Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman is a distinguished professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is a columnist for The Nation, Moment, and The Daily Beast. His most recent book is Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama.

Recent Articles

Stone Cold Untruths

It is with a great sense of foreboding that I feel compelled to address myself to Paul Berman's New York Times Book Review essay on Myra McPherson's biography of I.F. Stone and a collection of Izzy's best columns edited by Peter Osnos. I don't think I have ever met McPherson, but I have been friends with Paul for over decade. For longer than that, I have been an admirer of his work and an informal student of his method. His Power and the Idealists -- originally an essay he tossed off on spec for The New Republic -- is as fine and concise a work of intellectual and political history as anyone has published anywhere in the past decade. And though Paul can be wrong as easily as anyone -- and has been most egregiously in his analysis of the likely consequences of a U.S. invasion of Iraq -- no one is wrong with a stronger commitment to the honor of the intellect; to doing the scholarship and going wherever it takes you, personal and political consequences be damned. I am not quite this...

Where FDR Went Wrong

President George W. Bush was a lot closer to right than he usually manages when he placed the Yalta agreement, signed by Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, in the context of the agreements that viewed “the freedom of small nations [as] somehow expendable.” What Bush, like most Republican critics before him, misses, however, is that the deal with the Soviets was inevitable. Roosevelt was forced to recognize the realities of the postwar map. Indeed, the cause of much bitterness and confusion arising from the Yalta deal in the decades that followed flowed from FDR's unwillingness to admit what he had done. To be sure, the Western leaders had little choice. In the first place, the Red Army had liberated the area from the Nazis in perhaps the most costly military victory in all human history, leaving as many as 27 million dead. Already tending toward paranoia on security matters on the basis of both ideology and experience -- together with Stalin's own neurotic...

Wake-Up Time

Are our national media -- schoolyard silly during campaign 2000, by turns somnolent and sycophantic ever since -- starting to rouse themselves from their long torpor? It's still way too early to answer that question with a "yes," but if that's what the answer turns out to be, the first week of February may have marked a turning point. In that week, the media started raising new questions about the justification for the Iraq War; broke an important story about the administration knowing last fall that the Medicare bill would cost $134 billion more than it let on to its employers (the public); broke another about a probe of alleged bribes at Dick Cheney's Halliburton; and finally, led by The Boston Globe 's Walter Robinson, started to take a semi-meaningful look into George W. Bush's disputed National Guard record. Don't start dancing to the music just yet, though. Bad habits die hard, and we've all come to expect too little genuine journalism and far too much of what might be called "...

Books in Review

Bush at War By Bob Woodward. Simon & Schuster, 376 pages, $28.00 I t was 3 p.m. when the phone rang. "Ring, ring, ring." It was the same sound it usually made, but this time with a difference. The nation was at war. And Bob Woodward had a new book out about it. So when the editor asked the reviewer to review the new Bob Woodward book about the war, the reviewer thought to himself: "I'm thinking to myself, 'No one is here but me to hear these thoughts and no one ever will. Still, they are brave thoughts, heroic thoughts. Too bad that no one will ever know of them. Well, no one but God. Well, God and perhaps a 'journalist' who, by common accord, has been granted a special, professional dispensation from all known rules of sourcing and attribution.'" I can see why the big shots go along with this Woodwardesque "you are there" business. Who wouldn't? Let's say you are Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice or even George W. Bush. You receive a call from a man with the power -- granted by...

Book Review: Ambling into Nonsense

Ambling into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush By Frank Bruni. HarperCollins, 278 pages, $23.95 N ew York Times reporter Frank Bruni has written an instructive, important book about the state of modern American political campaigns and American democracy. Unfortunately, he appears to have done so by accident. Bruni's Ambling into History purports to be a laser-like examination of President Bush's character through the eyes of his most prestigious and perhaps most intimate campaign chronicler -- a Teddy White for our time. And while it's not without insight into Bush the person, it's more valuable as an exhibit -- rather than a study -- of the dangerously degraded state of our political debate. Bruni's field of study is an inch wide and an inch deep. As difficult as it may be to imagine, this Times reporter has written an account of the 2000 presidential campaign that contains nary a word about health care, Social Security, tax cuts, the Middle East conflict, missile...

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