Articles by Greg Waldmann
Controversial former Vice President Dick Cheney and his journalist daughter Liz have written a book claiming that the exceptional nature of American power is being sullied and squandered by the current occupant of the White House. Greg Waldmann reviews Exceptional.
Political scientist Ian Bremmer’s new book looks at the changing nature of American power in the 21st century, but just how many false premises does the book employ?
Many new books – some excellent, some awful – are now seeking to explain the terrorist group ISIS, but the group’s own origins dynamics are dauntingly complex. Greg Waldmann tries to make sense of it all.
Major Kolt “Racer” Raynor doesn’t salute the U.S. flag – it salutes him. He punches bad guys so hard their grandkids are born with bruises. He garrotted a terrorist using a string made from his own eyelashes. He stars in Dalton Fury’s action novel – and if you don’t read the book, he’ll know.
Schubert’s bleak, tumultuous song cycle, Winterreise, is the subject of tenor Ian Bostridge’s passionate new book. Greg Waldmann examines Schubert’s Winter Journey, and the trouble with hard-to-love classical music.
Though most people don’t understand musical notation or the theory underlying it, nearly all classical music writing relies on it. Today, the initiate has a better option: YouTube.
Two books by Mark Leibovitch create a picture of Beltway wheelings and dealings that’s almost unbearably incestuous, with virtually no lines drawn between elected officials and profiteering lobbyists. Greg Waldmann plumbs the depths and reports back.
In his new book City of Rivals, James Grumet takes a gloomy close-up look at America’s deeply dysfunctional Congress and offers some solutions. But are those solutions dysfunctional too?
Leon Panetta, old Washington fixture and former member of the Obama administration, criticizes the president in his new memoir. But does he have anything to say?
A new book blames Pakistan for the carnage in Afghanistan. But what does “Pakistan” really mean when its government is so fraught with dissension?
Since the days of T.E. Lawrence, reporters have been providing the West with carefully-wrought (or overwrought) tales of the Middle East. A new book comments on the excesses–and maybe commits a few too.
Of all the borders in the world, the Durand line is perhaps the most dangerous. A new book seeks to explain the Taliban, who plague the peoples on both sides of it.
Iraqi lawyer and former exile Zaid al-Ali writes a bleak, sobering account of the state of his homeland in the post-“Mission Accomplished” era – but is there any reason for hope?
Russia and the West, talking past each other, have blundered into conflict over Ukraine. Some commentators on the American left aren’t behaving much differently.
For years, pioneering blogger Andrew Sullivan was one of the most vocal supporters of the war in Iraq. Time and the war’s wretched progress gradually forced him to change his thinking, however, and a new collection of his writings on the subject charts the disillusioning step-by-step.
Campaign books have short shelf-lives – and they deserve them, since most of them have about as much introspection as yesterday’s racing form. Greg Waldmann reads a recent book on the pivotal 2012 U.S. presidential election.
The authors have invaluable sources in America’s ‘deep state’ of surveillance and counter-terrorism, but how much secrecy does security justify? And what happened to moral accountability?
It has become conventional wisdom to say that the first Gulf War was one of necessity, while the second was one of choice–but a collection of reflections challenges that maxim
His repertoire was small, he was no barnstormer, and he gave up full-time concertizing in 1978. But Van Cliburn, who died yesterday at age 78, is to this day the most famous pianist America has …
Open Letters mourns the loss of Charles Rosen, pianist, scholar, teacher and critic.
Anthony Burgess the novelist had dreams of being a composer. He had little success, but along the way he delved deep into the nature and meaning of music.
Four years ago, Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency on a platform of hope and change. This month, as he fights for re-election, Greg Waldmann takes a detailed look at the incumbent’s first term.
Mitt Romney’s diatribe at a Boca Raton fundraiser may have torpedoed his candidacy. Was he just pandering, or did he actually mean all of those things he said?
Who’s at fault for our disastrous politics — both parties? Not a chance, say Washington insiders Ornstein and Mann. Our resident politico fisks their analysis.
Lyndon Johnson rained destruction on Vietnam and championed civil rights, amassed a secret fortune and fought for the needy. His paradoxical life continues in the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography.
We may never know with certainty what brought Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to cast the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act and salvage the chief accomplishment of Barack Obama’s presidency. But …
Just how powerful is Exxon Mobil? Who can they pay off and which governments are they propping up? Steve Coll’s new book explores the dark side of power and light.
Last week on NBC’s Meet the Press, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, was asked to give his opinion about an advertisement the Obama campaign has been running. It was a cover story for days. It was a complete waste of everyone’s time.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has made a career of joking about easy political targets – so what happens when she tries to deliver a factual inquiry of a serious subject? Nothing funny, as Greg Waldmann discovers.
The Baffler, an unapologetically radical journal that always punched above its weight, has had a troubled history. But a long-term publishing contract has rejuvenated it, and shown that an old formula is as relevant as ever.
A new book takes readers back to a time when, according to historian Ira Shapiro, politics could sometimes be noble and senators could sometimes be giants.
Andrew Breitbart, the brash, conservative media warrior, died a few days ago. He was by all accounts a wonderful husband, father, and friend – but should that matter?
For two generations, the great American critic and man of letters Edmund Wilson has been instructing and delighting his readers – and inspiring some of them to become critics themselves.
After a brutal six months, Mitt Romney has won Florida and almost certainly the GOP nomination. Democrats and Republicans are rightly focused on his record, but they’re each doing it for the wrong reasons.
