Jim Sleeper

Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale, examines tensions between American market hedonism and moral education in the 40th-anniversary issue of the quarterly Salmagundi, out this fall.

Recent Articles

Duty Bound

How to tell "the good fight" from a bad one against liberal democracy's enemies? In 1941, a 17-year-old at Exeter struggled with that question as World War II raged in Europe and storm clouds gathered over America. Wrestling with his demons under New Hampshire's charcoal skies, he penned this sonnet: When pausing in our drowsy show of life Where bloated pigmies hold their petty sway, The mind fights up above the tawdry play To stages draped with courage, death, and strife For ever there are hearts which, not to be Constrained by walls, by rules, by easy creed, Rebel against dishonored peace and flee The dull hypocrisy of word and deed. Thus eager youth forever quits debate, And fighting with brave certainty meets fate. It's striking enough for a 17-year-old to give a classical literary form to his youthful yearning for action. More interesting still is his closing line's grim sense that "brave certainty" may fail. Brave, he was: Even in 1937, at 13, he'd watched a newsreel of Italian...

The Frog Is Us

A little-remarked virtue of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is its graphic rendering of The Parable of the Frog. What? You don't know about it and aren't haunted by it day and night? Well, if you're a journalist in Washington or New York, it's no wonder. You and some colleagues are probably the hapless frog himself. I encountered the frog story two years ago in America Alone: The Neoconservatives and the Global Order , a book by conservative diplomats Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke that assailed lies and scare tactics used by Bill Kristol and others to whip up popular support for Bush's terror war and his bread-and-circus economy. Halper and Clarke likened the American people to "a frog placed in a bowl of cool water as it is slowly heated over a fire. At the point the frog realizes the danger it is in, it is already too weakened to get out. It is boiled alive. Americans today find themselves in water with the temperature rising. To date the political discourse, impregnated as it...

Armchair Warriors, Exeunt Omnes

In a recent New York Times review of America at the Crossroads -- Francis Fukayama's account of his change of heart on the Iraq War and the national-security strategy behind it -- Paul Berman revealed perhaps more than he intended about pro-war intellectuals who are now wavering. Like Berman more than like Fukuyama, many public thinkers who trumpeted reasons to invade Iraq -- David Brooks, Peter Beinart, and Charles Krauthammer come Immediately to mind -- have lately been squirming, bobbing, weaving, joking lamely, and sometimes even feigning a stay-the-course intrepidity as they try to exit the stage they helped set in the run-up to the war. It's a sad, sometimes ludicrous, spectacle -- not because they're wrong to change their minds but because, unlike Fukuyama, they're trying not to admit that they're doing it. Not unfairly, Berman characterized Fukuyama as a bit too primly calculating in breaking with fellow neoconservatives just as it was becoming obvious how misguided and...

The Wile E. Coyote Conservatives

They're beginning to look like the old Saturday-morning cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, running in hot pursuit of the Road Runner, zooming right off a cliff and continuing to run through thin air -- until he takes a look around, gulps, and plummets straight down. Well, the conservative-movement pundits hot in pursuit of liberal-faculty subversion on the nation's campuses aren't gulping just yet. After losing their battle to keep Lawrence Summers president of Harvard by blaming his travails on politically correct professors, they've rushed on to blame diversity liberals for enrolling an ex-Taliban spokesman as a special student at Yale. But the air in which cable blowhards Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, Wall Street Journal online columnist John Fund, The Boston Globe's Cathy Young, and more than a few others are running and shouting, Liberals, liberals, liberals! is becoming as thin as their accusations, and no wonder: The ground under their feet isn't there . In rushing to Yale...

The Two Brookses

In an unforgettable review-essay in the June 2004 Washington Monthly , Nicholas Confessore detailed New York Times columnist David Brooks' maddening habit of oscillating between hard-nosed journalism and conservative-movement hackery. In the first kind of column, Confessore showed, Brooks will do some serious reporting or at least chin-stroking, sounding for all the world like a disinterested public savant; but in another, he'll gyrate and propagandize shamelessly for movement conservatives, the Bush administration, or both. Familiar though that see-saw is by now, I had to rub my eyes on Thursday, March 16 while reading Brooks' announcement that Michael Gordon's and Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor's new book 'Cobra II' reminds him that pundits and other tribunes of the public interest proved more honest and insightful than the Bush administration at the start of the Iraq war. What's stunning isn't that outsiders saw more clearly than butt-covering insiders, but that this column by Brooks...

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