The Quietest War

We’ve kept Fallujah, but have we lost our souls? The war in Iraq has been going on for three and a half years now. That’s about the same amount of time America spent fighting World War II. This seems almost impossible considering how firmly the Second World War is embedded in our collective memory. We have even come to think of an entire generation—The Greatest Generation—in terms of that struggle. Cliché or not, we can still see the sharp cut of their uniforms, and those sharp 1940s civvies, the way they wore their hair back then, the America they lived Read More

Second-Term Blues

Why have our Presidents almost always stumbled                after their first four years? Pity poor George W. Bush, stuck in the morass of those second-term blues! As of this writing, Mr. Bush’s poll numbers—those now ubiquitous barometers of presidential popularity—are barely creeping up after hitting record lows earlier this year. The seemingly stalled war in Iraq, the bungled relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, and the grudges accumulated from two bitter national campaigns have left less than a third of the American electorate convinced that he is still doing a good job. Yet President Bush Read More

Cruel and Usual

Why prisoners shouldn’t pay their way. One of the worst ideas Americans have embraced recently is the belief that a decent society must be run at a profit. Government can easily come to resemble kudzu. You have to keep an eye on it and cut it back constantly if you don’t want it to grow completely out of hand. That said, there are some attempts to save the taxpayers money that actually undermine our most basic values. One of the worst ideas Americans have embraced recently is the belief that a decent society must be run at a profit. Government Read More

The Future of New Orleans

Can the disasters that befell other cities help save this one? When Hurricane Katrina battered down the levees that protected our most fabled big city last September, many of us familiar with America’s “can do” traditions figured it would be a matter of weeks, maybe even days, before the Crescent City was at least on the mend again. More than five months later this is not the case, and it is not clear when it ever will be. The waters that left an estimated 1,300 of the people in New Orleans dead and the vast majority of the rest homeless Read More

Our Malcolm

Richard Snow and Fred Allen, the agreeable gentlemen who edit this column, suggested that this time out I write something on my new book, a historical novel called Paradise Alley. Read More

The Age of Security

It’s easy to talk a great deal of rot about when you start generalizing about generations. Witness the recent mania regarding Tom Brokaw’s beloved “Greatest Generation.” Read More

September 11: Looking Back and Forward

Are we learning from the past?                                                       And are we honoring it?    How does a great republic sustain itself? How do we keep the democratic ideal before us in a world preoccupied with instant gratification, with allegiance to tribe and creed above all else? A democracy must always face in three directions at once, confronting the future and the past just as unflinchingly as it does the present. The greatest test of maturity for Read More

A Matter of State

Defending a recent victim of presidential politics. The seemingly interminable 2004 presidential campaign is well behind us now, but I’m still not willing to let it go yet. I want to hear an apology from someone about the most egregious smear to emerge from the campaign. I’m not talking about the Swift Boat Veterans, or “flip-flopping,” or anything perpetrated by Michael Moore. What I mean is the decision to transform my old home state into an epithet. I didn’t have the privilege of being born in Massachusetts, but I did grow up there, and I never thought I would hear Read More

The Winds of Political Change

…And why you almost never feel them coming. The Democratic candidate was crushed. An urban, ethnic liberal from the Northeast, he had been caught flatfooted by the waves of vitriolic attacks that smeared his background, his years of dedicated public service, the character of his beloved wife, as well as his religious beliefs and cultural values. He lost the heartland, and even the traditionally Democratic South had turned against him in unprecedented numbers, and it looked as though Republicans would continue to control not only the White House but also both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court for a Read More

A Helluva Town

This summer marks a sea change in the traditions of American party politics. For the first time, the Democratic National Convention will be held in Boston, and the Republican National Convention Read More