Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky

August 22, 2016

Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky

by Economics Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman :The Finest of his Generation

The great economist’s theories have never been more relevant – and his biographer remains their most compelling advocate, says Paul Krugman

At research seminars, people don’t take Keynesian theorising seriously anymore; the audience starts to whisper and giggle to one another.” So declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago, writing in 1980. At the time, Lucas was arguably the world’s most influential macro-economist; the influence of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist whose theory of recessions dominated economic policy for a generation after the Second World War, seemed to be virtually at an end.

But Keynes, it turns out, is having the last giggle. Lucas’s “rational expectations” theory of booms and slumps has shown itself to be completely useless in the current world crisis. Not only does it offer no guide for action, but it more or less asserts that market economies cannot possibly experience the kind of problems they are, in fact, experiencing. Keynesian economics, on the other hand, which was created precisely to make sense of times like these, looks better than ever.

On Citizen (Timothy) Kaine

July 24, 2016

On Citizen Kaine


Citizen Kaine –Devoted Family Man

Democrat Tim Kaine served as Governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, and is currently a member of the U.S. Senate. In 2016, Hillary Clinton chose him as her vice presidential running mate.

“Failing at something you care about is painful but ultimately less destructive to one’s sense of self than not trying.”
—Tim Kaine


Born in Minnesota in 1958, Tim Kaine began practicing law in Richmond, Virginia, after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1983. He was voted to the Richmond City Council in 1994, marking the start of a political ascent that eventually led to his election as Virginia governor in 2005. Following a stint as chairman of the Democratic National Party, Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. In 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton chose Kaine as her vice presidential running mate.

Formative Years

Politician, lawyer, Virginia governor and senator, Timothy Michael Kaine was born on February 26, 1958, in St. Paul, Minnesota, but grew up in the area of Kansas City, Missouri. The eldest son of an ironworker and a home economics teacher, Kaine has noted he wasn’t raised in an overtly political household, but became drawn to matters of public interest during the political and social upheaval of the 1960s.

Kaine attended Rockhurst High School, an all-boys Jesuit high school, where he joined spring mission drives to fund Jesuit activities in Honduras and became student government president. He went on to the University of Missouri, completing his bachelor’s degree in economics in three years, before entering Harvard Law School.

Kaine took a year off from law school to volunteer with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras, where he ran a small vocational school for teenage boys while honing his Spanish. It was an eye-opening experience for the Midwesterner, who witnessed the devastating effects of poverty up close, and ignited his longstanding commitment to social justice.

Legal Career

After earning his J.D. from Harvard in 1983, Tim Kaine moved to Richmond, Virginia, to put his law degree to use. He made a name for himself early in his career by taking on the appeal of a death row inmate named Richard Lee Whitley. Although Whitley had confessed to sexually assaulting and murdering a 63-year-old neighbor, Kaine was deeply opposed to the death penalty, and his investigation into Whitley’s troubled background had spurred him to fight for the inmate.

Over the course of 17 years as a practicing lawyer, Kaine specialized in representing people who had been denied housing opportunities because of their race or disability. Devoting much of his time to pro-bono work, he helped found the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness and was a board member of the Virginia chapter of Housing Opportunities Made Equal. Additionally, he taught legal ethics at the University of Richmond Law School for six years.

Political Rise

Tim Kaine entered politics in 1994 when he was elected to the Richmond City Council. He served six years, including the last two as mayor when he helped to create and implement the law known as Project Exile to reduce gun-related violence. He was then elected Virginia’s Lieutenant governor in 2001, a role in which he served as president of the Virginia Senate.

When Kaine ran for governor in 2005 against Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, he introduced himself as a leader guided by his family and Catholic faith. He also urged his fellow religious Democrats to talk about their faith in campaigns, saying “Voters want to understand what motivates you.” When Republicans attacked Kaine’s opposition to the death penalty, he responded with a TV ad in which he explained that his religious beliefs led him to oppose capital punishment, but that he would enforce the state’s laws. Similarly, although he was personally opposed to abortion, he felt obligated to uphold its legality.

Virginia Governor and DNC Chairman

Tim Kaine was inaugurated in Virginia’s colonial capitol of Williamsburg as the state’s 70th governor on January 14, 2006. His star on the rise, he was selected to give the Democratic response to President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address shortly afterward.

Battling partisan gridlock during his term, Kaine cut social welfare programs to balance the budget and invested in infrastructure development, but otherwise struggled to push through major legislation. His national profile continued to rise, however, as he was the first governor outside Illinois to endorse Barack Obama for president. He was widely considered a strong candidate to be picked as the Democratic presidential nominee’s running mate, before eventually losing out to Delaware Senator Joe Biden.

Kaine became chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2009, and held on to the position despite his party’s significant losses in the 2010 midterm elections. He stepped down in 2011 with the intention of campaigning for Jim Webb’s soon-to-be-vacated Virginia senate seat.

