July 12, 1999
Brave New World
Last July, when the public suddenly became aware of a controversial provision of the 1996 Kennedy-Kassebaum health care law, the reaction was swift and indignant. Buried deep within the otherwise innocuous bill, the proposal called for the creation of a permanent electronic health record--or "unique health identifier," as it would be known--for every American. Each person's record would have a complete medical history, and all of the records would be stored together in a central electronic vault with access controlled by the government.
Everywhere you look nowadays, the experts are writing off Campaign 2000--not because they think the result is preordained, but because they think the result is meaningless. George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" is so moderate and tempered, the thinking goes, that it is functionally equivalent to Al Gore's "practical idealism"--or even the more lofty idealism Bill Bradley has been espousing.
Up to Speed
A few weeks ago, Tipper Gore hinted to reporters that the vice president of the United States, the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency, sleeps in the nude. Now, I'm no Michael Isikoff, but I think I've got a scoop of my own concerning the vice presidential undergarments. My troubling discovery came as I followed Al Gore on his presidential announcement tour last week. In Carthage, the normally plodding Gore raced through his speech at such breakneck speed that seven dense pages flew by in just 25 minutes. He spoke with even more haste at stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, and New York City.
Gaming the System
In 1993, Congress and the White House realized that spending on the big entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security, was out of control. So they appointed a blue-ribbon commission to examine the problem. The commission did just that, the members made their feelings known, but no legislative action followed. The next year, Congress and the White House realized that spending on the big entitlement programs was still out of control. So they eventually appointed two more blue-ribbon commissions--one to study each program.
South Africa's second post-apartheid general election, held several weeks ago, turned into quite an intriguing affair, although you would hardly know it from the American press. The media focused on Nelson Mandela's retirement and his replacement by faithful lieutenant Thabo Mbeki--a story line that fits the fairy-tale narrative into which post-apartheid South Africa is so often shoehorned. But, on the ground, real politics were taking place. In particular, the National Party, the party of F.W. de Klerk and of 50 years of apartheid, collapsed.
Standing by her man TO THE EDITORS: I'm, neither a New Yorker nor Hillary Clintons biggest fan, but I found something troubling in Michelle Cottle's article ("The Wrong Race," June 7).
Akhil Reed Amar examines what the right to bear arms really means.
July 05, 1999
Last Summer, when President Clinton picked Richard Holbrooke to be his new ambassador to the United Nations, Holbrooke's confirmation by the Senate seemed like a virtual formality. After all, even those who don't like Holbrooke's brash style concede that he's one of the Clinton administration's most effective foreign policy hands; and, as a political operator and self-promoter, Holbrooke's talents are legendary. But it won't be until June 17, exactly a year after Clinton announced Holbrooke's selection, that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally gets around to holding hearings on Holb
June 28, 1999
The Age of Mixed Results
One Case at a Time: Judicial Minimalism on the Supreme Court by Cass R. Sunstein (Harvard University Press, 290 pp., $29.95) I. America now is a society addicted to legalism that has lost its faith in legal argument. The impeachment of Bill Clinton was only the most visible manifestation of this paradox.
June 14, 1999
Apart from Austin Powers, there can be few British institutions as groovy right now as The Economist. Der Spiegel has hailed its "legendary influence." Vanity Fair has written that "the positions The Economist takes change the minds that matter." In Britain, the Sunday Telegraph has declared that "it is widely regarded as the smartest, most influential weekly magazine in the world." In America, it is regularly fawned on as a font of journalistic reason.