Beyond Image and Eye-catching Titles



The Atlantic, June 2013


Magazines are struggling, and The Atlantic has taken up the habit these past couple of years of throwing topics at the wall to see what sticks. Their meat, as it has been for at least a century, is politics and culture, and this issue is a center cut of such. What can you look forward to in this issue? These caught my eye first:


Joseph S. Nye, Jr., kicks off his essay with the question “Do Presidents Matter?” It’s hard to divine an answer from the article, but his revelations are more than interesting. My answer to the question: No, not really. Presidents are hamstrung by politics, events external to policies, and the difficulties of managing a cranky Congress amid a highly populated, eminently diverse nation. Just look at what living ex-presidents – from Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush have done as emeritus presidents. Nye’s answer: He pares the topic down to foreign policy in doing his research, and discovers that presidents who make slow, carefully thought out progress in the arena of foreign policy prove more effective that those who gallop in on a snorting steed.

Molly Ball takes on the less-than-modern Republican Party in “How To Save the GOP.” Here, the GOP has proven to be gifted at gerrymandering, procedural ledgerdemain, and base-rousing, but, Ball asks tacitly, Can they govern? Not according to polls of the base, who rant and stomp along with their elected officials, but find them unable to put meat and potatoes on the average kitchen table. And up-and-coming GOP thinker Josh Barro agrees.

A short but significant paean to Sylvia Plath, “Why Sylvia Plath Haunts Us,” by James Parker, is well worth reading, whether you’re a fan of hers or not.

And while many are asking whether California can be governed, much less the U.S., Jerry Brown has been doing just that in his second act as governor, at age 72. How? Read James Fallows’ article, “The Fixer.” 

And The Atlantic allows Liza Mundy to wander into the minefield of gay marriage and what that might mean to the preponderance of the population. Will we lean toward more egalitarian marriages? Will we be better parents (whatever that means)? Will we tilt a shade toward polygamy? Society is always evolving, and since I’m no excellent practitioner of marriage, I’ll not voice an opinion here.



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