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Oct. 22 2004 6:03 PM

Kerry: At Least He's Not Bush

The New Republic's lukewarm endorsement.

New Republic, Nov. 1
The editors endorse John Kerry, exhibiting a passion against George Bush that outweighs their fondness for Kerry. Bush's policies, both foreign and domestic, have been characterized by "ideological certainty untroubled by empirical evidence" undertaken in a "sectarian, thuggish, and ultimately self-defeating spirit." In contrast, Kerry "has a record of fiscal honesty and responsibility," and "seems inclined to use American power where it could genuinely damage Al Qaeda." This article says that Bush's support for storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain could cost him Nevada and perhaps the presidential election. "With so many good reasons for Bush's defeat, it would be more than a little ironic if the final blow was prompted by something he actually did right." … "TRB" thinks that the conservatives' tarring of their opponents as "liberals" has lost its effectiveness. Bush's reliance on it in the final weeks of the campaign "may be a sign that the president ... knows he has a weak hand."—D.K. 

Economist, Oct. 21
"The world needs to swallow its natural scepticism about Mr. Sharon's motives" and support his plan for the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli exit from Gaza "will improve the lives of the 1.4m Palestinians there" by reducing armed conflicts involving Israeli soldiers stationed there to protect the settlers. "Gaza freed from military occupation could be a[n] ... example of the land-for-peace model that can be copied on the West Bank." … An article re-examines the truism that divided government yields fiscal discipline. Divided government may help curb government spending, but it is hardly a panacea. "Some of the worst deficits ... occurred during periods of divided government" under Truman, Ford, and Reagan. ... An article remembers the life of Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstructivsm, "an ill-defined habit of dismantling texts by revealing their assumptions and contradictions." Derrida trafficked in "weak puns ... bombastic rhetoric and illogical ramblings."—D.K. 

The Nation, Nov. 1
The magazine uncovers a conflict of interest for Iraqi debt envoy James Baker. According to this special investigation, Kuwait received a proposal from a foundation consisting of "well-connected firms" about how to "protect and realize claims against Iraq" totaling $57 billion. One firm is the Carlyle Group, where Baker has "an estimated $180 million stake." Documents obtained say that "[If] Kuwait agrees to transfer the debts to the consortium's foundation, the consortium will use these personal connections [with 'key decision-makers'] to persuade world leaders that Iraq must 'maximize' its debt payments to Kuwait." Thus far, Kuwait has neither accepted nor rejected the proposal, but the Carlyle Group, in particular, stands to gain a $1 billion investment from the deal. The Carlyle Group says "neither the Carlyle Group nor James Baker wrote, edited, or authorized this proposal." Baker has long been a contentious choice for the post—the New York Times advocated his resignation in a Dec. 12, 2003, editorial.—J.H.P. 

New York Times Magazine
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New York Times Magazine, Oct. 24
The cover story explores how being raised by gay parents affected the upbringing of Ry Russo-Young. Now an adult, Russo-Young, who's straight, admits she feels "in between queer and straight culture," but that she appreciates her perspective. Studies offer varying takes—one concludes there's no difference between children of gays and straights, another "argues passionately that there are differences," but that they're positive, and a third concludes that children of gay parents are "likely to attain a similar orientation."... Daphne Merkin and Slate's Meghan O'Rourke profile two influential writers, Alice Munro and Marilynne Robinson, and explore what the women's lives reveal about their writing. Merkin says that Munro's experiences during her mother's struggle with Parkinson's brought "the deep sense of regret in its wake that appears and reappears in her stories." Robinson, a Congregationalist, appreciates the religion's emphasis on "freedom of individual conscience." O'Rourke says, "Exploring the demands of conscience is the heart of Robinson's work."—J.H.P.

