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Colbert the New O’Reilly?

New York on the left’s favorite fake talking head.

New York, Oct. 16 A cover piece on Jon Stewart acolyte and Republican Party tormentor Stephen Colbert sets up the comic as not just a political satirist but a possible political phenomenon. Colbert’s performance at this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner may have bombed with the Beltway establishment, but it struck a chord with many Democrats, the writer claims. Could Colbert become the liberals’ new talking head? The author believes so: “[H]e’s become something very close to what he’s parodying, a kind of Bill O’Reilly for the angry left.” The prospect of Karl Rove keeping his mythic status as “Bush’s brain” isn’t great, according to an article. Republicans who once worshiped at the altar of Rove are grumbling about his hubris, policy blunders, and tendency to take sole credit for the party’s achievements. But if Republicans manage to keep their majority in the House, then “Rove will be restored to demigod status,” says political observer Larry Sabato.— Z.K.

New York Times Magazine, Oct. 15 A cover story examines the battle over immigration in Arizona. Despite the state’s reputation for leaning right on border issues, Republican money is now going to moderate candidates rather than hard-liners, who are considered “beatable.” The divide pits “those who want to systematize the country’s widening dependence on foreign labor” in the John McCain mold against “those who want to slam the door.” In 2005, President Bush embraced a border-tightening plan proposed by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. Then last month when McCain endorsed Republican House candidate Randy Graf, a hard-liner, “his endorsement was silent on Graf’s anti-immigrant stand.” A piece profiles Wang Hui, a leading intellectual member of China’s New Left, which proposes a “Chinese alternative” neoliberalism. While many Chinese dissidents push for modernization, Wang fears such reforms will leave the peasants and workers behind. Free markets, he argues, could easily result in upheaval: “When radical marketization makes people lose their sense of security, the demand for order and intervention from above is inevitable.”— C.B.  

The New Yorker, Oct. 16
A piece examines the unpredictable politics of Rupert Murdoch. The chief executive of News Corp., which owns Fox News and the New York Post, has appeared at fund-raisers for Hillary Clinton and contributes to the Clinton Foundation’s climate initiative, prompting fear among conservatives that he’s swinging left. Even after the Post spent the ‘90s pillorying President Clinton as “horndog-in-chief,” Murdoch and the former president have become friends. It’s a convenient relationship for both, as Clinton courts conservatives for Hillary and Murdoch nurses his media empire: “I’m always interested in new ideas,” he says. “It’s what keeps me young.” A piece discusses the spate of post-9/11 conspiracy theories. One online documentary claims planes never actually hit the Twin Towers but that Wall Street speculators detonated a bomb to upset markets. Nicholas Lemann writes that the conspiracy theorist “mistakenly empowers particular, and evil, forces with the ability to determine the course of events, and it misses the messiness and contingency with which life actually unfolds.”— C.B.

Weekly Standard, Oct. 16 Charles Krauthammer cries hypocrisy in the handling of the Mark Foley page scandal. He points out that in 1983, when former Democratic Rep. Gerry Studds’ affair with a 17-year-old male page was discovered, Studds was censured for the consensual relationship and went on to serve in the House until the 1990s. Krauthammer asks why Foley and the Republican leadership are held to a different standard. A rehash of past congressional sexual escapades concludes that “it is better to be a carnivorous congressman from Massachusetts than from Florida or Illinois, and that the quality of congressional sexual misconduct has much to do—surprise!—with politics.” A piece answers why Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is always smiling: He’s dreaming about annihilating Israel. “Ahmadinejad has a coherent ideological vision in which the call to wipe out Israel is no ordinary manifestation of anti-Semitism. Instead, it is the beckoning of an apocalyptic event that will usher in a millennium of bliss for all believers,” the writer claims.— Z.K.

Time and Newsweek, Oct. 16
A Time cover story on the Mark Foley e-mail scandal asks whether Foley’s behavior and the GOP response are signs that the “Republican revolution” has run its course. The piece cites polls showing that voters consider themselves more likely to vote for Democrats for Congress than for Republicans, a reversal from August. If the Democrats do reclaim the House in November, the writer argues, it may be because the GOP has abandoned the principles that Newt Gingrich used to guide it to victory in 1994—because Republicans in Congress have become ineffectual, corrupt, and more focused on partisan favors and politicking than on passing good legislation. Newsweek’s cover article on Foley explores the question of who knew what when, focusing on an incident several years ago when an apparently drunk Foley tried to gain access to the congressional pages’ dormitory at night—but the piece doesn’t come to much in the way of new conclusions.

Odds and ends: A Time article reports on the increasingly desperate situation in Gaza, where an Israeli blockade and bombing campaign, ongoing since January, seem to be edging Fatah and Hamas toward civil war. The conclusion: “If the Israelis thought their siege of Gaza might break Palestinian support for Hamas, they were wrong. It has only made Palestinians angrier and more desperate.” And a Newsweek piece reveals that Iraqi groups are publicly posting hit lists online—giving the “names, addresses and occupations of citizens to kill.” These lists are on sites run by both Sunnis and Shiite groups and offer tips about the actions of opposing factions for the safety of their readers, as well as exhortations to violence.—B.W.

New Republic, Oct. 15
A cover piece profiles Sen. John McCain, the hawkish “maverick” whose strongest suit, the author argues, has been a willingness to change his mind. The shadow of Vietnam long colored McCain’s realist foreign-policy views. But the success of the first Gulf War, plus the massacre of Srebrenica, pushed him toward neoconservatism. But his belief in Ahmad Chalabi, WMD, and the Iraqi people’s thirst for liberation hurt his credibility. “Was I too enamored with the INC?” he asks. “I would say yes.” Now, McCain’s success as a 2008 presidential candidate may depend, again, on his willingness to admit he was wrong. Andrew Sullivan argues that former Rep. Mark Foley’s “virtual pederasty” reveals much about Republican views of homosexuality: “There is something deeply sick about a Republican elite that is comfortable around gay people, dependent on gay people, staffed by gay people—and yet also rests on brutal exploitation of homophobia to win elections at the base.”— C.B.

Economist, Oct. 7 The cover features a package of articles on the global “talent shortage.” Corporate demand for intelligent and highly skilled workers, especially scientists and engineers, is outstripping supply. The problem will be magnified in Western countries—aging populations mean large numbers of the most-skilled workers will retire in coming years—unless the United States and Europe make serious strides in reforming education. A special report on “the cold war in Asia” outlines the strained relationships among Japan, South Korea, and China—and their shared problem of North Korea. China’s ascendancy is shifting the balance of economic and military power away from Japan and its U.S. backing, and South Korea and China are both alienated by Japan’s continuing efforts to sweep its WWII crimes under the rug. “Serious consequences” could result if new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes moves to aggressively rearm Japan after a possible North Korean nuclear test.— B.W.