U.S. Senator

After defeating former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen in the 2012 campaign, Tim Kaine became the first senator to deliver a speech in Spanish from the Senate floor.

Since being elected to his post, Kaine has joined the Senate’s Armed Services, Budget, Foreign Relations and Aging Committees. Among his accomplishments, he introduced the Troop Talent Act of 2013 to help servicemen and women transition to the civilian workplace, and coauthored the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Additionally, he is a founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and has introduced legislation to address issues of sexual assault and drug treatment.

On July 22, 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced via text message to her supporters that she had selected Kaine as her vice presidential running mate. She also tweeted the announcement.


Kaine met his wife, Anne Holton, at Harvard Law School. Named Virginia’s secretary of education in January 2014, Anne is the daughter of former Republican Virginia Governor Linwood Holton (1970-74), who desegregated the Commonwealth’s public schools.

The Kaines, who married on November 24, 1984, are actively involved with Richmond’s St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. They have three children: Nat, Woody and Annella.

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Destiny for Hillary Clinton

July 24, 2016

From Successor to Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) to Next US President–Destiny for  Hillary Clinton.

On February 22, 1999, the country’s attention was riveted on the U.S. Capitol. For only the second time in U.S. history, the Senate was set to vote on whether to remove an impeached President from office.

With her husband, President Bill Clinton, daughter, Chelsea, and mother, Dorothy Rodham, by her side, Hillary Clinton announces her candidacy for the Senate seat from New York held by the retiring Daniel Patrick Moynihan, center, on Feb. 6, 2000, at the State University of New York in Purchase. (Reuters)

But in the private residence on the second floor of the White House, the topic at hand was someone else’s political career. First lady Hillary Clinton had summoned longtime adviser Harold Ickes to discuss a delicate question: What would it take to become a senator herself — specifically, to win an open seat in New York, a state in which she had never lived?

As the morning dragged into an unseasonably warm afternoon, Ickes gave her a crash course on the Empire State: its Democratic Party structure and rules, a list of 100 key leaders she would have to get to know, the different electoral rhythms of upstate and downstate, its minefield of multi-ethnic politics.

Over lunch, Bill Clinton dropped by to hear how things were going, and to download what he knew of New York politics. “He literally remembered how many votes he had gotten in Herkimer County,” Ickes marvels.

On the momentous day on which the 42nd President of the United States would be acquitted by the Senate, Bill Clinton later told an aide, “If anyone had seen us, they would have seen us laughing, but not about what they would think.” When Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called Hillary Clinton later to tell her the good news, she and Ickes allowed themselves only a brief moment of celebration before getting back to the business of her future.

 By that summer, the first lady was traveling New York on a “listening tour.” The following February, she formally announced her bid to replace the retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D).

“Politics is the art of making possible what seems to be impossible.”-Hillary Clinton

“Politics is the art of making possible what seems to be impossible,” she told a cheering crowd of more than 2,000. That also could be said of Clinton’s evolution into a politician in her own right, one who stands a single election away from becoming the nation’s first female President.

In some ways, this historic juncture can seem as though it was inevitable, a part of the destiny that she began to write with the electrifying, subversive speech she delivered upon her graduation from Wellesley College in 1969. It landed her in Life magazine, as a voice of her generation.

“We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living,” “And so our questions, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government continue,”she declared.

Civil rights leader Vernon Jordan had met her that year at a League of Women Voters conference in Fort Collins, Colo. “It was clear to me when I met her in June 1969 that she had a future,” he says. “I saw her as a young lady who was going somewhere.”

Somewhere turned out to be Arkansas. Starting with her decision to follow her boyfriend Bill Clinton and his ambitions to Fayetteville, the next quarter-century of her life would be a push and pull between her desire to forge her own identity and put her stamp on the causes she cared about, and the tight and traditional confines of being a political spouse.

More than once, she would learn the hard way that stepping beyond those bounds carried a cost — both for herself and for her husband.And more than once, her performance in a supporting role would be crucial to his survival.

She also would become a Rorschach Test of how the country felt about the changing expectations of women, at home and at work. Was Hillary Clinton at the vanguard of the feminist movement, or had she betrayed it by marrying power, rather than earning it?

The Clintons presented themselves to the country in 1992 as a new kind of partnership in politics. His charisma paired with her discipline; his gut with her spine.

During his first presidential campaign, there was speculation about a possible Cabinet post for her. Instead, he put her in charge of a health-care overhaul, his boldest policy initiative. They quickly learned that the country did not want what they had called a “buy one, get one free” bargain.

Hillary Clinton is pictured with her husband, Bill Clinton, in the late 1990s. (Mary Lou Foy/The Washington Post)

There was also a Lady Macbeth storyline to her controversy-filled White House years. She found herself at the center of a host of scandals and pseudo-scandals, from the intrigue around the Clintons’ failed Whitewater real estate deal to the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of her law firm records to her suspiciously lucrative trades in cattle futures.

