Here are my columns, reviews, interviews, and essays, from the latest back to 2008. Those with asterisks (**) are “signature pieces” that I’m willing to be known by. (TPMCafe columns may not come up through these links. Write email@example.com to see anything you can’t see here.)
Connecticut’s likely next governor is performing two interesting, perhaps exemplary balancing acts, one economic, the other historical. Am I the last person who thinks that both matter? The Washington Monthly, Sept. 19, 2018
Resistance in the White House? Not yet, and not for real. Don’t fall for at anonymous NY Times op ed. Salon, September 6, 2018
**Freedom of speech is on two slippery slopes. Why is the ACLU ignoring one of them? Salon, August 3, 2018.
A bit of historical perspective on Putin/Trump, coming from Brezhnev/Ford 1975 and even from Stalin/___? 1939. Salon, July 19, 2018. Watching Trump in Helsinki, you didn’t have to be John McCain to have seen the stunning hypocrisy in the president’s claim that “I like people who haven’t been captured.”
**What really drives Alan Dershowitz’s obsession with being shunned at Martha’s Vineyard, Harvard, and Yale. Salon, July 11, 2018
***Speech Defects: How Consumer Marketing Distorts Democracy. It’s not only conservative Supreme Court justices and a lavishly funded, brilliantly orchestrated conservative campaign that have fomented the derangement of the American public sphere by making commercial “speech” the decider of public priorities that should be determined by American citizens in a republic. Civil-liberties advocates are also to blame. The Baffler, July 3, 2018. Also at RealClearPolicy
**It Can Happen Here. Don’t underestimate the depths to which Donald Trump and his enablers will go to crush their enemies. The Washington Monthly, June 22, 2018.
**This “historical” find reveals a lot about Excellent Sheep and ‘The Coddling of the American Mind,’ Salon, June 13, 2018. A 1975 Harvard Crimson essay anticipated — and debunked — a lot of the campus-bashing of 2014- 2016. Be sure to read the Crimson essay itself, linked at the end of the brief column in Salon.
***What Tom Wolfe got wrong about New York in ‘Bonfire of the Vanities.’ Salon, May 16, 2018, resurrecting a response I wrote in 1990 to the novel and to an essay he’d written about it in Harper’s. This is a ‘period piece,’ my love letter to the New York City that Wolfe didn’t understand.
**Free speech on campus? When these Yale Daily News students wrote critically about billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, here’s what happened. Dissent, May 15 2018. Posted also by Education News, May 16, and Salon, May 17
These Singapore students showed courage in publishing my new column on freedoms of inquiry and expression there. The Octant, May 1, 2018. The column was picked up immediately by The Asia Sentinel. This is my first statement in several years about Yale’s joint venture with The National University of Singapore, which I and many Yale faculty challenged several years ago in several venues, including via this column in The New York Times.
*The Hidden Motives of Robert Mueller, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2018. Also Salon, March 10, 2018. Although the Special Counsel for the Russia investigation will probably never say so, he’s not chasing Trump only for Constitutional and “political” reasons.
***This Boy Cried ‘Wolf!!’ — and the Wolf Came
How does this lament for America look to you now, four years after I posted it on July 4th, 2014? I wrote it prompted by the first long, breathtaking spat of public massacres, but also by dark forebodings about the republic that had been accumulating even a year and a half before any of us imagined that Trump would really run for president, let alone win. After Salon editor David Daley posted this, it was picked up by the U.K. website openDemocracy, by Reset (in Rome), by the American sites AlterNet and History News Network and, later, by HuffingtonPost.
The right-wing Drudge website sent hundreds of negative commenters my way. The conservative theologian Carl Raschke disparaged me as an “op ed Jeremiah.” But The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg tweeted: “Jim Sleeper is the Jonathan Edwards of civic republicanism—and that’s a compliment.” http://bit.ly/1n8CvBi @salon @OpenDemocracy
Having expected to be pretty much alone in wringing my hands over the demise of the republic, I was surprised by these reactions. But if anything surprises me now, it’s how much the essay anticipated the current crisis, including many people’s efforts to ‘normalize,’ deflect, or deny it. A
***Six months later, in December 2014, I wrote another, shorter piece — ‘Our Real ‘White Male’ Problem: Why Fox News Defeats Bruce Springsteen and Liberal Moralizing Every Time’ — that explained what, two years later, would become Trump’s high level of support among ‘working class’ white men. Let me know how you think this 2014 piece stacks up against all the post-2016 post-mortems!
In March of 2016, As Trump rampaged through the Republican primary elections and knocked the conservative establishment off its rocker, I took a second major reckoning, prompting this 20-minute interview on New York City’s NPR station. The day after Trump was inaugurated, I posted “The Die is Cast”. Several months later, I characterized the accelerating implosion of America’s civic-republican culture.
Now I’m at work on a book recounting how our civic implosion began 50 years ago even in upscale American suburbs such as Wellesley, Massachusetts. But I find it useful to re-read this 2014 essay, written before we knew as much as we do now about what has befallen us.
‘Americanization’ as progressives might like it: This U.S. immigration plan worked a century ago. It could help us now, too. DEMOCRACY Journal, Feb. 16, 2017, Also on AlterNet and History News Network
**About Warlocks, Witches, American Stampedes, and #MeToo. History News Network, Dec. 27, 2017, and Salon, Dec. 28, 2017. How crusading ‘movements’ on all sides risk devouring their own.
***Sex as San Juan Hill: Why former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier’s disgrace reveals more about Washington than about him. AlterNet, Nov. 4, 2017
**How Corporate ‘Speech’ Turns Citizens into Manic Consumers and Deranges Civil Society, Alternet, Oct. 17, 2017 and Salon, Oct. 19
What the ‘Vietnam War’ documentary gets wrong about the anti-war movement. AlterNet, Sept. 26, 2017. Most protesters weren’t self-indulgent ‘fraidy cats, any more than most soldiers were bravado-seeking baby-killers. The dark side of both was brought out by leaders who undertook the war with deceit and delusion and have never been brought to justice.
Some ‘Free speech on campus’ crusaders have a hidden agenda. The Observer, Case-Western Reserve University, Sept. 22, 2017. See here how the ‘Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’ is funded
*Fake News Was a Hallmark of the Mainstream Media Long Before Trump and Twitter. So let’s stop blaming social media. The Washington Spectator, Sept. 10, 2017. Also posted by Newsweek, Sept. 11, 2017
What the ‘identity politics’ controversy missed even before Charlottesville and Hurricane Harvey sunk it. AlterNet, August 30, 2017. An assessment of New Yorker editor David Remnick’s “Conversation” with Mark Lilla about the really small dimensions and the really big but unmentioned causes of campus political correctness. Also at Salon and the History News Network.
*How neoconservatives chose a bad U.S. Afghan strategy in 2009 — and did it hypocritically, with consequences for now. The Washington Monthly, August 29, 2017
Is Mark Lilla trying to save liberals from themselves — or himself from liberalism? Review of his ‘The Once and Future Liberal” in DEMOCRACY journal, August 19, 2017.
Why he’s doing a little of both. Alternet, August 20, 2017
***What John McCain Really Showed Us when he spoke and voted against ‘Skinny Repeal,’ The Washington Monthly, July 30, 2017. No, he hasn’t been perfect and has sometimes been bad. But this time, as at some other times, he delivered what a republic requires.
**The hypocrisy of conservative “free speech” advocates. Here’s what their “free speech on campus” crusade missed, and what purposes it really serves. The Washington Monthly, July 21, 2017.
How Trump embodies what America has been doing to itself for half a century. AlterNet, May 22, 2o17, Salon, March 26, and other sites. Stepping aside from the Constitutional crisis inherent in the Comey firing and allegations of collusion with Russia, this 1800-word piece notes that the implosion of America’s political culture, whose symptoms are all around us and within us, was well underway nearly 50 years ago, when conservatives were the carriers of “political correctness.”
Way beyond telling Comey, “You’re fired.”: This isn’t ‘only’ a Constitutional crisis, it’s a civic-republican implosion. Moyers & Company, March 11, 2017 and AlterNet, March 12; Common Dreams, and other sites.
What Trump’s opposition to asylum for Amos Yee reveals about Singapore and about dangers to Americans’ freedoms. Moyers & company, March 27, 2017. Also on AlterNet, March 28, as “Is the U.S. becoming a corporate-authoritarian state like Singapore?” Also on Salon, March 29, as “No More Land of the Free”?
What ‘Citizen Bannon’ misremembered and misread on his way to misleading Trump, openDemocracy, March 24, 2017. Also on AlterNet, March 27, 2017
***Why Yale should return a $150 million donation from Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, The Washington Monthly, Feb. 18, 2017. Another version, with additional information about Schwarzman’s “business,” ran on AlterNet, Feb. 23, 2017, and again on Salon.
On the increasingly precarious right to visit other countries. openDemocracy, Feb. 12, 2017. The U.K. and the U.S.’s use of private contractors to retrench on immigration and tourism highlights the reality that global capital’s riptides are making nations’ sovereignty as fragile as migrants’, refugees’, and asylum-seekers’ right to have rights.
***Virginia NPR interview on why the conservative campus ‘free speech’ crusade is still at it, and why it should give up. Interviewed Feb. 4, 2017 by NPR reporter Sandy Hausman.
***Neocons v. Trump? No thanks, and here’s why. Alternet, February 2, 2o17
**The Die is Cast: Why Trump will lurch toward dictatorship, openDemocracy.net, Jan. 21, 2017. Posted the day after his Inaugural Address. Also on AlterNet, Jan. 22.
Defending the republic against the government. A New Hampshire NPR radio conversation with Jim Sleeper and show host, former state senator Burt Cohen. (45 minutes) January 17, 2017. Sometimes citizens must break the law to uphold the law, at personal risk. But how to determine which risks are worth it? The Trump presidency is giving that question new urgency. The interview begins with a minute-long montage of American leaders’ recorded comments about what republican patriotism requires.
** What Resisting the Vietnam War taught me about resisting Trump. The Washington Monthly, January 11, 2017. The only war that Trump seems to be planning is one on the Constitution, but a moment of war resistance at Yale in 1968 sheds some light on our republican crisis now. This has also been published by AlterNet, January 13, 2017
**Why 2016’s crusade against political correctness gave Trump cover and disgracing its own architects and apologists, AlterNet, January 2, 2017. Also posted by Salon and by Moyers & Co.
My argument in this piece and in 5 minutes, on Virginia NPR was that “Liberal” political correctness and identity politics are maladroit, sometimes counterproductive reactions to the powerful currents that are deranging American civil society and that have carried a financier of casinos and predatory self-marketer to the White House.
Feckless liberals who endorse identity politics weren’t as responsible for Trump’s ascent as much as were the massacres in streets and schools, the gladitorialization of sports and entertainments, the road rage, the mass incarceration, the foreclosure and eviction of millions of Americans from their homes, and other dimensions of our accelerating civic and political implosion.
To denounce liberals’ and leftists’ admittedly often-blundering reactions while shrugging off gargantuan malpractices and sufferings that prompt them is to display one’s intellectual confusion and self-serving character.
‘Whitelash’? Not Exactly – or Maybe Not Even Really. AlterNet, Dec. 15, 2016. How I brought 30 white working guys to hear James Baldwin at Harvard 40 years ago — and what I’ve learned since about Trump and the ‘white working class.’
Another reason why Rudy Giuliani shouldn’t be Secretary of State, Foreign Policy, Nov. 22, 2016
Does Mark Lilla know where ‘identity liberalism’ comes from? Political Correctness is bad, but its new critics are hiding something worse. A reponse to Lilla’s NYT column, in AlterNet Nov. 21, 2016. My argument about identity politics in 400 words, in The New York Times, Nov. 23, 2016
American conservatism’s contradictions, in 234 words — and in 6000 words. My letter to the Yale Daily News, Oct. 31, 2016, refers to my longer essay **“The Coddling of the Conservative Mind.” In the latter, scroll down to the section headed “Look Who’s Been Coddled” to see how Harvard and Yale, under conservative governance, were panopticons of self-censorship and conformity, enforced by the students themselves as much as by their preceptors.
