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

Radicals in Power

In the debate about America and Iraq, two questions keep getting confused. First, does the United States have grounds to remove Saddam Hussein? And second, is an American invasion the best available course of action, after we balance all the likely risks and gains? The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. The Iraqi dictator ranks with history's worst. And he has violated both the letter and spirit of the truce following the 1990 Gulf War, which allowed him to stay in power in exchange for disarming and agreeing to an inspections regime. But it doesn't automatically follow that war is sensible policy. And here, the critics are the realists and the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz contingent the naïve utopians. Look back at the past half-century. The United States has co-existed with numerous loathsome regimes -- but for good strategic reasons decided not to go in and "take them out." The list begins with Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, whose assaults against both citizens and...

Hero Worship

Like other Americans, I found the loss of the space shuttle Columbia tragic for the individual astronauts and their families, poignant as an exploratory setback and compelling as a news story. But something was off about the relentless, repetitive, almost obsessive media coverage. What does it say about us as a people? The network and cable channels covered the tragedy nonstop. Most of the dailies went on page after page after page -- the puzzle of what caused the disaster, the human-interest aspect, the anguish of a failed mission, the bizarre debris falling from the sky, the reaction of the great and the humble. This was all newsworthy, even riveting, but only up to a point. What was so troubling about the excess? Partly, it's a question of proportion and misplaced complicity. NASA presents the manned space program as something of unique grandeur and scientific importance. By giving the story so much excessive coverage, the press plays handmaiden to the hype. One looked in vain for...

Tipping Point

Will a war once again bail out a faltering presidency? Or will it crystallize for voters all of the contradictions of the Bush regime? Bush's stock was not particularly high on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The economy was wobbly. He had alienated Republican moderates and sacrificed GOP control of the Senate. He was using a tenuous mandate to push radically conservative policies at odds with what most Americans had voted for. Then terrorists struck, and the Bush presidency was transformed. It has taken 20 months for Bush's slide to resume, yet he has an uncanny ability to step around blunders and deceptions that would sink an ordinary president. Will he do it again with another national security crisis, this time of his own invention? Consider: His is the worst economic performance of any newly inaugurated president since Herbert Hoover. The economy has lost 2 million jobs since January 2001. Bush's economic program promises to create only 190,000 jobs this year under the...

Executive Privilege

President Bush, tone deaf to irony, chose Martin Luther King's birthday week to oppose affirmative action. His position on the Michigan case now before the Supreme Court seems high-minded until you look at the specifics. "I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education," Bush declared. But he termed the Michigan system an unconstitutional "quota system" that amounts to "racial discrimination." The University of Michigan uses a point system in its admissions based mostly on academic achievement. To increase minority representation, it awards extra points to African-American, Hispanic or Native American applicants. Bush favors an alternative approach of the kind used in Texas, Florida and California, where the state university system automatically admits the top academic students from each high school -- the top 4 percent in California, the top 10 percent in Texas and the top 20 percent in Florida. These systems, like Michigan's, also get...

Comment: Never Mind

O ne of the most astonishing recent events is the spectacle of Bill Richardson, formerly Bill Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations, literally mediating between the Bush administration and the North Koreans. Even weirder is how this anomalous piece of freelancing came about. The North Koreans had enjoyed a constructive relationship with Richardson, who was recently elected governor of New Mexico. They put out informal feelers, and Richardson got a green light from Colin Powell to proceed with back-channel talks. Imagine the reaction of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the administration's other ultras. You can also imagine the right's hoots of derision if a Democratic president had to rely on a Republican governor spontaneously acting to save the president from the folly of his own policy. Richardson, please recall, was a leading player in an administration whose Korea policy Bush has sought to disavow and reverse. By carelessly including North Korea in a spurious "axis of evil"...

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