Whether it is Jimmy Carter watching more than four hundred movies in the White House cinema or Barack Obama telling people that the flamboyant killer Omar on HBO’s “The Wire” is his favorite character, presidents have long engaged with pop culture. The content of that pop culture, however, has changed dramatically over the years.
Bush-Cheney Administration alumni have risen from the ashes to denounce President Obama’s decision to force Congress to play its constitutional role in a decision to use military force in Syria. It is, they insist, yet another surrender of power by a feckless President presiding over the degradation of the Executive Branch itself, the empowerment of which was one of their central goals.
Memo to Romney-Ryan speechwriters John McConnell, Lindsay Hayes, and Stuart Stevens: Watch your back around this guy Matthew Scully! Scully, who with McConnell is credited with writing Paul Ryan’s crowd-pleasing convention speech, is a former White House speechwriter and author of a well-regarded book, Dominion, that urges humans to show greater respect for the animal kingdom. The animal Scully most emulates is the black widow spider.
Last month, I had the privilege of speaking at commencement exercises for the health professional schools at Nova Southeastern University. It was a homecoming of sorts: I spent most of my childhood in South Florida, about fifteen miles from the campus. But a lot has changed. When I left in the late 1980s, the sports/concert arena where I spoke did not exist. Neither did the hockey team that plays there. As for NSU, I remember it as a small, relatively obscure school, with maybe a few thousand students overall and no significant presence in health care.
Eisenhower in War and Peace By Jean Edward Smith (Random House, 950 pp., $40) The histories we write say as much about our own times as about those we study. The current polarization in Washington has prompted a nostalgia for parties that were less ideologically uniform and more prone to compromise. Fashionable “pragmatism” has similarly infected thinking about foreign policy, as the fallout from the Iraq war lingers in the air a decade on.
Elizabeth Warren is poised to thrash Scott Brown in their marquee U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, and the reason is simple: Women voters love her.