Some questions for the leader of the conservative campus ‘free speech’ crusade — and some revelations about that crusade. American Prospect, Oct. 19, 2016. On the eve of Foundation for Independent Rights in Education president Greg Lukianoff’s appearance at Bard College, I sought to plant a few questions in his listeners’ minds.
How the second presidential ‘debate’ exposed the crisis in journalism, not just democracy. AlterNet, Oct. 11, 2016
Radio Interview, Portland OR, Sept. 15, 2016, on campus political correctness and the “free speech” crusade. Prompted by the “God and Brand at Yale” column, this aired for 15 minutes. After clicking on or pasting the link, drag the white ball to the right to 33.20, where the interview begins. http://www.xray.fm/broadcasts/13432 (Remember: go to 33.20 to hear the interview)
**God and Brand at Yale, New York Times, Sept. 4, 2016: Conservative donors have seized on campus debates to push their belief in free markets, not in free speech.
**What the Campus ‘Free Speech’ Crusade Won’t Say, Alternet, Sept. 4, 2016. This long essay (6400 words!) provides the analysis and explosive information on the crusade’s funding and philosophy that I couldn’t include in the NY Times column, above. In another piece, the crusade’s leader FIREs back, and I respond. Alternet, Sept. 6, 2016.
*The Real PC Threat, Yale Daily News, Sept. 21, 2016. I wrote this column for the student newspaper to rebuke some alumni on conservative websites for engaging in a new round of tongue-clucking and hand-wringing about student “cry-bullies,” for no reason other than that some of the critics had revived and reviled year-old videos of an incident of ugly racial protesting amid otherwise necessary (and sometimes beautiful) soul-searching about race.
Where presidential candidates’ concessions to big donors should end. AlterNet, August 2, 2016. Box seats and cocktails high above the crowd — at the Democratic National Convention??
“Race war,” a blast from the past? Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy on Jim Sleeper’s review of Carl Rowan’s book on that subject — 20 years ago.
Memo to the Democratic National Convention: Forget about glass ceilings and David Brooks’ cultural sermons: Turbo-capitalism will wreck us unless Hillary faces it firmly. AlterNet, July 27, 2016. Also at Salon, July 28, 2016.
How FOX NEWS’ Roger Ailes looked in 2013 in the Columbia Journalism Review, in a review of Zev Chafets’s hagiography of him.
Trump’s Nomination May Not Be the Worst of It, Dissent, July 21, 2016, a short column on David Daley’s Ratf**ked, a riveting expose of how Republicans have locked up the House of Representatives for two more decades via diabolically legal legislative-district line-drawing.
***My equivalent of Tom Paine’s Common Sense: Not Hitler or Augustus, Donald Trump does show what the American polity is becoming. openDemocracy, July 20, 2016. Our national crisis isn’t really about Trump and Republicans; it’s about what’s happening to the American people. (Like Paine’s pamphlet, this is 7000 words long and worth the hour it will take to read.) Also on AlterNet.org, July 21, 2016. An earlier version, posted in March at Salon and AlterNet, prompted an NPR interview, and the NY Times had me lead off a “Room for Debate” segment, “Is Tyranny Around the Corner?” on May 12. They are linked below.
On the eve of the Republican convention, these conservative writers are still trying to wish Trumpism away after seeding Trumpism for years. AlterNet, July 17, 2016.
The bad side of Brexit needn’t prompt a Trump-style ‘Amerexit’ in the U.S. AlterNet, July 13, 2016. A brief for civic-republican nationalism as flawed but indispensable on both sides of the Atlantic in a time of crisis.
***Why these mass shooters R Us. Boston Globe, July 9, 2016. These 750 words, written the day after the Dallas massacre, explain why I don’t much care about the backgrounds and motives of any of these monsters but care a lot more about how we let powerful commercial engines derange our public culture, sending subliminal and direct signals that lots of “misfits” tune into.
**What Brexit means for American civic nationalism, and vice versa. openDemocracy.net, July 4, 2016
*Why a good guy with a gun isn’t the only answer to a bad guy with one. The Washington Monthly, June 30, 2016
*What happened to the 2015 campaign against campus political correctness in 2016, Salon, May 22, 2016. Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt, and other scourges of the liberal academy saw their strategy co-opted and the tables turned.
*It’s Not About Trump. It’s About What’s Happening to the American People. AlterNet, May 20, 2016. And what’s happening to us is something that’s being done to us more than it’s something we’ve done to ourselves. Can we un-do it?
Is Tyranny Around the Corner? New York Times, May 12, 2016. My 400-word contribution to a six-person “Room for Debate” round-robin on the presidential race just after Donald Trump has virtually locked up the Republican nomination.
Bye, Bye, Bernie? No, and here’s why, as of late April, we still need him in the race and in the public discussion. AlterNet, April 28, 2016, and Salon, April 26. (The Salon piece ran just before the “Acela” primaries; the AlterNet was adapted to take account of his losses there.)
*Free Speech on Campus: Why conservatives have themselves to blame for most of the campus controversies they condemn. A short essay for a forum on campus speech for Dissent, April 25 2016
*How I’ll vote in New York’s 2016 Democratic primary — and WHY. Huffington Post, April 18, 2016
*** How Trump’s rampage through American politics was driven by what our politics had become. And what’s next. AlterNet, March 17, 2016, SALON, March 10, 2016. This is 6500 words, written, like Tom Paine’s Common Sense, for both the moment and for the ages. It has turned out to be very prescient. Here is an NPR interview I did on this piece on March 21, on The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC FM, New York City.
*Why The Donald Has Trumped Everyone Else So Far, DEMOCRACY, March 8, 2016. 124o words on what I hadn’t seen anyone else say about his campaign as it surged into Michigan and Mississippi: It’s actually the “high point” of a campaign that’s been going on for half a century.
***The ‘Blame the Liberals’ Campaign Hits Yale — Again, HuffingtonPost and AlterNet, Feb. 12-14, 2016. How the anti-‘political movement’ has developed an ‘ideology’ and a strategic pattern across 15 years: Three examples of how its invasion of a campus and its narrative of what’s happening there collapsed, including last fall at Yale.
***The Coddling of the American Mind, Salon, Jan. 13, 2016. Conservative critics of campus protests are trying to deflect their own long history of coddling the collegiate mind and their own long history of abetting an unraveling of civil society that’s leaving more students afraid and angry. In this long response, and in an interview with the British website openDemocracy, I argue that American conservatism itself once had better approaches than this.
**Student Protests and Free Speech, Washington Monthly, Dec. 10, 2015. This short post (1230 words), written two weeks after the one below from Salon, is somewhat less polemical and more meditative, only partly because the onset of the holidays and the end of a semester had cooled the campus protests to which it refers. It’s a good, general assessment, but it should be read in tandem with the Salon piece right here below it.
**Race, Campus Protests, Helicopter Pundits, and What Black Students Really Experience at Yale, Salon, Nov. 25, 2015. Travel warning: This piece is 6700 words long. It reports things I haven’t seen elsewhere, but it’s many layered as well as long. (Note: I didn’t write Salon’s awful headline or choose the photo.)
**The Self-Flattering Assumptions Behind Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Salem 1692. DEMOCRACY, Nov. 13, 2015. And how I escaped Puritanism’s creepy side by attending to my 50th high school reunion in an old Puritan town. HuffingtonPost, Nov. 14, 2015
At Yale Now, It’s About Justice, Not “Safety“, New Haven Independent, Nov. 12, 2015. The turmoil in colleges about racism and sexism this Fall may be driven, on some of the smaller, too “precious” leafy campuses, mainly by politically correct intolerance of views that make students feel “unsafe,” as some of them claim and as conservative pundits pushing a disingenuous “free speech” strategy love to insist. But at larger colleges such as Yale, something more useful (and perhaps frightening to the pundits themselves) is gathering momentum. Whether or not it turns into ugly excess, right now the ugliness is coming from the commentators and their trolls more than from the students.
Can Yale’s Pivot to India Offset its Mistakes in Singapore? HuffingtonPost, Oct. 27, 2015.
From Columbine to Umpqua Community College, It’s Not Just Bullets Were Dodging. Huffington Post, Oct. 3, 2015. Alter-Net, Oct 4. Yes, gun control is imperative, and mental illness an urgent challenge: But we also have to challenge swift, mindless currents that are driving Americans crazy and arming them..
**Punched Bloody by a Hand We Think is Invisible, We See Only Trump and Fox. But There’s Worse. Huffington Post, August 27, 2015. How assacres in South Carolina and Virginia reveal and accelerate the American republic’s implosion.
* The Ambiguities of American Heroism on a French Train, Dissent, and The Washington Monthly, August 25, 2015. What the three young Americans did was heartening, but they acted in a situation that had no moral ambiguity — unlike most of foreign and domestic situations and our personal and policy responses to them. Some cautions.
Prep Schools, “Diversity,” and Puritan Dirty Socks. The Washington Monthly, July 1, 2015. This is a short sequel to “What John Winthrop Taught Elizabeth Warren,” just below. “Diversity” is sometimes embraced — or shifted, like one of Salome’s veils — as a disguise for indefensible inequalities. Two cheers for “manly Christianity,” which has its own indefensible qualities but also its strengths.
What John Winthrop Taught Elizabeth Warren, or What American Puritans Could Teach Today’s Neoliberals, DEMOCRACY journal, summer issue, 2015. This is the second of two 6000-word essays I’ve written about American Puritanism’s surprising, sometimes disturbing relevance and even resilience in American political culture. Even for us non-believers, there are perspectives and even premises worth recovering. This was adapted and re-posted by The Atlantic, July 20, 2015, as Gifts of the Puritans that you weren’t expecting, The Atlantic, July 20, 2015.
Read also my assessment of What Puritans drew from Hebrews, in the World Affairs Journal of Fall, 2009. I also sketch what Hebrews could have learned from Puritans, despite irreconcilable differences, and what the American Republic has sometimes synthesized from both traditions. And, more recently: *The Self-Flattering Assumptions Behind Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Salem 1692. DEMOCRACY, Nov. 13, 2015.
** Innocents Abroad? Liberal Educators in Illiberal Societies, Ethics & International Affairs, the journal of the Carnegie Council, summer issue, 2015. This 600o-word assessment of American universities’ joint ventures with regimes in Singapore, China, the Emirates, and elsewhere is accompanied by an audio interview with me and an interactive map of campuses abroad. AUDIO with Jim Sleeper on Liberal Education’s three voices: A discussion of the “Innocents Abroad?” essay with the Carnegie Council journal’s senior editor Zach Dorfman.
*Is Islam Really Our Greatest Danger? Clueless keyboard warriors think so, but I argue here that some of them are more dangerous to America than Islam. Salon, May 11, 2015. Also on AlterNet and History News Network.
*Charlie Hebdo’s Dubious PEN-Pals: Highly Privileged Conservative Pundits, HuffingtonPost, AlterNet, and Salon, May 5, 2015. This column appeared on the day that the Poets, Essayists, and Novelists American Center gave an award to Charlie Hebdo.
Neoliberalizing Liberal Education, Bookforum, April 22, 2015. Why Fareed Zakaria’s new book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, is not a defense of it but a subtle evisceration of what should really count in a college experience. This blog post preceded “School Daze,” my actual review of Zakaria’s book, which Bookforum posted in June.
Singapore: “We decide what’s right. It doesn’t matter what the people think.” Salon, April 1, 2015. American elites swooning over Singapore late founder Lee Kuan Yew ignore his wrongs and reveal their own. This is also posted on the U.K. website openDemocracy.net, on Huffington Post, and on History News Network.
Israel and the Politics of Paroxysm, The Washington Monthly, March 24, 2015. A column written with Gramsci’s “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” Also posted by the international website Reset.Doc, Dialogues on Civilizations.
