"Misapplying the theory I mislearned in college."
A Harper's Magazine Weblog
Updated: 30 weeks 2 days ago
“There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember the second.” That quip was offered by Mark Hanna during the first modern professional presidential campaign, that of William McKinley in 1896. But it could just as easily have been voiced by Hanna’s modern understudy, Karl Rove, the man who emerged as the undeniable mastermind of the G.O.P. following their recent convention in Tampa. As Rove understands it, electoral politics has little to do with policy and everything to do with money—in particular with ensuring that his side has a massive advantage over its adversary. . . .
The Bush Administration originally created special-detention facilities at Guantánamo on the theory that—given the unique historical provenance of the base, which was secured under a lease at the end of the war with Spain on terms Havana no longer recognizes—no court anywhere in the world would have jurisdiction to deal with the complaints of prisoners held there. Consequently, it would be easier to subject the prisoners to torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment the likes of which America’s prisoners in wartime had never before experienced. The Supreme Court soon put an end to this exercise, and a series of court rulings ensured that indeed there would be a form of court review and that prisoners would have access to counsel. . . .
Just days after Attorney General Holder announced a formal decision of impunity resulting from a probe into 101 documented cases in which CIA agents engaged in acts of torture and abuse in apparent violation of CIA guidelines—including those approving torture—further explosive allegations have emerged that lay bare the scope of CIA cooperation with abusive regimes in the era before the Arab Spring. Drawing on interviews with Libyan prisoners previously held by the CIA in black-site facilities, as well as a large cache of secret documents that turned up when rebels seized Qaddafi’s state security offices last year, Human Rights Watch has issued a 156-page report (PDF) that meticulously documents a George W. Bush–era CIA program of torture, including waterboarding, in careful collaboration with former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi. Among the report’s key findings: . . .
After four years in the political penalty box, Karl Rove has returned as the undeniable mastermind of the G.O.P.’s electoral effort. Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger has just published a new book, Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power, that focuses on Rove’s fall from grace during the Bush years and his remarkable political resurrection. It shows how Rove’s tactics are remaking the nation’s political landscape and explains why, win or lose in 2012, he is likely to be a dominant force in Republican politics for some time. I put six questions to Unger about his new book: . . .
There is some long-settled wisdom among Washington politicos: When you have bad news and want to avoid attention, you release it just before a holiday weekend. And when you can hold off long enough to ensure that it is totally buried, you release it at the most moribund point in the entire news calendar: just before the Labor Day weekend, when no one who counts in American politics is likely to be paying any attention. So what news story was official Washington most eager to bury this year? We have our answer. The New York Times reports: . . .
Both of your suggestions strike me as pertinent—and related. Partial surrender of our privacy, with full knowledge and consent, becomes a pretext for total expropriation, with neither knowledge nor consent. I make it known to a houseguest that I’m willing to wink at his stealing of my spoons, and he makes off with my dining-room table too. . . .
Through much of modern history, Central Asia has been a borderland between great empires that vied for influence within it. This came to an end with the Soviet period, which plunged the region into isolation. Now, Barnard College professor Alex Cooley has taken a deep look at the post-Soviet era. In Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia, he finds a sometimes hostile, sometimes friendly rivalry, focused on security issues, between the United States, Russia, and China for influence in the region. I put six questions to Cooley about his new book: . . .
In the midst of a recent deposition under oath in a lawsuit in which he was seeking to recover money he believed he was owed by the Florida G.O.P., former state party chair Jim Greer used vivid language to describe the situation inside the party when he stepped down. As the Tampa Bay Times summarizes it, he: . . .
Measured by revenue, ExxonMobil is the largest corporation on earth. Its operations span the globe, and it behaves like a powerful sovereign, exercising immense influence over the governments of the United States and many other nations in which it has operations. Now two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Steve Coll has written Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, an in-depth study of the company under its past two CEOs, focusing on how it effectively pursues its own foreign policy and deflects demands for fiscal and environmental accountability. I put six questions to Coll about his book: . . .
The last years of Mozart’s life and the prodigious and important works he created during them have been heavily romanticized in the musical literature. Now, one of this generation’s leading musicologists wants to set the picture straight. In his new book, Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune, Harvard professor Christoph Wolff carefully reconstructs Mozart’s patronage relationships, explores his engagement with Bach and other masters of the polyphonic tradition, and reassesses Mozart’s impassioned turn toward sacred music. I put six questions to Wolff about the book: . . .
The Supreme Court has held the news spotlight this week as at no other time in recent memory. The Court’s 5–4 ruling on this year’s cornerstone case, addressing challenges to the constitutionality of Obama’s health-care-reform legislation, proved anticlimactic: it upheld the law, though on somewhat different grounds than most constitutional-law scholars had anticipated before oral argument. Instead of validating the mandate to purchase insurance under the commerce clause, Chief Justice Roberts’s majority opinion called the mandate a tax. . . .
Henry Crumpton spent twenty-four years in the CIA’s clandestine service. His work put him at the forefront of the agency’s counterterrorism efforts, and on the front lines as America took on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan following 9/11. His recently published recollections offer an exceptionally deep glimpse into the CIA’s counterterrorism operations in the last decade of the twentieth century. I put six questions to Crumpton about his bestselling book The Art of Intelligence: . . .