Person Communication

The reason Republicans tiptoe so carefully around the birther question is that birthers constitute a significant portion of the Republican base.

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The Grounds of Courage

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy By Eric Metaxas (Thomas Nelson, 591 pp., $29.99) Early in January 1939, the precocious German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, age thirty-two, learned that all males in his age cohort had been ordered to register with the military. A dedicated opponent of the Nazi regime, he might have responded by declaring himself a conscientious objector, but there were two problems with such a course of action.

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Nuclear Option

Nukes, nukes, and … nukes. These days, when it comes to energy and climate change, that seems to be all Republicans want to talk about. Throughout last week's hearings on the Senate climate bill, Lamar Alexander kept interjecting that a massive ramp-up of nuclear power was the only real solution to global warming, bringing up the subject at every turn. For many of his colleagues, it's one of the few energy ideas that piques any interest at all.

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It was Halloween 2001, and Kennesaw State freshman Nick Ayers was sitting anxiously in an Atlanta airplane hangar. A friend had recommended him for a campaign position with Republican state senator Sonny Perdue, who was mounting a long-shot gubernatorial run against Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes. The portly, middle-aged politician disembarked his Bellanca Super Viking and, as Ayers recounts the story, walked down the stairs holding a lid-less cup of coffee. Eager to make a good first impression, the nervous blonde teenager extended his hand for a firm shake.

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Weight Watchers

In New Jersey, any candidate for high office can count on getting smeared over taxes, corruption, the economy, or all of the above. But in this fall's hard-fought gubernatorial race, an unlikely issue has popped up amidst the usual mud-slinging: the portly physique of Republican challenger Chris Christie. Ever since Jon Corzine released his now-infamous attack ad, in which a disdainful voiceover claims Christie improperly "threw his weight around" as a U.S. Attorney, neither candidate has managed to entirely escape the politics of fat.

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Disorganized

Tea partiers, townhall protesters, Texas secessionists--for the past few months, grassroots organizing has seemed to be mostly the domain of the right. And for a period this summer, they (okay, not the Texas secessionists, but the others) appeared to be successfully tugging the national debate in their direction.

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Putin's Game

After years of stalemate, negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear development program seemed to progress last week when an Iranian delegation in Vienna agreed to the export and modification of its low-enriched uranium. The resulting optimism did not last. Officials in Tehran demurred, insisting that they needed more time to study the proposal and could not meet Friday's deadline to ratify the agreement. While Iran's stonewalling came as a disappointment to the United States, it did not come as a surprise.

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Recessional

It's some 400 miles from Harvard Square to Capitol Hill, but when Rory Stewart made the trip last month, he chose an unlikely mode of transport: He took a plane. Stewart is an inveterate, epic walker. He spent part of this past summer strolling the 150 miles from Crieff to Penrith in his native Scotland. More impressively, in 2002, not long after he quit his job with the British Foreign Office, he walked across Afghanistan, a 600-mile jaunt that served as the basis for his best-selling book The Places In Between.

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The Interested Man

When Irving Kristol joined the new magazine Commentary, he distinguished himself from the other editors--Clement Greenberg, part-time then, Robert Warshow, and me. First, he had an interest in politics, real politics, electoral politics, and not just the politics of left-wing anti-Stalinists, mulling over what was living and what was dead in Marxism, the fate of socialism, the future of capitalism, communist influence in the intellectual world--no mean issues, but hardly ones to affect who won and who lost an election.

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Last Standish

Standish, Michigan It's two p.m. on a workday, and the casino parking lot is completely full. Hundreds of people have come for the $20 gambling coupons offered to those willing to donate blood. Turnout for the drive was "above and beyond" expectations, says Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the Saginaw Chippewa Indians, who run the 800-slot complex. The nurses are already turning people away two hours before closing, and they will soon run out of blood bags. "We get free money!" one woman tells me, clutching her coupon as her friends nod in agreement.

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