*Rudy Giuliani’s Long Self-Destruction Explained: Although he insists that Obama doesn’t love America, Rudy loves something a lot more than he loves America or even himself. Salon, Feb. 22, 2015
An exchange with Yale-National University of Singapore students. Fox & Hedgehog, a Yale-NUS student journal, January, 2015. A student, Nicholas Carverhill, wrote a column taking issue with my writings about his college, and I responded. You can read his column, my response, and a short back-and-forth here. This gives a pretty good summary of Singapore’s bad record in human rights and liberal education, but I hold out some hope that students can meet challenges that I sketch here.
The Charlie Hebdo Hypocrites: Meet the Free-Speech Absoutists Who Aren’t So Absolute Beyond the Muslim World, Salon, January 10, 2015. It’s not just the Robert Kagans and other neoconservative would-be warriors for Western freedoms who fall silent when free specch is squelched by their allies; some prominent liberal and even leftish thinkers fall for — or fall into line with — suppressions of freedom of expression outside Paris and New York. Also posted on the dissident Singapore website TRemeritus, with interesting comments by young Singaporeans.
*The article that made Mario Cuomo governor in 1982 — no kidding! Village Voice, June,22, 1982 (pdf; digital version below). When this was written, he was well behind Ed Koch in the Democratic primary campaign. I wrote about his mind and character and about New York State politics at the time and controversial issues facing the candidates. It’s interesting to measure Cuomo’s record now against the promise with which he was elected. He let down his supporters, but I, in turn, let him down in my New York Daily News columns when he was running for a fourth term, in 1994.
Here’s my reflection on Cuomo 32 years later in The Washington Monthly (January 6, 2015), just after his death, and another reflection in the Voice, which has finally digitalized the piece here. The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg cited Cuomo’s comment to me in the Voice profile — about wanting to serve on a high court — and proposes that Cuomo changed his mind only because he was waiting for the equivalent of a divine call, in the form of an order, not just an invitation, from Bill Clinton.
A few columns on race and justice in America, 2014-2015:
*“Diversity” on Police Forces vs. Racism in the Economy, Salon, January 2, 2015. Drawing from my own experiences of the “cops and race” problem in Brooklyn, this adds a dimension or two to most of what I’ve read on the subject. Also at AlterNet, “Civil Liberties”, Jan. 2.
In Living Color: Bookforum, Dec./Jan. 2015. A review of the historian Jason Sokol’s All Eyes Are Upon Us, his perceptive analysis of how whites from Boston to Brooklyn were two-faced about race –an how both faces, the idealistic and the racist, in the same community and even the same person — could be utterly sincere. Also posted by History News Network.
*Why Al Sharpton Just Can’t Get It Right, Salon, Nov. 21, 2014. A NY Times front-page story on his latest shenanigans brings stirs some old memories — and a poignant truth. The perilous legacy of racial election districting, The Washington Monthly, Nov. 18, 2014. Alabama legislators turn a discredited voting-rights strategy against the advocates — while pretending not to.
*In Trayvon’s Memory, Here’s Who We Should ‘Profile’ Next?, HuffingtonPost, July 21, 2013. Amid the deluge of commentary on the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, some dimensions of this tragedy remained unconsidered. I get at them in this post, drawn from long experience of the histrionics around racially charged trials, from Howard Beach through OJ and beyond. I argue that while crime by young blacks should not be minimized or moralized away, it’s part of an expanding criminality, beyond racial markers, that’s often equally violent.
*What I’ve Learned From 25 Years in America’s ‘Race’ Debate, The Washington Monthly, June 1, 2014. A short post prompted by, but not joining, the debate between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait.
What Dallas and Houston Can Learn From Hong Kong about Democracy, The Washington Monthly, Oct. 22, 2014. Now that the John Roberts Supreme Court has approved Texas’ intention to implement its unnecessary and racist “Voter I.D.” law, Texas voters who are better than this should take a tip from Hong Kong’s protestors and show up peacefully but massively in the Nov. 4 elections. Re-posted by opendemocracy.net, the indispensable U.K. website for assessments of the democratic public sphere.
Crises of the American Republic
**We’re being punched bloody and blinded by a Hand we keep insisting is Invisible. A 4th of July mood piece (or “bad mood” piece): Salon, July 4, openDemocracy (London), History News Network, AlterNet and by Reset (Rome). Although this truly was a “mood piece” consisting of notes and impressions, at best, of a more coherent argument, it drew a lot of commentary, some of it from displeased conservatives. Beyond the comments that are posted below the column itself in the venues linked here, you can find other reactions find by googling “Jim Sleeper” and “new shots”.
**Not Your Typical Election Post-Mortem, Salon, Nov. 5, 2014. (Also on Alternet, at 2k shares, and, in Italian, at Reset.doc.) The real problem isn’t Republicans vs. Democrats but both parties vs. the large and growing asymmetries in American life, involving elite degradation of Americans’ security, freedom of speech, productive investment opportunities, and sovereignty as citizens — as distinct from their empty “sovereignty” as stressed, distracted consumers. N.B. I didn’t write Salon’s headline.
What’s is Fareed Zakaria’s Problem? (Salon, AlterNet, Cutting Edge News, other sites, Labor Day weekend 2014). Recent revelations about past plagiarism by the TIME and Washington Post columnist and host of CNN’s “Global Public Square” don’t establish that he’s still a plagiarist. They do suggest that he’s too busy being a one-man Global Positioning System. I argue that his plagiarism was a symptom of a deeper malady — a neo-liberal know-it-all-ism that’s distracting thought leaders from asking important questions about what global capital has become and what it’s doing to our ailing liberal-democratic public spheres.
Where some critiques of liberal education fall short: (See also other pieces above and further down)
* Renew America’s great liberal-arts colleges, don’t just assail them. I posed this challenge in Bookforum in June and more broadly in Salon, July 25, 2014, as former Yale English Professor and essayist William Deresiewicz became the latest would-be prophet to succumb to marketing pressures. The New Republic ran a chapter of his book Excellent Sheep under the headline, “Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League!”, fulfilling my prediction, in Bookforum, that, by promoting books like his, the gilded cage’s conscience-keepers would drag the kept through yet another empty ritual of self-flagellation on their way back to college. As I explain further in Salon — and as others noted later — there’s a monumental hypocrisy in Ivy League editors’ and professors’ telling 18-year-olds and parents to avoid the colleges that they themselves attended or taught at and would still do anything to send their own kids to.
The more important challenge, I say at least briefly in these two essays and will address more directly this fall, is to renew what’s best in these schools, which do have a special role to play in American public discourse and regeneration. To say that the colleges are compromised by the increasingly illegitimate and unsustainable regime they currently serve is only half an answer: They haven’t always been in synch with the powers of the day, and they’ve sometimes stood apart and stimulated real reform.
**Who Really Governs American Universities? Who Should? HuffingtonPost, Oct. 3, 2013. This tribute to former Harvard President Derek Bok and his new book, American Higher Education, is also a rebuke to recent leadership at Yale.
Why Business Schools Seeking Business Won’t Help Business, The Washington Monthly, June 4, 2014. A dean at Wharton, trying to justify Harvard Business School’s effort to supplement interactive classroom teaching with massive online showcasing of star professors, made a passing observation about community theaters vs. “the big time” that takes the lid off a whole B-school-driven mindset that’s destroying society.
THE UKRAINE CRISIS, RUSSIA, AND U.S. NEO-CONS
**Lost in Washington’s House of Columnists, The Washington Monthly, March 10, 2014. Quick critique of the quasi-liturgical war-mongering of New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier, who in every crisis re-enacts his armchair strategizing for Iraq. This ran also in The Washington Spectator
In the Ukraine Crisis, Analogies aren’t Actions, but this analogy to the U.S. and Cuba Might Help. Washington Monthly, March 21, 2014. To fight or block someone, you must understand him or her. And to do that, you must understand yourself and be able to imagine how you’d behave in his shoes. Also in The Washington Spectator
*Ukraine’s Neo-conservative Champions in Kiev Championed Mainly Themselves. Huffington Post, May 21, 2014. A “congress of intellectuals” convened by New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and Yale historian Timothy Snyder enhanced little but its convenors’ self-importance.
What If Yale Historian Timothy Snyder Is Wrong to Ascribe World-historical Importance to the Ukraine Crisis? The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2014. A comment on the historian’s impassioned, eloquent argument that the entire European order is imperiled as it hasn’t been for 70 years by Vladimir Putin’s moves against Ukraine.
*The American Foreign-Policy Problem that No One Talks About, The Washington Monthly, May 4, 2014. Why Leon Wieseltier, David Brooks, and others in the chorus of critics that blames American weakness abroad on President Obama and feckless liberals at home need to take a good look in the mirror. (A Huffington Post version of this column is more explicit about the roots of Wieseltier’s and Brooks’ critique in Jewish historical experiences that I understand intimately. See the last six paragraphs of the Huffpost column, beginning with “At bottom…”)
** Henry Kissinger and the Coming Imbalance of Power, Los Angeles Review of Books, Oct. 9, 2014. This is a substantial consideration of the tensions between Kissinger’s diplomatic “philosophy” of state-based “realism” and his actual performance and legacy as secretary of state in the 1970s. This requires a subscription to the LARB, which I recommend. I’ll soon post a copy of the full text of the review. In the meantime, you may e-mail me for a complete copy, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Where Kissinger’s Dark Wisdom Blinds Him. HuffingtonPost, Oct. 10, 2014. A brief addendum to the review-essay, an additional surmise about Kissinger’s modus.
Jonathan Schell, (1943-2014) A Strong Voice for Democracy is Lost. March 26, 2014. My first, brief posting appeared in The Washington Monthly and was picked up rapidly by AlterNet, HuffingtonPost, Bookforum, and History News Network. The next day I published a column in the Yale Daily News that was cross-published by the U.K. site openDemocracy.net and by History News Network. Several people have written me since then to say that Jonathan Schell’s writing, especially on nuclear arms, changed their lives.
Yale’s ‘Great Conversation’?, The Politic, Feb. 27, 2014, March/April issue in print. An “open letter” to Yale undergraduates, in a campus journal, on why Yale’s venture in Singapore is wrong even though it’s up and running and I wish its participants well.
Not So Fast, Fareed! HuffingtonPost, Feb. 27, 2014 and Washington Spectator, 2014 http://washsp.ec/1bPlit9#.Uw-lIg5buws.gmail About Zakaria’s “triumphal” return to Yale, from whose governing board he had to resign two years ago after playing fast and loose with his audiences one time too many. Unfortunately, he’s still at it.
Business Press Failure: Firedoglake Book Salon with Dean Starkman, hosted by Jim Sleeper at on Feb. 15, 2014. Here Starkman responds to comments on his book The Watchdog that Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism. In a review for Dissent I explained why consider it a fine civic-republican treatment of journalism, especially business journalism. (If you don’t know what I mean by “civic republican,” go to my home page here and click on the section, “A Civic Republican Primer”.)
David Brooks Explains More Than He Intended, HuffingtonPost, Dec. 17, 2013 Prompted by an eerie column he wrote on “Thought Leaders.” * On government surveillance: plus ca change,…
*A 1970 letter to the editor of The New York Times on the dangers of surveillance, re-posted by History News Network, Dec. 16, 2013. Not only is surveillance today more enveloping now than in 1970; it’s intimately intrusive, because it plays deftly on an underside of “human nature” that a lot of people “Like” it. http://hnn.us/article/154240
In Singapore, Migrants Riot, Websites Chill, but Yale-NUS College Remains Suspiciously Warm. HuffingtonPost, Dec. 11, 2013; openDemocracy.net (U.K.), Dec. 12, 2013; Tremeritus (independent Singapore website), Dec. 12, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-sleeper/singapore-migrants-riot-w_b_4422393.html and http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/12/12/migrants-riot-websites-chill-but-yale-nus-stays-warm/ and http://www.opendemocracy.net/jim-sleeper/singapore-migrants-riot-websites-chill-but-yale-in-singapore-keeps-warm-0
New York City’s 2013 mayoral election: Not a pendulum swing, but a learning curve. HuffingtonPost, Nov. 4, 2013. A landslide victory by the left-liberal Bill de Blasio after 20 years of high-capitalist management by Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg doesn’t herald a swing back to the era of urban mayoral “Rainbow” politics, whose demise I covered for The New Republic in a 1993 cover story. To explain what’s changed, the magazine resurrected my story from its archives alongside its reflection on what de Blasio’s victory means now. All of those pieces are linked in this post.
