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Thinking in Common

November 1, 2014
Thinking in Common

The great critic and essayist Irving Howe laid claim to a great many decayed traditions – and then elevated them all to high art. A new collection of his prose presents some of his gems.

Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

November 1, 2014
Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include <em>What It Takes</em> by Richard Ben Cramer

Just in time for the November midterm elections, we do what doubters said couldn’t be done: we present you with a list of ten great political books that doesn’t include Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes.

The Book of Abraham

November 1, 2014
The Book of Abraham

Veteran historian Brookhiser takes a look at the formative influences on Abraham Lincoln – not so much his own father as the Founding Fathers.

Grosz Anatomy

October 1, 2014
Grosz Anatomy

In his latest collection of essays, Theater of Cruelty, Ian Buruma launches a series of expert investigations into the springs of cruelty and the perils of victomhood.

Coalition of the Chilling

October 1, 2014
Coalition of the Chilling

A British historian’s richly-sourced accounting of Molotov-Ribbentrop offers fresh insights into this Nazi-Soviet pact of “non-aggression.”

The Lion’s Den

September 1, 2014
The Lion’s Den

We think of the Middle East as a place of hopeless deadlocks – but once upon a time, an Egyptian president, an Israeli prime minister, and a U.S. president worked for two weeks to hammer out a plan for peace. Lawrence Wright takes readers to Camp David at a turning point in history.

The Done Thing

September 1, 2014
The Done Thing

England had been at war with France almost continuously since the Norman Conquest, but in the Hundred Years War, the conflict became especially heightened – and transformative. A new history tells the story as a rattling good yarn.

High and Outside

September 1, 2014
High and Outside

Uncertain Justice, by Lawrence Tribe and Joshua Matz, suggests that personality plays a greater role than ideology in today’s Supreme Court. David Culberg assesses the arguments.

Twenty Feet Tall!

August 1, 2014
Twenty Feet Tall!

The third voume of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland trilogy is sure to fly off the shelves, but those flying copies will be light to the tune of a few needed footnotes, omissions our managing editor finds, to say the least, troubling.

From the Archives: Playing the Shadow Game

August 1, 2014
first_intifada

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.

2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

July 1, 2014
2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

“You can throw out every damn other thing in the Constitution, as long as you don’t touch my guns,” one Southern U.S. Senator famously bellowed, perfectly typifying a certain psychosis. A new book picks fights on history of American gun law.

Words at the Grave

June 1, 2014
Words at the Grave

On Marx, the latest chip off the block of Alan Ryan’s 2-volume On Politics, focuses on the founder of Marxism – but Ryan’s a man in a hurry, and the devil is in the details.

Circumspice

May 1, 2014
Circumspice

Ronald Reagan single-handedly ended the Cold War at Reykjavik in 1985. And if you believe that, his loyal aid Ken Adelman has a book to sell you.

Laylat-al-Qadr

April 1, 2014
Laylat-al-Qadr

A kaleidoscopic new book explores one of history’s sharpest paradoxes: the Age of Liberty was also the Age of Slavery

Not Just Cutting Ribbons

April 1, 2014
Not Just Cutting Ribbons

For the past 25 years, the Irish Presidency has been a wonder to behold: a place where passionate eccentrics can embody a complicated country.

Doubleplusungood

April 1, 2014
Doubleplusungood

Putin’s Soviet predecessors were masters of doublespeak. As Ukraine suffers again, it’s clear that their descendents are now in charge.

War, in Panorama

February 1, 2014
War, in Panorama

How could they do it, those young men who, with every reason to live, walked deliberately into machine-gun fire? Joe Sacco gives us a panoramic view of the horror, the labor, and the losses of WWI.

A Disproportionate Response

February 1, 2014
Andrew_Sullivan

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.

February 2014 Issue

February 1, 2014
February 2014 Issue

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Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

January 1, 2014
Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

The Russian dissident writers are largely unknown in the West today, but their work was an inspiration at a time when their compatriots were forbidden to dream different dreams.

Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

December 1, 2013
Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor – but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.

It Was Fun, the Struggle

December 1, 2013
It Was Fun, the Struggle

The age of Roosevelt and Taft was also the age of Progressive reform – spearheaded by an amazing team of ‘muckraking’ writers the like of which the United States had never seen.

Quick, Off the Mark

November 1, 2013
Quick, Off the Mark

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.

JFK in the Senate

October 5, 2013
jfk in the senate

Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?

The Heartless World

August 1, 2013
The Heartless World

‘Everyone knows who won the war,’ runs the refrain of Muriel Rukeyser’s Savage Coast; her newly published 1930 novel about the Spanish Civil War shows what it meant to be a witness to it.

Mé Féin

June 1, 2013
Mé Féin

Fintan O’Toole is an idealist about Irish republicanism and his books begin a desperately necessary conversation. It’s a bad sign, though, that he can’t quite get past the preliminaries.

Failing Gracelessly

May 1, 2013
Failing Gracelessly

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?

From the Archives: Embossed Coins

April 1, 2013
From the Archives: Embossed Coins

Elie Wiesel once claimed “a novel about Treblinka is either not a novel or not about Treblinka.” How does Steve Sem-Sandberg grapple with representing the unrepresentable in his sweeping chronicle of the Łódź ghetto, The Emperor of Lies? A review from our archives.

The Geeks Shall Inherit

March 1, 2013
The Geeks Shall Inherit

We’ve long endowed campaign consultants with shamanistic powers, but now a new truth is beginning to emerge–the people behind the scenes who can do most to win elections are the data analysts and stat nerds.

Judaize This

February 1, 2013
Judaize This

The belief that Jews are the enemy of civilization is one of the West’s most tenacious and systemic ideas. Professor David Nirenberg’s new history offers a vast, seemingly inexhaustible record of a very old, very useful hatred.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 6

February 1, 2013
TrinityHarvardLibrary

Lost to history, here re-discovered, Trinity Chancel –“a daring enterprise in its day, as original an expression and as unique as was the genius of the American people.”

Entred in a Spacious Court

January 1, 2013
Entred in a Spacious Court

Ben Jonson said that the once wealthy and acclaimed Edmund Spenser died “for want of bread”; a new biography tries to disentangle myth from fact, and to make the case for the great poet’s relevance today

Too Much Signal

December 1, 2012
Too Much Signal

Nate Silver is currently enjoying his status as that unlikeliest of people, the celebrity statistician. Does his bestseller The Signal and the Noise live up to its carefully calculated expectations?

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 4

December 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 4

“Truth is Catholic, but the search for it is Protestant,” quoth W.H. Auden, and this month Phillips Brooks is at Lourdes, of all places, his liking for which can only be explained by his experiences at Benares.

The Evolutionary: Barack Obama’s First Term in the White House

November 1, 2012
The Evolutionary: Barack Obama’s First Term in the White House

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.

The Power Season

November 1, 2012
The Power Season

As Americans go to the polls this month to elect a president, some recent biographies examine the lives of five very different men who once held the office.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 3

November 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 3

“Perhaps a little drunk might answer” was Phillips Brooks’s idea of how to view Pre-Raphaelite art, several masterpieces of which he commissioned for Trinity Church. “Centerpiece” continues.

A Man Apart

October 1, 2012
A Man Apart

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?

Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

October 1, 2012
Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

Madman, lothario, despot, drug fiend, friend and enemy of Mussolini – and immortal poet. Gabriele D’Annunzio was all of these things and many more in his whirlwind of a life.

American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

October 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

Henry Adams on the road to Chartres, Phillips Brooks on the Madonna of the prairie, and John La Farge on why he worried Trinity Church had “no heart” — The Gods of Copley Square continues

‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

September 1, 2012
Castlereagh_death-1

Lord Castlereagh lives in infamy as the target of the Romantic Poets’ most vicious insults, but a new biography tries to salvage his reputation. Was the statesman a scourge of liberalism or pragmatist of Enlightenment ideals?

