Who’s the hardest person on your holiday gift list to shop for? Readers sent us descriptions of their tricky recipients, and our staffers brainstormed some custom ideas. Read on for some last-minute inspiration. Got another suggestion for what to give these folks? Send us a note—firstname.lastname@example.org.
She likes Bob's Burgers, Parks and Recreation, and Archer. She wants a puppy but can't have one right now because of the costs, and she doesn't want to ignore the two cats she already has. She enjoys traveling, cooking, and animals, and she loves Future and Drake.
Any gift they’ve loved?
We've only been dating three months, and her birthday has passed. I got her a Li’l Sebastian T-shirt and she loved that, but I know I have to step my game up.
As much as I love Li'l Sebastian (may he rest in peace), you’re right: You should step up your game for the first big holiday you’re celebrating together. I tend to think experiential gifts are the way to go when a relationship is new. What about a date-night cooking class? Since you’re in Boston, check out The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, which offers sessions on tapas and classic French cuisine. Another, pricier option in Boston is Stir ($165-$225 per person), the former home of Top Chef’s Kristen Kish. The January schedule isn’t up yet, but you might be able to squeeze into “Classic Trattoria Cooking” at the end of December.
Youngest of 18 children; his father died when he was 9 years old so my grandfather dropped out of school and began working to support his family. He worked in sugar cane fields and as a police officer, and after bringing his wife and children to the United States, he worked in multiple factories, nearly severing a thumb in a machine accident once. He didn't retire until his 70s. Many of his brothers liked to sing, as does he, but he insists he's no good at singing (which isn't true). He enjoys telling stories about his siblings, he loves watching boxing matches, he doesn't smoke or drink, yet bizarrely, people outside the family would always give him bottles of wine for Christmas for years, so he has a storage of unopened booze in the basement. He has a poodle/terrier mix he rescued named Spike (definitely NOT named by me after a Buffy the Vampire Slayer character).
He cooks and is very, very good at it even though he usually can't eat most of the best things he makes due to recent health issues, and therefore has to have the toned down no-salt option for everything. He does not speak English despite having lived in the U.S. for nearly 50 years and owning a full set of Ingles Sin Barreras tapes for nearly that same amount of time. When I was growing up, my parents didn't speak Spanish at home so I was never able to understand him or communicate with him, which caused some distance between us. I had to learn Spanish in high-school classes; because of this, I didn't learn until I was a teenager how funny my grandpa is and that he really enjoys puns and jokes.
Any gift they’ve loved?
I believe he liked a domino set I purchased for him a couple years ago, although admittedly I've never seen him play it.
Grandpa sounds like a hoot, so an audio comedy extravaganza could tap right into that. He might already know Guedes’s material well, in which case the CDs will be a nostalgic treat. Even if he does, listening to them with you would be a whole new experience. The experiential presents are often the best, especially with older friends and relatives. You can do this one with him from the comfort of the couch, in the kitchen mid-meal prep, or while on a drive around his favorite Chicago haunts. Bonus: Listening with Gramps gives you a chance to work on your Spanish swear vocabulary.
Interests are her teenage boys. One is a senior who will be moving out in August. The other is a sophomore. She likes coffee, and Oprah's Book Club (but wishes she had more time to read). Busy being part of the sandwich generation—taking care of kids and her parents. She dreams of leaving Michigan for somewhere warmer, or at least a vacation to get away and recharge, but can't as it's not affordable now.
Any gift they’ve loved?
Something thoughtful. Pandora beads with a meaning behind them.
A perfect cup of joe is no Hawaiian getaway, but it brings its own kind of warmth and tranquility—especially when spiked with just the right amount of coconut liqueur, and served alongside breakfast in bed. You can tap into your wife’s love of coffee with a monthly subscription from Stumptown or Craft Coffee. For bonus presentation points, pair it with a beautiful copper French press from Bodum (and maybe a mini-bottle of Kahlua). Not only does the coffee subscription offer her a new flavor every 30 days, its monthly arrival can serve as a regular reminder for you and your sons to pamper your wife, so she can unwind with a good book.