*This Brave Congressmen Taught Me How to Break News, HuffingtonPost, Oct. 25, 2013. I’d make this one a must-read for every aspiring journalist. In about 1000 words, it distills two or three wonderfully important lessons from some hard-won experience.
YALE IN SINGAPORE: My columns on Yale’s misadventure in Singapore and what it reflects about the condition of American liberal arts colleges have been collected from their several venues at http://www.jimsleeper.com/?p=912 Here are a few:
A photo that’s worth 1000 words about American universities in authoritarian places: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-sleeper/hidden-truths-about-ameri_b_3853172.html HuffingtonPost, Sept. 2, 2013.
And, me being me, 1000 words with it.
*Liberal Education in Authoritarian Places, New York Times, Sept. 1, 2013. *Globe-Trotting Universities Serve Diplomacy and Markets, not Democracy, openDemocracy.net, Sept. 1, 2013.
The NYT column is shorter and had more impact, but the longer version on openDemocracy, one of Britain’s best websites, offers more substantiation and richer argument. The Times column was re-posted by the dissident Singapore website Tremeritus, where it has drawn interesting comments. A former Dean of Harvard College, Harry R. Lewis, weighs in on two of my columns about American universities’ collaborations with authoritarian regimes. Lewis also links his column on that subject from the South China Morning Post. http://harry-lewis.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-charade-of-liberal-arts-campuses-in.html *
Singapore: At Yale College, the Sounds of Silence, HuffingtonPost, Sept. 9, 2013. Read this with the other posts about Yale’s adventure in Singapore, here below. New faculty and inaugural class of students there deserve encouragement, but the venture reflects the decline of liberal education in the U.S., part of a crisis Yale is ducking, not addressing, by going to Singapore. This column ran also on the dissident Singapore website Tremeritus.com
To Singapore — With Love? Yale Daily News, Sept. 26, 2014. Once again, as anticipated in my columns on this subject collected here, the Yale-NUS College in Singapore got caught up in and embarrassed by compromises of freedom of expression that it should never have made. I developed this argument a day later: For Yale in Singapore, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again (Huffington Post and at the independent Singapore website Tremeritus. ) I explained that the consequence of Yale’s joint-venture with the National University of Singapore has been not conflict but an all-too-smooth convergence of restrictive approaches to freedom of expression in both countries.
Singapore’s Defenders should be its strongest critics, HuffingtonPost, Oct. 3, 2014. A response to criticisms of my columns about the film controversy. When a terrific column in the Yale Daily News by sophomore Nathan Steinberg posed similar criticisms and a professor who has worked on the Yale-NUS rebutted, I followed with this letter
These Singaporeans Spoke Truth at Yale — Against Yale, HuffingtonPost, Dec. 6, 2012.
At Last, These Singapore Opposition Leaders Can Speak Truth to Yale, HuffingtonPost, Nov. 29, 2012. This post helped bring out 100 students and faculty to hear Chee Soon Yuan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party, and Kenneth Jeyaretnam, secretary-general of the Reform Party, when they came to New Haven to enjoy their first opportunity to speak to a large public audience in the U.S., not to mention in Singapore itself. This post also ran on the independent Singapore website Tremeritus, and the comments there are quite interesting.
Blame the New Israel-Arab Conflict on….Singapore?? HuffingtonPost, Nov.17, 2012. Well, yes, but only in a way you probably didn’t know about before now. The regime’s perfervid apologists descended on this piece, having missed the irony in the title, which they took literally because Singapore is a irony-free society. (See their comments!)
*How Eliot Spitzer’s Fall Showed He Deserves a Second Chance, HuffingtonPost, July 9, 2013.
Why Fox News’ Roger Ailes is bad for the American Republic and the Jews. A review-essay on Zev Chafets’ book Roger Ailes: Off Camera for the Columbia Journalism Review, July/August, 2013. (For “the Jews,” see especially the final six paragraphs of this review). Here’s a pdf of the same review-essay as it appears in the print edition.
George Packer’s Rebirth and The Unwinding of David Brooks, HuffingtonPost, July 3, 2013. Brooks’ churlish review of Packer’s The Unwinding reveals more than either writer anticipated five years ago. Now Packer has done well what I argued that he should have been doing then, and Brooks has proved that, as I also argued, he didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt that Packer was giving him.
Don’t Panic About the Voting Rights Ruling: Re-Strategize. HuffingtonPost, June 29, 2013. Just after the Supreme Court’s ruling against racial districting in Shelby v. Holder, this piece re-affirms to my prescient argument of 15 years ago that racial districting had indeed gone too far.
Ed Koch as I Knew Him: Should Mayors Rule the World? Ed Koch Thought So and May Yet Be Proved Right, HuffingtonPost, Feb. 5, 2013 One and a half Cheers for Ed Koch, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2013. A personal reminiscence, written the morning after his death, published the next day in the same edition that carried the Times’ front-page obituary. Koch won the Democratic primary for mayor of New York(and then the mayoralty itself) in 1977 with a death-penalty pitch and with former Miss America Bess Myerson on his arm; twelve years later, he was defeated by Democratic primary voters weary of the racial tensions, violent crime, and corruption that had not abated on his watch.
What David Brooks’ Anglophilia and Thatchermania Cost his Readers and His Yale Students. Huffington Post, April 9, 2013. I couldn’t let this belly flop pass without notice.
COLUMNS AND AUDIO ON AMERICA’S GUN MAYHEM
The Coming Civil War Over Guns and TV Mayhem, HuffingtonPost, Dec. 14, 2012. Written the day of the Newtown massacre.
*To Stop Gun Violence, Fight the Marketing. The Atlantic, Jan. 24, 2013. Moving beyond four other columns written after Sandy Hook, I contacted Daniel J.H. Greenwood, a legal scholar of corporate jurisprudence, and we co-authored this trail-blazer.
NPR Interview with the author: What the Gun Control Debate Means For Free Speech The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC-FM, Feb. 15, 2013. In this 20-minute interview, I argue that we’ll never get effective gun regulation until we can alter primal American myths to sever the link between libertarian individualism and our glorification of runaway corporate engines that grope and goose our fears. Every society since Homer’s and the Bible’s has had violent storytelling, but today’s media violence is new and different — more destructive of social trust than the gladatorial spectacles of ancient Rome. The First Amendment shouldn’t protect this.
*What’s STILL Missing from the Gun Debate, Huffington Post, Feb. 7, 2013 The ‘Gettysburg Address’ on media violence and corporate ‘speech,’ Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 6, 2013 Post, Jan. 24, 2013. This is also on History News Network.
How’s Gun Control Workin’ Out For Ya?, Huffington Post, April 2, 2013. The truth is that we’re not getting there, and the mayhem continues. Gun control won’t be as effective as it should for deep political cultural reasons I’ve been trying to explain for months and that recent events impelled me to summarize here. Liberals and libertarians haven’t faced up to our need to reinterpret not only the Second Amendment but also the First.
Letter to a Marine who Warned Sen. Diane Feinstein About His Guns and Freedom, Huffington Post, Jan. 7, 2012
*What We Should Tell the Gun Lobby and Editors and Producers, Huffington Post, Dec. 22, 2012. Gun violence and media violence are a one-two punch to American civil society, and here’s why liberals should stop rolling their eyes and fretting about the First Amendment whenever people like me make this argument.
Gun Lovers, as ‘Normal’ Now as Segregationists Once Were, Huffington Post, Dec. 18, 2012. No, not most gun owners. I mean those gun lovers who side with the gun lobby’s belief that the answer to violence is more guns and less restrictions on them.
*The Beauty in That Video of Obama Thanking His Campaign Staff, HuffingtonPost, Nov. 8, 2012
While You Were Following the 2012 Campaigns, Singapore Was Romneyizing Yale: Huffington Post, Nov. 5, 2012. Those of us who’ve opposed Yale’s collaboration with the tightly controlled corporate city-state of Singapore aren’t interested in a clash of civilizations that pits ivory tower “Western values” against “Asian values”. We’re worried about the convergence of commercial riptides, here and there, that turns universities and liberal education into management tools. This column has some new examples of how that’s being done at Yale. This also ran on Tremeritus, a dissident Singapore website.
What Obama’s Win in the 3rd Debate Drew From His Loss of the 1st, Huffington Post, Oct. 23, 2012. Most Americans today are no more likely to understand this column than a fish is to understand water. At least John Winthrop and I understand it. Why Obama Defaulted in the first Presidential Debate, 2012 Huffington Post, Oct 4, 2012
**With Friends Like These, Who’ll Defend Liberal Education? Dissent, Fall 2012. Part of a special issue on higher education (go to www.dissentmagazine.org and subscribe to see the other essays), this one scrutinizes New York University president John Sexton’s breathless manifesto for “The Global Network University” and makes a few observations about what’s driving this and other such distortions of liberal education in the name of “engagement” with differences.
*Annals of Protest: *“Discretion at Yale Has Been Carried Too Far…” A talk at the Yale War Memorial, Sept. 20, 2012. An umbrella organization of student activists, the Y Syndicate, whose members had been reading the Huffington Post columns on Yale’s misadventure in Singapore, asked me to reflect on some lessons of my and others’ opposition. Here I tried to explain why opposition should also advance some deeper affirmation.
What the Yale President’s Resignation Means for Higher Education, Huffington Post, Sept. 1, 2012
Fareed Zakaria’s Plagiarism: Worse Than It Looks, Huffington Post, Aug. 11, 2012. It’s not just a case of cutting corners. It’s more evidence of a deeper hypocrisy and of misleadership in opinion-making. Long before any plagiarism charge had surfaced, I tried to get at Fareed Zakaria’s Problem–and Ours. Yale Steps Into the Authoritarian Abyss, Huffington Post, July 17, 2012 and Tremeritus (dissident Singapore website). An explosive story in the Wall Street Journal (linked herein) reinforced and broadened concerns that many of us on Yale’s faculty have expressed about Yale’s venture into Singapore, awakening many student and helping me to re-emphasize what’s at risk in American universities’ collaborations with certain regimes. Here I explain how the self-censorship prompted by fear of state power in those countries is mirrored eerily among some American students by a self-censorship prompted by the seductions of becoming power-players.
In Liberal Education, A Cover-Up Worse Than the Crime HuffingtonPost June 15, 2012. Yale’s press office provided a lesson in how and how not to read posts like mine. Hint: You should not try to read them like a business-corporation spokesman, preoccupied with your company’s image, liability, and market share. This post describes other responses to its predecessors about Yale’s venture into Singapore.
* As Yale’s Blunder Deepens, Singapore Bares Its Teeth, Huffington Post, June 5, 2012. Even as Yale’s project to help Singapore establish a new liberal-arts college bearing Yale’s name moves ahead, essential liberal values in that authoritarian corporate city-state take another direct hit from Yale’s hosts. This post was also posted on History News Network, openDemocracy.net, CuttingEdgeNews and other sites. It also got some interesting commentary, some on Singapore websites re linked in the post. Here’s one that I enjoyed especially.
What Facebook Co-founder Eduardo Saverin and Yale Have in Common, posted in TR Emeritus, the Voice of Singapore For Singaporeans, May 16, 2012. What happens to liberal education and civic republicanism in economistic, neoliberal societies.
* Yale Has Gone to Singapore, But Can It Come Back? And Is It Good For the Jews? HuffingtonPost, May 4, 2012. I don’t usually say things like, “You gotta do what you gotta do,” but when I saw that I’d written the following at 13,000 words, after editing and amputating, that sentence came to mind. This was something I really had to write, not for myself, but — and here I surprised myself again — for country and for Yale. I’m only partly kidding about “And is it Good for the Jews?” A section of the piece poses and probes that question!
Will Yale Alumni Help to Rescue Liberal Education at Yale? HuffingtonPost, April 11, 2012
A Small But Solid Victory for Liberal Education, HuffingtonPost, April 7, 2012. (Also in TPMCafe, openDemocracy.net, and History News Network.) The Yale faculty rebuked its administration, and not just for collaborating with the regime in Singapore. Be sure to see the Yale Alumni Magazine’s account of the faculty meeting.
