Obama’s in Good Company: All Presidents End Up Unpopular
August 20, 2011

In Washington, on both left and right, a new piece of conventional wisdom is hardening into place: Barack Obama’s presidency is slowly collapsing under the burdens of a bad economy, a rudderless foreign policy, and confusion about how the man who once twinkled with charisma wants to change the country. Even if the president manages to get re-elected, his chance to “win the future,” pundits agree, is probably over.

The Sesquicentennial Disaster
August 15, 2011

[Guest post by Nathan Pippenger] I just want to add to Matt’s smart post below that the timing could hardly be worse for a campaign against Obama’s patriotism. I can hardly think of a more disheartening presidential campaign than one in which the GOP picks a white Southerner who enjoys toying with secession and pits his patriotism against that of our first black president, a man whose professed idol is Lincoln. All during the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Perry evidently thinks there’s something funny about the idea of secession.

Telling War Stories
June 30, 2011

I. On a hot Saturday in September 1962, I crowded with my brothers and cousins into my aunt and uncle’s station wagon and drove off to war. Passing through our county in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, we headed toward Charles Town, West Virginia, then crossed over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers at Harpers Ferry into Maryland. We had traveled through the familiar historic landscape of Stonewall Jackson’s skirmishes, Mosby’s raids, Sheridan’s ride, and John Brown’s capture and hanging to witness the centennial re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam.

Romney Death Watch
May 04, 2011

The chairman of Mitt Romney's New Hampshire campaign in 2008 is jumping ship: The New Hampshire Republican who oversaw Romney's 2008 campaign in the Granite State says he's no longer sure what Romney stands for. ... In early March, the former Massachusetts governor gave a major speech at a Lincoln Day dinner in New Hampshire. His performance was later dubbed"Romney 3.0." The first version, or Romney 1.0, was the candidate who successfully ran for governor in 2002 as a social moderate who touted his business acumen.

Studies Show
March 02, 2011

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement By David Brooks (Random House, 424 pp., $27)   Why would David Brooks, the frequently interesting and reasonable-even-when-you-disagree-with-him columnist for The New York Times, write a book offering the latest insights from brain research? And why would he do it by adopting the method pioneered by Rousseau in Émile—that is, by inventing fictional characters whose adventures in life are meant to illuminate larger questions of individual development and social obligation?

December 23, 2010

The Decline and Fall of the American Republic By Bruce Ackerman (Belknap Press, 270 pp., $25.95) Bruce Ackerman, a professor at Yale University Law School, does not mean that the United States has collapsed like the Roman Empire, or that it will. His title refers to the American constitutional traditions of limited government—what the Founders and some modern legal scholars call the “republican” form of government. Ackerman thinks that the presidency has burst these limits: it has become too powerful, and eventually it will be seized by an ideological zealot who will abuse executive powers.

Crime Conundrum
December 22, 2010

In December 2008, just a few months after the U.S. financial system imploded, New York City was hit by a flurry of bank robberies. On the Monday before New Year’s, four banks were attacked in an hour-and-a-half; one daytime raid took place just steps from the Lincoln Center in downtown Manhattan. The week before, San Diego had seen four bank holdups in a single day. Criminologists wondered if the holiday spree was the first sign of a looming crime wave in recession-battered America.

December 06, 2010

What we're reading this Monday... Pittsburgh’s first ever comprehensive plan--its “game plan for growth” now under development--is actually a blueprint for how to thoughtfully reorient a city that’s lost 50 percent of its population since the 1950s. “Eds and meds”--aka universities and hospitals--are seen as a bulwark for urban prosperity. However, as non-profits they don’t pay property taxes.

Blanche Lincoln In Autumn
October 25, 2010

A last minute ad acknowledges that she's an underdog but chalks it up to principle: A couple thoughts. First of all, have you noticed that whenever a politician attributes some sentiment to "the experts" -- in this case, that Lincoln is going to lose -- that sentiment is either a straw man that experts don't believe, or is in fact utterly correct?

Out of the Margins
October 16, 2010

Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South By Stephanie McCurry (Harvard University Press, 449 pp., $35) We are going to be hearing a great deal about the Civil War. November 6 will mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election; December 20, the secession of South Carolina, the first Southern state to withdraw from the Union; April 12, the firing on Fort Sumter; July 21, the First Battle of Manassas, the first major engagement of the war. States North and South have established sesquicentennial commissions, which are planning a wide range of observances.