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The New Yorker, Oct. 25
A profile of Mark Halperin, founder of ABC's political news summary The Note, examines the extent of his influence in the political sphere: "[A] single item on [ The Note ] can metastasize until it is picked up by more traditional media." Part of its success lies in Halperin's ability to tap into our fascination with the political process. Karen Hughes finds this trend worrisome—in her book, she blames The Note for perpetuating the media's role as "virtual participants—instead of observers—in the political process" and for its "habit of offering advice to candidates."... Malcolm Gladwell criticizes Dr. Marcia Angell's approach to tackling rising drug costs in her book The Truth About the Drug Companies. Gladwell asserts that the problem is not that "drug companies are troubled and corrupt," as Angell argues; he instead recommends solving the problem by disseminating information and encouraging "proper communication among everyone who prescribes and pays for and ultimately uses drugs."—J.H.P.

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Weekly Standard, Oct. 25 The cover story examines how Austin has "exported its own peculiar brand of Bush hatred to Democrats from one coast to the other." All of the "odd, paranoid caricatures" of Bush have their roots in Austin, the piece says, citing Shrub by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose as "granddaddy to them all." According to one journalist, "There's something about being so concentrated ideologically that makes [Austinites] more strident than they'd be under other circumstances."... Another feature dissects Bush's stump speech, which he delivers with zeal and conviction. But Bush has largely avoided public speaking engagements that would require him to stray from this script, and he rarely answers questions from the press or an audience. "The problem is that this is all the candidate learns how to do," the article says, "And it hurt Bush in his initial debates with John Kerry."—J.H.P.

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Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 25
Divided we fall:
U.S. News presents a series of articles analyzing the nation's great divide this election. One piece explores how politics have become personal. According to one political scientist, many Republicans believe "that their stands on the issues aren't just about better policy choices; they're matters of personal morality and principle ... So anyone who disagrees with you isn't just disagreeing, they're insulting your core values and threatening your way of life."... Another story parses what the experts think our blue state vs. red state breakdown tells us about voters and the election. David Brooks, a one-time believer that red and blue America demonstrated "no fundamental conflict," now says that since siding with Republicans or Democrats, "big parts of the electorate ... have become, or are becoming, more deeply polarized." Another analyst says race and religion are the major divisive factors.... On another note, "Washington Whispers" reports that Ashcroft may not be around for a second term, even if Bush is.

The end of days: Kerry emerged the more "presidential" candidate after the debates, according to U.S. News—but Bush's improved performance makes the race "too close to call." ... Now that the debates are over, Newsweek says the candidates are "crisscrossing battleground states with a clear message: The other guy is profoundly unfit for office." The big questions: "Where do you go? Where do you advertise?" Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are the obvious suspects, but Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas remain on candidates' lists. ... Last-ditch advertising efforts are another factor. U.S. News says ads like the one from a pro-Bush 527 featuring Osama Bin Laden that asks, "Would you trust Kerry against these fanatic killers?" are more personal than we've seen historically. ...Time adds Bush and Kerry are targeting Hispanic voters. That community is typically Democratic, but an ABC News poll showed Hispanic voters favoring Kerry by only 17 percent.

Put a wedge in it: Newsweek's cover story goes to stem-cell research, which has emerged as one of the key wedge issues this election. Kerry has latched onto it with a vengeance. "Kerry aides thought stem cells would be too arcane an issue, but they discovered they were wrong ... the stem-cell lingo has triggered huge applause, as much as—sometimes more than—the topic of Iraq." Regardless of the outcome of the presidential race, scientists may flock to California. If the state passes Proposition 71 on Nov. 2, it "would provide $3 billion in state taxpayer money for research on any kind of stem cell." ...Time tackles wedge issues more broadly, adding abortion and gay marriage to its discussion. "[W]edge issues, which normally work to the Republicans' advantage, are not a big G.O.P. plus this time." In fact, one "Time poll shows that voters now find themselves closer to Kerry on stem-cell research, abortion, gay rights, and gun control."—J.H.P.

David Kenner is a former Slate intern.

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