The Showdown Over Liberal Education at Yale, HuffingtonPost, April 4, 2012. This column, written the day before a Yale College Faculty meeting that on the question, is a major sequel to the post of March 16, below. This also ran in TPMCafe.
How the Supreme Court Aids Government-Controlled Speech,Huffington Post, and TPMCafe March 26, 2012.John Roberts and his merry band of Court conservatives enabling China TV to bring us censored news? The irony is too rich not to savor, and to important not to parse: It owes a lot to one-hundred years of bad jurisprudence about corporate “personhood,” most lately in Citizens United.
* Will Yale’s Venture in Singapore Advance Liberal Education or Corrupt It?, Huffington Post, March 16, 2012, and, somewhat revised, in TPMCafe, March 17. Some societies in Asia may be receptive to a seed of liberal education sown by universities such as Yale. Some might even nourish liberal education’s understandings of ordered liberty and democratic deliberation better than we’re doing in the United States. But the real challenge is to keep liberal education alive in the U.S.: to keep it independent of the global capitalization of everything, which is asphyxiating at home what university leaders say they want to promote abroad. Another challenge is well-funded Vulcan conservative efforts to rescue liberal education from the damage they claim liberals have done to it, by setting up national-security oriented programs that conscript the humanities into the service of political agendas I was pleased with how the London-based openDemocracy.net played this piece. Brits know a thing or two about Singapore and, sadly, a thing or two or three about universities (the London School of Economics, Warwick) that have over-reached abroad.
How America’s Afghan Debacle Disgraced its Cheerleaders, HuffingtonPost, Feb. 27, 2012. This is a moment to remember how conservatives like Max Boot and David Brooks became sudden champions of throwing public money at social welfare problems in Kabul and Kandahar rather than New Orleans or Detroit.
*Why Yale fumbled its star quarterback’s Rhodes Scholarship pass, HuffingtonPost, Feb. 6, 2012. This column isn’t really about football, although it draws a vivid contrast between how the game was played at Yale 125 years ago and now. It’s really about why old colleges are losing what’s worth cherishing and rescuing from them. They weren’t only about the elitism, sexism and racism that have been so rightly challenged. They were also about nurturing the personal strengths and public virtues necessary for making that challenge. It’s not enough to drape the soulless, self-protective legalism and compulsive marketing (of oneself and others) at today’s colleges in a colorful raiment of “diversity” that disguises their growing subservience to a business-corporate ethos that’s corrupting football and liberal education.
Some Rich ironies in Elizabeth Warren’s U.S. Senate Campaign, TPMCafe, Feb. 4, 2012. Early in her race to upset Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, Warren uttered a long-suppressed truth about society that immediately went viral on video. A truth of this kind has no owner, and Warren may have been channeling the British social historian R.H. Tawney, who uttered the same truth almost a century ago.
*Gods and Monsters: Simon Critchley’s Pilgrimage Away from Liberalism. Review of Simon Critchley’s Faith of the Faithless, Bookforum, Feb-Mar, 2012
How Newt Plays the Race Card: BrilliantlyHuffington Post, January 23, 2012. This was posted just after his South Carolina primary upset and before the Florida debate and primary.
*Romney’s White, but Social Conservatism Isn’t, Dissent magazine (January 20, 2012). This was prompted by a New York Times essay that noted, rightly enough, that Romney’s aggressive embodiment of a “white picket fence,” patriarchal family-man image plays to subliminal racism. But the Times essay was more than a bit off in reinforcing the notion that there’s something inherently “white” about social conservatism like Romney’s. Quite the opposite, I learned years ago in Brooklyn, racial stereotypes to the contrary notwithstanding.
*Review of Randall Kennedy’s The Persistence of the Color Line, Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency, The Nation, December, 2011 I assess Harvard Law prof Randall Kennedy’s argument that a politics of racial grievance and paroxysm won’t hit the moving target of plutocracy. I was glad to review this book for The Nation, where I’d been assailed more than a few times years earlier for making arguments like Kennedy’s in my own books, Liberal Racism and The Closest of Strangers. Between the lines of the review, I’m saying that time has vindicated my arguments, which close to Kennedy’s. Guess Who Obama Was Channeling in his Populist Kansas Speech? (Dec.2011) It was a terrific vindication of the political psychologist Drew Westin, whose criticisms of Obama I’d been defending since August (see below) against Obama’s Washington apologists. Obama’s Kansas speech showed he’d gotten Westen’s message (and OWS’ message). Huffington Post, Alternet,TPM
*HENRY KISSINGER’S GRAND STRATEGY TAKES A NEW TURN AT YALE. Nov., 2011 When Kissinger wrote a coronating New York Times review of a biography of George F. Kennan by the Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis, I decided that someone had to tell the truth about how it had been arranged. As I told a number of people who wrote to congratulate me on this one: “Somebodyhaddasayit.” Dissent, also in Huffington Post, and the History News Network. It was also taken up and published again by Cutting Edge News.
Not long after publishing the piece above about Kissinger and Gaddis, I was interviewed and quoted substantially by a Yale Daily News reporter for this essay on Yale College’s long, fraught, and compromising relationship with the CIA and grand-strategy making — the kind of relationship I’ve written that Gaddis seems intent on restoring. I’ve addressed this theme in several other reviews and essays, including in Foreign Policy and TPM.
How Occupy Wall Street made history, even as its encampments were dispersed. (Nov. 12). This was written just after Portland, Oregon’s mayor had acted, a day or so ahead of the New York and other city governments. The lessons I draw from the Portland experience apply well to most of the other cities where encampments have been dispersed. Huffington Post and TPM
Obama’s neo-liberal Beltway apologists can’t stop defending his compromises. (Nov. 8). This was prompted by a review of Ron Suskind’s book about Obama by Ezra Klein in the New York Review of Books. Klein is another very astute observer of Capitol-corridor realities, but he spends too much time with those realities to recognize that a president must point us all toward broader horizons. Huffington Post, TPM.
About Occupy Wall Street’s detractors. A few days later, fed up with Obama’s apologists, I tried to show what a 58-word presidential grand narrative should be. Behind all the Snarking at Occupy Wall Street. (Nov. 1, 2011). While many and possibly most Americans identified with Occupy Wall Street’s democratic, non-violent protest, the movement brought out more than a little misplaced resentment among certain journalists as well as their readers. Somebody had to say something about where this dark undercurrent has come from. I did — somewhat furiously — in Huffington Post, also in OpenDemocracy.
“New Media,” Markets, and Occupy Wall Street. (Oct. 21-22, 2011) The dynamics of news-gathering and organizing were never more interestingly scrambled than in this movement, I noted first in Dissent and then in Huffington Post and TPM.
When ‘Diversity” Increases Inequality. (Oct. 22, 2011) It does that when it’s used by elite institutions to disguise the truth that most of their graduates — of whatever color or ‘culture’ – have no serious intention of redressing the grinding inequalities that now increasingly divide blacks from blacks as much as blacks from whites, and women from women as much as women from men. This ran in Huffington Post and TPM. The “new media’s” pros and cons for politics.
Interview with the Yale Herald, one of the college’s weekly student publications, October 8, 2011. Be sure to read the additional comment I posted below this short interview and — if you’re interested in the precarious relationship of “elite” liberal education to civic-republican leadership development — the piece that’s linked in that comment, as well as this TPM post:
“Why Revolutions and Raptures Can’t Be Digitalized.” 9/11, Then and Now. On Sept. 9, 2011, the Yale Daily News published this column, reprising and updating a prescient NPR commentary (if I do say so) of ten years earlier, recorded two days after 9/11, on Sept. 13, 2001. In the YDN 10th anniversary reflection I said that American grand-strategists haven’t learned much from the attacks, or the events of the decade, about where a republic’s real strengths come from and about what, besides armies and economic growth, is required to sustain them.
Versions of this column also ran in openDemocracy, the Huffington Post,Alternet, and TPM. In its next edition the newspaper published a column by Senator Joe Lieberman (Monday, Sept. 13, 2011, “Lessons of the 9/11 Decade,” that was pretty obviously a rebuttal to my commentary, because only I, in the 9/11 commemorative issue, had criticized the “grand strategy” approach to foreign-policy-making that Lieberman made a point of defending.
The unintended irony in Lieberman’s column was that he’d been prompted to take time out of his speech-writer’s busy schedule to rebut a minor dissent in a special edition of the YDN overloaded with “grand strategists’” self-serving reflections and comments. So I responded to Lieberman the next day, in the paper’s online edition and in a letter to the editor in the print edition. This 10th anniversary reflection was also posted also in TPMCafe, Sept. 11, 2011, Alternet,HuffingtonPost, and OpenDemocracy.net. George Soros (and Me) on the Failing Public Sphere, TPMCafe, Sept. 8, 2011.
Great minds….in a public sphere that’s anything but. Obama’s Neoliberal Beltway Apologists Great Orations vs. Great Obfuscations, HuffingtonPost, Sept. 4, 2011. This time I’ve managed to say in just 499 words what it took me 4300 words to say in the longer posts just below: That Obama’s critics on the left are justified, in more ways than one.
See this update on Bluster in the Beltanschauung, HuffingtonPost, Aug. 30, 2011, which got hundreds of links. (Beltanschaunng is my coinage for the worldview of his Beltway apologists.) Reflecting on recent attacks on Obama’s left-of-center critics by Fareed Zakaria and other neo-liberal apologists for Obama’s leadership failures, I argue that pundits oriented to Washington Beltway seem to have a world-view, or Weltanschauung, all their own. So I’ve given it the name that’s the title of the HuffPost piece — and I gave it more than a little scrutiny. The essay, as long (4300 words) as it is damning, should be copied onto a document and printed out to be suitably pondered.
Fareed Zakaria’s Problem — And Ours. The problem isn’t Drew Westen, although he was Zakaria’s most obvious target. It’s something much deeper. TPMCafe, August 18, 2011
*Why Jews Shouldn’t Obsess About Black Anti-Semitism, Jewish Daily Forward, August 16, 2011 online, August 26 in print.
The Story Obama Never Told, TPMCafe, Aug 7, 2011. This post includes a response to Jonathan Chait of the New Republic and others who seem not to care whether Obama has told the story well, or not at all.
What Standard & Poor’s Got Right, TPMCafe, Aug. 6, 2011. For once, a credit-rating agency said something intelligent about politics.
The Republic After Obama, TPMCafe, Aug. 1, 2011. A major statement about the nature of Obama’s failure of leadership. This should be read along with Debt-Crisis Greedheads, Fountainheads, Godheads, Airheads, and the Rest of Us, TPMCafe, July 21, 2011, a taxonomy of Obama’s opposition at the 11th hour before the federal debt-default deadline. How (and How Not) to Assess Obama’s Debt-Crisis Leadership, TPMCafe, July 29, 2011 Plus ca change…. In April of 2011 I wrote that Obama’s debt-crisis strategy was inadequate. Three months later, at the 11th hour (July 27), I decided that I couldn’t change a word. So I didn’t: TPMCafe,July 27, 2011 *Debt-Crisis Greedheads, Fountainheads, Godheads, Airheads, and the Rest of Us, TPMCafe, July 21, 2011. A “think piece” posted in the 11th hour negotiations before the federal debt-default deadline.
*Britain’s Murdoch Mess Isn’t Just a Scandal; It’s a Syndrome Dissent, July 20, 2011. Focusing on the criminal activity, horrific though it’s been, eclipses the deeper danger to good journalism that Murdoch reflects and accelerates but didn’t cause. Here are the best commentaries on what the Murdoch hearings showed and didn’t show about this, TPMCafe, July 20, 2011 What the Murdoch Bombshells Really Reveal, TPMCafe, July 19, 2011. This is about even more than systemic phone-hacking and police corruption. What Blinds Murdoch’s Enablers and Apologists? TPMCafe, July 11, 2011. It’s something lower than just “money” that’s making some people who have every reason to know better continue to excuse what he’s doing to democratic publics. I put it in a nutshell here.
