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A Long, Strange Trip

The New Republic’s journey through “GOP D.C.’

New Republic, Dec. 19 The cover article is a trash-talking tour of “GOP D.C.”—the landscape created by the Republicans’$2 11-year stronghold on Congress—with tips on how to navigate a sea of self-important bureaucrats and what steps to take if a visitor finds himself under threat of indictment. The tour includes a stop at Vice President Dick Cheney’s office to overhear secrets and insults about GOP enemies. Then it’s off to Alexandria Detention Center in nearby Virginia to “sleep in a complimentary jumpsuit on the same rock-hard cot that ruined Judy Miller’s back.” A piece criticizes bloggers for their casual disregard of mainstream journalism. While some bloggers argue that traditional, “objective” methods of newsgathering have turned the mainstream media into lazy, sound bite-grubbing entities, the piece points out that “The mainstream blogosphere (MSB) is only too happy to bury the old media regime, because it has an implicit vision for a new order, one that would largely consist of … bloggers.”—M.M.

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Economist, Dec. 17 The cover article sets forth the theory that insurgency in Iraq will be halted only with the explicit inclusion of Sunni Arabs in the new government and says it is up to the Shiite majority and the Kurds to make room for their rival faction. “In many Sunni minds, Mr. Hussein’s dictatorship is being replaced by a Shia dictatorship.” A Web-only piece details plans in the Congo to hold a referendum on a new constitution Sunday with an eye toward general elections in 2006. The referendum will be the first democratic vote across the war-torn nation in 40 years, and about 24 million citizens are registered to vote. “Whatever the result, there are some other reasons to be cautiously hopeful about Congo,” the article says.—M.M.

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New York, Dec. 19 An article explains why two probable presidential primary candidates, Sen. John McCain and America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani—Republicans with Democratic cross-over appeal—won’t make the cut. McCain, for all of his posturing as an independent straight shooter, toes the party line on abortion, school vouchers, gay rights, and Social Security. Conversely, Rudy Giuliani’s liberal positions on abortion, gay rights, and gun control appeal to Democrats but could repel “red-meat-eating” Republicans. The real winner, the author concludes, is the GOP: This paradoxical pair gives “the impression … that the Republican Party actually was a big tent and might, just might, be a big tent again.”  A piece on Ken Langone, who resigned from the New York Stock Exchange after being caught up in the Dick Grasso compensation scandal, reveals time does not heal all wounds. Lagone vows that New York attorney general Elliot Spitzer, “is going to pay for what he’s done to me and the havoc he’s caused in the New York business climate.”—Z.K.

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New York Times Magazine, Dec. 18 Jody Rosen profiles Chip Davis, the man behind Mannheim Steamroller, a band mostly known for its New Age remixes of Christmas songs. Critics hate the music (Rosen calls it “fearlessly schlocky”) but America loves his blend of synth-pop and the baroque: Davis has sold more than 27 million records—“more than Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M. or Eminem.” Pankaj Mishra reports from Dharamsala, the Indian town at the center of the Tibetan exile community, on a new generation of politically active “stateless” exiles frustrated with the nonviolent, religious approach of the Free Tibet movement. Their leader Tenzin Tsundue, who has spent time in six prisons in his 30-odd years, is realistic about the possible necessity of violence if Tibet is to be independent again: ” ‘Seeking Buddhahood’ he said, ‘is one thing, and freedom for a country is another. We are fighting for freedom in the world and not freedom from the world.’ “—B.W.

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Weekly Standard, Dec. 19 The cover story makes a case against immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. It claims that the war is winnable and that a swift pullout, as some from the left are calling for, would “threaten to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” The story highlights the need for the Bush administration to further articulate the military’s goals in Iraq, one of which should be to encourage insurgents to “opt for politics over violence.” An editorial lambastes the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, an association of law schools, for arguing in a suit against the Defense Department that the group should not be compelled to allow military recruiters campus access because of the DoD’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The piece points out the irony of FAIR counsel citing as precedent a ruling that the Ku Klux Klan could not be forced to admit Jewish or black members.—M.M.

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The New Yorker, Dec. 19 A piece chronicles the scandals that have marked Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s tenure as publisher of the New York Times, zeroing in on Judith Miller’s fall from grace during the Valerie Plame investigation. Claims that Miller was given a long leash by former Executive Editor Howell Raines and his team, as well as tales of Sulzberger running off at the mouth with staffers and dignitaries alike, create the impression of a foundering institution. Miller’s woes, coupled with the Jayson Blair fabrication shake-up, have reduced the Times to covering itself in bloated front-page mea culpas. Mary Poppins as feminist icon? P.L. Travers, who created the namesake for domestic acumen, was no Suzy Homemaker. Caitlin Flanagan’s profile of the Australian-born writer details her romances with women, fierce independence, and unhappy childhood. The article points out that Travers was disappointed with Disney’s film version of the story, although it made her wealthy. “The picture, she thought, had done a strange kind of violence to her work.”—M.M.

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Time and Newsweek, Dec. 19 Iraq votes: Newsweek reports that in the aftermath of broken promises by local leaders and growing frustration with the Shiites, some disgruntled Iraqi Sunnis who sat out National Assembly elections last year do plan to vote this week. American officials believe that this is proof in the pudding that things are improving in Iraq. Yet one U.S. military intelligence analyst takes a more curmudgeonly view: “They’ll become part of the kleptocracy, just like the other guys.” Time reveals that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, once a young terrorist bent on “rally[ing] Islam’s ‘true believers’ to rise up against corrupt regimes in the Middle East,” has replaced his mentor, Osama Bin Laden, as “al-Qaeda’s most dangerous operative.” But don’t count out Bin Laden just yet. According to one intelligence official, “Al-Zarqawi needs Bin Laden for his credibility,” and “Bin Laden needs al-Zarqawi because he is doing the real work.”

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Year in review:Time’s year-end assessment of the Bush presidency reports that advisers are bent on salvaging his legacy. Slowly recovering from the Harriet Miers, CIA leaks, and Katrina debacles, Bush’s approval ratings are inching back up into the 40s. While strategists hope January proves to be a banner month for the president with Samuel Alito’s confirmation and the State of the Union speech, the authors wonder “whether America still believes in George Bush enough to follow.” Newsweek’s year-end piece  describes President Bush as perhaps “the most isolated president in modern history.” The article points out that Bill Clinton, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and even Bush’s father all welcomed at least some constructive criticism and compares Bush’s insularity to that of Richard M. Nixon.—Z.K.

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