Michael Tomasky

Michael Tomasky is the American editor-at-large of the Guardian (UK). He was executive editor of the Prospect from 2003 to 2006.

Recent Articles

Son Down

As George W. Bush has tanked in the polls, a question has gained prevalence on the op-ed pages and chat shows: Will the son repeat the mistakes of the father? By which is meant, of course, that Bush Senior went from a 90-something percent approval rating to losing his re-election bid -- will Junior do the same? The analogy is apt, though, only up to that superficial point. Because the deeper story is, no, W. is not repeating the mistakes of his father. He's making an entirely new set of mistakes that are all his own. Senior's mistakes were errors of competence and engagement. After the Berlin Wall fell, he came up with a niftily sound-bitey phrase (a "New World Order"). But he propounded only the vaguest idea of what that order would actually be. To show that he understood the plight of working people amid the dislocations of the then-emerging information economy, he actually gave a speech in which he sunk to the comical nadir of deconstructing his own text for his listeners, a...

Wrong Again

To hear the right wing tell it, Bill Clinton has been downstairs in his laboratory, piecing together his Frankenstein candidate, Wesley Clark. The erstwhile general has now arisen from the lab table, ready to obey Dr. Clinton's every command and utterly unaware of the mad doctor's ultimate scheme to use him as a stalking horse to somehow cripple the Democratic field and get wife Hillary into the race. This is the line being trotted out -- by William Safire in a recent New York Times column, on all the right-wing Web sites, on the chat shows and thence out to an unsuspecting America. And there's a reason it's become the accepted line. Republicans and conservatives are terrified of Clark's potential -- he already beats George W. Bush in one poll, albeit by a statistically meaningless margin. Most frightening to Republicans in that poll, though, was the result that Clark led Bush among men (if a Republican candidate doesn't carry that demographic, he's vapor). They have to smear Clark,...

Clark Able?

Well, the Pete Dawkins factor has been subdued, at least for now. While Wesley Clark was deciding whether to run for president, sources who spoke with him tell me that he wrestled mightily with the question of whether he would end up "Dawkinsed." Pete Dawkins, you might recall, was the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey in 1988. He was a West Point graduate and a college football star. He was a Vietnam War hero. The New Jersey Republican Party circa 1987 was on the prowl for a strong candidate to take on Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg, considered (even then!) a bit long in the tooth and ripe for the picking; New Jersey, a Democratic state since the days of the powerful Jersey City boss Frank Hague, had voted twice for Ronald Reagan and looked very much as if it was ready to vault into the Republican camp. Dawkins' press clippings from around the time of his announcement show us a media that had bought into the Dawkins narrative every step of the way. Several...

Memorial Day

Two years ago today, I was sitting at my computer and listening to the radio, much as I'm doing right now, when I heard the news. In short order I rushed over to a little park in my Brooklyn neighborhood that had a perfect view of the harbor and lower Manhattan. It's across the street from a hospital, and about 100 of us -- nurses, residents, orderlies, deliverymen and neighbors -- watched, mostly in complete silence. From there I witnessed the collapse of the first tower. It was obvious then that the second one would fall, too, but it was too much violence; I didn't want to see it. By the time I'd walked home (maybe 8 minutes), my arms were covered in ash, pushed my way by the prevailing winds. For several days thereafter, it was common in my then neighborhood to stumble across a manila envelope or file folder or office memo resting on the sidewalk, burned slightly around the edges. Like everyone in that park -- like everyone everywhere -- I knew we had entered a new period of...

Orwell Intentioned

Question: What is the highest rhetorical honor that can be paid to a political and intellectual critic today? The answer seems clearly to be that so-and-so is "the Orwell of his generation." One sees this apposition applied to this writer or that on occasion; it is always reverentially and somberly placed, and invoked in such a way as to assume that everyone reading -- everyone -- agrees instantly that George Orwell is God. I admire Orwell a great deal myself. But I always wondered, why him and not, say, Albert Camus? Camus, like Orwell, was an ardent foe of fascism and Stalinism. As for imperialism, the student left of the 1960s put Camus on trial and found him "wrong on Algeria," but today his writings seem to have adumbrated the difficulties that modernization would encounter in that part of the world pretty intelligently. Or what about our own Randolph Bourne? A courageous critic of World War I who argued that war would lead to an even greater catastrophe down the road -- not at...

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