Photo of Obama Looking Confused

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. The economy is suffering from low growth and high unemployment. Families are struggling with debt. Many are living in homes whose mortgages cost more than the property is worth. All over the world, governments are reeling from the economic and political consequences of excessive sovereign debt.

The president of the United States, Barack Obama, appears before Congress to offer his solution. America, he says, is experiencing a collapse in what economists call aggregate demand. Consumers aren’t spending enough to fill the “output gap”—the theoretical difference between what the economy is producing now and what it might produce at full capacity. Government, he says, needs to cover the difference.

How? Through temporary tax cuts, aid to state and local governments, and federal spending on highways and high-speed rail. We can ...

Photo of Thomas E. Dewey

Don’t Be Dewey


Historians will little note nor long remember what President Obama said in his jobs speech to Congress last Thursday night. For one thing, it was painfully obvious that the main job Obama was concerned to save was his own. But some may, after Obama ...

Photo of American Soldiers and Iraqi Citizens

Losing Iraq?


President Obama did a good job of feinting to the right on national security issues during his first two years in office. Lacking much standing on military policy, he often acceded to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary ...


Perry and the Profs

He picked the right fight.


Cartoon of Perry Fighting with College Professor

If you want a glimpse of the way Rick Perry operates as an executive and a politician, consider the issue of higher education reform in Texas, which no one in Texas knew was an issue until Perry decided to make it one.

In his 30-year public career, Perry​—​how to put this delicately?​—​has shown no sign of being tortured by a gnawing intellectual curiosity. “He’s not the sort of person you’ll find reading The Wealth of Nations for the seventh time,” said Brooke Rollins, formerly Perry’s policy director and now president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-market research group closely allied with Perry. At Texas A&M he majored in animal science and escaped with a grade point average a bit over 2.0. (Perry’s A&M transcript was leaked last month to the left-wing blog Huffington Post by “a source in Texas,” presumably not his mom. How his GPA compares with Barack Obama’s is ...

Photo of New Hampshire House speaker Bill O’Brien

Right-to-Work Showdown

Should New Hampshire be pro-choice when it comes to unions?


Nashua, New Hampshire

Republicans won a smashing victory in New Hampshire in the 2010 elections, capturing the state senate and house by staggering margins. Yet they’ve been unable to enact one of ...

Photos of Rick Perry and George W. Bush

Family Feud

Rick Perry versus the Bush machine.


At last week’s Republican debate at the Reagan Library, a long-simmering Texas political feud made its grand entrance onto the national stage. Politico’s John Harris asked GOP presidential frontrunner and Texas governor Rick Perry about his ...

Caricature of Liberal Professors

Another Voting Paradox

Political scientists and democracy.


While most Americans spend their Labor Day weekend savoring the last moments of summer vacation, political scientists are normally hard at work at their annual association meeting, held this year in Seattle. This event is usually a rather sedate affair, with scholars ...

Photo of Fat Man on Motorcycle

The New Global Warming?

Here’s an issue governments can get fat on.


Obesity is the new global warming, and the battle plan for the crusade against it was published in the August issue of the journal Lancet. Funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and ...

Photo of Soldiers Marching in Camouflage

A Time of Heroes

The 9/11 decade.


This tenth anniversary of that grim September day when so many innocent people died in the most horrible fashion is a time to mourn their loss, as well as the thousands who have been lost in the past 10 years of the war against global terrorists, and ...


He’s No Truman . . .

And it’s not 1948 any more.


Cartoon of Obama Struggling to Lift Dumb-bell

A year from now, the presidential election campaign will be in full swing. Obama and the Republican nominee will be touring the country at a feverish pace, trying hard to convince swing voters to go their way. Obviously, we’re still too far out from November 2012 to know what will happen, but we’re close enough to get a sense of the shape of the race.

President Obama’s chances next year don’t look good. As of this writing, the InTrade prediction market gives the president about a 50-50 chance, and even Democratic insiders are starting to doubt the top of their ticket. According to National Journal, they’re privately giving the president just a 63 percent chance of victory, which is not a great score considering the partisan source. These relatively gloomy odds are not surprising, as the president faces some historic challenges in his reelection quest. 

Photo of Nicolas Sarkozy

Vive la Différence

Are France’s more centrist politics better than ours (and not just for the sex)?


