The Magazine

A successor to 'The Public Interest'

From the Scrapbook.

Sep 21, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 01
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A Successor to 'The Public Interest'

A little over four years ago, David Skinner eloquently bid farewell in these pages, "after 40 years of excellence," to "the most important political quarterly of the last half-century," Irving Kristol's The Public Interest.

It's been a long four years, so THE SCRAPBOOK is thrilled to welcome a new magazine that, as editor Yuval Levin puts it in the first issue, "seeks consciously to model itself" on that journal. Levin writes,

We are successors to their project in a technical sense, as the company they founded to publish their magazine, National Affairs, Inc., is now home to ours (and the complete archives of The Public Interest are available for the first time on our website, We have been the beneficiaries of their guidance and help, too, though they bear no blame for our shortcomings. And we can only hope to be truly their successors in the merit, the quality, and the significance of the work we do, if with some different emphases for a different time.

Judging from the first issue, National Affairs may come as close to succeeding as is possible in this ambitious goal. Levin explains that

National Affairs will have a point of view, but not a party line. It will begin from confidence and pride in America, from a sense that our challenge is to build on our strengths to address our weaknesses, and from the conviction that chief among those strengths are our democratic capitalism, our ideals of liberty and equality under the law, and our roots in the longstanding traditions of the West. We will seek to cultivate an open-minded empiricism, a decent respect for the awesome complexity of life in society, and a healthy skepticism of the serene technocratic confidence that is too often the dominant flavor of social science and public policy. And we will take politics seriously.

The first issue, checking in at an impressive and handsome 180 pages, lives up to these aspirations. Essays by William Schambra and Wilfred McClay explore the historical and philosophical underpinnings of Obama's technocratic liberalism-and its deficiencies. Contributors such as James C. Capretta (on "The New Middle Class Contract"), Luigi Zingales (on "Capitalism After the Crisis"), and Ron Haskins ("Getting Ahead in America") demonstrate an unusual and impressive mix of open-minded empiricism, respect for social complexity, and imaginative thinking about the crossroads where politics and public policy meet.

So take a look at, subscribe, and instruct all your friends and associates to do so too. And while you're there, do take a look at the archives of The Public Interest-an incomparable resource for those who were too young to benefit from the journal at the time, and a walk down memory lane (as well as a resource!) for those of us who were around but might not have perfect recall.

Congratulations to the editors of National Affairs. THE SCRAPBOOK is already looking forward to Issue 2.

The Honeymoon Isn't Over

Voters might be experiencing buyer's remorse over President Obama-51 percent disapproval rating in the current Rasmussen poll-but the mainstream media are keeping the faith.

As an illustration, THE SCRAPBOOK here helpfully reproduces the main headlines of the Washington Post for the two days before the president's health care speech to Congress and the morning after. Readers are reminded that these are not just the headlines for news stories, as opposed to op-ed essays or "analysis," but the main, front-page news stories in each day's edition.

It's not easy to choose our favorite among the three-"Obama Speech Aims To Reenergize Effort" certainly wins the award for fatuousness-but the blue ribbon is bestowed on "President Says His Critics Lack Health-Care Answer," which manages to combine fawning deference to Barack Obama with a vague, slightly incoherent slap at Americans who have the temerity to dissent from the vague, slightly incoherent details of Obamacare.

Human Rights Watch Follies (cont.)

The last time THE SCRAPBOOK checked in on Human Rights Watch, the organization was under fire for sending Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the group's Middle East division, to raise money from wealthy Saudis-including officials responsible for the enforcement of sharia law-by touting the group's battles with critics of HRW's controversial allegations of Israeli human rights violations.