The Week

(Roman Genn)


A prisoner took 40 percent of the vote in a Democratic presidential primary against Obama. We see the makings of a John Edwards comeback.

President Obama has renewed his attacks on Mitt Romney’s investing career at Bain Capital, going so far as to avow that such attacks are “what this campaign’s going to be about.” The president’s anti-business rhetoric dismayed, among others, Newark mayor Cory Booker, who pronounced himself “nauseated” by the assault — and who then promptly released a hostage video from the Pakistani school of cinematography, declaring his allegiance to the president and his crusade. It is clear that the president intends to make this election an exercise in class-warfare politics, and that Romney intends to cover much of the same ground in his own way, portraying himself as a successful private-sector executive with a portfolio of successful investment and turnarounds on his résumé. This should redound to the benefit of Romney: If we are to spend the next several months talking about business practices, we should be inclined to listen to the man who has practiced business.

In 1806, after he encountered Napoleon riding to the Battle of Jena, the German philosopher Hegel wrote that he had seen a “world soul” incarnate. Two centuries later, American liberals saw their own world soul: Barack Obama, the post-racial, post-national transformer. It takes a lot of transformation to become a transformer — witness the latest discovery by the folks at Breitbart News. A 1991 authors’ catalogue, sent out by Acton & Dystel, young Barack Obama’s literary agents, described their new client thus: “the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review . . . born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.” Breitbart has not gone birther. What they see in this story is yet one more instance of the uncritical enthusiasm with which a certain kind of American greeted Obama’s unusual biography: He’s lived everywhere, think what he can tell us. It was an enthusiasm encouraged by the ambitious young man himself. If our national binge ends this November, Obama had better not seek work as a copy editor.

Say a conservative Republican president had a controversial minister in his background. Then say that the minister granted a former editor of The New York Times Magazine a lengthy interview. In that interview, he said that, in the previous campaign, a close friend of the president had offered him $150,000 to keep quiet until after Election Day. Would not this disclosure, or allegation, be a huge story, pursued by every media outlet in America, night and day, until there were no more questions about it? “What did the president know,” they would be saying, “and when did he know it?” In real life, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright gave an interview to Edward Klein about President Obama. Wright said he had indeed been offered $150,000 by an Obama pal (Eric Whitaker). The response of the mainstream media has been — silence, except for annoyance at Republicans’ continuing interest in Wright.


June 11, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, No. 11

  • It’s not easy opposing gay marriage in the north country.
  • Will today’s conservative grassroots go the way of FDR’s constitutional foes?
  • A think tank defends them from the NHL.
  • How should conservatives respond to declining church attendance?
  • The problem of moral selectivity in human rights.
  • Our Mexican writer reflects on the Cherokee Senate candidate.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Peter Hitchens reviews The Complete Poems, by Philip Larkin, edited by Archie Burnett.
  • John O’Sullivan reviews Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship, by Richard Aldous.
  • David Pryce-Jones reviews Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian, by Bernard Lewis with Buntzie Ellis Churchill.
  • Florence King reviews Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Dictator.
  • Richard Brookhiser on what the knowers tell us.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .