The 14 3/4 Biggest Ideas of the Year July/August 2010

Obama Is No Liberal

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It was a beautiful moment when Barack Obama, with his election, drew the left and right together in one powerful conviction: that he was a raging lefty. It didn’t last long, of course. For the right, every day now brings exhilarating proof of his secret socialist mission; for the left, each day brings more disillusion: Afghanistan; Guantánamo; rendition; no prosecution of Bush officials; immigration; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; a health-care law that, okay, might be the most ambitious social legislation in 45 years, but didn’t create a single-payer system and was heralded by a truckling executive order on abortion. Promises broken, promises deferred—and also promises inferred. How could he not be a lefty, given that he makes such poetic speeches, given that (and here’s another assumption shared with the far right, an uglier one) he’s black? Yet deep down, of course, the purists always suspected him, and are as titillated as Tea Partiers to remain in righteous opposition. To what? A wintry pragmatism joined to a novel (for our time) seriousness about applying government to make life better in a nation that, sure, might be willing, even eager, to elect an Indonesian-educated black Hawaiian with an unsettling name, but that finds the full agenda of the unforgiving left, like that of the unhinged right, a bit of a stretch.


14 3/4. Reefer Sanity
by Joshua Green
7. Information Wants to Be Paid For
by Walter Isaacson
14. It’s Too Easy Being Green
by Kai Ryssdal
6. The Kids Aren’t All Right
by David Leonhardt
13. Teachers Are Fair Game
by David Brooks
5. Bonfire of the Knuckleheads
by Jeffrey Goldberg
12. The Rise of the Drones
by Martha Raddatz
4. The Power of No
by Michael Kinsley
11. Obama Is No Liberal
by James Bennet
3. Boredom is Extinct
by Walter Kirn
10. The Triumph of Free Speech
by Jeffrey Rosen
America Is No. 2
by James Fallows
9. The Catholic Church Is Finished
by Ross Douthat
1. The End of Men
by Hanna Rosin
8. Deficits Matter
by Megan McArdle
PLUS: More Ideas of the Year
From TARP to sleeping with Tiger Woods
James Bennet is the editor of The Atlantic
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James Bennet has been the editor in chief of The Atlantic since 2006. Prior to joining The Atlantic, he was the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times. More

"I wanted a profound and extreme talent who led quietly, was generous to others, and comported himself with collegial respect," remarked Atlantic Media chairman David Bradley when announcing his selection of James Bennet as the magazine's fourteenth editor in chief in early 2006. "On all scores, but surely these, I have conviction on James' appointment." Before joining the Atlantic staff, Bennet was the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times. During his three years in Israel, his coverage of the Middle East conflict was widely acclaimed for its balance and sensitivity. His much-lauded long-form writing for The New York Times Magazine was responsible for catching the eye of David Bradley during his year-long search for a new editor. Upon accepting the position, Bennet told a Times reporter that he saw the Atlantic job as "a chance to help, encourage and preserve the practice of serious, long-form journalism." Bennet is a graduate of Yale University who began his journalism career at The Washington Monthly. Prior to his work in Jerusalem, he served as the Times' White House correspondent and was preparing to join its Beijing bureau when he was offered the Atlantic editorship.

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