Loose Change
December 08, 2010

Of all the historical analogies urged on Obama following November’s drubbing—Truman in ’48, Reagan after ’82, Clinton after ’94—the one the White House has opted for is easily the most obscure. That would be Patrick in ’10—as in Deval Patrick, the recently re-elected governor of Massachusetts. Months after Patrick signed the state’s first sales-tax hike in 33 years, political chatterers gave him little chance of surviving to a second term.

Are Liberals Too Tough on Obama? Two Views.
July 06, 2010

Last night I wrote that liberals show too little appreciation for Obama's accomplishments in office. Reader drofnats1 disagrees: The prescription to help Obama is the opposite of the proscribed by Cohn. What Obama need is loud, vocal Progressive /Liberal opposition.. maybe even an announced challenge. Obama has made it abundantly clear his highest goal is compromise between vocal factions. He got a vocal right.. he's had a mostly silent left. And don't give me BS about far socialist left.

Cleared With Sidney
May 12, 2010

When Franklin Roosevelt decided at the end of his third term to dump Henry Wallace as vice president, he of course had to choose someone else to run with him in 1944. He had more or less decided on Harry Truman but felt he needed his choice to be okayed by someone else. He told his aides, “Clear it with Sidney.” And clear it they did. That Sidney was Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, who was a confidante of FDR.

What Are Nukes Good For?
April 07, 2010

The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.

Lincoln, Lincoln, I've Been Thinkin'
April 02, 2010

Yesterday I wondered why progressives are supporting a primary challenger against Blanche Lincoln who, after all, voted for health care reform and hails from a very conservative state. Matthew Yglesias replies that the answer is, because they can: To mount a challenge from the left, you really need two things. One is you need progressive activists and institutions ready to back the challenger. And the other is that you need a challenger. And what Arkansas has is a solid challenger in the form of an incumbent Lieutenant Governor—exactly the sort of person who would beat a sitting Senator.

Kalt's Law Of Presidential Facial Hair
March 26, 2010

Brian Kalt, a law professor and former college classmate of mine, has developed his own law of presidential facial hair: I thought you might be interested in the following ironclad law of American presidential politics. I call it Kalt’s Law: “Under the modern two-party system, if a candidate has facial hair, the Republican always has as much, or more, than the Democrat.” Some notes. 1. It would be the case that the Republican always has more, but for 1904 in which both the Republican Roosevelt and the Democrat Parker had mustaches. 2.

Saying the Hard Thing on the Public Option
February 23, 2010

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and a Special Correspondent for The Treatment. A famous political science article describes the legislative battle over a 1956 House bill, HR7535. The bill would have provided federal aid to the states to build schools. Democrats sponsored the bill, which was popular ten years into the baby boom. For familiar pre-election reasons, Republicans wanted HR7535 to die.

A Lonely Kind of Courage
December 02, 2009

When, at 6:15 pm--known in local parlance as 1815--coveted ticket in hand, I boarded a bus with various members of the West Point community for the short ride to Eisenhower Hall to listen to President Obama, I thought about how very early we would be. But “Ike,” the second largest U.S. theater east of the Mississippi (only Radio City is bigger), was already full: cadets, over four thousand strong, had been there for hours. Body heat and a distinctive hum rose from the undulating dress-gray sea.

Would Obama Have Nuked Japan?
November 13, 2009

At a press conference in Tokyo today, a Japanese reporter asked Obama whether Harry Truman made "the right decision" to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Obama dodged the question (easy to do because it was a multi-parter. Note to reporters: Multi-part questions usually ensure non-answers to the toughest bits). I wonder what he really thinks. It seems likely that, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, Obama thinks the bombs had to be used.

"Old Soldiers Never Die." The Douglas MacArthur Analogy Fits Neither Petraeus Nor McChrystal. But That Is Probably No Comfort to the President.
October 07, 2009

Our culture lives virtually without its history, which makes it a very weird culture, indeed. In France, on sabbatical a few years back, I listened to a dinner conversation about Marshal Foch. Who? Marshal Foch. How did we come around to him? Someone at the table said she'd been born in Tarbes, a small town known primarily for its proximity to Lourdes. Another guest noted that Foch had been born there. And then followed a long, discursive conversation about Foch.