She is really into home improvement/interior decorating—every time I visit, she and her husband have changed another room in their house, and it always looks amazing and they do it themselves (except the kitchen). She enjoys science fiction and fantasy books (Orson Scott Card and George R.R. Martin are a couple favorite authors I know of), but has also been known to read young adult fiction like Hunger Games, etc., when she needs something light. She is currently working on her dissertation for a PhD in electrical engineering. She has a two-year-old daughter, and is expecting twin boys, so her life is about to change dramatically.
Any gift they’ve loved?
I got her flannel pajama pants one year and she said loved them so much that I ended up getting her another pair a few years later. This feels pathetic to me because she's such a good gift-giver. When I learned I'd be moving across the country for my husband's job, she got me three handmade luggage tags, each with a map centered on a different place: my hometown, my husband's hometown, and the new town we'd be calling home together. Flannel PJs seem rather silly in comparison, but she said she loved them. I clearly could use some help.
Since your friend’s life is changing dramatically, immersion in something even more dramatic by comparison could actually be grounding. (It reminds one that stranger things can happen.) The podcast “Welcome to Night Vale” rests comfortably in sci-fi, fantasy, and YA fiction, and documents the weird citizens of a weirder town in a desert somewhere in the southwestern United States. It’s frightening, witty, surprising, and energetic, and yet—you could probably meditate to it. (This owes much to the deep, dulcet tones of narrator Cecil Baldwin, but also, one of the story’s themes is that there are lovely, soothing things to be found in a chaotic future. A sample quote: “While the future is fast coming for you, it always flinches first, and settles in as the gentle present.”) Since she’ll soon have three small children on her hands, get her a nice pair of comfortable Bluetooth headphones—no cord for the babies to grab—and the audiobook for the just-released novelization of the podcast. Hopefully she’ll feel right at home in Night Vale.
My boyfriend is the hardest person to shop for. He only wears black and gray. He isn't "fashion forward." He likes guns and ammo (but obviously wants to buy them all himself). He doesn't like chocolate or sweets. He doesn't read. He doesn't use hair products and shaves his head. HE'S IMPOSSIBLE! He does, however, like tequila and beer (but his palette is very plain). He likes to work on cars and is a combustion engineer by day. He's an outgoing socialite but also enjoys spending some nights in binge-watching Netflix. He likes humor and action! He occasionally plays Call of Duty to pass the time but by no means is he a "gamer."
Any gift they’ve loved?
Well, I have given him some clothes from Express (in black and gray, of course) and he really seemed to like them. But, boy... how impersonal for someone who is my BEST FRIEND! I guess he likes peanuts and peanut butter and surprise dinners in the crock pot... but doesn't cook often. HELP!
A beer-making kit touches on a few aspects of your description: The engineer in him might enjoy tinkering with recipes and flavor variations that suit his palate. The socialite in him would have a nice accompaniment for hangout sessions with friends, one that pairs nicely with a good Netflix binge or Call of Duty mission. The beer-lover in him would get, um, beer. And there are a few bonuses for you as well: Beer-making night could be a lovely stay-at-home date. Plus, you can choose a gift that matches your budget, from a $36 Mr. Beer deluxe kit to kits as costly as $189.
My dad is the quintessential grumpy old man, and a total redneck in his politics and proclivities. He is a crass, badly dressed, Fox-News-watching, red-meat eater. I used to buy him The Far Side calendar every year and go through it and write him notes, and in the years since it went out of production I've tried to find a worthy substitute, but all have fallen short. He likes baseball, trains (especially model railroads), bluegrass and country music, the occasional beer, Navy memorabilia (he's a Vietnam vet), and things that feed his nostalgia for West Virginia. He is sentimental and likes the unapologetically schmaltzy. He reads a lot of spy novels. He is crazy about animals (especially cats), and they are crazy about him. He worked for the Forest Service for many years and loves all things outdoorsy as well.
Any gift they’ve loved?
He loved The Far Side page-a-day calendar, and he loved a Russian Blue cat that was given to him by his favorite former boss. (He actually wound up getting another cat that looks just like the one that was given to him, and he even gave it the same name, Spooky.)
