Correspondence

From the Executive Editor

To impeach or not to impeach: that is the question that Bob Kuttner and I bat around in this issue. Bob argues that we can start with Alberto Gonzales and work our way up the executive food chain to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I argue that Bush and Cheney's guilt is flagrant, but that impeaching them, alas, is a seriously bad idea, both politically and constitutionally.

Elsewhere in the issue, Garance Franke-Ruta reports on this year's compassionate conservative, Mitt Romney, and concludes that the rightward pressure on him far outweighs the centrist bromides he spouts on the stump. Terry Samuel sorts out what is new about the Obama generation of black political leaders -- and what is new about the racial landscape that enables them to chart a different course from their predecessors'. Ron Brownstein looks at the still largely latent conflicts between the Democrats' energized activists and the fundamentally (Bill) Clintonian vision of the party's presidential candidates. Cass Sunstein notes that the Supreme Court doesn't really have a liberal wing. And Michael Lind comes up with a big new idea: extending income tax credits to payroll taxes, which would put serious money into ordinary Americans' pockets. Politically and economically, Lind's logic strikes me as unimpeachable.

We also feature in this issue a special report on the Amazon Basin and its rainforest, whose destruction is a leading cause of global warming and whose future, accordingly, is linked inextricably to ours.

-- Harold Meyerson

Peretz: Jewish Insecurity

In "My Marty Peretz Problem -- And Ours" [July/August 2007], Alterman presents us with a paradox. In responding to polls, large numbers of American Jews are liberal internationalists, favor negotiations with the Palestinians to end the Israeli occupation, and side with the Israelis critical of a primarily ethnic conception of their state. Still, in their angry and obsessive commitment to the Israel of Zionist nationalism, Peretz and the leaders of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, are on to something. Why would so many in the Jewish community allow themselves to be represented by those with whom they ostensibly disagree, if they did not share their frightened ethnocentrism? Look at The New Republic, where Leon Wieseltier (rightly praised by Alterman as a serious editor) puts a cultivated face on Peretz' irreducible vulgarities.

Norman Birnbaum
Washington, D.C.

Peretz: Who Was Right, When?

In his rather nasty and despicable screed attacking The New Republic's Editor in Chief Marty Peretz, Alterman includes me on the list of "conservatives" who have written for TNR because they are closely associated with "the hawkish Peretzian position on Israel."

In the past few years, I have written a few columns on Israel, including one arguing that what happened at Jenin was not a massacre. Whether they are hawkish or not, my columns have appeared long after the bulk of what I wrote for TNR was published. I started writing for the magazine in the late 1970s, when I was a Social Democrat. I certainly was not then a conservative.

Marty Peretz did not ask my political views or my position on Israel when he asked me to write for the magazine. It is ironic that somewhere in TNR 's files, you will find a letter to the editor I wrote. It was a vigorous attack on the negative review the magazine gave of a book by Noam Chomsky, on Israel! Gilbert Harrison had just left the magazine and Peretz had assumed the editorship. Though he obviously saw my letter and chose not to print it, it did not stop him from asking me to contribute.

Over the years I have written for TNR on communism and anticommunism, Soviet espionage, and in the 1980s, on Nicaragua and the Central American wars. The latter articles were commissioned and edited by Hendrik Hertzberg. Peretz had nothing to do with them.

It is also ironic what prompted Peretz to ask me to write for TNR. I had just published a review essay of Vivian Gornick's book on the romance of American communism in, of all places, The Nation. Peretz phoned me after reading that article and said he found it very interesting and would like me to write for TNR. So much for Alterman's reasons why I appeared often in TNR 's pages.

Ronald Radosh
Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute

Eric Alterman replies:

Thanks to Norman Birnbaum for his thoughtful letter. As to Ronald Radosh's complaint, "nasty and despicable" as I may be, I did not say and do not believe that the Palestinian question is the only justification for an invitation to write for TNR for Marty Peretz. Indeed, I have received such an invitation myself. But it is the reason most conservatives are invited. Radosh is a hardliner on the Palestinian question. And I defy him to name a single individual whose name I listed in that context who is not.

Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@prospect.org or mailed to The Editors, The American Prospect, 2000 L St., NW, Suite 717, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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