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 The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy. In addition to writing for the Prospect, he writes for HuffPost, The Boston Globe, and The New York Review of Books. 

Follow Bob at his site, robertkuttner.com, and on Twitter

Recent Articles

Comment: The Persistence of Politics

The 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

All 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, 15-3, with most Republicans voting...

Of Our Time: A Pile of Vetoes

M idway through this first year of Republican legislative hegemony, President Clinton has seemingly risen, once again, from the political dead. One cannot yet say the same for the Democratic Party or the cause of liberalism. The Republicans are still very much in charge, with an agenda more stridently radical and more dominant than anything justified by their slender win last November. One prospect is that the Clinton presidency will survive, but in an alliance with a conservative Congress and at the expense of liberalism. Another is that Clinton's attempt at accommodation will fail, and the right will make a clean sweep in 1996. To date, Clinton's posture has been that of Great Conciliator. During Gingrich's giddy Hundred Days, the president kept his head down. He was polite, even deferential to the Republicans, insisting that he wanted to work constructively with the new congressional majority. He was not elected "to produce a pile of vetoes," Clinton declared on several occasions...

Up From 1994

S ince Franklin Roosevelt, the central liberal credo has been the use of government to benefit ordinary people. That premise is now battered--fiscally, politically, ideologically. In 1994, swing voters rejected both the concept and the party of government. The 1994 midterm election is not yet the epochal realignment that prefigures a new governing coalition and a new dominant party. But if Democrats sleep through the wake-up call and Republicans win the White House in 1996, realignment will be complete. Thus the stakes could not be higher for Bill Clinton, and for liberals. Clinton must decide how to use his pulpit: when to conciliate and when to fight; what to jettison and what to defend; where to offer bipartisanship and where to draw partisan distinctions; what mechanisms to signal alliance with disaffected voters, absent the capacity to legislate; how to regain ground in the near term and also build strategically for the long term. Clinton also will have to struggle to regain the...

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