Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Prospects: George W. and Human Rights

George Washington set a standard that our current president disregards.

In his new book, Washington's Crossing , historian David Hackett Fischer recounts how humane treatment of prisoners was literally invented by George Washington on the battlefield in late 1776. Official British policy was to let field commanders decide whether to put captured enemy soldiers to the sword or to give quarter -- to keep captives alive in a barracks. Hence the expression give no quarter, which literally means to kill a captive on the spot. Washington wept, watching through a spyglass, as his troops, taken prisoner at the disastrous Battle of New York that November, were then slaughtered. After the first battle of Trenton, on December 26 and 27, where Washington's men captured several hundred Hessian mercenaries, Washington ordered his troops to treat the captives humanely. American soldiers risked their own lives, ferrying Hessian prisoners back across the Delaware. The Hessians were amazed to be treated with decency and even kindness, Fischer writes. American leaders...

Reframe Bush -- Fast

John Kerry is in trouble because the Bush campaign has seized control of what psychologists call the "frame" of this year's presidential contest. Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and company have framed the election starkly: Bush will keep us safe in a time of terror. He will put money in people's pockets by cutting our taxes, and somehow that will also be good for the economy. Bush and Cheney have also framed Kerry. He is inconstant, an effete elitist who lives in a lah-de-dah neighborhood, speaks a foreign language, keeps changing his mind on everything from Vietnam to Iraq. This signals that Kerry is culturally different from ordinary folks (like Bush) and that if he wavers on everything else, you can't trust him to be resolute on terrorists. If this imagery hardens, Kerry is toast. Experts who study how public issues become framed in people's minds, like Susan Bales of the FrameWorks Institute, say that you can't change views merely with evidence. You have to change the frame. For...

Time to Get Tough

Among Democrats, we are already hearing the recriminations. Is Kerry blowing it, and whose fault is it? Eight weeks before Election Day, the campaign is said to be turning into a referendum on Kerry rather than Bush. The president got his convention bounce (with more to come on September 11), and Democrats are already making dreaded comparisons with other lost but winnable races, like 1988 and 2000. Based on the issues, it's astonishing that Kerry is running slightly behind Bush. The Iraq War is an unpopular fiasco, the economy is not delivering for regular people, and Bush's repeat deceptions are far more disqualifying than Kerry's much-exaggerated flip-flops. As actor John Lovitz, playing a sinking Michael Dukakis listening to Bush the First blither through scripted remarks, memorably said on Saturday Night Live in 1988, "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy." So, two questions: What is wrong with the Kerry campaign? And can it be fixed in time? Answers: Plenty, and Yes. Five big...

Bush's Ruinous Economic Plans

We will shortly hear from the president himself, but the outlines of his domestic program for a second term are already all too clear. Take five key areas of economic policy -- health, Social Security, energy, taxes, and the deficit. All five have this in common: In each case the administration program doesn't really address the underlying problem. Rather, the purpose is either to help an industry ally, stir up the party base, or advance an ideological goal (or all three). Health Coverage. Health insurance premiums have risen by more than one-third since Bush took office, leaving more and more people uninsured or underinsured. Families USA calculates from Census Bureau data that one nonelderly American in three was without health insurance at some point from 2002 to 2003. Meanwhile, employers and insurers are moderating their own costs by increasing copays and deductibles paid by consumers. The president's proposed health program, a massive expansion of so-called health savings...

Now, Smearing the Trial Lawyers

If you like the Karl Rove-inspired attack on John Kerry's Swift Boat service, you're going to love the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's coming assault on John Edwards. Like the right-wing vets smearing Kerry's Vietnam record, the anti-Edwards group is nominally an independent committee. But as The New York Times reports, the cochairmen of the new "November Fund" are a former Republican National Committee chairman, Bill Brock, and a former chief of staff to Bush Sr., Craig Fuller. The core of their attack will be that Edwards is (gasp) a trial lawyer. For decades, "trial lawyer" has been used in Republican speeches as an epithet. Business executives applaud in appreciation -- and everyone else scratches his head. What's so terrible about trial lawyers? Are they worse than, say, corporate lawyers? The attack on trial lawyers as ambulance chasers and cost inflators invites exploration. The corporate elite and the GOP have three grudges against "trial lawyers." First, damage awards cost...

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