Editor's Note: Obamacare trudges on and Harry Reid has detonated the nuclear option. What better time for a drink? Pull up a bar stool and listen as the late Christopher Hitchens explains -- as he did in our May 2001 issue, using his favorite New York City establishment -- just the kind of place required to properly enjoy one.
What does one seek in a place of refreshment? Or what qualities, once found, make one think of a bar as in some way one's own? I would list in no special order the following features. The place should be open early and late and in between. In line with this, it should be a setting of moods: a slow start in the mid-morning, a bit of a bulge around lunchtime, a languorous afternoon and then a gradual quickening of pace after 6 p.m., culminating in a commitment to some sort of late-night or after-dinner or post-theater crowd. (It's not absolutely necessary to experience all of these things in the same 24-hour cycle, but you should be able to say that you have experienced them all and can in some way count on them.)
Editor's Note: The release of the fifth book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell, an alumnus of The American Spectator, has inspired us to mine our archives. In our March 1987 issue, Gladwell investigated Ted Turner's creation of CNN, which included all the usual elements of crony capitalism: duplicity and deception, sleazy lobbyists, and business protections enshrined by Congress.
Ted Turner first came to Washington to peddle his vision of how cable television would change America in 1976. "You have to remember that there are three supernetworks who only own four or five stations apiece that are controlling the way this nation thinks and raking off exorbitant profits," he told Congress. "They have an absolute, a virtual stranglehold, on what Americans see and think, and I think a lot of times they do not operate in the public good."
THE FALL OF 2005 WAS A PERFECT STORM of troubles for the Bush administration and the Republican Congress: overspending, public tiring of the Iraq War, Katrina, Harriet Miers, the indictment of Tom DeLay, the Abramoff scandal, the Valerie Plame affair and its possible threat to Karl Rove, skyrocketing gas prices, and collapsing approval ratings for President Bush and the Republican Congress.
Bush's personal approval rating fell from 50 percent the day he was re-elected in 2004 to 39 percent in November 2005. The public sense of right track/wrong track moved from 44/51 in January 2005 to 33/64 by early December 2005. October 25 saw the 2,000th American death in Iraq, and fully 60 percent of Americans said they no longer thought the war was worth it. Americans felt the Democrats would do better than the Republicans on Iraq by 6 points, on the economy by 12 points, and even on taxes by 8 points.
The holiday season found Washington largely emptied of its busybodies; the bureaucracies ticked along quietly with the high absentee rate customary at that time of year. No one back home noticed the difference. I have always thought that that is why federal employees are not allowed to strike. Some wise old heads at the Civil Service Commission, or some such place, put their wise old heads together and said to one another: If we were to strike, no one would be any the wiser, or any the poorer, while for others life might actually be greatly simplified; therefore, let us not go on strike.
By way of compensation, however, the wise old heads said to one another: We shall pay ourselves at an ample rate of remuneration, and—because we do not wish to be sullied with the contamination of "politics"—we shall make it very difficult for any of our number to be fired. So, in the fullness of time, these things came to pass.