Attainted: The Life and Afterlife of Ezra Pound in Italy

September 1, 2012
ep

Pound wrote The Pisan Cantos on toilet paper while prisoner in an open-air metal cage during WWII, and he spent many of the following years in mental hospitals. “I can get along with crazy people,” he quipped. “It’s only the fools I can’t stand.”

In Praise of the Practitioner

September 1, 2012
GZhukov

Was General Zhukov the greatest general to order mass executions of his own soldiers? Was he the single most decisive factor in beating Hitler? A new biography opens more questions than it answers.

A Hostage Worth Ransoming

September 1, 2012
A Hostage Worth Ransoming

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.

We Could Have Beaten Kennedy…

August 1, 2012
LBJ-RFK-JFK

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.

A Writ of Certiorari

August 1, 2012
37

A contentious Supreme Court in the headlines is hardly a new thing – nor is the Court being used for partisan politics and the brinksmanship of history, as Noah Feldman’s Scorpions makes clear

A Man Without Divisions

August 1, 2012
Prejudices

“He calls you a swine,” Walter Lippmann once wrote of H.L. Mencken, “and he increases your will to live.” A reissue of Mencken’s 1926 rabble-rouser Notes on Democracy shows the journalist at his insulting, rejuvenating best.

Roberts Saves POTUS and SCOTUS

July 1, 2012
Roberts Saves POTUS and SCOTUS

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 …

We Are Oil

June 1, 2012
We Are Oil

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.

Keeping Up With the Windsors – The Invisible Woman

June 1, 2012
HMQEIIHC

She’s occupied the throne of Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 60 years, and in June Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Three new biographies try to understand the woman wearing the crown.

Keeping Up With the Tudors: Lizard on a Rock

May 1, 2012
Henry-VII

He survived years of dangerous exile, won his crown on the battlefield, and founded one of the most famous dynasties in human history – and yet we still haven’t embraced Henry VII. A spirited new biography seeks to change that.

LOL, SRSLY?

May 1, 2012
LOL, SRSLY?

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.

American Aristocracy – Civil War: Pride and Shame on the Via Sacra

May 1, 2012
WilliamJames

The clash between Brahmin liberalism and the legacy of slave-trading focuses on a monument to the men who redeemed a city and ransomed a nation. “American Aristocracy” continues.

Good Enough

April 1, 2012
Good Enough

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.

The People’s Prisoner

April 1, 2012
TiananmenSquareJune289

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2010, it was given to an empty chair. Its recipient, Liu Xiaobo, was in prison for advocating human rights in China. Though he is still incarcerated, a collection of essays sheds light on his thought and struggle.

American Aristocracy – Harvard Pulpit: Boston Brahmin Liberalism

April 1, 2012
MIT postcard

To the quintessential virtues the Puritans lent to a fledgling republic – globality, philantropy, and autonomy – the ‘speaking aristocracy’ of the Boston Brahmins added one more: the love of learning

Breitbart at Rest

March 3, 2012
andrew-breitbart

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?

Cato of the Antipodes

March 1, 2012
1321632

Of his 60+ books, one in particular, The United States, is best representative of his work as a whole and, by readers, best loved. On the Collected Essays of Gore Vidal.

The Apparatchik

February 1, 2012
condoleezza-rice

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?

On Reading a Five-Volume Biography of Prince Albert

January 1, 2012
princealbertqueenvictoriawedding

Maligned as nothing but handsome breeding stock, this German import did more to redefine the role of the monarchy than any subsequent royal, consort or king.

American Aristocracy – Brahmin Dreams: In Search of the Capital of The World

January 1, 2012
fatkd

Boston without Brahmins, like Vienna without Jews, frames shifting capitoline visions, visions much more in the spirit than most realize of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who actually wrote: ‘It dwarfs the mind to feed it on any localism.’