Why Revolutions and Raptures Can’t Be Digitized, TPMCafe, July 4, 2011 Where serious journalism begins. I was tickled recently to notice that election law expert Rick Hasen, tracking Brooklyn voter fraud cases from the 1970s and ’80s, resurrected my reporting on it from that time, in the Village Voice. Rick was able to do it because I’d preserved those stories in pdfs right here below on this site, in the “Scoops and Other Revelations” section. As I explain briefly in the introduction to that section, I was able to break this important case and to embolden the wronged party to take it to court, because I’d been immersed in the community long enough, as a journalist, to have the context and the contacts necessary to catch sleights of hand at the Board of Elections that otherwise wouldn’t have been caught, let alone written about. This was my own introduction to journalism’s indispensability to a healthy public sphere. I say a bit more about this right here, and, to my delight, Rick Hasen has judged it sound and shared it around.
Reinhold Niebuhr in 900 words, or, Beyond (and Above?) Left and Right, or, American civil religion’s lost prophet. Bookforum, summer, 2011
Dissent: An Unlikely Pragmatist, Dissent Magazine, Spring, 2011
Muddled Beltway Leadership Attracts Muddled Punditry, TPMCafe, May 17, 2011
American Journalism in the Coils of Ressentiment This exposes the serpentine and ultimately sad dishonesty of William McGowan’s Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times means for America. TPMCafe, May 11, 2011. Here I broaden arguments made in my Washington Monthly review, “Misreading the New York Times.” Both of these have been commended by Columbia Journalism Review managing editor Justin Peters.
He Just Can’t Help It, TPM Cafe, April 19, 2011. In the political equivalent of a Freudian slip, David Brooks equates George Soros to George Steinbrenner and Rush Limbaugh.
The Budget Debate Revealed? Not Quite, TPMCafe, April 17, 2011. Neither conservatives nor liberals are telling a central truth about the regime we live in.
The Orchestra of High-Minded Opinion Misses a Beat. TPMCafe, April 15, 2011. What the defenders of Obama’s deficit reduction speech still don’t get — or don’t want us to hear.
Academic Audacity? Dissent, Spring, 2011. My review of historian James Kloppenberg’s Reading Obama (Princeton University Press) assesses the book’s claims that Obama’s sensibility and his political thinking (even if not his political practice) owe a lot more to philosophical pragmatism than I think they do. Kloppenberg acknowledges the other, pre-university elements in Obama’s make-up and thinking, but Kloppenberg is a lot more ardent about the necessity and the benefits of pragmatic philosophy than Obama is or can afford to be. You’d be very well-advised to peruse the rest of Dissent while you’re there and to subscribe, for less than $20, for a full year and access to decades of this magazine’s terrific archives.
A Scary Portent for Obama, TPMCafe, April 5, 2011. When a Vanity Fair column highlighting the social costs of neo-liberal economics is the magazine’s most-read item, American public discourse is shifting, even among the affluent, in ways that should worry this administration.
All the News that’s Fit to Sell, Yale Daily News, Feb. 25, 2011. A column about what has happened to newspapers’ contributions to the public sphere as conglomerate ownership displaces most of the old moguls and family trusts with single-minded bottom-lining.
The New Jews, 1971: A completely surprising blast from the past. by Yehudah Mirsky, Jewish Ideas Daily, Feb. 9, 2011. In the summer of 1968, between my junior and senior years in college, I conceived an anthology of essays by young religious Jewish “radicals” such as myself at that time. Co-editor Alan Mintz and I recruited contributors and published The New Jews as a Vintage paperback in 1971. Imagine my surprise (and embarrassment, since my own essays in the volume are jejune) when the review linked here appeared last week, prompted by the 40th anniversary of the book’s publication. My own essays really were paltry, but reviewer Mirsky rightly observes that many others were lovely, some profound, and that they’ve stood up well.
A True Friend of Egyptian Democracy, and Our Own, TPMCafe, Feb. 3, 2011. The alternative to neo-con songs and dances. Egyptian Democracy’s False new Friends, TPMCafe, Feb 2, 2011. More neoconservative democratic songs and dances.
Glenn Beck Endangers a 78-year-old Radical — and All of Us, TPMCafe, Jan. 22, 2011. Having criticized that same radical more than 20 years ago, I’m feeling a little like George Kennan, who rued the fact that his call for “containment” of Soviet Communism was taken up by ranters who made him feel as if he’d set a boulder in motion and had to watch helplessly as it rolled downhill, setting off avalanches along the way.
Third Thoughts About the Tuscon Massacre, TPMCafe, Jan. 18, 2011. Deranged loners are more tuned in to a society’s subliminal hatreds and fears than most of us admit. So, yes, there was a connection of sorts between the rampage and the state of public discourse.
Nothing Happened in the 2010 Mid-term Elections, TPMCafe, Nov 3, 2010
Israel: Can There Be Sagacity Without Sincerity? TPMCafe, Oct. 27, 2010. Another look at ex-war hawk Peter Beinart’s much-ballyhooed conversion.
“Blame Those Ivy League Liberals!”, urges Charles Murray, recycling a familiar dodge of the real reasons why income disparities are destroying American politics. TPMCafe, Oct. 25, 2010
A Brief Outbreak of Truth-Telling in Washington, TPMCafe, Oct. 25, 2010. Sleeper’s Axiom — that there should be more comity among politicians on Capitol Hill and less comity among Beltway pundits — was briefly vindicated when, amid the latest Juan Williams meltdown, the liberal columnist E.J. Dionne spoke at least one part of the unvarnished truth about Fox News.
*Yale’s Real Social Network, Yale Daily News, Oct. 15, 2010. The world isn’t flat, Yale’s founders insisted in 1701. It has abysses that harbor demons. Students need a faith and symbols that are strong enough to plumb those depths, to face down those demons, and sometimes even to re-surface and defy worldly power in the name of a higher one. What ’s happened to that pedagogical mission? And what are the social consequences of losing it?
Where “Social Network” and Facebook Really Began — and End, TPMCafe, October 10, 2010. A Harvard morality play with a Yale analogue and some political and social insights for all Americans. Anyone who reads me on Harvard now must also read this piece of mine from the Harvard Crimson of 35 years ago.
Two Tales of “a Bankrupt Culture,” TPMcafe, October 6, 2010. What corporate bottom-lining is doing to civic decency in news media — and why. This example comes from a New York Times report on what’s been happening at the Tribune Corporation.
Poor Victor Davis Hanson.” What Vulcan Ideology Does to Ancient History — and U.S. Foreign Policy,” TPM Cafe, Sept. 23, 2010. A response to Hanson’s rant about my review of his Makers of Ancient Strategy.
What universities should learn from Harvard’s Peretz decision. TPMCafe, Sept. 22, 2010. And what Washington pundits could learn, too. The Real Peretz Problem, The Harvard Crimson, Sept. 22, 2010
Getting Race Right: A response to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ critique of the Peretz legacy, in TPMCafe, Sept. 21, 2010
What on dit about The New Republic’s Literary Editor, TPMCafe, Sept. 18, 2010. Leon Wieseltier is at it again, seeing through “sophistication” while remaining trapped in it.
Martial Flaw: How to Spin History to Justify Modern-Day Orchestrations of Military Power, Democracy Journal, Fall, 2010. This review-essay is partly about Victor Davis Hanson, the firebrand conservative historian who edited this anthology, but I take some pains to show that some of his contributors went off of his reservation and that, to Hanson’s credit, he published them, anyway. Also posted in History News Network.
**Grand Strategic Failure: Why Charles Hill’s new book is as suspect as his entire career. Foreign Policy, August 13, 2010. This emblematic story of the crisis in American leadership training and liberal education is extended in my report, “What Politics Does to History via George Shultz & Charles Hill.” These two long pieces should be read together.
**Power and Appeasement: Donald Kagan and Paul Kennedy on opposite sides, and a third Yale professor, Jonathan Schell, looks beyond. The Guardian, August 12, 2010. (This was also posted in TPMCafe the next day.)
*Sorry, Robert Kagan, America Isn’t Superman, Washington Monthly, July 23, 2014. This short post links a 2-minute video (3rd-to-last paragraph, “watch this exchange”) of Kagan’s balloon being popped in 2009 by then-French foreign-minister Dominique DeVillepin. Also in History News Network.
McChrystal’s Master-Stroke?What Obama May Lose by Dismissing Him, TPMCafe, June 24, 2010 Why Conservatives Saw Dangers in McChrystal that Some Neo-cons Didn’t. TPMCafe, June 22, 2010 All Israel, All the Time? TPMCafe, June 13, 2010
THE GAZA WAR, 2008-2009. ISRAEL’S TRAGEDY, AMERICAN NEO -CONSERVATIVES’ FOLLY. A collection of nine columns, written early in 2009, during the Gaza War and amid neo-conservative re-positionings on American conservatism.]
From Beit Shemesh, A Cry to American Jews, TPMCafe, June 4, 2010
How and How Not to Engage Liberalism and Islam, TPMCafe, May 26, 2010
Peter Beinart Unbound, and Israel in the Dock, TPMCafe, May 19, 2010. There are no un-thankless ways to write about Israel and its apologists or its scourges, but here goes.
*John Lindsay and Liberal Leaders’ Dilemma: PBS documentary, “Fun City Revisited: The Lindsay Years.” **Watch Jim Sleeper on PBS discussing John Lindsay, May 6, in WNET’s hour-long documentary, “Fun City Revisted: The Lindsay Years”
New York Justice Goes National, TPMCafe, May 11, 2010. In nominating Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, Barack Obama seems on the verge of completing New York City’s domination of the federal justice system. There are only a couple of things he’s left out.
*Reflecting about race and the left on NPR, April 15, 2010 The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC, on the 20th anniversary of my The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York. This interview lasts about 20 min.
Liberal Racism and Power at the New York Times, TPM Cafe, April 7, 2010.
Beware Racial Conspiracy Mongers — On Both Sides, TPMCafe, April 5, 2010 Both The New Republic and The Nation got dragged into this one, and both got a bit over-excited — as I had reason to know.
Obama to Liberals: Learn to Let Race Go, TPMCafe, March 28, 2010. Well-meaning, impassioned efforts by liberals (from Jimmy Carter to Frank Rich) to broad-brush the virulent opposition to health-care reform as “racist” are so stupid strategically that they wind up being wrong morally, as well — not because racism isn’t real but because it distracts us from deeper, more powerful currents driving the protests.
Religion in Politics? Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It, TPMCafe, March 26, 201o. Religion is often indispensable to civic insurgencies but odious and oppressive when it rules.
What David Brooks’ Editors and Producers Keep Missing, TPMCafe, March 16, 2010 How the Power Elite Gets its Power,
David Brooks and poison Ivy. TPMCafe, Feb 19, 2010.
The Congressional Black Corrupticus, Yet Again. TPMCafe, February 13, 2010. The Congressional Black Caucus’ corruption is especially revealing because it’s like the rest of Congress’ corruption — only more so, owing to the unique history it invokes to cloak its deals.
What Tea Party Patriots See — and What They Don’t, TPMCafe, February 9, 2010 They protest that government is coddling incompetent and dishonest corporations with taxpayers’ money, but they don’t take strong stands against those corporations.
This Just in, on Earmarks and Paralysis, TPMCafe, February 8, 2010 Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Speech:
Pearls Before Swine, TPMCafe, January 27, 2010
Currents and Undercurrents in the Supreme Court’s Campaign-Finance Coup, TPMCafe, Jan. 22, 2010. To really understand how shoddy this ruling is, note what some Justices actually said about it six months before they delivered it. The day after writing this, I did a quick follow up, “More Obfuscation About Corporate ‘Speech’”, prompted in part by a lazy piece in the New York Times.
Don’t Blame Massachusetts. Two short, columns, TPMCafe, Jan. 18, 2010, show why undercurrents driving the the upset election in Massachusetts of Scott Brown to replace Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate are driving a new “American Dilemma.” Whose Voodo? Not Haiti’s, TPMCafe, January 15, 2010. The Haitian earthquake points up the dangers of carrying cultural explanations of disaster quite as far as David Brooks.