For two terms, first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was the most – often the only – likeable face of the George W. Bush administration. But does this quintessential team player break ranks in her new memoir?
John Nance Garner famously referred to the vice presidency as being not worth a bucket of warm, er, spit – and yet, during the two terms of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney used that office to wield unprecedented power. The former vice president writes an unapologetic memoir.
The ethics of Wikileaks (and the antics of its mastermind, Julian Assange) continue to be the focus of controversy – and new books. Greg Waldmann takes a comprehensive look at the entire phenomenon.
If you’re hoping for a heartfelt mea culpa from an architect of two disastrous wars, this isn’t it. Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is shallow at best, cynically self-serving at worst.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems depressingly intractable, an impasse without end. A new book offers a hypothetical solution, but is it foolish idealism, unworkable pragmatism – or a desperately innovative kind of hope?
Nixon’s crimes are known to us all. A new book reveals that his biggest tormentor in the media committed a few of them himself.
No American president in a generation has so polarized the country as George W. Bush, and his new book will almost certainly polarize its readers. Is it defiant agitprop or heartfelt memoir?
The so-called Tea Party would like to dump President Obama in Boston Harbor – but even ordinary politicians often misunderstand him. The reasons are simpler than you think.
Unlike most prior White House wonks, Matt Latimer aw-shucks his way through history and into deep, deep trouble; Greg Waldmann reviews Speech Less
In our second annual Fiction Bestseller List feature, our writers temporarily put aside their dogeared copies of Hume and Mann, roll up their sleeves, and dig into the ten bestselling novels in the land as of September 6, 2009 – in the tranquil days before a certain Dan Brown novel began tromping all over that list like Godzilla in downtown Tokyo. Before you spend your hard-earned money at the bookstore, join us in a tour of the way we read now.
Eric van Lustbader throws every cliche in the kitchen into Robert Ludlum’s endless Bourne saga, attempting to keep the pot boiling. Greg Waldmann tastes the stew.
Edward Lucas, in The New Cold War, puts a modern face on the hoary geopolitical struggle between the Russian bear and the American eagle. Greg Waldmann sorts the players and evaluates the stakes.
Evan Thomas, under the aegis of Newsweek, with substantial researcher assistance, after the editing of … well, “A Long Time Coming”, the first post-election account of President Obama’s campaign, got written somehow. Greg Waldmann goes into it with high hopes – and then conducts the autopsy.
It’s been years—too long!—since Martha Argerich has preformed solo. Greg Waldmann eagerly pours thorugh her new DVD and the history of her brilliant career for clues to her reclusiveness and for glimmers of hope.
Jane Mayers’ The Dark Side describes the United States’ rapid descent into the murky ways of torture and secret autocracy. Whether its the expediting of illegal proceedings or the out-sourcing of brutality, Greg Waldmann tries not to flinch from what he finds in Meyers’ account.
A mere month remains until the most fiercely fought and most historically pivotal American presidential election of the last half-century. In July, Greg Waldmann served up an in-depth look at Republican John McCain. Here, just in time for the election, he does likewise for Democrat Barack Obama.
The Last Patriot, by Brad Thor
In his latest book (a slim one this time), Robert Kagan again probes the socio-political state of the West. History is back, he tells us—about a week after he told us it was gone. Greg Waldmann helps us to to keep track of the epochs without a scorecard in his review of The Return of History and the End of Dreams.
In covering John McCain’s life and accomplishments, the American press has been, how shall we put it? less than tenacious. There are real stories they’ve yet to explore, or so argues Greg Waldmann in his first piece as Open Letters‘ Politics Editor.
Partisans on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have trouble reconciling the intricacy of events with their national mythology. Greg Waldmann explains how the Benny Morris of 1948 is both the exception and the rule.
Many readers forgave Michael Scheuer the angry bloody-mindedness of Imperial Hubris because of the merciless critiques of the Bush administration, but Greg Waldmann reports that in Marching Toward Hell, illogical anger is about all Scheuer has left
In February, the great pianist Alfred Brendel gave his final performance in New York City. Greg Waldmann was in Carnegie Hall to see it and in this regular feature he shares the experience.
He makes tools; he uses fire; he caucuses with interest groups: this is Dana Milbank’s Homo Politicus. Greg Waldmann assesses Milbank’s field notes, wishing the taxonomist had been more exacting.
Books lamenting our fractured political system are as commonplace these days as polling and pundits, but, as Greg Waldmann discovers, the historical rigor of Ronald Brownstein’s The Second Civil War helps elevate it above its pandering peers.
Does Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason really tell us anything we didn’t already know about our dying national dialogue? Greg Waldmann’s answer is yes.
Aside from the stammering anger they’ve stirred up, have John W. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt added anything substantial to the Middle East debate? Plenty, Greg Waldmann writes, but not for the reasons they wanted.Aside from the stammering anger they’ve stirred up, have John W. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt added anything substantial to the Middle East debate? Plenty, Greg Waldmann writes, but not for the reasons they wanted.
Greg Waldmann wraps his head around The Suicide of Reason and comes away wishing Lee Harris hadn’t tried to talk reason off a ledge.
Wikipedia is destroying our culture; so are YouTube, MySpace, and Google; and all your damn blogs, too—or so says Andrew Keen. Greg Waldmann exposes Cult of the Amateur, and the amateur authorship behind the screed.