Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of PowerBy Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 712 pp., $35) I. MANY LIBERAL Democrats have yet to come to terms with Lyndon Johnson.
Now that the Supreme Court has left the fate of the Affordable Care Act hanging another few days, it seems an opportune moment to pose a question that has been growing on me after several recent reporting trips: why aren’t the most obvious beneficiaries of the law more aware of it? There is an assumption in much national coverage of the law’s unpopularity that the right has won the “messaging war” on the law, partly, as Abby Goodnough lays out in a strong New York Times piece today, by spending far more to bash it on the airwaves than the law’s supporters have to defend it.
Last week, a New York Times/CBS poll found that only 44 percent of Americans approve of the Supreme Court’s job performance and 75 percent say the justices are sometimes influenced by their political views. But although the results of the poll were striking, commentators may have been too quick to suggest a direct link between the two findings.
Just the other day, someone wrote this: The United States of America has a black President whose chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, is also black. They have a lot of political power. So how are they using it? Well, one way is to assert to black audiences that voter ID laws are really attempts to disenfranchise black Americans.
It was overshadowed by the return of the jury in the John Edwards case, but the Obama campaign opened a whole new front of attack against Mitt Romney on Thursday: going after his record as governor of Massachusetts. Romney has of late been starting to invoke his gubernatorial record, after running mainly on his years in business during the Republican primaries, so it makes sense for Team Obama to try to undermine his claims of success on Beacon Hill as it is trying to undermine his record at Bain Capital.
Rob Portman has been enjoying his moment of buzz for a couple weeks now. The aggressively unobtrusive Ohio senator—a former congressman and trade representative and budget director in George W. Bush’s administration—is the insiders’ top bet to be Mitt Romney’s running mate, and today he got his big Washington Post Style profile, a rather Seinfeldesque piece that was basically about the weird nothingness that is the state of being a veep short-lister.
In what has become a regular ritual this spring, the punditocracy is cracking itself up tonight over Barack Obama's embarrassingly poor performance in Democratic primaries in Appalachia and the Upland South.
You could practically hear the guffaws emanating from Twitter last night over the 41 percent vote share that Keith Judd, a federal inmate in Texas, managed to win in the Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia. And sure, there’s humor to be had in an incarcerated man winning a bunch of counties against the incumbent president of the United States. But was this outcome necessarily as telling and disastrous for Obama as the twitterati snark was making it out to be? Not exactly. As is so often the case, the punditocracy was willfully ignoring regional context.
If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.
Eisenhower in War and Peace By Jean Edward Smith (Random House, 950 pp., $40) The histories we write say as much about our own times as about those we study. The current polarization in Washington has prompted a nostalgia for parties that were less ideologically uniform and more prone to compromise. Fashionable “pragmatism” has similarly infected thinking about foreign policy, as the fallout from the Iraq war lingers in the air a decade on.