A New Year, a New ‘Liberation’ Strategy for Israel-Palestine, TPMCafe, Jan. 1, 2010. Well, not so new, but newly evident and irresistible. It’s Neo-conukah!, TPMCafe, Dec. 12, 09. Once again, neo-cons are trying to find in Judaism too many precedents and justifications for their national-security-state strategies.
Commander in What, Again? TPMCafe, Dec. 11, 09. Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech was deft, but it still begged a few too many questions, posed by his predecessor and still unresolved, about the proper scope of presidential power.
Obama’s presidency after his West Point speech on Afghanistan. TPMCafe, Dec. 2, 09. The problem isn’t really his presidency, its what others are doing to the republic.
The Congressional Black Corrupticus Strikes Again.TPMCafe, Dec. 2, 09. A quick study in ethno-racial mis-bonding. Be sure to read my responses to some of the posted comments. Commander-in-What? TPMCafe, Dec. 2, 2009. The problem behind Obama’s West Point speech about his Afghanistan strategy.
* Dissent magazine essay, “Stanley McChrystal’s War on Poverty,” in which I explain why those who are demanding that the U.S. spread democracy while defeating the Taliban are the same people who have spent a decade seriously damaging this country’s capacity to do either.
Do Joe Lieberman and David Brooks Know What Time it Is? The Dangers of Selective Silence, TPMCafe, November 10, 2009. Lieberman and Brooks are right to condemn politically correct apologetics for Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, who massacred soldiers at Fort Hood. But they’re right the way a stopped clock is right twice a day, and their neglect of the other times is a problem worth probing.
David Brooks: Here He Goes Again, TPMCafe, October 3o, 2009. A Halloween post that’s dead serious about NY Times columnist David Brooks as he ratchets up another doomed war scenario. Here I link two earlier TPM posts that have broadened and substantiated my indictment of this charming but serpentine writer, who, as I put it gently in this Halloween column, “sucks the blood of the American republic and thinks he’s in love.”
Obama’s Civil Religion — And Ours, TPMCafe, October 27, 2009. The President is one part Harvard neo-liberal, one part Chicago pol, and one part legatee and leader of an American civil religion carried forward by the civil-rights movement from earlier Puritan and Hebraic currents that joined Christian personal witness to collective history making as exemplified in the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt.
* World Affairs Journal, how Puritan and Hebrew strands shaped the early American republic and still drive its character and purposes in ways we have forgotten and miscarried.
What ‘Liberal’ Academy? The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 18, 2009, and TPMCafe,October 21, 2009. I was provoked by an exchange in The Chronicle among Mark Lilla, Alan Wolfe, and Bruce L. R. Smith about “liberal” bias against conservative scholars in universities that I thought missed the elephant in the room: The real cause of intellectual and cultural conformity on many leafy campuses isn’t leftists or liberals, silly though their priorities and policies have often been, but the swift market currents driving students and administrators, as well as professors themselves. The Chronicle published a letter from me, and the TPM post gives it some context.
Can Anything Change the Conversation? Maybe This Book Can. TPMCafe, Monday, Sept. 21, 2009. Irving Kristol’s bad faith vs. Nicholas Thompson’s civic-republican faith.
*Why Obama is Calm While Jimmy Carter is Alarmed about racism in conservative protests. The Washington Post, Sunday, Sept. 20. , 2009. Obama knows that the summer’s rage wasn’t driven mainly by racism. That doesn’t mean, though, that he and liberals are offering good responses to the anger.
**This Anger Isn’t Just Black and White, Washington Post, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009. When Jimmy Carter said that most of the “tea party”-style rage at Obama is racist, I felt it necessary to emphasize that there’s a lot more to it than that. The Washington Post ran this on the front page of its “Outlook” section and had an on-line chat in which readers and I went back and forth on the claim.
Has the New York Times Book Review Come to Its Senses? TPMCafe, Sept. 12, 2009. Leon Wieseltier’s put-down of Norman Podhoretz in the Book Review isn’t as reassuring as it may seem.
Deliberating on Corporate “Speech,” the Supreme Court Delivered Only a Laugh a Minute. TPMCafe, Sept. 9, 2oo9. Justice is properly blind, but in this case the conservative Justices were just opportunistic.
Corporate ‘Free Speech’? Since When?, Boston Globe, Sept. 5, 2009. In 700 words, my civic-republican case for why the Supreme Court shouldn’t void restraints on corporate influence in election. This got a lot of responses, which I characterized a day later in Watch Out for Wednesday’s Other Donnybrook, another warning about the Court’s intentions.
Why Are Some Jews Like Norman Podhoretz? Bookforum, Sept.-Oct., 2009. In Why Are Jews Liberals?, Norman Podhoretz unintentionally shows why some Jews are neo-conservatives and why, these days, a few liberals are former neo-cons who’ve been mugged by reality.
After Finger-Pointing at the Tea Party, a Look Back — and Ahead TPMCafe, August 25, 2009. Town-hall and “Tea Party” craziness like what we saw this summer isn’t exclusive to the right, as some have suggested. Candor about the parallels on the left actually makes some important differences between it and the right much clearer.
Gail Collins Tells David Brooks Where to Go, TPMCafe, August 13, 2009. One Times columnist tells another to stop pretending to have undertaken a post-partisan makeover and to return to help his Republican Party.
An ‘Imperturbably Valiant’ Lawyer, TPMCafe, July 29, 2009. Nancy Wechsler (1916-2009) balancedcivic-republican principle and progressive conviction.
Obama’s response to the Gates-Crowley incident reminds us that ultimately — and especially in achieving racial justice – this is a country, not a courtroom. TPMCafe, July 25, 2009. In Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s racially charged fracas with a Cambridge cop, both men were wrong, but one was wronger. TPMCafe, July 24, 2009
Annals of Protest: Chris Hedges: A Jeremiah Without a God? TPMCafe, July 17, 2009. A commentator scourges Michael Jackson’s weird afterlife, and maybe himself. David’s DonnyBrooks, on You Tube, TPMCafe, July 10. A pundit’s flame-out, on camera.
Who Needs the NY Times? We All Do. Still. TPMCafe, July 8, 2009
Joe “Loose Lips” Biden Strikes Again, TPMCafe, July 5, 2009. Just when Obama’s “pitch-perfect” responses to the political crisis in Iran were destabilizing the regime, Biden’s comment may have given it a new lease on life. ________________________________________________
THREE COLUMNS ON THE UPRISING AGAINST IRAN’S RIGGED ELECTION
What Happened in Tehran Couldn’t Happen Here… Right? TPMCafe, June 26, 2009. The experience of a former student of mine there during the crackdown suggests otherwise.
Now, the Crackdown, TPMCafe, June 19, 2009. With a short clip of Ayatollah Khamenei’s supporters cheering his speech declaring demonstrations off limits. Not only did that up the ante for the brave Iranian demonstrators; it made things difficult for American neocons, who actually like having the current regime around as a foil but have to restrain their own rhetoric by making the U.S. a foil for the mullahs.
What the Next 24 hrs in Tehran Will Tell, TPMCafe, Wed., June 17, 2009. A former student of mine, “on the ground” in Tehran on the eve of what may be “the” big, decisive demonstration — or of what may be a decisive crackdown — reports that many Iranians who voted freely for Ahmadenijad are appalled by the government’s response and shifting toward opposition. Will it matter? ____________________________________________________________
Three More Advantages to Obama’s Cairo speech, TPMCafe, June 4, 2009. He vindicates his middle name; he flushes out ideologues on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict; and he says things about intelligent non-violence that go a big step beyond bromides.
Leads for People Debating Judge Sotomayor’s Nomination, TPM Cafe, May 31, 2009
Yale’s student civic culture, 1969 and 2009, Yale Daily News, April 30, 2009. A Commencement-season reminiscence suggests that certain things haven’t changed. You might be surprised at what those things they are.
Coercive Non-Violence Isn’t What You May Think, TPMCafe, April 1, 2009. A follow-up to “A Quiet ‘Must’ Read,” this explains why it’s neither foolish nor manipulative to explore and champion non-violent resistance in the West Bank and elsewhere against what seem to be insuperable odds. The precedents are compelling — and the alternatives unworkable.
A Quiet ‘Must’ Read for a Dark Moment, TPMCafe, April 1, 2009. A stunning report, in an unlikely place, advances my thinking in “Israel’s Tragedy, American Neo-Cons’ Folly,” below. Here I commend Gersom Gorenberg’s “The Missing Mahatma: Searching for a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King in the West Bank.”
That Strange New Voice at Times Op Ed,TPMCafe, March 13, 2009. The conservative Catholic Ross Douthat, 29, will pose left-liberal readers a deeper challenge than his neo-conservative predecessors have done, because he has beliefs, while they only have insecurities mascarading as insights. ______________________________________________________________
FOUR COLUMNS ON THE PERSISTENT NEO-CON MALADY
Neo-cons, Rising Again? TPMCafe, Feb. 18, 2009. A New York Times Book Review editor can’t quite get over his section’s infatuation with them: see U.S. Neo-Cons Jump Conservative Ship, in openDemocracy, Feb. 10, 2009. The predicament of Sam Tanenhaus reminds us that conservatism’s original sin lies not in its bombastic neo-conservative interlopers but in the tragic nature of conservatism itself.
Neo-cons: The Pity of It All, TPMCafe, Feb. 10, 2009. I’m not quite done with Sam Tanenhaus, David Brooks, David Frum, William Kristol, and other neo-cons whose recent efforts to cleanse themselves and be thought well of leave too many wrongs unacknowledged and questions unanswered.
*Half-Right, Commonweal, Feb. 13, 2009. A review of Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam’s Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.
American Conservatism’s Original Sin is Confessed! TPMCafe, Feb 7, 2009. Finallly, Sam Tanenhaus comes out with it — on his third try. ________________________________________________________________________________
Procrastination or Journalism: Is There a Difference? TPMCafe, Feb. 7, 2009.
For David Brooks, Status/Self-Esteem Disequilibrium Strikes Again, TPMCafe, Feb. 3, 2009. You’ve never heard of it? Neither had I until I made it up to parody David Brooks’ Status/Income Disequilibrium on my way to explaining why his punditry has become as delusional and destructive as Bernard Madoff’s ponzi-scheme investing.
Israel’s Only Way Out — and Michael Walzer’s, TPMCafe, Jan. 30, 2009. Coming after five columns I posted during the Gaza War, this one draws my arguments together and reckons briefly with a bad essay on the conflict by the political philosopher Michael Walzer and links a good one by the political philosopher Seyla Benhabib.
Bubbles We Still Need to Burst, TPMCafe, Jan 23, 2009. An invaluable essay by the writer Jonathan Schell shows how to get beyond partisan polemics and moralizing to advance a progressive American agenda.
To Help the Minority, Reach For the Majority, TPMCafe, Jan. 20, 2009. A response to (really an agreement with) Orlando Patterson on racial inequality in America. Part of an Inauguration-week symposium on a special issue of Democracy Journal, in cooperation with TPM.
Why It’s “I, Barack Hussein Obama, TPMCafe, Jan. 20, 2009. On the morning of the highest symbolic moment in Obama’s ascent to the White House, I reviewed the advantages of his middle name.
GAZA WAR COLUMNS, 2009
U.K., U.S. Drop Their (and Israel’s) Grand Strategy, TPMCafe, Jan. 19, 2009. So doing, they vindicate Hannah Arendt’s warning to Zionists in 1944 that instead of trying to play with the big powers, they should reach out more credibly to neighbors. That’s not naive even now.
How (and How Not) to Assess Israel’s Moral Self-Destruction in Gaza, TPMCafe, Jan. 15, 2009. An assessment of how four very different veteran participants and observers in political and military conflict — Chris Hedges, Jeffrey Goldberg, Avraham Burg, and Jonathan Schell — deal with the Israel-Palestine conflict during the Gaza war of early 2009. Hedges’ oblique response prompted me to reply that
It’s Time for an Orwell in Gaza, TPMCafe, Jan. 12, 2009. Discovering that freedom in Spain had more cruel enemies than the one everyone thought it did, he told his readers some things they didn’t want to know. .
