Magazine | May 28, 2018, Issue


(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A Thesis On The Bendy Straw

In his Athwart column (May 14), James Lileks imagines some future academic writing “a thesis on the insidious invention of the bendy straw.” While I am not aware of an actual thesis, a fair amount of scholarly work has been done on this very topic.

The inventor was Joseph Friedman, a Cleveland native living in San Francisco. His brother ran an ice-cream shop, and when Friedman saw his young daughter struggling to drink her soda through a straight straw, he devised a method to corrugate a section of it in a way that would permit bending. He received a patent in 1937 and began manufacturing the straws after World War II, at first selling mainly to hospitals.

Friedman’s papers are in the Smithsonian. And far from being “insidious,” the bendy straw is now celebrated as an early example of “universal design,” in which changes instituted to accommodate the disabled end up helping everyone.

Alison Schildkraut
Des Moines, Iowa

The Power of Presidential Character

The dialogue between Victor Davis Hanson’s “Donald Trump, Tragic Hero” and Michael Knox Beran’s “The Magnanimous Magistrate” in the April 30 issue is particularly interesting. The two writers seem to be in agreement: Presidential character is eminently important to the well-being of the republic. But while Beran takes a positive view, suggesting that magnanimous character can fill a space and bring positive change, Hanson operates from the negative, suggesting that Trump’s lack of character, or at least magnanimous character, may be the greatest tool in shifting the path of this country.

Beran limits his analysis to “first-rank presidents,” those who “in some way stirred the nation even as they undertook to reform its laws and manners.” Perhaps Trump does not fall within this rank, his “hamartia,” as Hanson puts it, excluding him, almost as a martyr, from these highest reaches. So while Trump’s lack of character may be an effective agent of change itself, it does not necessarily signal positive change. Beran writes, “The presidency of a wholly unmagnanimous man, whatever its surface accomplishments, would almost certainly be a disaster, and destructive of the republic’s moral life.”

This seems to me the strongest point against Hanson; though Trump may indeed be forced to sacrifice his presidency for the sake of some goods (a Supreme Court justice’s nomination or a tax-reform bill’s passage), the damage his caddishness and lack of scruples may do to the country’s moral foundations may temper their glow. Trump’s legacy is not yet complete, and one can still hope that character will rule the day.

Nora James
Annapolis, Md.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


The Week

The Week

We propose a total and complete shutdown of New York attorneys general until we can figure out what the hell is going on.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More