William Howard Taft

Chris Christie's Big Fat Authenticity

What the media misses about the governor's weight loss

What the media misses about the governor's weight loss

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I had forgotten, until I picked up my copy of Steven Biel's Down With The Old Canoe: A Cultural History Of The Titanic, that Henry Adams booked passage on the Titanic's return trip. "My ship, the Titanic, is on her way," he wrote in a letter on April 12, 1912, "and unless she drops me somewhere else, I should get to Cherbourg in a fortnight." (Adams, then 74--he would die six years later--mentioned in the same letter that the as-yet-unpublished Education, which he'd forwarded to his correspondent, was "hardly ... fit for any public.

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No sooner had Mitt Romney triumphed in the Michigan primary than Rick Santorum edged into his victory by succeeding in winning an equal number of delegates. Romney polled 3 percent higher than Santorum in the popular vote. But that meant nothing in the arcana of counting at the polls that will be translated into 15 delegates each at the Tampa convention in August.

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The people have spoken. Averaging the 19 estimates offered by readers in TNR's comment section for this blog--including one that, annoyingly, required me to convert from kilograms to pounds--I arrive at a crowd-sourced weight estimate for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: 334 pounds.  I initially planned to lower the mean figure by 10 points to correct for liberal bias. But on reflection I think there are probably two biases at work here. One is the liberal one, which would drive the estimates up. The other is a demographic one, which would drive the estimates down.

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Fat Presidents: A Survey

Amid speculation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will enter the presidential race, there's been some talk about the weight issue. How does it affect his health? Would voters judge him harshly for it? (Jon Corzine tried and failed to make an issue of it, obliquely, in the 2009 gubernatorial election.) I prefer the historical approach.

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Doom!

Mitt Romney has shed the dark blue suit, white shirt, and pale blue tie of his 2008 campaign for an open-neck tattersall shirt with its sleeves rolled up. His sideburns are graying, and his eyes are lined, but he still sports a boyish grin and radiates the can-do enthusiasm of a man who is promising to turn the country around the way he once turned around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

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Louis D. Brandeis: A Life By Melvin I. Urofsky (Pantheon, 955 pp., $40) I. In 1916, Herbert Croly, the founder and editor of The New Republic, wrote to Willard Straight, the owner of the magazine, about the Supreme Court nomination of Louis Brandeis. Croly enclosed a draft editorial called “The Motive of Class Consciousness,” and also a chart prepared by a lawyer in Brandeis’s office showing the overlapping financial interests, social and business connections, and directorships of fifty-two prominent Bostonians who had signed a petition opposing Brandeis’s nomination.

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Weight Watchers

In New Jersey, any candidate for high office can count on getting smeared over taxes, corruption, the economy, or all of the above. But in this fall's hard-fought gubernatorial race, an unlikely issue has popped up amidst the usual mud-slinging: the portly physique of Republican challenger Chris Christie. Ever since Jon Corzine released his now-infamous attack ad, in which a disdainful voiceover claims Christie improperly "threw his weight around" as a U.S. Attorney, neither candidate has managed to entirely escape the politics of fat.

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With Barack Obama winning 11 contests since Super Tuesday, and appearing well on his way to winning a clear majority of elected delegates, it looks unlikely that Hillary Clinton could win the Democratic nomination without depending on the unelected party stalwarts (“superdelegates”) to push her over the top. History provides us with a test case of this scenario, in which a major party faced a choice between the managerial (but perhaps less than visionary) heir to a successful previous administration, and an inspiring, popular speaker.

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Idiot Time

Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich by Kevin Phillips (Broadway Books, 432 pp., $29.95) Stupid White Men ... and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! by Michael Moore (ReganBooks, 304 pp., $24.95) I. As Lord Bryce noted in 1888 in The American Commonwealth, the American way of choosing presidents rarely produces politicians of quality. Subsequent events vindicated his point: in the half-century after his book appeared, Americans elected to the presidency such undistinguished men as William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Warren G.

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