RADIO INTERVIEW ON THE GAZA WAR, 2009: a 20-minute interview with WNPR’s Brian Lehrer on Jan. 15.
A Noteworthy Anniversary at the NY Times, TPMCafe, Jan. 12, 2009. William Kristol’s year-long run on the newspaper’s op-ed page makes me wonder why American newspaper opinion pages are so bad. Some of the reasons aren’t journalists’ fault; but editors react in ways that make newspapers deserve their decline.
How Dysfunctional is Israel?, TPMCafe, Jan. 9, 2008. It’s a lot more dysfunctional than its apologists think, but it’s less than more than a few of its critics.
Can There Be Politics in Tragedy? or in Gaza?, TPMCafe, Jan. 5, 2009. Written during Israel’s ground war.
Look Who Loves Ivy Neoliberals Now!, TPMCafe, Nov. 21, 2008. Like most conservatives, David Brooks used to lampoon them. Then he discovered that the reality at Yale and Harvard is more complex and, in some ways, more impressive. But don’t count on him to keep saying so.
How Summers at Treasury Would Beggar the Republic, TPMCafe, Nov. 11, 2008. The former Harvard president’s hyper-neoliberalism would subvert civic-republican virtue, that’s how. We need deeper reform than he would bring. ________________________________________________________________________________ JIM SLEEPER’S OBAMA CHRONICLES. These were posted from the morning after the New Hampshire primary in January, 2008 through Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, tracing the evolution of my and others’ thinking about Obama’s candidacy and his handling of challenges involving race, elitism, exoticism, economic disorientation, campaigning style, and leadership. Note the columns on racial identity, including assessments of what other commentators, from Shelby Steele (1 column) and Sean Wilentz (2 columns) to Obama’s leftist critics, were saying. Note also the columns also on Louis Farrakhan, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s comment on whites who “cling to guns and God,” and his race speech in Philadelphia. Also included are some assessments of my columns that were posted in the New York Times “Opinionator,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, and by the neo-conservative Obama-basher Daniel Pipes, and others. There are a few 2008 campaign columns here on Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Joe Biden, and “Billary Clinton”. Some of the Obama columns are also below this line, date by date, running back from the week after his birthday. But other, unrelated columns are below, as well. ________________________________________________________________________________ What I’m Learning (Slowly) From Obama, TPMCafe, Nov. 11, 2008. A columnist’s confessions.
“I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear….” TPMCafe, Nov. 9, 2008. Why he should use his middle name at the inauguration, and how his full name vindicates what is still exceptional about America. A similar version ran in the Yale Daily News on November 14.
Don’t Gloat — Organize. Dissent, Nov. 6. Part of a special issue of pieces, “The Day After,” by Dissent editors, including Michael Walzer, on the election.
Burdens of History, Reconciliation, and Fatality. TPMCafe, Nov. 5, 2008 A victory night reflection on what we and Obama face — and on why he seems so deeply well equipped to face it.
Thoughts on Casting a Vote in New York City at 6 am, TPMCafe, Nov. 4, 2008
How to Gauge Racism in This Election, TPMCafe, Oct. 28, 2008. Don’t ask Jack Shafer, Slate’s blowhard press critic, who thinks that liberals, enraptured by Obama, are just getting jittery. A viral e-mail I got clears things up.
My Hidden Stake in an Obama Win, TPMCafe, Oct. 27, 2008. Whether or not it succeeds on November 4, Obama’s candidacy has come to represent and confirm positions I’ve taken on racial politics for years.
Things We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Race, Dissent, Oct. 27, 2008. Eight days before election, everyone is talking about whether “the Bradley effect” will sink Obama’s apparent lead.
A ‘Sad’ Reckoning That Isn’t, TPMCafe, October 26, 2008. How not to think of McCain nine days before the election.
The Neo-con Merry-Go-Round Runs Down…., TPMCafe, October 17, 2008. Tortured defections from McCain tell the tale
A Pundit’s Day of Reckoning — And Ours, TPMCafe, October 14, 2008. As McCain’s campaign became increasingly embarrassing, this column predicted well how NY Times columnist David Brooks, formerly a sinuous McCain supporter, would ride out the election.
A Pundit Fails the Republic, TPM Cafe, October 13, 14, 2008. As the presidential election approached, David Brooks, liberal editors’ favorite conservative, parried and then ducked the truth that John McCain had proven himself unstable and incompetent as commander-in-chief of his own campaign. Serious conservatives such as
Christopher Buckley told it like it is. Don’t Just Hold Your Nose, TPMCafe, October 2, 2008. Now that the Senate has sweetened and porked up the bailout, it will pass, but will damage republican principles even more than the earlier version did.
Senators, Beware! TPMCafe, October 1, 2008. Hours before the Senate’s scheduled vote on a bailout package, reponses from sober bankers, professors, and policy analysts to my column of last night were surprising and seemed to warrant another column.
Why a Second Bailout Bill Should Fail, TPMCafe, Sept. 30, 2008. Not that I expected it to….
John Quixote, Sarah Panza, and the Windmills of 2008, TPMCafe, Sept. 9, 2008. How McCain and Palin are blaming the wrong elites in this election.
*8 “Yoo Es Ay! Yoo Es Ay!” TPMCafe, September 6, 2008. The Republican tragedy in John McCain’s acceptance speech.
What Sarah Palin Offered in her Convention Debut — and What it May Cost, TPMCafe, September 4, 2008 Another One Bites the Dust, TPMCafe, August 28, 2008. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, a Hillary Clinton dead-ender, had to be ushered off the stage the night that Bill Clinton made clear that Barack Obama is ready to lead.
What Biden Brings, TPMCafe, August 23, 2008. This was written just before Obama’s introduction of Biden and the latter’s speech in Springfield, which fulfilled my anticipations here. Now the other shoe will drop, and Biden will put his foot in his mouth a few times this fall. But he’s a great choice, all things considered, even if he’s not the answer to the fundamental challenges I raised in the column before this one.
It Won’t be Obama’s Veep Who Saves Him, TPMCafe, August 22, 2008. Written the day before Obama announced his choice of running mate, this piece went looking for what seemed the missing fire in his belly.
Has Obama the courage of black voters’ convictions? TPMCafe, August 8, 2008. A congressional election in Memphis was a win-win-win opportunity for Obama to endorse the white incumbent, against a black challenger — and in a majority-black district! But he didn’t do it. This is also a case study of where 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act went wrong.
*Intellectual Usury Feels Good, at First History News Network, July 20, 2008. Punditry, perversity, and the foreclosure crisis.
Changing the Debate — For Real, TPMCafe, July 18, 2008. This continues the arguments of the previous post, focusing somewhat on the deep and pervasive taboos against criticizing corporate capitalism and our two-party system. I see Republicans as Whigs, circa 1858, but, so far, there is no credible leadership pointing beyond both parties, unless Obama can actually do it.
So Near, and Yet so Far, TPMCafe, July 16, 2008. Two young conservative writers think that Republicans can earn the trust and support of American workers by changing their philosophy and governance. I doubt it, and I ask, why the crises of capital that are converging on working people, especially, during Bush’s final months don’t discredit both parties and justify a new alignment that transcend both — not in this November’s election, which we all hope will produce the next Roosevelt, but beyond it.
Conservatives’ Conundrum — and Ours, TPMCafe, June 18, 2008. What’s gotten into George Packer? His account of “The Fall of Conservatism” in the May 26 New Yorker shows mainly how the chattering classes, liberal as well as conservative, avoid reckoning our civic-republican decline.
Obama: Neoliberal or Civic Republican? TPMCafe, June 13, 2008. He’s really a bit of both, I argue, and he has the capacity to vindicate the Republic against the worst of global capitalism. Whether he will depends on whether our national economic and social crises deepen — and on what people seem ready to hear.
Obama in the Straits, TPMCafe, June 5, 2008. As Obama claimed the Democratic nomination after the last primaries, a meditation from abroad on the racial dimension of the challenge and the opportunity his candidacy has put before the country and the world. Obama in the Wilderness. TPMCafe, April 29, 2008. As Obama staggered under the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s preening shortly before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, some historical and religious perspective.
A Literary Prophet’s Bad Faith, April 28, 2008. This assessment of Leon Wieseltier’s assault on Martin Amis book about 9/11 in the New York Times Book Review shows not ony that it takes one to know one but also that envy and rivalry here are compounded by bad faith.
SLEEPER’S OBAMA CHRONICLES, 2008 Campaign, continued: Obama’s Way Out of the Race Trap, TPMCafe, April 23, 2008. After losing the Pennsylvania primary, Obama had to re-connect with working-class whites. I suggested that calling for class-based affirmative action would turn a lot of heads and gain a lot of ground electorally and for social justice. How Republicans Gamed the Pennsylvania Primary, TPMCafe, April 22, 2008 The Ur-Story Behind Obama’s ‘Cling’ Gaffe in PA, TPMCafe, April 16, 2008. His problem with working-class whites is deep, though not his fault. Why Obama’s Leftist Critics Are Sputtering, TPMCafe April 3, 2008. Obama’s racial wisdom vs. holdouts left and right, TPMCafe, April 1, 2008. Both conservative black writers like Shelby Steele and many leftists academics are misjudging his campaign and his motives. The Campaign We Really Need, TPMCafe, March 28, 2008. A clarification concerning the column just below this one. Billary’s One-Two Punch Has Changed the Game, TPMCafe, March 26, 2008. How the Clintons became a part of American democracy’s problem, not the solution. A few unfortunate phrasings left this one open to both innocent and willful misreadings. Please read it with “Obama, Crowds, and Power,” here below, and with “The Campaign We Really Need,” above. In Philadelphia, Obama’s Historic Challenge, TPMCafe, March 18, 2008. And, in Brooklyn, a lit of history behind controversies like the one for Obama’s Pastor Jeremiah Wright.
Spitzer’s Non-Prosecution, as Perfect as a Perfect Crime, TPMCafe, March 12, 2008. That he self-destructed doesn’t leave his investigators with clean hands.
The Spectre Haunting Eliot Spitzer’s Inquisitors, TPMCafe, March 11, 2008
OBAMA CHRONICLES, 2008 CAMPAIGN (Continued): How to Really Put that Farrakhan Endorsement to Rest TPMCafe, March 4, 2008. Why no “furor” over Farrakhan is likely to fly, even though some people will keep trying to launch it. Obama in a Valley of Insinuations and Lies: A desperate historian’s attack, TPMCafe, February 27, 2008. A real meltdown. Obama, Crowds, and Power, TPMCafe, February 13, 2008. Written just after Obama won the “Potomac Primaries, a cautionary note. Obama’s Biggest Weakness, TPMCafe, February 6, 2008. Written as returns from SuperTuesday were still coming in. , TPMcafe, February 2, 2008 Written just before SuperTuesday. Here I was behaving as an anthropologist more than a partisan. Many readers were not amused.
David Brooks Scurries to McCain…. via Ted Kennedy! TPMCafe, January 30, 2008
Giuliani: Should We or Shouldn’t We? The Tallahassee Democrat, January 24, 2008. This in the daily newspaper of Florida’s capital just before Rudy Giuliani’s make-or-break bid for the Republican nomination in the state’s GOP Primary of January 29. It is adapted from my TPMcafe column of March, 2007, below:
If I Vote for Obama, It’ll Be Because… , TPMcafe, January 8, 2008, Posted the morning after his second-place finish in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary.
**Arthur Sulzberger’s Cracked Kristol Ball, TPMcafe, January 6, 2008 and At Times Op Ed Page, the Plot Sickens TPMcafé, January 8, 2008. Why the New York Times’ “fickle and perverse” Times’ publisher made a leading neoconservative apparatchik an op-ed page columnist, and what that costs the paper’s credibility.
Jury’s Out, Dissent, Winter, 2008, in a collection of short essays prompted by Tocqueville’s remarks on the jury system.
Teaching Toughness, < Democracy Journal, Winter, 2008, review of Richard Kahlenberg’s Tough Liberal, a biography of teachers’ union president Albert .