Barack's Home Turf
The New Republic and The New Yorker examine Obama's time in Chicago.
New Republic, July 30 The cover story studies the "fine print" of Barack Obama's foreign-policy positions. Though "McCain supporters have tried to tag him as a latter-day Jimmy Carter," the piece suggests the candidate evinces more Ronald Reagan-like qualities. His anti-terrorism strategy does not idealistically call for "eschewing alliances with unsavory proxies," like less-than-exemplary government and tribal leaders to fight terrorists; in fact, such connections are "are essential to Obama's plans for destroying Al Qaeda."… A piece treats Obama's relationship with the University of Chicago Law School as a "window onto [his] relationship with those who don't share his ideology." The candidate served as a part-time senior lecturer for eight years at the "famously conservative institution." One former dean says, "He's much more intellectual, much more thoughtful, much more interested in discussion, debate, and dialogue than the typical politician … even though from my perspective he's much too liberal. I've never voted for a Democrat in my entire life. He's the first one I might vote for."
The New Yorker, July 21 In an essay, Ryan Lizza investigates Obama's early career in Chicago, the city where he "chose to forge his identity." Lizza argues that "perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them."… A piece profiles Anne Carroll Moore, the woman "who more or less invented the children's library." Moore carried considerable influence among publishers and the reading public—and wielded "a rubber stamp at her desk that she used, liberally, while paging through publishers' catalogues: 'Not recommended for purchase by expert.' " She attempted to stop publication of Stuart Little because the "story was 'out of hand' … [and] children wouldn't be able to tell [the two worlds] apart." (Read Jack Shafer's take on this issue's controversial cover image in Slate.)
New York, July 21
The cover story describes the custody battle facing Gitty, a former Hasidic Jew who left the insular religious community of Kiryas Joel for secular life. Gitty fled the community with her child, only to have "some KJ guys [snatch] her off the street … wearing masks." The piece wonders: "With the fracture of the old-time-liberal, Democratic-voting, Chinese-food-eating, Alfred Kazin-Norman Mailer-Woody Allen-style intellectual, pre-Seinfeld New York Jew … could the black hats be the new face of the tribe?"… An article examines how Joe Scarborough "has turned out to be more Katie Couric than Sean Hannity" on his morning show. … A column compares John McCain's campaign to Hillary Clinton's, noting that like the former first lady, McCain "not only tolerates but seems to encourage an atmosphere of anarchy—and … finds it difficult to fire anyone, no matter how incompetent."
Paste, July 2008 The cover story crowns My Morning Jacket as the new torchbearer of rock 'n' roll. Though "[i]t's difficult to file My Morning Jacket neatly into the current musical landscape," their "power is particularly transformative on stage, where they deliver full-blown, tongue-wagging, fist-pumping Flying V cock-rock." … A piece revisits the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris, creator of "Uncle Remus," a Reconstruction-era black storyteller who later was at the center of the "blatantly racist" 1946 Disney film Song of the South. Harris developed the character of Uncle Remus in his late 19th-century newspaper column, which rivaled the writings of Mark Twain in popularity. Now Uncle Remus is relegated to the "likes of Aunt Jemima, Sambo, and the rest of the wide-eyed, pink-lipped, subservient icons whites slapped onto product packages to sell to other whites." But in Harris' columns, Uncle Remus was "a well-developed black protagonist at a time when most white authors relegated their black characters to stereotypic minor roles."
Weekly Standard, July 21 A piece objects to the presidential candidates' fixation on "inspire[ing] all of us stick-in-the-mud Americans to reach celestial heights of personal fulfillment by committing ourselves to a life of service." Such a call is inherently condescending and hypocritical: "[E]ach of the two men … points to himself as an exemplar of service—even as he avoids his family, neglects his job, and hands his everyday obligations over to poorly paid subordinates, all so he can fulfill his lifelong ambition of becoming the most powerful and celebrated man in the world."… An article reviews the Spanish parliament's likely decision to grant apes equal standing with humans in accordance with to objectives set forth in the Great Ape Project (" 'all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans' have basic rights including 'the right to life,' the 'protection of individual liberty,' and the 'prohibition of torture' "). The piece argues that such a move would help create "a society sufficiently hedonistic to eschew moralizing about personal behavior … but also humbled to the point where people would willingly sacrifice our own flourishing 'for the animals'. …"
Newsweek, July 21 A piece details the affection some Vietnamese have for John McCain. It interviews one of the former POW's jailers, Tran Trong Duyet, who says McCain "had a very determined character, held strongly conservative ideas and was very loyal to the military and government of his country" and that if he "were an American" he'd vote for the Arizona senator. Duyet also denies that McCain, or any American prisoners, were ever mistreated in Hanoi. … An article looks at the growing number of post-apocalyptic children's books, noting that they "aren't all doom and gloom. They typically feature smart, courageous children who figure out answers to problems with scant adult help, and they tend to end on a positive, if not happy, note."… The cover story considers Obama's "Christian journey." Though he is churchless following the Rev. Wright furor, he prays daily and "sometimes reads his Bible in the evenings."
Morgan Smith, a former Slate intern, is a law student in Austin, Texas.