In 1996, because of Whitewater, Hillary Clinton earned the dubious distinction of being the only first lady in history ever compelled to testify before a federal grand jury.

Not until Bill Clinton’s political career was ending had she been free to consider doing something that no first lady had ever done: put her name on a ballot for federal office.

As it happened, her popularity in late 1998 and early 1999 was as high as it had ever been. The adulation, however, had not come for any achievement of her own — save the one of having endured the public humiliation of her husband’s affair with a White House intern.

Top Democrats had begun urging her to run almost from the moment that Moynihan announced he was retiring. They would clear the field for her, leveraging her fame as their best hope of hanging on to a seat they had held for more than two decades. But it was expected to be an uphill race against the likely Republican nominee, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“In a sense, I was a desperation choice — a well-known public figure who might be able to offset Giuliani’s national profile and his party’s deep pockets,” Clinton wrote in her memoir “Living History.”

This was not a popular decision in the tight-knit East Wing circle known as Hillaryland. Clinton talked it over with her close friend and adviser Maggie Williams during a long walk in the spring of 1999.“I think it’s kooky,” Williams told her. “And anyone who cares about you will tell you the same thing.”

Patti Solis Doyle, Clinton’s scheduler who would later manage her 2008 presidential campaign, flatly predicted that she would lose. That possibility also worried her longtime friend Vernon Jordan, who suggested that she consider making a bid for governor of Illinois instead. She had grown up there, and would not be considered a presumptuous carpetbagger, he argued — leaving unsaid his belief that a statehouse would be a better springboard to something bigger someday.

“I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea,” Jordan recalls.But Clinton wouldn’t budge. “I’m going to run,” she told him.

This was not the first time Hillary Clinton had considered elective office. In 1990, the Clintons were agonizing over whether Bill should run for a fifth term as governor of Arkansas, even though he was all but certain that he would be making a bid for the presidency two years later.

As a governor, he would be making unpopular decisions, perhaps such as raising taxes, in the middle of a presidential campaign. But if he gave up that job and lost the White House — a likely possibility — he might be washed up in politics.

Maybe there was a way to get the best of both alternatives. The Clintons asked Dick Morris, their pollster at the time, to find out what people in Arkansas would think of Hillary running for governor. If she won and Bill lost in his White House bid, he would still have his power base in his home state.

So the pollster did a survey, and “I came to the conclusion — it seems hard to believe now — that people didn’t see Hillary as a separate person, just as a part of Bill,” Morris says.

Morris put it to the couple bluntly: Hillary running for governor would be viewed as “the Lurleen Wallace effect.”

That stung. In 1966, George Wallace’s wife had been the first woman elected governor in the Deep South. But she was a little-educated homebody, branded a “placeholder” for her husband, because Alabama law prevented him from running for reelection as governor while in office.

The Clintons “almost jammed the poll down my throat. They were screaming at me, going crazy. Bill especially. He was red-faced,” Morris recalls.

Bill Clinton demanded that Morris take a new survey — this time, reminding people of Hillary’s accomplishments as a lawyer, her commitment to children’s causes and the work she had done leading a state education reform initiative in the early 1980s.

The results came back the same.

“I’ve always believed that was the moment when she realized that she had to have her own achievements,” Morris says.

That Hillary Clinton would have to struggle to define her identity is something that would not have been predicted for the earnest high achiever from the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. But things changed when Hillary Rodham fell in love with a husky, bushy-haired young man she met in the student lounge at Yale Law School in the autumn of 1970.

“He was tall and handsome somewhere beneath that reddish brown beard and curly mane of hair. He also had a vitality that seemed to shoot out of his pores,” she later wrote. Her decision, four years later, to move to Arkansas had astounded her friends.

“Are you out of your mind?” one of them, Sara Ehrman, asked her. “Why on Earth would you throw away your future?”

Still, Ehrman agreed to drive her down to Fayetteville from Washington, where Rodham had been working on the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry of President Richard M. Nixon.

“Every few miles, she asked me if I knew what I was doing, and I gave her the same answer every time: ‘No, but I’m going anyway,’ ” Clinton wrote. Bill Clinton was already teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School and she had an offer to do the same.

“I just cried when I left her there,” Ehrman recalled in an interview 34 years after she dropped off her friend at the couple’s rented split-level. “I thought: She’s going to the end of the world. I told her, ‘You can’t even get Brie!’ ”

Bill and Hillary Clinton campaign during his run for governor of Arkansas in 1978. (The Washington Post)

Hillary probably thought the move was only temporary; Bill, 28, was already running for Congress from Arkansas’s Third District. He lost. In 1976, a year after their wedding, he was elected the state’s attorney general, and became governor two years after that.

