Elaine Walker of Bowling Green, KY, supplied her top desired federal recession response: “For us,” she said, “the biggest thing is… the Community Development Block Grant….In Bowling Green, we use it for everything.” Said Walker: CDBG could be a critical anti-recession measure because it allows local governments “not to balance [their] budgets but to… get money into the local economy.” CDBG—a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address development needs particularly in urban or struggling locales--hasn’t
On a sunny Saturday in New Hampshire not long ago, Dennis Kucinich laid out for me the path that would lead him to the presidency. "I think what will happen," he explained, "is that the tremendous demand for integrity and authenticity is going to cause my candidacy to emerge powerfully in the closing weeks of the primary campaign to change it all." The two of us were sitting in the backseat of an SUV driven by an aide, shuttling between campaign events.