You ever notice how nobody sends mail anymore? (I am channeling grumpiness in the spirit of your dad). Getting mail at all in this digital world is exciting—getting a carton of meat in the mail even more so. Omaha Steaks will do just that. Depending on your budget, you could recreate the year-long fun of your gift with one of their Steak Clubs—new steaks quarterly, or every month. Or you could do a one-time shipment of some filet mignon (or whatever kind of steak he likes—you can also make your own combo), and cook them together, so the gift includes an experience, too. (By the way, the steaks come packed in dry ice, so for a real experience, put the dry ice in the sink and run some water on it—your kitchen will fill with fog, which is pretty fun. Not that I’ve ever done that.)
This is a tough one. Mom is picky, and she's moving in the next couple of years so she's downsizing "stuff" out of her house—she doesn't want dust-gatherers, knick-knacks, etc., but she wants something tangible from me because we live in different cities, so no tickets, spa days, etc. She doesn't want books, appliances, garden stuff, flowers/arrangements (they're impersonal—you'll see a theme here), or food of any type (she finds gift baskets impersonal). She has all the DVD sets and music she wants. She's weird about other people buying her clothes/scarves, and she finds gift cards impersonal.
She doesn't like Christmas-themed gifts because then you have to put them away immediately. She doesn't like pajamas or robe-type things because she tends to run warm. Her brother usually includes a calendar in his gift package. Her birthday is two days after Christmas and I bought her beautiful, one-of-a-kind jewelry so I don't want to do jewelry for Christmas also.
She's a great cook and baker, loves classic rock (especially the Beatles and Stones), enjoys the ballet and theater, movies, tea, and wine. She has a ton of loose leaf tea, good kettle, pots, teacups, and mugs. She doesn't drink coffee. She enjoys reading and gardening. She loves her iPad (has a case for it she really likes). She likes trying new kinds of food and restaurants. She has a lot of nostalgia for her blue-collar roots and her self-made present. She's a reading and behavior specialist in an elementary school. She loves the Muppets, Ten Thousand Villages-type stuff, callbacks to her northern Ontario upbringing, and Newfoundland and Ukrainian history of the family. She has fond memories of going to Cuba with me for her 60th birthday. She's thinking about moving to Ontario to be closer to me and the rest of her family sometime in the next couple of years.
Any gift they’ve loved?
Gift subscription to a newspaper she loved at the time but no longer reads; The Thorn Birds and 1980s series Beauty and the Beast on DVD; Waterford Crystal clock; when I digitized her photos and made photo books of major events.
As someone whose mom only wants him to move back home to Texas tonight, get married tomorrow, and have 12 children next week, I understand the perils of shopping for a picky mother. May I humbly suggest, then, the best of all worlds for someone who enjoys gardening and tea: an herbal tea herb garden starter kit. For a paltry $37.99 (plus free shipping!), there’s a mini-greenhouse, soil pellets galore, and 12 kinds of seeds to tend. Once the herbs are all grown, she can pack them in the provided bags, and boil them to her delight. Plus, y’know, bonus tea infuser. The greenhouse is also reusable so once the tea is gone, she can do it all over again. What Stones fan doesn’t love a little tea and sympathy?
Loves: movies, cocktails, cycling, anime, Fallout (video game), physics, Nikolai Tesla (he's an electrical engineer by training, consultant to microchip designers by profession). He loves doing iPhone photography, but I bought him some really nice lenses for that before, and he never uses them. He loves mid-century style and wouldn't mind if his house looked like a Mad Men set and/or his wardrobe did! His favorite comic book writer/illustrator is Alex Ross. He has two children: a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. His favorite color is the deep orangey-red of an intense sunset. He's obsessed with taking photos of sunsets. He makes a lot of money and buys himself anything he wants. (Well, anything that I could actually afford to buy him, anyway!)
Any gift they’ve loved?
His daughter bought him a vest for Christmas last year—a gray suit vest with four buttons and he wears it all the time under his jackets. He loves wearing jackets in winter.
Your boyfriend sounds very visually oriented from your description, so it's not surprising he's an Alex Ross fan. DC Comics publishes its "Absolute" series of high-quality collections of their most popular comic storylines, so I'd suggest getting Absolute Justice. Ross's paintings for Justice are among his finest, and even if he already owns these issues, this collection features them in a larger-than-the-original hardcover that's both more durable and more readable than their first printing.
Retired and wealthy. I am neither. I met my friend because we both enjoyed foxhunting. Now that we are older we no longer ride, but have remained friends for 30 years now. She and her husband moved to Florida 13 years ago to look after her aging parents. While she lived in Michigan she owned a plumbing store. She is generous and helpful to family and friends in need.
