Wars help presidents so long as the rally-round-the-flag effect holds up. The Iraq war did so for Bush in 2002 and even 2004 (though by then it was becoming uncertain whether the Iraq war was helping or hurting Bush). On the other hand, a conflict that has no clear end in sight vexes Americans of all political stripes, summoning up deep strains of both conservative isolationism and liberal anti-imperialism. As my Rutgers colleague Ross K. Baker, a congressional expert, wrote last spring, "Combat fatigue is not a condition found only on the battlefield; it is also an affliction that has often been diagnosed in the voting booth." If there's a history lesson to be drawn from this year's election results, that one would be closest to the mark.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Self-Made Man
The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is
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Naomi Klein Is Wrong
Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.
The Strange History of Wives Gazing at Their Husbands in Political Ads
Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.
Lena Dunham, the Book
More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.