The group blog of The New Republic

July 15, 2013

Almost exactly ten years ago, I was on an airplane, and had the good luck to be seated next to a very distinguished, highly regarded United States senator. (Hi ho the glamorous life!) This man was a senator of the sort that they don’t make anymore. He collected honorary degrees the way other people collect stamps. He was the object of secret scorn and public praise by the young Turks of his party. Many people thought he should have been Secretary of State. He probably thought so himself. He certainly looked the part—perhaps not as much as the current holder of the job, but it was close.

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During the George Zimmerman trial, I happened to be reading James Agee's Depression classic, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The book describes the lives of three families of tenant farmers in Alabama, all of them white; poverty, not racism, is Agee's subject. But before he begins writing about the Woods, Gudger, and Ricketts clans, Agee takes care to include an episode that dramatizes the state of race relations in the American South.

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Throughout last week, rumors percolated that an explosion in Latakia, Syria, was the handiwork of the Israel Defense Force. Then, over the weekend, U.S. officials confirmed that Israel, acting as it has said it will do and as it already has done several times this year, blew up weapons it deemed threatening—in this case, anti-ship cruise missiles.

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In New York magazine this week, Mark Jacobson has a profile of Anthony Weiner which includes plenty of material on Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife. Abedin always gets good press, but this piece takes it to a new level. As a public service, I have chosen the four silliest/creepiest tidbits:

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House Republican leaders hope to hold yet more votes on Obamacare, maybe as early as this week. But this time, Republican leaders say, they will focus on the “individual mandate”—i.e., the provision that imposes fines on Americans who can afford health insurance but opt not to carry it. The mandate is supposed to take effect in 2014, once Obamacare’s new insurance options are available in all 50 states. Republicans want to push back that date by one year.

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July 13, 2013

A Republican Senate in 2014 looked like a longshot after the GOP blew huge opportunities in North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana. But the GOP caught a huge break this morning, and a GOP Senate is looking like a realistic if still unlikely possibility—even without an anti-Democratic wave.

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July 12, 2013

This morning, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist the Taliban shot in the head in 2012 in an attempt to silence her crusade for girls’ education, addressed the United Nations in her first public speech since her attempted assasination. Sixteen years old as of today, she spoke with a worldliness and clarity that moved many in the audience to tears.

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Today brings the latest rumor in the years-long question of whether Keith Olbermann will return to ESPN—the network that made him a star and, to a necessarily lesser but equally formidable extent, the network he made into a star. The New York Daily News reports “serious discussions” with the former “SportsCenter” and MSNBC host to helm a late-night talk show.

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So much for the emerging democratic majority: Megan McArdle says that the GOP has a 70 percent chance of holding the House, Senate, and Presidency after the 2016 election. McArdle is basically right about the House—that’s GOP turf—but the rest is way off. Let’s take the Presidency, the Senate, and the math step by step.

The Presidency

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Harry Reid’s threat to change filibuster rules so executive nominees will only require 51 votes for approval has touched off dire warnings that doing so would put the Senate on a slippery slope to becoming more like the House.

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