Henry Ford

If Mitt Romney’s association with Bain Capital ends up sinking his presidential campaign, he’s unlikely to appreciate the irony. But, if he needs consolation, he might consider seeking solace in American history. The fact is that no successful businessman has ever been a successful president, and only a few have even been serious contenders for the job. This might seem odd, given Americans’ long romance with wealthy entrepreneurs and the enterprises they build.

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President Obama spoke today about economic inequality and the plight of the middle class more forcefully than he ever has before. He gave the speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, site of Theodore Roosevelt's "New Nationalism" speech in 1910.

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Steve Jobs was the greatest manufacturer of consumer products of his age. His marketing vision put him on par with Henry Ford, and his grasp of the aesthetic component to industrial design far surpassed Ford’s. But Jobs differed from Ford in one significant way. His surname to the contrary, he did not create a lot of American jobs.I raise this point not to single out Jobs, whose tendency to “offshore” manufacturing jobs followed economic imperatives not of his making. He did what his contemporaries in America’s younger and more flexible manufacturing companies did. Rather, my purpose is to illustrate the perplexing failure even of one of America’s most stunningly successful companies to provide domestic employment on anything like the scale that America was once able to take for granted.

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Threading through the history of the United States is a long line of reviled newcomers. In the 1850s, Irish and German Catholics were vilified by the Know Nothing movement. In the 1890s, Italians were subjected to frequent lynchings. Jews of the 1930s were excoriated by Father Charles Coughlin, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Ku Klux Klan. In the years following September 11, America’s 2.6 million Muslims have often found themselves facing similar kinds of hostility.

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This is the most recent item in a debate about humanitarian intervention.

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First, Do No Harm

This is the most recent item in a debate about humanitarian intervention.

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Stick Stuck

ONE OF THE items in “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling,” the exhibition recently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, was a short film, made in 1930, called “Houses While You Wait.” A grainy black-and-white screen opens up with a view of a vacant suburban lot. A delivery truck rolls up, filled with wall-size metal panels and other materials. A retinue of somewhat scruffy white men in baggy pants unloads the cargo and deposits it on the site. They scurry around at that ridiculous, fast-forward silent-film speed.

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Mein Buch

Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life By Timothy W. Ryback ( Knopf, 304 pp., $24.95) Few buildings on Capitol Hill are grander than the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, with its great stairway, pillared façade, and magnificent domed reading room. And few rooms in that building seem more ordinary, even banal, than the rare book storage area where 1,200 books from the collection of Adolf Hitler stand tightly packed on steel shelves.

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Paint It Black

Robert L. Johnson came to the Bush administration's attention when it needed him most. The cause of the White House's duress was an annoyingly munificent collection of millionaires, headed by Bill Gates Sr., who had banded together to oppose President Bush's plan to abolish the estate tax. In newspaper ads and press conferences, they held forth on the obligation of the wealthy to give back to society. So effectively did they seize the moral high ground that even the most fervent opponents of the estate tax resigned themselves to it.

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Pox Populi

United We Stand: How We Can Take Back Our Country by Ross Perot (Hyperion, 115 pp., $4.95 paper) Not for Sale at Any Price: How We Can Save America for Our Children by Ross Perot (Hyperion, 158 pp., $5.95 paper)  On November 7, 1969, a week before the huge antiwar moratorium demonstrations, The New York Times ran a full-page advertisement in support of the Nixon administration's policy in Vietnam. A similar advertisement appeared two days later; and then, on November 15, the Times reported that the pro-Nixon advertisers had blanketed the country with 25 million postcards backing the president,

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