She began building a career of her own, making partner at Little Rock’s venerable Rose Law Firm in 1979, at age 32. She was also the young family’s primary breadwinner, given that the governor’s salary was only $35,000 a year. In the election of 1980, Bill Clinton suddenly went from being the youngest governor in the United States to the youngest former governor. After that reelection loss, he “seemed sometimes to be overtaken by self-pity,” his biographer David Maraniss wrote.

Hillary Clinton sprang into action. One of her first acts in plotting the comeback was to recruit Morris, an abrasive, bare-knuckled New York political consultant whom many in the Clintons’ orbit viewed with suspicion, in part because he worked for clients of both parties.

Morris does not think she did so with any interest in a political future for herself. “No, none at all,” he says. “Quite the opposite. I got the impression that it was an imposition — that she had a nice legal career, and now she had to bail him out.”

Part of the strategy was to retool her own image. In Arkansas, “I was an oddity because of my dress, my Northern ways and the use of my maiden name,” she wrote.

After Bill Clinton’s reelection defeat, “for the first time, I came to realize how my personal choices could impact my husband’s political future,” she recalled.

He made the official announcement that he was running for his old job on their daughter Chelsea’s second birthday, February 27, 1982. And on that day, Hillary Rodham began referring to herself as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, wave to supporters at the Old State House in Little Rock on Nov. 3, 1992, the day Bill Clinton was elected president. (Luke Frazza/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Yet Hillary Clinton did not fit anyone’s stereotype of a political spouse — as quickly became apparent when Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992.

“If I get elected President, it will be an unprecedented partnership, far more than Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor,” he told Vanity Fair. “They were two great people, but on different tracks. If I get elected, we’ll do things together like we always have.”

Former president Nixon, whose wife had been the embodiment of mid-century meekness, offered a different perspective in February of that year: “If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent, it makes the husband look like a wimp.”

Hillary Clinton was a conundrum for her husband’s handlers. “They didn’t get her. The people who were organizing the campaign were a bunch of Washington types, and they didn’t quite get her,” her adviser Susan Thomases said in an oral history of the Clinton Presidency collected by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

“They pigeonholed her,” Thomases added. “It was really complicated. Some of it was the campaign’s decisions, some of it was her performance and some of it was the public’s perception of her. She was so strong a personality that there were people who felt that when they were together, her strong personality made him seem weaker.”

Still, when allegations about Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs exploded, they needed Hillary Clinton to be by his side for a post-Super Bowl “60 Minutes” interview as the ultimate validator.

Interviewer Steve Kroft flatly asked them if theirs was an arrangement, not a marriage. “I’m not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” she retorted.

The reaction to her response was brutal, as it was when she later seemed to disparage homemakers with: “I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas.”

What got lost in the furor was the rest of her comment. “The work that I have done as a professional, a public advocate, has been aimed . . . to assure that women can make the choices,” she said, “whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood or some combination.”

Once she arrived in the White House, her management of her husband’s health-care overhaul was a fiasco. The plan, hatched in secret by a 500-member task force whose identities she refused to reveal, never got a vote on the floor of either house of Congress. She became the most polarizing first lady in modern history, even burned in effigy by a group of tobacco farmers in Kentucky.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, shows first lady Hillary Clinton to her seat prior to her testifying before the panel on September. 29, 1993. (Ray Lustig/The Washington Post)

Her health-care stumble also was a major reason that Democrats lost control of Congress in the 1994 midterm election. Bill Clinton’s reelection prospects looked iffy.

Even before the midterms, Hillary Clinton was plotting her husband’s resurrection. In October, she once again turned to the controversial Dick Morris, whose tendency to see the underside of things she considered a counterbalance to her husband’s perpetual optimism.

She phoned Morris, she wrote in her memoir, and said, “If I can get Bill to call you, will you help?”

The Clintons agreed that Morris’s role would be secret — even from people in their own White House, where the consultant would leave phone messages under the code name “Charlie.” George Stephanopoulos, then a top White House adviser, later referred to Morris as “the dark buddha whose belly Clinton rubbed in desperate times.” (Morris has since become a vocal critic of the Clintons, and just co-wrote a book called “Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Hillary.”)

Morris conducted a private poll. He found that one-third of the public viewed Bill Clinton as weak, and that his marriage was a major reason.

Nixon had been right. The more these voters saw of Hillary Clinton, the more diminished her husband seemed to be. That slice of the population “had no conception of a win-win marriage. They thought it was zero-sum,” Morris recalls.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton had been seared by the health-care experience. “Sometimes, I am saddened by her understandable loss of spontaneity,” Diane Blair, her close friend from Arkansas, told Ann Blackman of Time magazine.

“It was one of her most endearing qualities,” said Blair, who died in 2000. “But in public now, she filters out her first response, and sometimes her second one, and that contributes to the sense that she is aloof and haughty. She has learned to be careful about what she says.”

So it was in both their interests for Hillary Clinton to fade from view. Over the next few years, she rarely ventured into the West Wing; she stuck to safe issues, such as adoption and Gulf War syndrome; she wrote a bestselling book about raising children. Even her wardrobe underwent an overhaul under the guidance of Oscar de la Renta — from the power teals and reds she had favored to pastel suits, with pumps to match.

