A Great General—And Not a Bad President Either: Jun. 2000

By From the June 2000 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.

Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity 1822-1865
By Brooks D. Simpsons

Houghton-Mifflin/533 pages/$35

President Grant Reconsidered
By Frank J. Scaturro

Madison Books/137 pages/$35.50; $16.95 (paper)


Counting the Costs of Clintonism: Nov. 1998

By From the November 1998 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.

The one hilarious moment in the sad and disgusting Clinton saga came at a fundraiser in Cincinnati. Pursued by his own manifold sins, lies, and impeachable offenses, the president managed a straight face as he assured the audience that the real scandal was a "Washington obsessed with itself instead of America." This, from a man whose self-absorption is legendary, if not pathological, at least deserves an Oscar for best self-parody.
 We have come, at long last, to the end of the Clinton presidency. Whether he is removed from office or continues as a disdained and powerless figurehead, he is through. But the difference between impeachment and political impotence is crucial. It will be a test of the American people. If the head of the most corrupt and malign administration in our history is suffered to remain in office, however crippled, it will be a clear sign that we have turned a corner, that American morality, including but not limited to our political morality, is in free fall.


A Thinking Man’s President: Jan. 1998

By From the January 1998 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life
Paul C. Nagel

Knopf/432 pages/$30

Our sixth President has long been a favorite of quiz shows and Trivial Pursuit junkies: the only son to follow his father to the White House, the last President to be elected by the House of Representatives, the only candidate to win the Presidency while losing both the popular and the electoral vote, and the only President to serve as a member of Congress after leaving office.


George Washington: Prudent Warrior — Apr. 1989

By From the April 1989 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.

George Washington: A Collection
Edited by W.B. Allen/Liberty Fund/561 pp $22.95

Brothers: I am a Warrior, My Words are few and plain; but I will make good what I say.
—George Washington, Speech to the Delaware chiefs, May 12, 1779

How refreshing for the chiefs to hear such straightforward language from the mouth of a white man. In this address the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army told the Delaware that cooperation with the United States would be rewarded as much as confrontation would be punished; they had his word on that. Such was the popular trust reposited in the name George Washington that less than a decade later the establishment of the American nation would rest on much the same foundation: his honor.


The Week of Smoking Dangerously: March 1995

By From the March 1995 issue

One recent afternoon, I lit a Marlboro and slipped into a Times Square strip joint. I sidled into a peep-show booth, inserted a dollar bill, and when the glass partition had risen to reveal the exotic dancer inside, exhaled.

“Whew!!!” hissed the girl inside the booth, disdainfully, waving the smoke away with her hands. When the stench had dissipated, she leaned down and said gruffly, “We work on tips: three dollars to strip, five dollars to touch.”

“Do you mind if I smoke?” I inquired.

“Do what you want,” she sneered. “It’s your show.”

I handed her a five, evaluated her “dancing” for 30 seconds, and left. I was immensely discomfited. Here was a woman with more tattoos than the 7th Fleet working as a stripper in the sleaziest dive in Manhattan, yet even she looked down on me as a smoker. At that moment, I realized that the anti-smoking movement was a thundering juggernaut that had penetrated even the lowest substratum of American society, and that smokers, as a class, were doomed.


Is Smoking a Right? — July 1996

By From the July 1996 issue

Editor's Note: CVS Caremark has joined the "happy-face fascists" by deciding to remove all tobacco products from its shelves. The company tells us that it is doing this for altruistic reasons: that pharmacies focused on health care cannot logically also sell cancerous cigarettes. As if a company would lose $2 billion for the health of the people. Rather, the company has decided to walk in lock-step with the "safety Nazis" that reign over modern society.


The Art of the Speechwriter: May 1974

By From the May 1974 issue

Editor's Note: What is the purpose of a speechwriter? Does he simply practice the mundane art of using "a pair of scissors and rolls of tape" or, in modern parlance, the art of copy and paste?  William F. Gavin, one of President Nixon's speechwriters, wrote in our May 1974 edition that the ideal writer gives the president both what he wants and what he needs at the time. Whether we will see that — or merely  articulate copying and pasting —  in President Obama's State of the Union tonight remains to be seen. 

Robert Shrum, Mr. McGovern's senior speech writer, urged the inclusion of the theme, “Come home, America,” in the Senator's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Now, Mr. Shrum said, he questions the political wisdom of such an approach.
New York Times, November 9, 1972


A New York Couple: November 1992

By From the November 1992 issue

Editor’s Note: Happy Repeal Week! In honor of the abolition of the 18th Amendment, we're republishing this 1992 piece in which Richard Brookhiser of National Review praises his favorite hotel bars in New York City.

A drink in the lounge of the Algonquin Hotel was the setup for the best birthday present I ever got my wife.
 I am terrible at presents, especially birthday presents. Christmas comes the same day every year, that I can plan for. But the effort of remembering any birthday except my own, combined with the burden of picking an appropriate present, makes the birthdays of my loved ones botched and dreaded occasions. I have forgotten my wife's altogether. Other years, remembering at the last minute, I've grabbed presents that were cheesy or drab. One year I repeated the gift I'd gotten her the last Christmas. My wife, if she chose, could ponder a long ledger of my failings.


If Only the Pilgrims Had Been Italian (November 2007)

By From the November 2007 issue

Editor's Note: A classic from our November 2007 issue.

I would be willing to bet serious money that right now in your kitchen you have olive oil, garlic, pasta, parmesan cheese, and dried basil (maybe even fresh basil!). Nothing exotic there, right? They’re ingredients we take for granted. But their appearance in our kitchens is a relatively recent phenomenon. Believe me, those big-flavor items did not come over on the Mayflower. It took generations, even centuries, for Americans to expand their culinary horizons to the point where just about everybody cooks Italian and orders Chinese take-out. Heck, the supermarket in my little Connecticut hometown even has a sushi bar.

Alas! It was not always thus. American cuisine, like the settlements at Jamestown and Plymouth, got off to a rocky start. Blame it on our English and ScotchIrish ancestors. As a people they possessed many admirable qualities; they were tough, they were independent, some of them could read. Yet the original settlers of the American colonies were not famous for their discerning palate. Let me give you an example.


A Holiday of One’s Own (December 1999)

By From the December 1999 issue

Editor's Note: A classic from our December 1999 issue.

My favorite Thanksgiving is one I spent in London a few years back. The weather was gray, of course, though warmer than what I was used to from Connecticut. I spent the day at the National Gallery, which I found mercifully uncrowded, followed by half a dozen book shops. Then I walked back to the place where I was staying, the streets already dark at six o'clock and filled with people headed home from work. That evening I celebrated with my hosts and a few other Americans who lived in town, the holiday like a delicious secret among us on that ordinary English Thursday.