Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Comment: The Stakes

One of the many depressing things about the 2000 election has been the tactical blurring of principled differences. Al Gore is for patients' rights? So is George W. Bush. Gore has a plan for prescription drug coverage. Bush does, too. Gore would allocate trillions to Social Security. Likewise Bush. Never mind that Gore's plans are closer to the genuine article. Most voters pay attention only to the headlines. The details are numbing. Bush gets away with seeming to be for popular Democratic positions that most of his party opposes. What the headline promises, the details take back. But the headline is sufficient to steal Gore's thunder. Of course, Gore plays the same game. Bush believes in tax cuts. So Gore has tax cuts, too. The Republicans favor smaller government. Gore boasts about how much government has been cut since 1993. Republicans have family, faith, and Jesus. Democrats trump them with Joe Lieberman and the Big Guy. If all this meant there really were...

Comment: The Persistence of Politics

T he first casualty of war is said to be truth, but more precisely the casualty is complexity. In war, there are Evil and Good, Enemies and Allies, a Them and an Us, conveniently spelled U.S. George Bush declared: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Excoriating an enemy whose suicide bombers fly in the name of Allah, Bush also clarified that God is, in fact, on our side. As a national spasm of righteous rage, war is a bad time for liberal intellectuals, whose very vocation is complexity. In war, domestic reform gets sidetracked; dissent gets confused with treason. Liberals themselves tend to divide into realists and idealists. The intellectual who agonizes over war's moral complexities risks getting punched out in a bar. In WWII, when Nazism was an unambiguous enemy, liberal intellectuals could reconcile patriotism with love of complex puzzles by joining the OSS. This war, I fear, will be the most frustrating in our history. For all of the popular outrage and...

Comment: No Ordinary Time

A ll of us find ourselves shocked to be living, abruptly, in a wholly new era--and none were more shocked than the Bush administration. Globally, the White House is now pursuing a feverish multilateralism, a reversal of the Powell Doctrine to avoid "shooting wars" that we can't easily win, and even may soon embrace yesterday's conservative epithet "nation building." Domestically, the holy free market stands impeached, and even Republicans are necessarily looking to government for everything from civil defense to public health to economic stimulus. As a partisan, Bush seems more like Clinton, governing in coalition with the opposition party and outraging his own troops. Yet one hesitates to look for silver linings. There is good reason to worry that we are in for a prolonged siege in which America could sacrifice many of its easy liberties and still not feel secure. We may fail to comprehend why so many ordinary Arabs and Muslims sympathize with bin Laden's goals and resentments if not...

Comment: Senatorial Courtesy

T he nomination of defeated Missouri Senator John Ashcroft as attorney general will test whether Democrats will spend the next four years getting rolled. This is George W. Bush's signature appointment, his thank-you gift to the far right. How bad is Ashcroft? This bad: He was one of three senators to sponsor the Human Life Amendment, which says life begins at fertilization. This would ban not just abortions but birth control pills. National Journal ranked him as tied for most conservative senator, to the right of North Carolina's Jesse Helms. The League of Conservation Voters gives him a zero. He disdains separation of church and state and gets a perfect score from the Christian Coalition. He accepted an honorary degree from racially separatist Bob Jones University. In 1999 Ashcroft blocked the appointment of Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White to the federal bench. White, who is an African American, had cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee,...

Comment: Politics and Beanbag

P olitics, as Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley had it, ain't beanbag. But lately the Republicans have been playing political hardball while too many Democrats play beanbag. Candidate George W. Bush managed to have it both ways, casting himself as a uniter but offering raw partisan rhetoric against the Democrats. During the debates, Bush kept faulting Al Gore for failure to accomplish in eight years many of the things Gore was now promising. But the vice president couldn't bring himself to utter the obvious rejoinder--that the culprit was Republican obstructionism--lest he sound partisan. Throughout the Clinton years, the Republicans demonstrated the value of partisanship. In Clinton's first two years, they just blocked everything, making Clinton look ineffective. In 1994 they gained both houses of Congress. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Contract with America succeeded in nationalizing party politics and creating something very rare for the United States: a...

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