Generalissimo

January 1, 2012
madison

James Madison was more cautious and purposeful than the temperamental Hamilton or the effusive Jefferson. Indeed, to paraphrase Brookhiser, Hamilton was a rocket, Jefferson was a kite, Madison was a ballast.

The Prince of Now and Then

December 1, 2011
william

He lost his famous mother when he was a boy, became a teen idol, had a storybook wedding, and he’s second in line to be King of England. The monarchy Prince William inherits will be like nothing his predecessors have experienced – if it exists at all. “A Year with the Windsors” concludes.

A Heartbeat Away

November 1, 2011
Dick Cheney

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.

American Aristocracy – Letter from Boston: Toward a New History

October 1, 2011
prendergast-west-church

Boston, so often reproved for living in its memories, may well be poised to lead the future, not in spite of its history but because of it.

Splendide Mendax

September 1, 2011
Splendide Mendax

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.

The New Old Atheism

July 1, 2011
9781616143831

Religion is one of those subjects that are too important to be polite about. But can we at least agree to disagree respectfully about the meaning of life?

A Very Narrow Area

July 1, 2011
9780465013975

A pivotal part of the Second World War was fought not on land or sea but under the waves – and a new history attributes heroism to both sides.

A Brief for the Defense

June 1, 2011
A Brief for the Defense

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.

History Without the Moon

February 1, 2011
DiamonJubilee

Her reign was epic in length and social impact, but it very nearly didn’t happen at all. She ruled through two generations of her people, and she left the British monarchy very different from how she found it. She is Queen Victoria, and our Year with the Windsors starts as it must: with her.

There Can Only Be One

February 1, 2011
SixNationsveteransWar1812

The United States’ first Civil War, Alan Taylor claims, was fought in 1812. Ivan Lett assesses the revisionist argument.

Duel

January 1, 2011
Duel

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.

Simple Man

December 1, 2010
Simple Man

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?

No Heaven for Suckers

October 1, 2010
machiavelli

He has become synonymous with amoral, cold-hearted political machination, but there was more to Machiavelli than that. A new biography attempts to look at the whole man.

Coming Out of the Room

February 1, 2010
BarnyFrankYoutube

Stuart Weisberg’s biography of Barney Frank may be scattered and incomplete, but it’s got one huge saving grace: Frank’s own witticisms on nearly every page.

Yikes!

December 1, 2009
speechless

Unlike most prior White House wonks, Matt Latimer aw-shucks his way through history and into deep, deep trouble; Greg Waldmann reviews Speech Less

The Empire Strikes Back?

May 1, 2009
new-cold-war

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.

EMK

April 1, 2009
last_lion1

For half a century, Senator Ted Kennedy has been carving out a legacy in Congress. The legacy and the man come into focus in Thomas J. Daly’s review of Last Lion.

President Pepys

March 1, 2009
reagan-laughing

Ronald Reagan was the only modern U.S. President to keep a daily journal. Steve Donoghue plumbs The Unabridged Reagan Diaries in search of the diarist’s soul.

Free with Subscription! Order Now!

February 1, 2009
longtime

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.

The Education of Barack Obama

October 1, 2008
obama-harvard

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 End of the End of the End of the End of History

August 1, 2008
thereturnofhistory

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.

The Truth and John McCain

July 1, 2008
mccain-pilot

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.

Nunc Dimittis

June 1, 2008
counselor

Ted Sorensen was the most loyal of JFK’s retainers and the last to finally spill the beans about the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Steve Donoghue walks us through the worthy—if somewhat hedging—memoir of an eloquent and haunted man.

What Went Wrong?

April 1, 2008
marchinghell

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

Irreverence by Half-Measure

March 1, 2008
milbankpic

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.

Not Quite Détente

February 1, 2008
Not Quite Détente

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.

The Right Man for the Job

December 1, 2007
gore

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.

Costly Friendships

November 1, 2007
israel

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.