A question recurs throughout this book: Why do liberals seem to be the only ones offering genuine solutions to our health care problems, and why do conservatives seem to oppose everything? It is a question that Stephen Brill never really answers.
At over 450 pages, America’s Bitter Pill is long on details. Brill has attempted to give us a comprehensive account of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare. His narrative begins before President Obama was elected to the White House and ends with the rollout of the law only months before the book’s publication.
There is a growing genre of World War II literature devoted to chronicling the Allied efforts not just to defeat Nazi Germany, but to rescue Europe in the closing months of the war. Believing themselves the vanguard of a thousand-year empire, Hitler and his inner circle were prone to millenarian thinking. As the Red Army moved block by block into Berlin and as Allied bombers leveled city after German city, Hitler issued multiple orders to lay waste to the Europe he had been unable to conquer.
Jed Babbin and Herbert London’s masterful new book, The BDS War Against Israel, opens with a blood-chilling quotation from Mao Zedong: “A lie repeated a hundred times becomes the truth.” Chairman Mao would have marveled at our Information Age, when lies can be shared, pinned, tweeted, and retweeted thousands of times over with the tap of a screen. Lies can self-replicate like viruses, taking on the character of commonplace truths with stunning rapidity. In this respect, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is an epidemic.
Intellectuals in public life stand on unsteady footing. Their employers—all of us—are suspicious, and often rightly so. Knowledge can breed overconfidence, imprudence, aloofness, and moral myopia. Yet there are examples of those who possess wisdom that is both contemplative and practical, who can win political success while being a boon to their country. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one. Edmund Burke was another.
Joseph Epstein is one of those rare men capable of writing well about any subject. I mean “any subject” almost literally: if Epstein were assigned the task of creating the instruction manuals for the assembly of IKEA furniture, their prose would greet the reader like an old friend. These instruction booklets would inevitably be anthologized, the best among them—the cherry nightstand, or perhaps the walnut side table—bound together under a charming title such as The Nordic Cabinetmaker or Practically Almost Wood. Critics discussing Epstein’s Swedish Period would suggest that he somberly reflected the human condition by noting the impossibility of constructing that armoire without dropping and losing a screw or two.
In the age of the fantasy blockbuster, it’s easy to forget the ubiquity of science fiction during the postwar era. During the Cold War and the Space Race, the perception was that Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov were predicting the future one story at a time. (This is no exaggeration. Reader’s Digest, then the most popular magazine in America, called Clarke “The Prophet of the Space Age” in 1969.) But, in this century, automation and advances in computer processing have eliminated swathes of middle class jobs and, as a result, major portions of the reading public, liberal and conservative, have lost their faith in the redemptive power of technology.
As government’s powers spread beyond the original grant offered by the Constitution, the Madisonian system of checks and balances began to break down. As a result, today’s activist government often works for the benefit of narrow, often wealthy factions over the public interest. The way this corruption functions has evolved throughout American history. In the 19th century, insuperable political machines served as mediators between politicians and the industrial magnates, railroad tycoons, and financial giants who dominated society. But that old regime gave way because of the Great Depression.
As Abraham Lincoln—newly elected but not yet inaugurated to the presidency—thought about his cabinet appointments, he realized that he had a problem: none of his potential candidates were from the south. For one of the positions, secretary of the navy, Lincoln knew a southerner named Alexander Stephens who would be well qualified. Lincoln and Stephens had served as congressmen together in the 1840s, and Lincoln liked Stephens’ quiet nationalism and polished oratory.
In February 1825, a group of well-wishers descended upon John Adams’ household to congratulate the elder statesman on his son’s election to the presidency. The proud father is said to have wept, remarking, “No man who ever held the office of President would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.” The American presidency is a harrowing test of character, judgment, and skill. Our Constitution endows the chief magistracy with nearly pharaonic powers. As Commander in Chief, the president leads the armed forces of the United States. As the nation’s chief executive, he enforces and executes the laws. And as custodian of the foreign relations powers of the United States, he embodies the full sovereignty of the nation on the world stage.