Her home is beautifully decorated in a Florida fashion—lots of citrus colors. She enjoys cooking and we have often cooked together. She loves the Food Network. We exchange recipes often—she has all of mine. She golfs and plays bridge, and loves to entertain. I live in Michigan and I visit her at least once a year; she comes up here once a year. When I visited her recently, she rented a limo for us and five of her women friends, and we went shopping and out to dinner. This is an example of what she likes to do for fun. I guess you could say that we are best friends. I love her and I like to show that in the gifts that I give her.
Any gift they’ve loved?
Some of the favorite things I have given her are things for the kitchen such as trays and gadgets. But she really likes it when I send her cookbooks.
Your best friend may live in Florida now, but the way you describe her reminds me so much of what I admire about my dear friends from Michigan. They seem to do everything well—and joyfully. Your friend's enthusiasm for cooking and generosity of spirit calls to mind, too, some of my favorite writers—Nora Ephron, Ruth Reichl—women I always wished I could hang out with, in part because they remind me of my best friends.
Reichl, who has a new cookbook out, talks about how the act of making a meal is its own meditation, something to be savored (almost) as much as the resultant dish. In My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, Reichl catalogues the months she spent cooking and finding joy again, after the magazine she edited, Gourmet, unexpectedly folded.
And you might pair that with an apron—not the kind you put on just to protect what you're wearing underneath, but one that makes creating a meal feel even more festive. I like this one from Anthropologie.
My mother is a catering chef. To survive, she is always on the go and always bubbling with take-action energy. Basically, she's the kind of trigger-pulling creative problem-solver any daughter would want in their lives—until Christmas-shopping season hits. Throughout the year, if she needs something, she buys it herself—quickly. In the past six months, I've culled together what I thought was a smart list of things she's casually declared she needs or wants: a new jacket, The Hobbit movie trilogy, an iPad case, makeup products, new knives. But lo and behold, even before I can let my Amazon page load, she has magically tracked down, purchased and utilized said jacket (it was a nice leather one... I could not have found it myself), makeup products and custom-made knives. Apparently I am "slow."
Any gift they’ve loved?
Yes, anything hobby-related. She creates a miniature "fairyland" in our yard (we are normal) in her spare time and creates jewelry. I've gifted her gemstones and little "fairy cottages," but there's only so many times I can have her unwrap a hunk of citrine or buy a whimsical mushroom home without my mailman thinking I'm a lunatic.
Your mom sounds like she's happiest when she's taking care of things on her own, and she clearly loves a project, so I thought she might like to try soap-making. With this beginner's kit, she can create her own custom-made scented soap, start a new hobby to mystify your mailman, and hopefully take some time out of her busy life for an at-home spa day. (One important note—the ebook included in this kit is in PDF form, so you may want to consider printing it out if your mom is not an e-reader. You can also find a cheaper option here, or a more luxurious one if she's OK with following video instructions.)
He is an iOS app developer and programmer, a low-key graphic artist, an absolute minimalist when it comes to his appearance and the things he owns (which makes buying for him so hard—I don't want give him anything that won't be used or that will create clutter, because that is so not him). He loves the absurd (Turquoise Jeep's elegant work, for example) and the adorable (but they have to be exactly the right aesthetic to evoke pleasure, which is hard to pin down). When he gets a kick out of something he's very loyal to it. In other words, he's not the kind of person to be into something for a moment or for a few days and then forget about it. He knows nothing about pop culture (Drake who?), doesn't give a crap about what people think of him, and is an ardent philosopher. Life, death, right, wrong, what does it all mean?! How do we make it count? Also, he loves the game Eve Online—or “SpaceGame,” as we call it—mostly for its beauty.
Any gift they’ve loved?
I bought him a robe last Christmas—he used to use this small blanket as a shawl/poncho and claimed that it was exactly all he needed to stay warm around the house. So I took a leap and bought him a thick, soft robe, in his favorite dark colors, and now he never wants to take it off.