In the role her campaign now touts, the 1997 expansion of health-care coverage to uninsured children (CHIP), Hillary Clinton operated largely behind the scenes and on the edges, as Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) did the heavy lifting on Capitol Hill.

Vice President Al Gore shows his support for President Clinton, pictured with first lady Hillary Clinton, outside the Oval Office after the House voted to impeach the president on December. 19, 1998. (Doug Mills/Associated Press)

In 1998, Bill Clinton needed to be rescued yet again, after his affair with White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky became public and set him on the path to impeachment.

Just six days into the scandal, the first lady appeared on NBC’s “Today” show, and pointed blame at “this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.” Not until much later, friends said, did she face up to the depth of his betrayal.

In that year’s midterm elections, no Democrat running wanted to be seen with him, but she was in demand everywhere. And she went. During the last week before Election Day alone, she hit nine states — twice in Florida and New York.

“I think she began realizing her political strengths — chops, however you want to put it — in that 1998 election,” said her longtime adviser Ann F. Lewis.

Defying expectations, the Democrats picked up seats in the House, in large part because the Republicans had overplayed their hand on the Lewinsky scandal. And then, three days after the election, Moynihan announced he was retiring.

That night, the White House operator patched through a call from Charles B. Rangel (D), a longtime congressman from Harlem. “I sure hope you’ll consider running,” he told the First Lady, “because I think you could win.”

First Lady Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea — pictured with former New York mayor Ed Koch, center — wave to supporters on Nov. 7, 2000, in New York after Clinton’s victory over Republican Rep. Rick Lazio in the race for a Senate seat. (Matt Campbell/Agence France-Presse)

Several weeks into Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, Ickes received a phone call from her.“Harold, I never knew how good Bill is,” he recalls her telling him. “This is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

The race had gotten off to a rocky start, in part because of her natural reserve, particularly with New York’s famously aggressive news media. Her campaign team included people who had been hired for their expertise in that state’s politics, with whom she had not yet built up a reservoir of familiarity or trust.

Their internal focus groups and polling also showed that she had a big problem among women, who should have been her base. Some were mad at her for not leaving an unfaithful husband; other viewed her decision as proof that this had always been a marriage of calculated ambition, not a joining of two hearts.

So her advisers made her do the hardest thing imaginable: meet skeptical women face to face in living rooms in Westchester County, and Long Island, and upstate.

“They were free to ask whatever they wanted to ask,” says one former campaign adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity.No reporters were invited, but in those pre-social media days, it “went viral in their communities,” the strategist recalls.

Meanwhile, Giuliani withdrew from the race in the wake of revelations of his own marital infidelity and a diagnosis of prostate cancer. In his place, Republicans nominated Rick Lazio, a boyish four-term congressman from Long Island. Hillary Clinton won by 12 percentage points. She was reelected six years later by a staggering 36 points, carrying all but four of the state’s 62 counties.

By then, she already was laying plans for a 2008 presidential run, where she was heavily favored to win the Democratic nomination.

In a memo written shortly before the campaign began, Mark Penn, her chief strategist, identified former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as her political role model.

“We are more Thatcher than anyone else — top of the university, a high achiever throughout life, a lawyer who could absorb and analyze problems,” Penn advised in December 2006. “She represents the most successful elected woman leader in this century — and the adjectives that were used about her (Iron Lady) were not of good humor or warmth, they were of smart, tough leadership.”

Clinton’s campaign, however, was a disaster from the beginning.She was a cautious front-runner, exactly wrong for an electorate that was looking for someone fresh and exciting. She had voted in favor of the 2003 Iraq invasion, putting her on the opposite side of the Democratic base on the question that mattered most. Her campaign never mastered the rules of the various primary states, particularly underestimating those that held caucuses. And her fundraising operation was a relic of the 1990s.

On the other hand, Barack Obama, a freshman senator from Illinois, was perfectly suited for the moment, and had built a nimble, modern campaign machine.

Their primary battle stretched into June. When she withdrew, she supported Obama, but not without calling attention to what she had achieved and the number of votes she had received.

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” she said to a cheering crowd at the National Building Museum. “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”

On February 19, Clinton is joined by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea, at a rally in Las Vegas before the Nevada caucuses, in which she edged out Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

It has been. Hillary 2.0 is a far different campaign operation.She still struggles with campaigning. “This is not easy for me,” she said during a debate in March. “I am not a natural politician, in case you haven’t noticed, like my husband or President Obama. So I have a view that I just have to do the best I can.”

But there’s one problem she has put behind her: Having served as a senator and then as Obama’s Secretary of State, she has carved out an identity of her own — and Bill Clinton is the one in the supporting role.

Now, the question is whether the plans that she and Ickes began laying more than 17 years ago in the White House will take her back there as the nation’s 45th President — and the first woman to sit in the Oval Office.