As Maine is New England’s Texas, France is Europe’s U.S.A. It’s big. It’s ornery. Like us, the French are notably more inward-looking than Europe’s other populous, geographically big, and prosperous states. Despite France’s co-leadership of the ...

Books & Arts

Love Among the Shadows

Hidden lives, fatal passion, in genteel England.


Painting of V. Sackville-West by Philip de Laszlo

Biography is a form of love affair, the more intense because it can never be consummated. Like lovers, biographers rifle through their subjects’ letters and diaries for evidence of the absent one’s activities and affections. They guard their subject’s reputation and become jealous of rivals. They profess to interpret, to comprehend, to promote, but they requite the years that they devote to their chosen figure of fascination by exercising the power of life or death over them, the right to immortalize or to dissect.

Michael Holroyd’s latest book is about a series of forgotten love affairs. It traces the stories of several women—Luie Tracy Lee, José Cornelia Brink, Eve Fairfax, Violet Trefusis, and Catherine Till—who are connected by their relationships to the Beckett family, the Barons Grimthorpe of Yorkshire. Luie was the wife of Ernest Beckett (1856-1917), a restless banker, MP, traveler, and playboy. Eve and José were ...

Photo of Eva Braun sunbathing at the Berghof

Der Führer’s Girl

The love (?) story of Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler.


Eons ago, in 1989, when Germany was in the midst of its most intense phase of coming to grips with the murder of the European Jews by largely ordinary Germans, Times Books was planning a collection of essays subtitled “Contemporary Writers Make the Holocaust Personal.” ...

Portrait of Thomas Mellon

Quiet Capitalist

The portrait of a founding father of business philanthropy.


Business leaders often feel obliged to keep a strong public persona and make conspicuous displays of philanthropy to persuade the public to like, or at least respect, them. They aren’t content to let their good works or business prowess speak for themselves—as if ...

Picture of First edition of Moby-Dick

The Reading Life

Pleasure, not duty, should bring us to books.


Americans have always prided themselves on being a practical, self-made people, suspicious of newfangled theories in foreign books. Early cultural heroes were worldly-wise figures like Daniel Boone and David Crockett, and bookishness was nearly the end of ...

Photo of Leather-bound Books


Will the leatherbound volume go the way of the eight-track tape?


One of the features of a life in journalism is the casual assumption, expressed by nonjournalists at cocktail parties, that journalists “know” things: have the inside dope, heard the real version, predict the future. I have always defended ...

Movie Still from The Help

Blame the Glucose

Or, who Hollywood enriches when it makes movies.


I haven’t seen The Help; I keep meaning to, but I also keep meaning to get my shoes shined and my receipts filed according to month, and I haven’t done those either. The Help strikes me, a male entering my sixth decade, as a movie to ...


Small Perfections

Joseph Bottum, impatient perfectionist


Photo of a freshly painted wall

Way down in what passes for my soul, I’ve always felt an impatience—a kind of ungenerous demand for efficiency, immediacy, and speed. Add to that the small tremor I’ve always had in my hands, and I may be the worst painter in the world today. 

Room and house painter, that is. My lack of talent at more artistic painting leaps beyond the petty confines of individual ability to reach historic levels: I’m cosmically bad at putting paint on canvas. Unless, that is, you care for portraits of blobs and messes. Imagine a Jackson Pollock drip composition, except that the colors have all merged to form a monochrome brown tinged with sick green—by an artist who was trying to paint a realistic landscape.

At the more mundane kinds of painting, however, I’m merely bad. When I try to paint a room, there are dribbles on the floor. Corners skipped. Bald patches. Goopy, overpainted sections. ...


Unions: As Nasty as They Wanna Be

Caricature of a Union Thug

The president, you may remember, gave a speech this past January in the wake of the shooting of Rep. -Gabrielle Giffords on how “only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation.” Some consider the speech to be the finest of his presidency, though history is likely to be less kind to it now that we know the president was completely insincere.

Early last week, just before President Barack Obama took the stage, Teamsters president James P. Hoffa told an assembled union crowd, “We’ve got a bunch of people there that don’t want the president to succeed, and they are called the Tea Party. .  .  . Let’s take these son of a bitches out, and give America back to America where we belong.” 

Hoffa, of course, owes his current position as a powerful union leader to a family legacy of crime and corruption. It may not have been a literal ...


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