Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of eight books, including Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies, which will be out next year.

Recent Articles

Of Our Time: The Clinton Presidency, Take Three

B ill Clinton's first term effectively lasted two years, until the disastrous midterm elections of 1994. Then came the two-year Clinton-Gingrich government of national disharmony, ending in the President's miraculous revival. Now we have the third Clinton presidency, the second Gingrich Congress, and a gathering storm of investigations that may well dominate national politics for the next two years. Emotionally, this third phase has begun in a deceptively low key. The 1992 campaign generated high voter interest, and the election of a young president raised public expectations of reform, even of another Camelot. Although 1994 turned things upside down, emotions still ran high as Republicans talked revolution and that very talk aroused fear among a large part of the public. For liberals, the ascendancy of conservatives in Congress seemed to mean, as we said on our Spring 1995 cover, "the fight of our lives." But 1996 has been strangely flat. Political temperatures have been running...

How Low Can You Go?

SENSE AND SENSATIONALISM Throughout the scandals of recent years, the public has seemed a lot more sober than the reporters. Take the Dick Morris affair. You have to work yourself into a state of extreme delusionary rectitude to be shocked by a relationship between a political consultant and a prostitute. Indeed, when I first heard that Morris had been caught with a prostitute, I thought he might just have been by himself. What was surprising was not Morris's affair, but that it was treated as such a big story, even in the supposedly high-tone press. Time magazine put Morris on its cover two weeks in a row; I don't recall any world leader getting such back-to-back treatment. Reporters gave their profound opinion that the latest scandal could only damage the President. In fact, it didn't even cause a blip in the polls. Most people hadn't heard of Morris and, quite sensibly, didn't care. This was not Profumo betraying national security. Maureen Dowd, who devoted at least two of her...

The Storm Amid the Calm

The Framers of the Constitution, as we remember from our civics lessons, sought to design a government so well checked and balanced that it would resist the unruly passions of the multitude. During the impeachment of President Clinton by the House of Representatives, it was impossible not to feel that those expectations had been inverted. The frenzy was in the government, while public opinion remained a rock of stability. Indeed, throughout the past year, sensational events have come and gone, yet the public's judgment of President Clinton and what ought to be done about him has hardly changed. The storm rages, the pundits thunder, but the sea is quiet--people shake their heads, go about their business, and hope only that the unruly mob in their capital will calm down. It is still too early to reach any definitive conclusions about the significance of the impeachment of President Clinton. As I write in late December, the House has voted two articles of impeachment, and there is debate...

Rights under the Knife

T he Congress that made the impeachment of President Clinton its first item of business is now approaching its end with little to brag about. During the impeachment, I disagreed with liberals who thought the proceedings were an unmitigated disaster. Anything that distracted this Congress from actually passing legislation seemed to me worth public encouragement. Yet even after the impeachment frenzy was over, the danger of serious congressional accomplishment turned out to be minimal. The Republicans themselves have been too divided to get much done; as the saying goes, the right hand doesn't know what the far right hand is doing. Now, however, there is at least a faint possibility of a positive change in the political dynamics. Recall that as the 1996 election approached, a Republican Congress hoping to preserve itself produced a flurry of legislation that surprisingly included an increase in the minimum wage and the Kassebaum-Kennedy health insurance reforms. As the 2000 election...

Airpower and Our Power

W hen the war began in early October, no one knew how long and difficult it would be, and many pointed to the Russians' failed invasion of Afghanistan as a warning that the enterprise could prove to be a disaster. Two months later, as I write, the Taliban regime is in its final death throes in Kandahar, and the war itself--or, at least, the Afghan phase of it--may nearly be over. Although the curtain has not yet come down, it doesn't seem too early to explore why the war has progressed so fast and what it means for us and the world. Contrary to cautionary opinions in the early fall, it's now evident that the Taliban were in much worse shape politically and the United States in much better shape militarily than was generally supposed. War often clarifies the true condition of a regime. Before the fighting began, some observers did argue that the Taliban government had little popular legitimacy after years of oppressive rule and, therefore, that the American campaign would not meet the...

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