George W. Bush and The Neo-Cons

July  10, 2016

George W. Bush and The Neo-Cons: You Deserve what is coming to you for Naivety in World Affairs and Arrogance 

“Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush….Whether George W. Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”–Jean Edward Smith

Review: ‘Bush,’ a Biography as Scathing Indictment

by Peter Baker

For George W. Bush, the summer already looks unbearable. The party he gave his life to will repudiate him by nominating a bombastic serial insulter who makes the famously brash former president look like a museum docent by comparison. And a renowned presidential biographer is weighing in with a judgment that makes Mr. Bush’s gentleman’s Cs at Yale look like the honor roll.

The Vulcans

If Mr. Bush eventually gets a more sympathetic hearing by history, as he hopes, it will not start with Jean Edward Smith’s “Bush,” a comprehensive and compelling narrative punctuated by searing verdicts of all the places where the author thinks the 43rd president went off track. Mr. Smith’s indictment does not track Donald J. Trump’s, but the cumulative effect is to leave Mr. Bush with few defenders in this season of his discontent.

Mr. Smith, a longtime academic and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, made a name for himself in part with masterly biographies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ulysses S. Grant, offering historical reassessments of underrated presidents who looked better with the passage of time. With “Bush” he sticks to the original conventional assessment, presenting a shoot-from-the-hip Texan driven by religiosity and immune to the advice of people who knew what they were talking about.

While not a fresh portrait, it is one worth debating at a time when the political class is struggling to understand the meaning of Mr. Trump’s rise. Mr. Trump’s name appears nowhere in “Bush,” but it is clear the populist revolt that propelled him to the verge of the Republican nomination had its roots in Mr. Bush’s presidency, so much so that he easily overcame the former president’s brother Jeb. Mr. Trump rejects much of what George W. Bush stood for, from the war in Iraq and more forgiving immigration policies to free trade and the very notion of compassionate conservatism.

As a biographer, Mr. Smith makes no comparisons with today’s Republican leader, but he sides unmistakably with those who see Mr. Bush’s presidency in the darkest shades, if often for radically different reasons. (Mr. Smith abhors waterboarding terror suspects, for example; Mr. Trump wants it resumed.)

Mr. Smith leaves no mystery where he stands on Mr. Bush’s place in history. The first sentence of his book: “Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.”

The last: “Whether George W. Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”

In between are more than 650 pages of fast-paced if harsh biography. In this telling, Mr. Bush’s religious piety took on messianic fervor leading him to turn democracy promotion into a mission from God. He didn’t listen to the generals and diplomats. He badly bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina. He presided over the diminution of American values by authorizing torture and bugging.

'Bush' by Jean Edward Smith'

The Face of the Agent of God’s Will

“Believing he was the agent of God’s will, and acting with divine guidance, George W. Bush would lead the nation into two disastrous wars of aggression,” Mr. Smith writes. “Bush’s personalization of the war on terror combined with his macho assertiveness as the nation’s commander in chief,” he adds later, “were a recipe for disaster.”

The value of Mr. Smith’s account is not original reporting but a thorough assimilation of the existing record. Mr. Bush declined to speak with him, as he has with other authors since leaving office. Mr. Smith spoke with both Dick Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld, but for the most part relies on the existing body of literature, for a complete history of Mr. Bush’s life.

One notable exception does not actually involve Mr. Bush. In a footnote, Mr. Smith reveals that David H. Petraeus invited him to dinner at the Cosmos Club in Washington after his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell forced his resignation as C.I.A. director. Mr. Petraeus evidently was mulling a comeback. “How did Ike handle the Kay Summersby affair?” he asked.

“Much of the rest of the meal was devoted to my explaining how Eisenhower had put the affair behind him and successfully run for president in 1952,” Mr. Smith reports. He adds that he asked Mr. Petraeus whether the Obama administration had taken advantage of his affair to rid itself of him. “He smiled, but did not reply,” Mr. Smith writes.

Author–Jean Edward Smith

Mr. Smith is more approving of his main subject in moments where Mr. Bush follows his original campaign doctrine of compassionate conservatism. The former president gets high marks for his No Child Left Behind program — intended to improve education, especially for minority students — as well as for expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs and for leading an ambitious fight against AIDS in Africa. Mr. Smith credits Mr. Bush for saving the economy through his bold and counter-intuitive intervention after the financial crash of 2008.

He presents a president who, for all his flaws, was usually gracious and warmhearted, who disdained the sort of divisive bashing that Mr. Trump favors and who went out of his way to make Barack Obama’s transition successful. He rejects the caricature of a president who simply did what his vice president told him to.

Mr. Smith’s fundamental critique is his belief that Mr. Bush overreacted to the terrorist attacks of September. 11, 2001. “The events of 9/11 were tragic, but scarcely catastrophic,” he writes. That led Mr. Bush, in his view, to advance policies that were not justified by the actual danger.

