Liberalism and the American Exception
March 25, 2010

Blogging at World Affairs, David Rieff has written several recent posts in which he explores, and severely criticizes, the idea of American exceptionalism and its influence on the conduct of American foreign policy. Along the way he also has some flattering things to say about my own examination of the idea in several posts over the past nine months. But he also voices some concerns about my position. As he writes, Linker is only willing to call for [the] modification [of exceptionalist thinking], not its abandonment.

Closing Arguments
March 21, 2010

(Click here to follow all the latest developments via Jonathan Cohn's Twitter feed.) My Saturday began on the West lawn of Capitol Hill, where conservative activists were mounting one final, desperate effort to block health care reform. They came by the thousands, carrying flags and pushing strollers, in a demonstration of genuine grassroots fervor. They chanted “Kill the Bill,” over and over again, in a vaguely menacing tone that, perhaps, foretold a bit of ugliness to come. But the most remarkable thing about the demonstration was how little it had to do with health care.

A Blue Dog Dream
March 03, 2010

So, rather inevitably, the fate of health care reform now rests largely with a group of Blue Dog Democrats in the House. More specifically, the question is: Can Nancy Pelosi convince a small fraction of her caucus to endorse the Senate version of the bill, even though they initially rejected the House’s iteration? She’ll need to flip these members to her side because the abortion provisions in the Senate bill will necessarily cost her some votes. The media chatter is all about these members' political calculus: How unpopular is health care reform in their districts?

Keith Hennessey Should Cut His Losses
February 10, 2010

Former Bush economic advisor Keith Hennessey is back for more. His first defense of Bush fiscal responsibility was highly unpersuasive, and his follow-up, unbelievably, appears to be even worse. For instance, I pointed out that the prospect that the 2001 CBO budget projections of endless, growing surpluses would prove inflated were not some "hindsight analysis" but a probability Democrats constantly emphasized and Republicans repeatedly dismissed. I cited a TNR editorial and Paul Krugman's book, in addition to Bill Clinton's 2000 convention speech. Here's Hennessey's response: Mr.

The Accountable Presidency
February 01, 2010

Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush By John Yoo (Kaplan, 544 pp., $29.95) Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills (Penguin, 288 pp., $27.95)   I. In December 2008, Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, “If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer included a reference to a military authority that President Bush did not exercise.

Lay Off The Senate Moderates
January 27, 2010

Brian Beutler reports that House leaders are prepared to vote for the Senate health care bill if the Senate can agree to make changes via the reconciliation process. Matthew Yglesias gets mad: Unfortunately, the always troublesome “centrist” Democratic Senators seem prepared to resume their customary role as the villains whose consistently egomaniacal and self-destructive behavior has badly damaged the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans, rendered the president ineffective, and landed themselves and their copartisans in a bucket of electoral hot water.

Making No Cents
December 16, 2009

President Obama has taken his fair share of flak for not following through on campaign promises--from renegotiating NAFTA to reforming immigration to ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But there’s a slightly more obscure pledge--one he made at a March 2008 town hall meeting in Greensburg, Pennsylvania--that he may want to revisit. “I will seriously consider eliminating the penny,” then-candidate Obama said, in response to a voter who questioned the wisdom of producing coins so worthless that vending machines (and some stores) no longer accept them.

What A City Needs
September 04, 2009

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City By Anthony Flint (Random House, 256 pp., $27)   For urbanists and others, the battle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs was the great titanic struggle of the twentieth century. Like the bout between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, their conflict has magnified significance, as the two figures have become symbols. Jacobs is the secular saint of street life, representing a humane approach to urban planning grounded in the messy interactions of the neighborhood.

Wasting Away in Hooverville
March 18, 2009

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression By Amity Shlaes (HarperCollins, 464 pp., $26.95) Herbert Hoover By William E. Leuchtenburg (Times Books, 208 pp., $22) Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America By Adam Cohen (Penguin Press, 372 pp., $29.95) A generation ago, the total dismissal of the New Deal remained a marginal sentiment in American politics. Ronald Reagan boasted of having voted for Franklin Roosevelt. Neoconservatives long maintained that American liberalism had gone wrong only in the 1960s.

Washington Diarist
December 03, 2008

A few weeks ago, the prophet Elijah appeared to me. It was almost dusk, and he took the form of a comely woman on P Street. She wore a black dress that tightly clasped her waist and sky-high black shoes with formidable fastenings. Her dark hair was pulled back vehemently into a ponytail, and drops of sun-specked metal hung from her ears. Most remarkable of all, she was dancing. A man in a dinner jacket was her partner, but he acted mainly as a pivot for her ballroom brazenness on the sidewalk, which was executed with an admirable mixture of discipline and abandon.