The Pens of August

AP

When the start of World War One is discussed in history class, it is typically portrayed as having happened in the manner of a regrettable and complicated automobile accident. An assassination of a semi-obscure middle-European aristocrat by a genuinely obscure extremist, a complicated web of alliances, militarist movements, and untalented politicians, and naïveté about the nature of the coming conflict: no one to blame here, really, except insofar as everyone was to blame.

Broadening the Base

Mexico soccer fans wave their national flag in Arlington, Texas / AP

We’ve all read it a thousand times: Republicans are not popular with Hispanic voters. Beyond that broad statement, though, there’s a rich story to be told of how and why Republicans fail with this increasingly important demographic. Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation is out with a new book, A Race For The Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans, which attempts to tell that story—and to show how Republicans might win Hispanics back.

Blogging Alone

AP

“The last refuge of a social-scientific scoundrel is to call for more research,” quipped Robert Putnam near the end of his seminal 1995 essay “Bowling Alone.” Yet that is what he proceeded to do, and his fellow scoundrels have obliged. The latest round of research comes from Marc Dunkelman, whose book, The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community, is a valuable contribution to our understanding of how America’s rhythms of civic life are changing.

The Great Communicator’s Great Influence

Ronald Reagan

Though America has had quite a few great presidents, iconic presidents are much rarer. Icons appear only in hindsight and are created in a very specific fashion. First, one party will hail the president as great, while the other claims he has wrecked the country. Then the opposing faction realizes the president wasn’t that bad, and reckons with his policies and broader influence, changing its own policies in the process. And finally, both parties fight to claim the president as their own, that they are his true heirs.

No Longer Just

Eric Holder

In the 1966 film A Man For All Seasons, which depicts Sir Thomas More’s steadfast disapproval of King Henry VIII’s marital infidelities, More stirringly defends the rule of law. Rebutting his son-in-law, who says he would hypothetically “cut down every law in England” to find the devil, More asks, “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”

Talking ‘Vodka’ With Vic Matus

J. Nilsson Photography Flickr

As I sat down for lunch at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab in downtown D.C., with my friend Vic Matus to discuss his new book, there was little question about what would accompany our meal.

We were there to talk vodka and Vic’s new book, Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America. We figured we might as well get some first-hand experience with the subject matter.

REVIEW: ‘What Good is Grand Strategy?’ By Hal Brands

Presidents Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush / AP

“Reduced to its essence, grand strategy is the intellectual architecture that lends structure to foreign policy; it is the logic that helps states navigate a complex and dangerous world.”

With President Obama’s foreign policy in disarray, Hal Brands’ study of strategy is well timed. Considering the experiences of four presidents—Truman, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush—Brands seeks to “offer some tentative thoughts on the utility of grand strategy for American officials.”

‘The Weed Agency’ Review

AP

In the wake of the 2012 election, as conservatives sought a return to electoral success, Jim Geraghty lightly chastised them. “Hey, remember how everybody on the right decided after the excruciating debacle of the 2012 election, we had to focus on the culture?” he asked in the Feb.15, 2013, edition of the Morning Jolt, his daily morning political newsletter. “It’s mid-February, so about three and a half months since this discussion began. Anyone seen any new cultural offerings from the Right?”

Vladimir Jabotinsky Revisited

Vladimir Jabotinsky

“If I could raise any of the great figures of Zionist history from the dead for an hour’s conversation, I would choose Jabotinsky,” writes Hillel Halkin in his new book Jabotinsky: A Life.

The merit of this gracefully written and thoughtful book is that Halkin makes you understand why. Jabotinsky was easily the most talented, versatile, and farseeing of Zionist leaders. Add to this his gregarious, witty, and engaging personality, and it’s difficult not to like Jabotinsky as much as one admires him. As Jabotinsky’s friend and biographer Shmuel Katz once told this writer, “I simply couldn’t find fault in him, and, believe me, I tried.”