The Patriot Act, he writes, “may be the most ill-conceived piece of domestic legislation since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.” In labeling Iran, Iraq and North Korea an “axis of evil,” Mr. Bush “had spoken without weighing the consequences.” Mr. Bush’s refusal to face up to the fact that Iraq had no unconventional weapons “suggests a willfulness that borders on psychosis.” His second-term Inaugural Address making democracy promotion his major goal “must rank as one of the most ill-considered of all time.”

Mr. Smith takes this indictment further than others by criticizing even the decision to go to war in Afghanistan, suggesting that it was a mistake to conflate the Taliban with Al Qaeda. He, of course, has the benefit of hindsight. Even if he is right, few if any leaders in either party at the time argued against the invasion. And what is often overlooked is how Mr. Bush evolved over time and modified his approach to the point that Mr. Obama kept many of his national security policies after taking office.

But if Mr. Bush feels bruised by Mr. Smith’s evaluation, he can commiserate at Kennebunkport, Me., this summer with his father. In 1992, Mr. Smith published “George Bush’s War,” castigating the first President Bush for Operation Desert Storm’s expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

He scorned the 41st president for personalizing world politics, accused him of dissembling and screening out expert opinion and going to war against Iraq mainly because he wanted a fight — all themes that repeat in “Bush.”

Ultimately, the elder Mr. Bush’s reputation has grown with time despite this assessment — to his chagrin, partly because of comparisons with his son. The younger Mr. Bush now has to hope for the same — and may be able to count on comparisons with Mr. Trump to make him look better with time.

Peter Baker, a longtime White House correspondent for The New York Times, is the author of “Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House.”

BOOK REVIEW: Benjamin Disraeli–The Novel Politician

April 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Benjamin Disraeli–The Novel Politician

by Norman Gelb

David Cesarani’s succinct new biography of preeminent Victorian statesman and novelist Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), Disraeli: The Novel Politician, challenges the commonly held view of Disraeli as having played a heroic role in Jewish history. Instead, Cesarani portrays Disraeli as a political opportunist “infused with a contempt for traditional Judaism,” whose literary writings “sketched the first draft of the Jewish world conspiracy theory” and made a “fundamental contribution to modern literary anti-Semitism.” Disraeli, who has erroneously been called Britain’s first Jewish prime minister, was baptized by his father into the Anglican Church when he was 12 years old. However, he never actually denied his Jewish heritage. Instead, he skillfully manufactured a myth of aristocratic Jewish origins that he would pragmatically exploit when convenient and completely ignore when not.

Disraeli: The Novel Politician is the late English historian’s final book. David Cesarani, who died of cancer last October at age 58, was considered the foremost British historian of the modern Jewish experience of his generation.

Countless historians before him have documented Disraeli’s rise to power and his importance as a politician. Disraeli entered the House of Commons in 1837, and in the 1850s and 1860s served first as Chancellor of the Exchequer and then as Leader of the House of Commons. After a brief first term as prime minister in 1868, Disraeli regained office in 1874. A major player on the international stage, Disraeli was enormously popular at home for expanding and consolidating Britain’s position as a worldwide imperial power. He was credited with reuniting the divided Conservative Party and was instrumental in its development as a modern political force. He was the driving force behind legislation that improved social conditions for the most vulnerable populations in Britain, including new laws to regulate public health and others designed to prevent the exploitation of workers and improve the general public’s access to education. He was close personal friends with Queen Victoria, who made him the Earl of Beaconsfield and reportedly wept when he died.

Cesarani’s biography follows a newer trend of historians viewing Disraeli through a more critical lens. Until comparatively recently, with the exception of a few anti-Semites, scholars have fairly uniformly viewed Disraeli as an admirable and effective, if exotic, British statesman. But lately, the perception of him as a worthy public benefactor has come under fire.

British historian Robert Blake, who wrote a very comprehensive biography of Disraeli, conceded that the man’s political career was an impressive one but added that “there is no need to make it seem more extraordinary than it really was,” since other political figures deserved much of the credit for achievements attributed to Disraeli. Another recent biography of Disraeli, by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young, described his contribution to British politics as “vast, transformative and special” but also portrayed Disraeli as a manipulative man for whom politics was “always a game in which pieces were moved about to…outflank the enemy. It had no moral content.” And British historian John Vincent has called Disraeli “a politician of very few principles or beliefs… He spent much of his life scheming.” 

Cesarani, unlike previous biographers of Disraeli, spends relatively little time on his subject’s dynamic and often controversial political life. Instead, he devotes his attention to another key aspect of Disraeli’s persona: his vaunting of his supposedly aristocratic Jewish origins and the special distinction he claimed they conferred on him. But despite Disraeli at times making a calculated use of his Jewish background, Cesarani shows that in actuality Disraeli’s relationship to Judaism and to issues facing Britain’s Jews was a deeply troubled one.

