Roosevelt

Freedom and security—for some 80 years, they have been the most cherished words in American political discourse. Each major party claims it can best shield the citizenry from danger while also protecting its liberties. Which side in this perennial contest makes the most persuasive case always ends up in power. And one reason national politics is a deadlocked, angry mess right now is that neither side has the rhetorical advantage. First, a look back. The contest began during the Great Depression.

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Foreclose? For Shame.

We sometimes hear that Barack Obama and his top people read The New Republic, but they must not have been paying attention during the campaign when we ran an article titled “History Lesson: FDR Solves the Mortgage Crisis,” by Andrew Jakabovics. If they had done so, they might have proceeded a little differently in dealing with the current crisis and with the controversy over foreclosures. In 1931, the United States began to suffer from a foreclosure crisis similar to the one today—in that year, 1.4 percent of all homeowners lost their homes.

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A certain kind of liberalism familiar to readers of The New Republic has been stirring in, of all places, Germany and Austria. To be sure, it operates on the margins. And, yes, the impulse to appease, run for cover and all the rest lingers there as well. So, too, does the mixture of irritation, indifference, and even outright hostility to Israel.

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Was I too harsh on the president?

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My last post, suggesting it might be morally problematic for a commander-in-chief to persist in waging a war to which he is less than fully committed, drew this response from Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security: Bacevich wants us to consider foreign policy decisions black-and-white moral affairs. Bush, he argues, reliably chose the wrong option out of two available but was at least guided by a flawed moral compass. Obama, Bacevich argues, is amoral. This is absurd. In matters of war, leaders at all levels make hard moral choices involving sin and virtue.

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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David Obey recalls the stimulus debate: The problem for Obama, he wasn’t as lucky as Roosevelt, because when Obama took over we were still in the middle of a free fall. So his Treasury people came in and his other economic people came in and said "Hey, we need a package of $1.4 trillion." We started sending suggestions down to OMB waiting for a call back. After two and a half weeks, we started getting feedback. We put together a package that by then the target had been trimmed to $1.2 trillion.

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My blog post last week describing the liberal tendency to imagine that obstacles like, oh, a lack of votes for a bill in the Senate can be overcome by presidential willpower, a stirring speech, or even an executive order.

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I've been writing for several months about the curious sense of disappointment afflicting liberals —the belief that they've been let down by a president who is, in fact, racking up historical achievements. Part of the reason for liberal dismay in an ahistorical understanding of how progress works. In the liberal memory, political success is bathed in golden-hued triumph. In reality, it is a grubby, stop-and-start process that looks pretty ugly up close.

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