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—as has what it reveals.
Uncle Sam is rolling out new designs for the reverse side of our coins. It's time to change the presidents on the front sides, too.
Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American HistoryBy John Fabian Witt (Free Press, 498 pp., $32) WAR IS ABOUT killing, maiming, and destroying. Yet in its midst men have sought heroism not only in savage acts of bravery but also in observing limits, in finding a way to affirm their and their adversaries’ common humanity, in the concept of honor as a higher expression of morality than is attainable even in peace.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama clash on nearly every important issue, from taxes to abortion to regulation to climate change. Yet both men adore their families, and they make sure we know it too. Throughout his administration, Obama has made reference to his daughters when defending women’s rights or describing a hopeful vision of the future; and the first endorsement that he received at the Democratic convention was, of course, from his wife, Michelle. Romney, for his part, made sure to effusively praise his wife, Ann, during his own acceptance speech.
ABOUT FIFTY YEARS AGO, in 1961, Jean-Paul Sartre complained about the state of Europe. “Europe is springing leaks everywhere,” he wrote. He went on to remark that “it simply is that in the past we made history and now history is being made of us.” Sartre was undoubtedly too pessimistic.
Editor’s Note: We’ll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home. Enjoy! The understated political intelligence and ideological depth of George Washington have been occasionally lost to history. No longer. City Journal | 52 min (13,055 words) What makes us human?
AT THE END OF MARCH, when Solicitor General Donald Verrilli appeared before the Supreme Court to make the case for the Affordable Care Act, he was widely perceived to have choked. When he approached the podium in the packed courtroom, the stakes could not have been higher. Verrilli was defending the Obama administration’s central domestic achievement, a reform that had consumed the White House for the better part of the president’s first term.
In making the legal case against Obamacare’s individual mandate, challengers have argued that the framers of our Constitution would certainly have found such a measure to be unconstitutional. Nevermind that nothing in the text or history of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause indicates that Congress cannot mandate commercial purchases. The framers, challengers have claimed, thought a constitutional ban on purchase mandates was too “obvious” to mention.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Mitt Romney is in the top .0025% of American income earners. That makes him poorer than Warren Buffett, George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, probably even than Jon Huntsman, the father of the junior Jon Huntsman, who, with all his money and a very decent record, scored virtually nothing in the Republican presidential sweepstakes. So the question about Romney is whether the electorate will resent his wealth or take it as an index of initiative, imagination and hard work. Also, I suppose, a real drive to be rich. No, not just rich, but downright wealthy, super-wea