Disraeli was the grandson of Jewish immigrants to Britain from Italy and was born in London to Jewish parents. Even though he converted to Christianity, attended church on a weekly basis and was an avowed champion of the Anglican Church, Disraeli faced anti-Semitism throughout his adult life, including claims that his prime motivation in politics was to “pursue an alien agenda” and advance “Hebrew” causes.

Disraeli’s conversion permitted him, upon election, to evade bans on non-Christians becoming members of Parliament. Disraeli knew when and how to invoke his Jewish origins. At times, he proudly boasted of his exalted “racial” Jewish birthright. When scornfully called a Jew by a fellow parliamentarian, he cuttingly replied that when his accuser’s ancestors “were savages on an unknown Island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon.” And Cesarani notes that in his fictional writing, Disraeli sometimes played up “the glories of the Jewish race.”

Cesarani dismisses Disraeli’s public exaltations of his Jewish origins as a mere affectation, stating that as a politician “he was insensitive or insensible to a range of Jewish issues” and was, at best, inconsistent with regard to Jewish matters. In December of 1837, soon after his first election, Disraeli uncharacteristically kept his head down while other MPs heatedly debated whether Sir Moses Montefiore or any other Jew should be allowed to hold political office. And unlike many other British leaders, he remained completely silent during “the Damascus Affair,” a blood libel charge against a dozen prominent Syrian Jews that resulted in widespread riots against the Jewish community in Damascus and triggered protests around the Jewish world.

Even as Prime Minister, says Cesarani, Disraeli chose to completely ignore “vicious [verbal] attacks on the Jews” by establishment figures and, in his many travels to Europe and the Middle East, made no effort to seek out Jewish sites or groups. He generally seemed to have little knowledge of, or interest in, Jewish history. Cesarani notes that Disraeli, in one of his early writings, said Britain enjoyed great freedom under the Plantagenet monarchs, but made no mention of the fact that under Plantagenet rule, Jews “suffered exploitation and massacre.” 

Cesarani offers nuanced revisions and correctives to prior scholarship on the nature of Disraeli’s Jewishness. For instance, in The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt suggests that Disraeli’s “Jewish obsession was a strategy to combat his own sense of social inferiority…as an outsider in upper class Tory circles….” [He invented] “the myth of Jewish racial superiority” to match the perceived nobility of members of the British aristocracy.” Cesarani contends that “the chronology of this explanation does not work” because, he notes, Disraeli was able to “[rub] shoulders with both raffish and respectable aristocrats” early on, “even if he was not yet invited to their country houses.”

Few other historians fully concur with Cesarani’s view on this; Arendt’s suggested explanation for Disraeli’s Jewish exhibitionist behavior is now part of a well-trodden path. In his biography of Disraeli, Columbia University scholar Adam Kirsch says that to find a way to be both English and Jewish, he “had to convince the world, and himself, that the Jews were a noble race, with a glorious past,” turning “his Jewishness from something generally considered disgraceful and embarrassing into a strength.”

In Benjamin Disraeli: The Fabricated Jew in Myth and Memory, Bernard Glassman also agrees that Disraeli exploited his background to demonstrate the nobility of his ancient heritage and the superiority of his ancestral origins over those of his opponents: “Rather than deny his roots, he chose to make them an integral part of his mystique.” In Disraeli’s Jewishness, an anthology of essays edited by Todd Endelman and Tony Kushner, Endelman says his Jewish obsession “constituted a bold, if unusual, strategy to combat his own sense of special inferiority as an outsider in aristocratic Tory circles.”

But in that anthology, Kushner cautions that Disraeli’s parading his Jewish pride is “perhaps in danger of being overstated at the cost of many other features that made up this remarkable figure.” And Glassman asserts that, although Disraeli’s support of Jewish causes was “problematic,” his growing prominence attracted the admiring attention of Anglo-Jews who needed a hero to validate their own Englishness, and that gradually, in spite of Disraeli’s baptism, English Jews (numbering around 50,000 at the time) accepted him as a true representative of their faith and culture. Louise de Rothschild, a member of the famous Jewish banking family and a contemporary of Disraeli, was recorded to have said she felt “a sort of pride in the thought that he belongs to us, that he is one of Israel’s sons.”

Such exculpation does not impress Cesarani, who makes very few references to anything positive in Disraeli’s relationship to Judaism. He concludes his study of Disraeli with a further harsh assessment of his subject: “Ultimately, he fits squarely in modern Jewish history for the worst of reasons: he played a formative part in the construction of anti-Semitic discourse.” Disraeli’s racial stereotyping of Jews became part of the foundation of a prominent theme in modern anti-Semitic writings and speechifying by figures including Adolf Hitler. “At best,” says the implacable Cesarani, Disraeli “was a tragic, transitional figure; at worst, he was a reckless egoist.”

 Norman Gelb is a London-based historian and author. His most recent book is Herod the Great: Statesman, Visionary, Tyrant.