Neal Gabler

Recent Articles

The President's Movie

Like most liberals, Obama resists entering the darkened theater that Reagan mastered.

(White House/Pete Souza)
Most people seem to agree that the single greatest mystery of the Obama presidency is how a candidate who stoked hope, raised expectations, and stirred tens of millions of Americans to embrace change became a president who banked the fires of hope, lowered expectations, and dampened the belief of tens of millions of Americans that anything in the country could be changed. Theories, of course, abound: that Barack Obama, like John F. Kennedy before him, ran as an idealist but had always intended to govern as a pragmatist; that the toxic political environment prevented him from accomplishing the magnitude of change his supporters wanted; that the problems he inherited from Bush were simply too overwhelming; that in fighting for health-care reform he chose the wrong battle; that the public itself always demands change during an election only to be terrified of it afterward; and, last but not least, that Democrats are just plain doomed. But there is another possibility -- one that is less...

Liberalism's Lost Script

Lately, trying to determine exactly how we became embroiled in Iraq has become a kind of intellectual parlor game. Was it oil? Settling old scores? Diverting attention from terrorism? Fulfilling the neoconservative agenda? There is probably some truth in each of these, but of all the reasons that have been adduced for the war in Iraq -- and for the administration's failure to have devised a comprehensive postwar plan there -- the most significant may be the least conspiratorial, complex, or even politically motivated. The war planners never really thought there was any downside to going in, or that anything could go wrong in the aftermath. They assumed that the troops would sweep across Iraq without resistance, that Iraqis would greet them as liberators and stick flowers in the barrels of their rifles, and that an Iraqi government would be installed in relatively short order. They made these assumptions, we now know, not on the basis of any intelligence or understanding of the Iraqi...