The Big Chide

Column: What will the world look like in 2017?
AP

Say goodbye to the big stick. Say hello to the big chide.

Five months ago, you will recall, President Obama was preparing to launch military strikes against Bashar al-Assad. The strikes were averted when the Russians, seizing on a gaffe by Secretary of State John Kerry, proposed a deal in which Assad would give up his WMD if the United States did not bomb.

Love in the Time of Obama

Column: Alex Wagner, Sam Kass, and the new aristocracy
Sam Kass and Alex Wagner / AP

The first time he saw her from a distance. She was a reporter, observing his workplace from the outside. He was struck by her good looks, her energy. He mentioned her to a friend, who told him she was out of his league. But he persisted. His friend brought him to a party where he found an opportunity to strike up a conversation with her. One thing led to another. He took her to drinks. She mentioned she liked baseball, rooted for the Washington Nationals. They had that in common. So for their next date he took her to play catch. In Nationals Park. When it was closed to the public.

The Rainmakers

Column: Where would Democrats be without Charles and David Koch?
Charles and David Koch

Beleaguered, adrift, defensive, angry, eager to escape from attacks on Obamacare, President Obama and his allies have a secret weapon with which to rally their base. This voice-activated device is incredibly easy to use. One need only utter the words “Koch brothers,” and the financial apparatus of the Democratic Party begins to whir.

Poverty Chic

Column: The latest political fashion
AP

“Poverty,” the New York Times announced yesterday, “is suddenly the subject of bipartisan embrace.”

The Obama Box

Column: What Obama’s TV picks really tell us about him
Frank Underwood Carrie Mathison Phil Dunphy House of Cards Homeland Modern Family

Imagine my surprise this week when my daily paper suddenly turned into a copy of US Weekly. With a turn of the page the New York Times became the sort of celebrity magazine that dispenses trivia in order to prove that a rich, famous, and powerful person is, at heart, just like us. The luminary was Barack Obama, whose taste in television was mined by correspondent Michael D. Shear for insights into the presidential character.

The Inequality Business

Column: What’s really at stake in the inequality debate
Katie Couric / Twitter

I am fascinated by two recent tweets from Katie Couric. The talk show host recently visited Gracie Mansion in New York City, where mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will live beginning Jan. 1. Couric likes de Blasio, and is eager for him to start his job. One tweet from Gracie Mansion showed Couric sitting atop a four-poster bed, one hand resting on the quilt-cover, the other clutching a wine glass. She is dressed in black, her hair and makeup are perfect, and her crossed legs display a striking pair of red pumps. “Mayor de Blasio will sleep here!” she wrote. A minute later Couric tweeted a second photo, in which she assumed the same pose atop a porcelain freestanding bathtub, surrounded on three sides by marble wainscoting, one of her haute pumps resting on a mosaic floor. “… And bathe here!” she wrote excitedly. Maybe you had to be there.

Keystone to the Kingdom

Column: How a left-wing billionaire bought the Oval Office
John Podesta, Tom Steyer / AP

The White House’s newest staffer is John Podesta, the 64-year-old founder of the Center for American Progress (CAP), the head of President Obama’s 2008 transition team, a former chief of staff to President Clinton, and a former lobbyist and cofounder, with his brother Tony, of the Podesta Group. You know: an outsider.

Dirty Pool

Column: The rise of secretarial journalism
Vice President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Li Yuanchao

It was a sunny day in Beijing on Thursday—refreshingly sunny, to be more precise—when Vice President Joe Biden met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. I know this because I have read the pool report of the occasion, a pithy and practically content-free piece of journalism that is nevertheless one of the more entertaining things to enter my inbox in recent days. The pool report confirms the lingering suspicion—if it hasn’t been confirmed a million times already—that the line between journalism and Democratic Party cheerleading has more than faded. It has become invisible.

Beyond the Binge

Column: Confessions of a Binge Reader
A Clockwork Orange

When Thanksgiving transitioned from a Puritan-influenced feast of civic gratitude into a four-day festival of consumption is not entirely clear. But that is where we are today: at a place in our proverbial and increasingly depressing “national story” where the events of the holiday itself are overshadowed by the rituals associated with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. That the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend has so far been officially untouched by the dark arts of marketing and branding can be attributed to a somewhat anachronistic respect for religion, or to a failure of creativity. Let me therefore suggest an appropriate nickname and activity. Starting this year, let’s all celebrate Binge Sunday.

The Secret Masters

Column: Meet the liberal billionaires who rule your world
Billionaires Michael Bloomberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Tom Steyer

The timing of a story by the campaign finance reporters of the New York Times, and its placement in the paper’s national edition, is fraught with meaning. Articles in which the totemic names “Koch” or “Adelson” appear have a habit of being published in the prime time of an election cycle, and share the uncanny ability to float, bubble-like, to the front-page. Stories that deal with the liberal moneymen who finance the Democratic Party and its affiliates, by contrast, tend to appear after the fact or when nobody is looking, and, like ballast, fall to the back of the A section, obscured by ads for Tiffany’s, Burberry, and Zegna. I wonder why.