The Atlantic Politics Daily: It’s Beginning to Look Like 2003

Our staff writer David Graham argues that the Iran crisis reeks of the run-up to the Iraq War. Plus: The fans of Joe Biden’s make-America-nice-again vision.

It’s Monday, January 6. In today’s newsletter: A crash landing into 2020. Plus: Reactions to this new study on economic distress and opioids abuse complicate the narrative of America’s opioids epidemic.


Iranians burn U.S. and Israeli flags as they gather to mourn the death of Qassem Soleimani. (NAZANIN TABATABAEE / WANA VIA REUTERS

January 2020 will be defined by three I’s: Iran, impeachment, and … the Iowa caucus. Here’s where things stand on each.

On Iran

Since U.S. forces, at the order of President Donald Trump, killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani last week, Americans of all ages have braced for the heightened possibility of outright war (the teens are processing with memes).

The prospect of war in the Middle East; an administration with hazy justifications for its actions; a president who doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about foreign affairs: The Iran crisis reeks of the run-up to the Iraq War, David Graham argues.

But Soleimani’s record as a terrorist kingpin has been well-known since at least the administration of George W. Bush. So why did Trump decide to kill him now?

On Impeachment

Impeachment has been functionally in hibernation, but it’s set to awaken this month for the Senate trial. That outcome looks to be as preordained as ever: Republicans are showing no signs are bucking the president, and not just because they’re fretting the wrath of his base.

My colleague Peter Nicholas has reported on how Trump has been quietly cultivating relationships with GOP lawmakers.

On the Iowa Caucuses

With less than a month before the Iowa caucus officially kicks off the 2020 primary, the pack of Democratic presidential contenders once again descends on the state.

Joe Biden has been called the national frontrunner for much of the race, even as he’s lagged behind some rivals in Iowa. Bu there’s another force pulling voters into Biden’s orbit: His old-school vision to make America nice again, my colleague Elaine Godfrey reported.  

The most-diverse-ever slate of presidential candidates this year crumbled further with Julián Castro’s departure from the race. But Castro looks to be returning to the campaign trail in another capacity: He endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and could act as her surrogate-in-chief in Iowa if she’s held up in Washington with an impeachment trial.

—Saahil Desai


(Jeenah Moon / Reuters)

Rose McGowan speaks on the first day of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual-assault trial in New York.


(Arsh Raziuddin)

1. “To substitute 1619 as America’s true founding not only centers one original sin, chattel slavery, over an earlier sin that was also abhorrent and consequential: the genocide and subjugation of indigenous North Americans.”

Both conservatives and Trotskyite leftists have pounced to criticize The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which focuses on slavery as America’s founding sin. This heated debate should encourage readers to consider that the project’s reframing of America’s founding leaves too much out, Conor Friedersdorf argues.

2. “Either President Donald Trump’s victory will shatter expectations and academic theories, or his defeat will.”

No president has ever won reelection after being impeached. Or won reelection but lost the popular vote again. Or been older than 70 (as Trump is). Or been female (Warren), or gay (Pete Buttigieg), or Jewish (Bernie Sanders). The point of all these factoids?

That this election year will once again test the country’s collective understanding of electoral politics and break every so-called rule, Derek Thomspon writes.


(The Atlantic)

Hello, World

To become a parent in the age of unchecked climate change is to consciously bring a child into a world that is becoming more unlivable each day. But that’s a simplistic way to think. Jedediah Britton-Purdy, father of an infant, writes in this moving reflection:

“The world is good, for all the bad in it—a good place. And you are good: full of joy, born innocent. But you are not good for the world. When you do all the things you will do—work, play, love—you will be breaking down its systems, making it unlivable. And there is very little that you, personally, can do about it.” What kind of welcome is that?

It is a truthful one, at least, but it raises more questions. What does it mean to teach a child to live in a time of perennial crisis, always in the shadow of loss? I think about trying to teach him love and wonder first, before he inevitably learns fear.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an associate editor on our Politics team and Christian Paz, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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