So he likes games. And the absurd. And minimalism. And designing and building things from scratch using complex code/instruction manuals/drawings. How about this Lego architecture studio? It features more than 1,200 bricks in two shades, which can be used to recreate plans included in a 272-page booklet submitted by leading architects. It’s educational (you can learn the basic fundamentals of architecture), it’s aesthetically pleasing, and it’s Lego, which every single non-Grinch in the world likes to play with. If the $159.99 price tag is a little hefty, perhaps you could pick one of the iconic world building sets also on offer, and help him build a Lego White House ($49.99), or a Lego Seattle Space Needle ($19.95), or a Lego Trevi Fountain ($49.95).
The president’s decision could cost Democrats in 2022 and 2024. He doesn’t care.
When President Joe Biden rolled out his plan requiring vaccinations on a mass scale, he sounded a bit like a gambler at a point of desperation. Biden’s presidency, and much of his legacy, hinges on defeating the prolonged pandemic. During a dismal summer of rising infections and deaths due to vaccine holdouts and the Delta variant, the pandemic seemed to have defeated him. Under the new rules, Biden hopes to pressure about 80 million more Americans to get their shots. It’s a political risk that opens him up to Republican attacks that he’s intruding on peoples’ freedoms, ahead of midterm elections that could easily strip the Democrats of their congressional majority. Biden gets this. He’s all in, win or lose.
SpaceX's first private astronauts have returned to Earth from a three-day stay in orbit.
The space tourists are back.
On Saturday night, the private astronauts braced themselves as their spacecraft streaked through Earth’s atmosphere, deployed parachutes, and then drifted down off the coast of Florida. When the capsule touched the waves, they might have heard a voice from mission control radio in: “Thanks for flying SpaceX.” As if the passengers had just touched down on a runway at O’Hare instead of surviving a fiery reentry. As if they hadn’t just spent three days flying higher than the International Space Station, with a window seat that looked out on the contours of entire continents.
The mission, known as Inspiration4, was the first-ever spaceflight of a crew made entirely of non-professional astronauts. The tech billionaire who chartered the trip for himself and three others paid “under $200 million” for it, and for that kind of money, SpaceX let him customize the experience, from the food menu to the flight plan. The crew—the businessman Jared Isaacman, the geoscience professor Sian Proctor, the physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, and the data engineer Chris Sembroski—spent their time in orbit doing a few science experiments and generally basking in the microgravity. They even made a call to Tom Cruise, who plans to fly SpaceX to shoot a movie on the space station someday.
The right-wing rally at the Capitol turned out to be a forum for random grievances, and an opportunity to dress like Batman.
No one overran the U.S. Capitol this time or tried to subvert American democracy. What the people who came to the rally on a stretch of grass near the Capitol Reflecting Pool on Saturday afternoon really wanted to do was talk. Talk and argue. And then talk and argue some more.
The “Justice for J6” rally was supposed to highlight the plight of those charged with nonviolent crimes in the January 6 insurrection who, the organizers claim, have been denied fast and fair trials. In reality, the afternoon was a forum for any number of grievances, some difficult to discern. One guy walked around in a Batman costume. Another was accompanied by a service dog whose collar read Abolish the Democrats. Two men argued about whether the 2020 election was stolen, as former President Donald Trump has falsely claimed. Two others argued about God. A retired firefighter in a navy-blue uniform, complaining about the election results, said the U.S. had become a “banana republic.” “I’m a firefighter too, and this guy is talking pure bullshit,” a man who’d been listening in said. If there was any mortal danger, it was a blend of heatstroke and tedium.
Arizona state-Senate Republicans launched the process this spring as a response to false claims of election fraud spread by several of themselves, as well as former President Donald Trump. The Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, a firm run by a “Stop the Steal” backer that has repeatedly declined to offer any evidence it is qualified for the job. The process was originally expected to conclude by May 14. This was a hard deadline, because the coliseum rented for the count was due to hold another event. But the count missed that deadline, and the process resumed later in May.
After the horrors that health-care workers have endured during the pandemic, many are struggling to sympathize with people who won’t protect themselves.
On social media, I’ve been seeing sentiments that I never thought I’d see anyone express in a public forum. People who choose to be unvaccinated should not be offered lung transplants. What if people with COVID-19 who didn’t get the vaccine have to wait in the Emergency Department until everyone else is seen?Should unvaccinated patients just be turned away?
These are harsh, angry feelings. And some of the people giving voice to them are doctors.
