Joining a mighty stream of political titles appearing between now and Election Day, these 43 typically trenchant essays from the high-buzz Washington journal delight in tweaking conservative nosesand liberal ones, too.
The 17 issues covered here range from A (abortion) to near-Z (welfare reform). Foreign-policy mavens will find only one issue (free trade) for them; even military spending is omitted. Also missing are discussions of gay issuesespecially surprising given the frequent coverage of this subject under departing editor Andrew Sullivan. Yet there is still enough here to raise hackles, spark laughs, and provoke thought. As Lind (The Next American Nation, 1995) points out in the introduction, the magazine's readers "enjoy the parade of iconoclastic viewpoints and the occasional fractious debate among senior editors" (of whom Lind is one). For instance, the health care section begins with Mickey Kaus's "HMOphobia," includes Elizabeth McCaughey's "No Exit," which rallied right-wing intellectual opposition to the Clinton health plan (and propelled its author into a successful candidacy for the lieutenant governorship of New York), and concludes with Kaus's tart "No Exegesis," which charges that McCaughey "completely distorted the debate on the biggest public policy issue of 1994." Sometimes the focus is on anguished responses to issues (e.g., Naomi Wolf on feminists' abortion rhetoric and Glenn Loury on urban black crime). More often, however, the tone is irreverent as the authors dissect subjects inadequately covered in the general media because of their complexity, such as Michael Kinsley's evisceration of capital gains taxes, John Judis's "The Contract with K Street," which puts the lobbying industry under the microscope, and Steve Tidrick's "The Budget Inferno," which uses Dante's version of Hell as a metaphor for the way in which the federal government subsidizes corporations, industries, and individuals.
Amid the usual gaffe-and-gotcha campaign journalism (which TNR itself has sometimes been guilty of), a bracing reminder of the enduring issues.