Noted

From the Executive Editor

Presidents have an unfortunate habit of nominating their friends to run the Justice Department, often with disastrous results. But as Dayo Olopade shows in her masterful profile of Attorney General Eric Holder, the bond between Holder and President Obama is not based on each other's personal success but on a shared obligation to professionalism and the rule of law. Still, Holder has been able to reverse the damage of Bush's Justice Department in some areas more easily than in others.

The same can be said of the year-old administration as a whole. The ambitious foreign-policy doctrine Obama put forward during the campaign looks quite different in practice, as Tim Fernholz shows in his examination of the decision to escalate in Afghanistan. Elsewhere in this issue, Eamonn Fingleton, author of several books on international economics, demonstrates that much of what we think we know about the German economy is wrong -- it is, in fact, dynamic, growing, and adaptable.

Co-founder Paul Starr has become an essential voice during the debate on health reform, as one of the very few people with both historical knowledge of how the system got the way it is -- as the author of the Pulitzer-winning The Social Transformation of American Medicine -- and real-world experience in trying to change it, in the Clinton White House. His thoughts on the extraordinary achievement marked by even the deeply compromised health bill that is on the verge of passage are an essential tonic to the disappointment of progressives about how short the bill falls from our original hopes.

-- Mark Schmitt

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Florida's Monorail

At Next American City, Willy Staley saw something familiar in Alec MacGillis' assessment of suburban-renewal guru Richard Florida ("The Ruse of the Creative Class"): "MacGillis paints the professor as some sort of urban-planning snake-oil salesman. What it reminded me of most, sadly, was the episode of The Simpsons in which Springfield gets a monorail. Long story short, Lyle Lanley sells Springfield a faulty monorail and skips town with the profits. It turns out -- like Florida -- that he had been doing his song-and-dance routine all over the country. Now, I am not suggesting Florida went from town to town deliberately scamming people just like Lanley did (MacGillis stops just short of saying so). But his product -- shiny and new as it is -- simply isn't a fit for every community."

Ryan Avent, blogging at The Bellows, wonders whether Florida should be singled out for having one of many failed theories about post-industrial renewal: "Should Florida apologize? Or be forced to pay back the money? Meh. Again, the man went from city to city encouraging leaders to be gay-friendly, to support artists, to encourage creativity, and to build amenities like bike lanes. Perhaps he was wrong to suggest that these measures would deliver an economic turnaround. I'd say he was less wrong about the secret to urban success than those urging cities to throw tax incentives at potential employers, or those suggesting that we ought to adopt an industrial policy aimed at returning Midwestern cities to manufacturing glory."

And reader Barry Johnson touts the ancillary benefits of Florida's approach: "I live in a city that is an 'attractor' of the creative class, a city that Florida mentions frequently in his books. It turns out that the better our city is -- the more tolerant, open, creative, democratic, educated, diverse, inclusive -- the more it attracts young creatives. But that hardly matters.
In the meantime, we have a better city to live in ourselves, and that's really the point."

The Blame Game

Reader Marshall Carter-Tripp takes umbrage at Mark Schmitt's column ("Machinery of Progress") suggesting progressives are partially responsible for the Obama administration's successes and failures: "Schmitt tells us that expecting actual change to be implemented by Obama is unfair given that the 'success of his presidency and this Congress ... depend on the strength of the progressive infrastructure.' So despite having supported a candidate who campaigned on key issues like health-care reform and in his previous career said he supported single-payer, I should now disregard this and realize that single-payer advocates have received 'something politically realistic that they could get behind' -- and any failure 'will not lie in our star but in ourselves.' That is to say, Obama cannot fail. Only his supporters can fail. I refuse to accept blame for what is happening now."

Track Record

Chuck Spinney at Public Intelligence Blog chimes in on Ann Friedman's column ("Listening to Afghanistan"): "One of the main arguments made by self-proclaimed 'liberal humanitarian interventionists' in support of President Obama's escalation of the Afghan War is that a return of the Taliban to power will condemn women to conditions approaching slavery. It is true that women's rights in Afghanistan are almost medieval in character, but the central question of humanitarian intervention is fundamentally one of whether the U.S. escalation will improve things or make matters worse. The United States has a sorry track record in this regard, and we bear a heavy moral burden for the current state of affairs, including the dismal state of women's rights."

Write to us at letters@prospect.org or to The Editors, The American Prospect, 1710 Rhode Island Ave., NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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