I am an obstetrician in New York. I have been working with pregnant COVID-19 patients from the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, in a medical institution and city that have cared for thousands of patients with the disease. Health-care workers have suffered through a terrible year and a half—a period first defined by a lack of masks and gloves, and throughout by the very real fear of personal sickness and death. We have been afraid of bringing the disease home, of infecting our spouses, of leaving our children parentless. For about three months, I didn’t kiss my children.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that ebooks are awful. I hate them, but I don’t know why I hate them. Maybe it’s snobbery. Perhaps, despite my long career in technology and media, I’m a secret Luddite. Maybe I can’t stand the idea of looking at books as computers after a long day of looking at computers as computers. I don’t know, except for knowing that ebooks are awful.
If you hate ebooks like I do, that loathing might attach to their dim screens, their wonky typography, their weird pagination, their unnerving ephemerality, or the prison house of a proprietary ecosystem. If you love ebooks, it might be because they are portable, and legible enough, and capable of delivering streams of words, fiction and nonfiction, into your eyes and brain with relative ease. Perhaps you like being able to carry a never-ending stack of books with you wherever you go, without having to actually lug them around. Whether you love or hate ebooks is probably a function of what books mean to you, and why.
Conventional wisdom says that venting is cathartic and that we should never go to bed angry. But couples who save disagreements for scheduled meetings show the benefits of a more patient approach to conflict.
For decades, when Liz Cutler’s husband, Tom Kreutz, did something that bothered her, Cutler would sometimes pull out a scrap of paper from the back of her desk drawer. On it she would scribble down her grievances: maybe Kreutz had stayed late at work without giving her a heads-up, or maybe he’d allowed their kids to do something she considered risky. The list was Cutler’s way of honoring a promise she and her husband had made. They would talk about their frustrations only in scheduled meetings—which they held once a year for a time, and later, every three months. It’s a system they’ve adhered to for more than 40 years.
Any psychologist will tell you that conflict is both an inevitable and a vital part of a close relationship. The challenge—which can make the difference between a lasting, satisfying partnership and one that combusts—is figuring out how to manage conflict constructively.
The pandemic has exposed a fundamental weakness in the system.
America has too many managers.
In a 2016 Harvard Business Review analysis, two writers calculated the annual cost of excess corporate bureaucracy as about $3 trillion, with an average of one manager per every 4.7 workers. Their story mentioned several case studies—a successful GE plant with 300 technicians and a single supervisor, a Swedish bank with 12,000 workers and three levels of hierarchy—that showed that reducing the number of managers usually led to more productivity and profit. And yet, at the time of the story, 17.6 percent of the U.S. workforce (and 30 percent of the workforce’s compensation) was made up of managers and administrators—an alarming statistic that shows how bloated America’s management ranks had become.
There are no simple rules for timing on a third jab—but maybe don’t rush it.
After a long and tense meeting today, an FDA committee unanimously recommended that the agency authorize third shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for Americans who are over 65 or at high risk of severe COVID. The vote came after the panel voted overwhelmingly against the original question up for its consideration: authorizing boosters for everyone over 16. If the FDA follows the committee’s recommendation (as is expected), a CDC committee will help refine those guidelines next week, clarifying which groups qualify as “high risk.”
Even as we await these final decisions, the nation’s summer wave of COVID infections seems like it’s beginning to pass. Cases and hospitalizations are trending slightly downward. Now that we have more clarity about whether (and which) Americans need booster shots—and given that so many people are already getting boosters, eligibility be damned—more questions loom: When, exactly, should those people get those shots? Is it better to load up on extra antibodies as soon as possible, or should people wait until COVID rates start to rise again?
The left criticized administrative power, and then lost control of both the government and the narrative that surrounded it.
“Let the public service be a proud and lively career,” President John F. Kennedy proclaimed in his January 1961 message to Congress. “Let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government,” he continued, “say with pride and with honor in future years: ‘I served the United States government in that hour of our nation’s need.’”
Kennedy’s message succeeded: Young Democrats, heeding his call, filled the offices of the nation’s executive agencies. And yet just 20 years later, Ronald Reagan, another newly elected president, stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and declared a kind of war on the values Kennedy vaunted. “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Reagan said, a statement that marked a definitive break with the big-government liberalism of the postwar period.