Ceding the Court
July 05, 2010

Washington—Here's when you know something momentous has happened to our struggle over the Supreme Court's role: When Republicans largely give up talking about "judicial activism," when liberals speak of the importance of democracy and deference to elected officials, and when judges are no longer seen as baseball umpires. All these things transpired during Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, though you might not know that unless you saw some of the most thoughtful blogs or news stories.

Birch and Barry
June 21, 2010

Washington—Barack Obama's campaign promise of change did not include a pledge to transform American conservatism.

An Energy Bill's Coming In July. But What Kind?
June 07, 2010

Last Friday, Harry Reid sent a letter to various Senate committee chairmen telling them he wanted to get an energy bill rolling in July. BP's poisoning of the Gulf has apparently made energy reform look a lot more palatable than it did a few months ago. But Reid's letter was blurry on the details: He never said whether he wanted legislation that capped carbon emissions. An "energy bill," after all, could mean anything from the big Kerry-Lieberman climate bill to a scaled-down bill that just cracked down on oil companies and maybe added some funds for alternative energy sources.

How They Did It (Part Five)
May 26, 2010

This is the final installment of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. (Click here to read parts one, two, three, and four. And click here to subscribe to TNR.) Mass. Panic Nancy Pelosi was in the Old Executive Office Building when one of her advisers gave her a message: Obama wanted her next door, in the White House. Martha Coakley was about to lose the election for Ted Kennedy’s old seat and, with it, the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority. Obama had summoned Harry Reid, too, and together they discussed options.

The Day In Epistemic Closure
April 14, 2010

Conservatives are finally striking back in the great epistemic closure debate! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me explain. Libertarian-ish blogger Julian Sanchez has been writing about the conservative movement's descent into epistemic closure, or a hermetically-sealed mental world in which only information provided by organs of the conservative movement is trusted.

The Great Epistemic Closure Debate
April 09, 2010

Julian Sanchez has been writing about the right's tendency toward "epistemic closure" -- an intellectual world in which the only trustworthy sources of information are those within your movement. Sanchez is libertarian-ish, but clearly argues that this is primarily a right-wing phenomenon: I’m often tempted to pluck some instances from the left just to show how very fair-minded and above the fray I am.

The Repeal Fantasy
March 23, 2010

Looks like an uphill fight even within the Republican Party, reports Suzy Khimm: Before the health care vote, the GOP position was one of all-out opposition to the bill—House Republican leader John Boehner described the legislation as "armageddon" that "will ruin our country." But Guthrie is not the only conservative expressing qualms about his party's stampede to reject the legislation outright—raising questions about whether Republicans can pull off a "throw-the-whole-thing out" strategy. Sen.

Tavis Smiley's Backstep: Why Not Just Have a Party?
March 18, 2010

Not long ago, Tavis Smiley did something I would not have expected, which is rare. He announced that he was discontinuing his annual State of the Black Union conferences. These have been powwows where the Usual Suspects are invited to make the usual points: roughly decrying racism while genuflecting to the radical idea that people are responsible for repairing their own culture too.

Health Care Pollyanna Update
March 18, 2010

MSNBC's First Read reports, "We’re told that the White House and House Dem leaders are fewer than five votes away from 216." I have always thought that the key is to get within four or five votes. Once you're there, you're very likely to win. Why? Because then the White House and Democratic leaders can concentrate all their attention on a few holdouts. And they can make an irresistible argument: If you don't vote for this bill, you will be responsible for the political and moral disaster that ensues. I just don't think anybody is willing to be the person who kills health care reform.

Iran Contrarians
February 26, 2010

Say what you want about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but “he knows how to work a room.” So claims Flynt Leverett, the contrarian Iran analyst who, with his wife Hillary Mann Leverett, paid a visit to the Iranian president in New York City last fall. During the sit-down at Manhattan’s InterContinental Barclay hotel with a group of invited academics, foreign policy professionals, and other Iranophiles, the Leveretts marveled at Ahmadinejad’s attention to detail as the Iranian took copious notes and strove to pronounce their unfamiliar names correctly. “He addresses every person by name.