The Economist on how historians will judge Tony Blair's time in office.
Updated Friday, May 11, 2007, at 4:53 PM
The Economist, May 10
The cover article analyzes how history will judge Tony Blair after he leaves office June 27. The article acknowledges that "few Britons, it seems, will shed a tear." Many were especially disappointed by Blair's decisions about Iraq. However, the article counters that "on most measures, Mr Blair has left Britain a better place than it was in 1997," particularly with regards to the economy and social welfare. The article concludes that eventually, "Mr Blair will come to be seen as a better [prime minister] than he is today." … A piece asks when the current merger boom will end, comparing it with the similar, debt-fueled environment of the 1980s. The fear is that "stockmarkets are today buoyed by a belief that LBO-bidders will swoop if share prices fall," so the end of the craze could negatively impact the entire economy. The article states that the end will come, but it "may still be months or even years away."—P.F.
Atlantic, June 2007
A profile argues that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's foreign-policy views could be crucial in the remaining years of the Bush presidency. Rice rejects the binary of realism versus idealism that has dogged foreign-policy thinking: "This polarized view—you are either a realist or devoted to norms and values—may be just fine in academic debate, but it is a disaster for American foreign policy. American values are universal." Rice says President Bush's "unshakable belief in freedom" has rubbed off on her: "It's not hopefulness," she says. "It's a sense of what is possible, and optimism about the strength of democratic institutions." … A piece analyzes a military predicament: The Army needs 80,000 highly disciplined new soldiers this year, but it must draw from a pool of potential recruits with options besides military service. As a result, basic training has changed so as not to drive recruits away: "We don't have to break a person down to make him a great soldier," says Col. Kevin Shwedo.—C.B.
Time, May 21
In a cover package on Mitt Romney, an article examines the Republican presidential candidate's political stance. Romney's fund-raising prowess makes him a contender, but many conservatives see his turnabouts on abortion, gay marriage, and gun control as signs of untrustworthiness. Romney's flip-flops could just reflect business instinct: As a venture capitalist, Romney needed to, in the words of his campaign chair, "be able to quickly recognize a good opportunity." Plus, Romney's overall developmental direction could help him claim "the mantle of a true conservative in a Republican primary that has lacked one." … A piece assesses the role of religion in presidential campaigns. Where debate over J.F.K.'s Catholicism centered on faith's public impact, Romney's Mormon beliefs raise questions "about what our faiths says about our judgment and how our traditions shape our instincts." Some evangelicals take issue with Mormonism's "idea that the Bible is corrupted or that its truths could be updated." But to support the most conservative candidate in the field, they may have to shelve their theological misgivings.—P.G.
New York, May 14 The cover story recounts the yearlong run of Socialite Rank, a gossip Web site whose quantitative scores served as the "unofficial judge, jury, and executioner of … many young women who appear on the charity-ball circuit."New York reveals that the anonymously run site was the work of two Russian ex-child stars. Socialite Rank blossomed in its first months, spawning an online community of Pretty Young Things and their publicists. But after the site posted a phony e-mail destroying the reputation of Olivia Palermo, an up-and-coming socialite, her father threatened to sue, and SR folded. … An article profiles Eddie Wise, a panhandler who sued New York City after police officers arrested him three times in nine weeks under an unconstitutional anti-panhandling law. The city awarded him $100,001 to drop the suit, granting Wise a decade's worth of begging income. It hasn't transformed his life: He planned to buy a trailer in North Carolina, but the daunting tasks of replacing his lost identification cards and abandoning his fellow hustlers derailed his scheme.— P.G.
New York Times Magazine, May 13 The cover story surveys the plight of Iraqi refugees, who make up 15 percent of Iraq's population. With ruthless sectarian violence in their home country and deep enmity for perceived Baathists in neighboring states, fleeing Iraqis often trade one set of dangers for another. Emigration only worsens conditions in Iraq, as a throng of fleeing professionals has stripped the fledgling infrastructure of key personnel. For displaced Iraqis living within Iraq, "the alternative … seems only to be more war," attracting newly minted refugees to resistance militias. … An article assesses the impact of blogs and MySpace on independent musicians. By posting and selling content online, "Artists 2.0" engage with their fans to an unprecedented degree, "posting confessional notes on their blogs, reading their fans' comments and carefully replying." This approach guarantees sellout crowds to musicians who target their tours to concentrated pockets of fans. But more engagement could hurt intimacy: As one YouTube-wary rocker put it, "You can't be the drunken guy who just got offstage anymore."— P.G.
Weekly Standard, May 14 The cover story examines New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's prospects as a 2008 presidential hopeful. "Manager Mike" failed to realize his promise of a municipal education revolution, and record-level tax hikes, along with an unpopular football stadium scheme, shattered his approval ratings. But Bloomberg moved on to a second term, and his ratings have soared thanks to a disproportionately large upper class insulated against public-education issues. Unfortunately for Bloomberg, he can't count on that demographic on the national stage. … Former Bush faith-based initiatives head John J. DiIulio Jr. argues for spiritualpolitique, a "soft-power perspective on politics that … accounts for religion's present and potential power to shape politics within and among nations." In contrast to the popular idea among analysts that democratization is phasing out religion, faith has taken hold as firmly as ever, even where it once looked passé. But "[n]ot much … is actually done by Washington to ... support nations that abide by both U.N. and U.S. standards governing respect for religious pluralism."— P.G.
The New Yorker, May 14 An article chronicles the mainstreaming of Bristol graffiti artist Banksy. Banksy's stenciled "scenes of anti-authoritarian whimsy" reached surfaces from San Francisco to the West Bank, gaining him broad popularity. He then forayed into traditional canvas works, some of which fetched six-figure prices at Sotheby's. But Banksy's crossover success has left the guerrilla painter disillusioned: "I originally set out to try and save the world," he said, "but now I'm not sure I like it enough."… A feature reveals the function of the world's first computer, the Antikythera Mechanism. In 1900, archaeologists recovered the wood and bronze box, dating to the first century B.C., from among the remains of a ship bearing ancient Greek sculptures. Nearly 60 years later, a science historian posited that the Mechanism "could be used to calculate astronomical events in the near or distant future." But it wasn't until scientists subjected the Mechanism to a cutting-edge X-ray machine in 2005 that this theory gained support.— P.G.
Newsweek, May 14 An article reports ever-growing anti-Americanism in Afghanistan, even among those who supported the fall of the Taliban. The Afghans "increasingly resent the unending war, especially its rising toll in civilian lives." Last year, 230 civilians were casualties of attacks by U.S. and Coalition forces. This year, more fatalities and a series of strikes on noncombatant targets have "raised the anger to crisis levels." The article describes widespread disillusionment among the general population: "Afghans expect the worst from the Taliban, but they hold America to a far higher standard."… The cover article declares of the 2008 presidential field: "They all want to be Harry Truman." Truman displayed courage and integrity, the sort that American voters, "buffeted by war" and "unhappy with President Bush," are looking for. The article assesses the presidential front-runners, analyzing each candidate's personal and political acts of risk-taking, to see who will be the next "truth-telling, bare-knuckled president who will give it to us straight." Rudy Giuliani emerges as the "lawmaker most often credited with courage by voters."— P.F.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Paige Ferrari is a freelance writer and former Slate intern.
Paul Gottschling is a Slate intern.