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Tortured Conscience

Newsweek on what haunts Eric Holder.

Newsweek, July 20 The cover profile of Attorney General Eric Holder reveals he “is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do.” The appointment would be a “rare, if not unprecedented” sort of move that likely “would roil the country” and “imperil Obama’s domestic agenda.” Holder says the interrogators’ activities “turned his stomach.” How much is he motivated by his much-pilloried rubber-stamp of Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, which still “haunts him”? An essay notes that elite conservatives’ “sotto voce tradition” of “flattering the sort of voter who drove a pickup truck even if he wasn’t the sort you might want to socialize with” has been abandoned amid fears that this voter pool is “shrinking” and that “the temptation to woo working-class voters will, you know, shade into policies that actually advantage the working class.”

New Yorker, July 20 The Comment compares Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s July 3 resignation speech with “the document signed in Philadelphia two hundred and thirty-three years and one day earlier.” Both declarations of independence were “devoted to the enumeration of what the latter’s author called ‘a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object’—the Object being, in Sarah Palin’s case, making things hard for Sarah Palin.” Perhaps Palin just “wants to spend time with her family,” although “she is one of the few political job-quitters in memory not to have given this as a reason, as well as one of the few who could say it plausibly.” An article profiles Sen. Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live writer who was recently seated after a months-long court battle. Says über-wonk (and Franken’s friend) Norman Ornstein, “This is a guy who has been a policy wonk for his adult life.”

New York, July 20
A mammoth article traces 26-year-old real estate and media “macher” Jared Kushner’s rapid rise. Kushner worships his father, Charles, formerly “one of the most powerful men in New Jersey,” whose multibillion-dollar real estate empire was torn from him following jail time and family drama that would make Faulkner blush (he set his brother-in-law up with a prostitute and mailed the tape to his sister). The piece mentions Kushner’s quasi-engagement to Ivanka Trump (“Behind the ‘Page Six’ fodder, the pair are a genuine match”), and Kushner’s fledgling New York Observer, which Kushner discusses “with an optimism that seemed a bit unrealistic.” A report notes Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s “ominous disposition”: Construction boom years and the subsequent meltdown have left many “amenity-laden” high-rise condos unused—the neighborhood is “New York’s version of the collapsing exurban ‘boomburgs’ in Florida and Arizona.” The city’s “inclusionary zoning” is partly to blame; famed urbanist Jane Jacobs presciently predicted it would hurt developers, too.

Weekly Standard, July 20 The cover story explains Palin’s resignation. “She had achieved what she had set out to do, so why bother with one more lame-duck legislative session?” Or with the “endless media attention and assorted calumnies” targeting her, her family, and her alleged ethics violations? Following her vice-presidential run, the author argues, “[s]he had become too big for her home state,” as previously cooperative local Democrats “defected en masse.” “Her celebrity did not expand her political capital but erased it.” One article praises Wimbledon, “the most wonderful tennis tournament,” and its grass—“No surface is better suited to the way the sport and the players have evolved.” In 2001, the All England Club switched from a blend of perennial ryegrass and creeping red fescue to 100 percent ryegrass, allowing higher bounces. Ever since, the tournament “has hosted hour upon hour of the finest tennis one could ever hope to see,” including Roger Federer’s recent record-breaking triumph.

Rolling Stone, July 9-13 Matt Taibbi indicts premier investment bank Goldman Sachs for pulling the “same stunt over and over since the 1920s”: building up bubbles and then profiting from their collapses “with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules.” Goldman led the initial public offering trend during the dot-com bubble; enabled the housing bubble by packaging subprime mortgages into securities (and by persuading Goldman alumni in government to deregulate derivatives trading); drove oil’s price way up last year in a speculative frenzy; and gamed the bailout, complete with Treasury Secretary (and Goldman alum) Henry Paulson’s decisions to let competitor Lehman Bros. fail and then, the next day, prop up major Goldman debtor AIG. A clever review of Rob Thomas’ new solo album duly notes the Matchbox 20 frontman’s milquetoast sensibility yet finds him “underrated” and compelling: “Thomas’ staking claim to the mainstream is almost an iconoclastic act.”