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Neat Freak

The New Yorker on Rahm Emanuel’s style.

The New Yorker magazine.

The New Yorker, March 2 Ryan Lizza unearths choice anecdotes from Rahm Emanuel’s past, including a description of the young Emanuel by his first-grade teacher as “larger-than-life.” The White House chief of staff has always been a stickler for neatness—his teacher said he would still “clean up after cleanup time is over”—and his current office is immaculate. Lizza also tracks down the text of the e-mails Obama sent Emanuel when trying to entice him to take the job. “Heads up, I’m coming for you,” Obama wrote to Emanuel a few months before Election Day. Steve Coll describes the secret back-channel talks between India and Pakistan over Kashmir that began in 2007 and were derailed when Pervez Musharraf was forced from power in August 2008. The negotiators were working on an agreement that the leaders hoped would lead to “an end to their debilitating covert wars and, eventually, their paranoiac mutual suspicions.” Musharraf himself says he “always believed in peace between India and Pakistan. But it required boldness on both sides. … What I find lacking sometimes is this boldness.”


Newsweek, March 2 In the cover story, Jonathan Alter analyzes Obama’s first month in office and predicts that the new president will use his self-confidence and keen sense of the “psychodynamics of the recession” to pull the public through this trying time. Unlike Bush, known for his brashness, Obama is the “Goldilocks man—not too hot, not too cold”—who has already shown a willingness to own up to his mistakes. In his reaction to Tom Daschle’s botched nomination, he showed himself “humble enough to utter those three most unpresidential words: ‘I screwed up.’ “ A former real-life “slumdog” turned Newsweek New Delhi correspondent weighs in on 2008’s best-picture Oscar winner, calling the film a fairy tale. “Most slum dwellers never escape. Neither do their kids. No one wants to watch a movie about that.” After years in a street gang, the author’s literacy was the only thing that brought him out of the slums, allowing him to snag a job as a copy boy at a newspaper.

Weekly Standard

Weekly Standard, March 2 A national security adviser for Bush urges the Obama administration to have realistic expectations about the Palestinian peace process. Instead of insisting on a two-state solution now, the United States should instead work toward building up Palestinian institutions to someday allow for separate states. Peace negotiators, instead of reaching a final settlement, should turn now “to making real life in the West Bank better and more secure. If there is ever to be a Palestinian state, it would be the product of such activities, not of formulaic pronouncements about the need for Palestinian statehood now.” An article voices concern that the economic meltdown in Europe could make people think that the streets, not voting booths, are the place to go to force change. “To be sure, the nations of the EU’s heartland are far better off … than those that so recently escaped Soviet rule, but a dashed expectation is a dashed expectation wherever it falls to earth.”

New York, March 2 The cover story tries to understand what made “monster mensch” Bernie Madoff carry out the biggest Ponzi scheme in history—and what attracted money manager and philanthropist J. Ezra Merkin to him. Merkin, who spent his whole life trying to win the affection of his distant father by following in his footsteps, ended up amassing an even greater fortune than his dad before it all went to ruin. “Some viewed Bernie and Ezra as two sides of the same coin. One was down to earth, the other positively ethereal; one was hiding in plain sight, the other ostentatiously public,” the author writes. “They needed each other.” A story offers a glimpse inside the frenzied world of New York livery-cab dispatchers and drivers, watching 18-year-old Milton Mendoza coordinate hundreds of drivers from his dispatch chair. Mendoza isn’t afraid to suspend drivers if they give him lip or are too late to calls.

Texas Monthly magazine.

Texas Monthly, March The style issue features a list of 30 people who have defined the style of Texas, from backwoodsman Davy Crockett and his coonskin cap to Lyndon B. Johnson, who “dressed carefully his entire life, in part to dispel the notion that a country boy was necessarily a hick.” Johnson’s finely tailored suits fit perfectly even when he was getting in the faces of colleagues, giving them his notorious “Johnson treatment.” An article tours Texas’ top 10 architectural gems, from the Alamo (“a visual expression of the Old World-New World dialogue that remains the bedrock of Texas style”) to Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum (“that modestly scaled, bare-concrete Taj Mahal of natural light”). Texas became a “destination for design cognoscenti” by drawing on the talents of those who had come to the state over the years, creating a narrative of “rebirth, revolution, and a long journey toward cultural self-determination.”