New Republic, Oct. 25 In the cover story, conservative New York Post editorial writer Robert George argues that “Bush’s first term has represented a betrayal of conservative values.” Bush has created a state of “permanent war,” using “an unprecedented expansion of executive power,” at the cost of Americans’ civil liberties. Bush refuses to fire those responsible for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. “Loyalty is prized above all … regardless of the effect on U.S. standing in the world.”… This article reports from Afghanistan that, “despite fears that the election would be marred, the vote generally went off without a hitch.” Afghans were more disappointed in the election than foreign observers, indignantly showing how a little saliva could wipe off the “supposedly permanent ink” meant to mark those who had voted… TRB notes the Bush campaign’s habit of removing spectators who wear pro-Kerry clothing or pins, claiming that this illustrates the president’s close-minded and oversensitive personality: “He hates being challenged.”—D.K.
Economist, Oct. 14“Personalized molecular treatments” could mark a “turning point” in on the fight against cancer. By individualizing care for each particular form of cancer, the disease could be transformed into “something akin to a chronic complaint.” However, drug companies will be tempted to develop treatments for only the most common subtypes of cancer, and the drugs will initially be very costly… A special report from Australia says that Prime Minister John Howard has “the chance to push … economic reforms that could change the face of Australia” in the aftermath of his surprisingly large election victory. Still, managing an Australian economy “that may be entering rockier waters” and undertaking a controversial foreign policy could derail Howard’s victory.… Another article criticizes the “irresponsible tax bill” recently passed by Congress, saying the the bill further complicates American tax law and contains “boxloads of special favours for industries” to curry favor before the presidential election.—D.K.
New York Review of Books, Nov. 4 The special issue features a compilation of short essays from notable writers on the presidential election. The contributors almost uniformly support Kerry, but their insights vary. K. Anthony Appiah revisits Bush’s 2000 Republican National Convention acceptance speech to argue that Bush is not actually a man of his word: The deficit has jeopardized the programs he promised to protect, the country is increasingly polarized, and he began a war without just cause or assurance of victory. Russell Baker, on the other hand, says that Bush is too much so—his steadfast character makes him “a willful man of possibly dangerous simplicities.” For Anthony Lewis, the greatest thing at stake in this election is the country’s commitment “to law as the foundation of the American idea.” “Using the threat of terrorism as a reason,” he writes, “they have overridden constitutional rights and treaties to take harsh, punitive action against hundreds of individuals.”—L.H.T.
The New Yorker, Oct. 18 George W. Bush’s idolatry of William Barrett Travis, the Battle of the Alamo commander who declared he’d fight until “Victory or death,” offers insight into the president’s governing style, says one piece in the 212-page political issue. The story focuses on critical moments in Bush’s career, such as Cheney’s desire to serve as running mate, sparked by learning Bush wanted to “make dramatic changes to the issues he thought needed to be addressed,” and Bush’s resolute decision to go to war in Iraq. The conclusion? Bush is a man with fanatical ambition, for better or worse: If re-elected, “He would pursue ends that are now outside of what most people conceive of as the compass points of the debate, by means that are more aggressive than we’re accustomed to.”… Also, a positive review of Kerry’s recent political performance and a profile of pollster John Zogby who’s jockeying to rival Gallup.—J.H.P.
New York Times Magazine, Oct. 17 Drawing similar conclusions to The New Yorker about Bush’s radical nature, Ron Suskind scrutinizes the president’s unwavering faith, offering examples of how the Bush’s conviction to govern by “gut” rather than a careful examination of issues has negatively affected the White House, and the country. Particularly thoughtful perspective comes from Jim Wallis, a pastor and one-time source of guidance to the president. The relationship ended abruptly when Wallis spoke frankly to Bush about terrorism. Wallis noticed a change in Bush’s behavior: “What I started to see at this point was the man that would emerge over the next year—a messianic American Calvinist.”… Another piece examines the crisis in Darfur. The United Nations is investigating whether violence in the region amount to acts of genocide. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what precipitated the crisis, but all agree on “the conflict’s root cause: cataclysmic droughts.”—J.H.P.
Weekly Standard, Oct. 18 What contributed to Bush’s remarkable improvement in Friday night’s debate? “Bush boned up on issues in a more relaxed manner. There was only a single mock debate. Aides were easier on the president during practice sessions,” says one story.… Another piece says Sept. 11 and state political scandals involving Democrats like Gov. McGreevy may be the reason Bush is closing in on Kerry’s New Jersey lead. … Reality TV has come to the Middle East, sort of. Big Brother Middle East took years to get on the air, but lasted about a week. Middle Eastern Broadcasting Centre pulled the show due to “external pressure from clerics, and internal pressure from the government’s information ministry,”says the cover story. “One doesn’t have to be an Islamic fundamentalist to find Big Brother a deeply objectionable moral cesspool,” but given the participants’ constraints, the result was “so excruciatingly tame and dull that it made watching sand-dune erosion look like a pulse-quickening alternative.”—J.H.P.
Time,Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 11 Up for debate: The newsmagazines report that last week’s events make the election too close to call.… One Newsweek article complimented Bush’s Friday-night debate performance, saying, “Bush eventually found his stride, picked up points on social values and performed well enough to propel him toward the showdown in Tempe, Ariz., with … a sense that this race is once again a virtual dead heat.” … Time and U.S. News note that recent news about Iraq, including Rumsfeld’s statement that “he had seen no compelling evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda,” information that “by the end of 1991, Saddam had completely destroyed his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction,” and Paul Bremer’s admission that more U.S. troops should have gone to Iraq at the war’s outset, has played out in Kerry’s favor.… U.S. News adds that “rising oil prices, bad job numbers, and a generally sluggish economy,” haven’t helped Bush, either.
In the trenches: Time’s cover story outlines the Republicans’ and Democrats’ “ground war”strategies. Bush workers recognize the work they need to do since “Democrats just beat the socks off the Republicans in 2000 on the ground.” Pro-Kerry 527s pad his campaign’s efforts: America Coming Together “claims to have made 3.7 million visits to voters’ homes in Ohio alone.” The Bush campaign has amped up its grass-roots efforts considerably since 2000, and “[m]uch of the organizing is being done through churches.” …U.S. News scrutinizes the swing states of Wisconsin, Florida, and Pennsylvania. “Wisconsin … is Bush’s best hope for winning a state he lost in 2000,” the article says. Hurricanes in Florida thwarted state campaign efforts—now Democrats and Republicans hurry to make up for lost time. Pennsylvania remains a key focus for Kerry—one adviser says the campaign has enlisted more workers there “in August than Al Gore had on October 15.”
Great expectations:Newsweek examines potential pitfalls of Election Day, such as registered voters whose names aren’t on poll lists and “millions of absentee ballots, early ballots, military ballots and overseas ballots” that complicate accurate counts. Lawyers are poised to litigate over the slightest Election Day malfunction. One legal challenge could come in Colorado, where the approval of Amendment 36, which “would divvy up Colorado’s electoral votes based on the percentage of votes each candidate wins in the state,” could change the course of a close election, says Time. … In Newsweek, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw outlines the responsibility of the press on Nov. 2, so that it doesn’t repeat gaffes of the 2000 election. Brokaw said after the Bush/Gore election, “I not only have egg on my face, I have an entire omelet all over my suit.” By closely monitoring exit polls and absentee results, and keeping alert for the possibility of error, Brokaw hopes “to keep my suit—and the reputation of NBC News—stain-free.”—J.H.P.