Hardball 101

It is getting increasingly difficult to find any Democrat who backs President Bush's plan for partially privatizing Social Security. Private accounts are now officially out of favor even among New Democrats, the most obvious source of potential administration support. The Democratic Leadership Council and a new centrist policy shop called Third Way both recently announced their opposition. Over in the House, many have been eyeing Adam Smith, the leader of the New Democrat Coalition, which has 67 members in the House.

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Broken Contract

In the summer of 1987, Newt Gingrich rode in my car while bragging that he would soon launch an "ethics offensive" that would lead to a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. At the time, Republicans were not even within sniffing distance of a House majority. And with the Iran-Contra scandal dominating the news, only a nut or a visionary--or a nutty visionary like Gingrich--would have predicted a GOP takeover.

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Rumblings

Outside the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, Cte d'Ivoire's main city, loyalist youths recently milled around the site where as many as ten protestors were killed days earlier in a confrontation with French peacekeepers. As I began talking to one of the young men--a member of the self-styled Young Patriots movement of pro-government militants--a small crowd quickly gathered, watching me closely. Fortunately, I passed the initial nationality test.

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Notebook

INHERIT THE WIND Billy Tauzin of Louisiana was one of the most venal politicians ever to sully Capitol Hill. As Michelle Cottle chronicled in these pages ("Cajun Dressing," October 6, 2003), the Republican representative used his perch on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to shill for almost every big business in America--until a business broke enough laws to spark public outrage, at which point Tauzin would hold showboat hearings and recast himself as a consumer champion.

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Identity Crisis

Franklin Foer on Persia and the neocons.

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Amid the celebration over passage of the intelligence reform bill this week, one dissonant voice could be heard through the self-congratulatory din. The new reform bill "practically invites terrorists to come into our country," said one speaker on the House floor Tuesday evening. It is "a recipe for a disaster--the same kind of disaster that occurred on 9/11. ...

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Unreconciled

Hans-Ulrich Klose, a thin, graying, 67-year-old Social Democrat, is deputy chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament. Known for his pro-American views, he was critical of Chancellor Gerhard Schrder for aligning Germany too closely with France against the United States before the Iraq war. But, seated around a table in the Bundestag on a cold, gray Berlin morning, Klose gives a cryptic answer when asked about the advisability of seeking regime change in Islamic countries.

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TRB: The Good Fight

Last week, I wrote a cover story in The New Republic arguing that the struggle against Islamist totalitarianism should define contemporary liberalism, as the struggle against Soviet totalitarianism defined liberalism during the early cold war ("A Fighting Faith," December 13). This week, I waded through responses--some supportive, some critical, some both. The most surprising came from Kevin Drum, who writes the blog Political Animal at washingtonmonthly.com.

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A Fighting Faith

On January 4, 1947, 130 men and women met at Washington's Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that "the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction." Liberals, they argued, "consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West." Unless that changed, "In the spasm of terror which will seize this country ...

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Incorrect Answer

It took only a few sentences on Wednesday for Donald Rumsfeld to demonstrate why he is both morally and strategically unfit to serve as secretary of defense. In a townhall-style meeting at a staging area in Kuwait, Rumsfeld was asked by Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard why soldiers were forced "to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic [i.e., bulletproof] glass to uparmor our vehicles?" There was a short pause, and then many of the 2,300 troops in attendance erupted in cheers and applause.

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