The Monday Morning Teaser

The featured article this week is a review of Tom Allen’s recent book Dangerous Convictions: What’t really wrong with the U.S. Congress.

I don’t usually like books by out-of-office politicians. Most of them are either revising history to make their mistakes go away or polishing their rhetoric for a comeback. But ex-Maine-congressman Allen has done something thoughtful here. He’s taken his impressions from 12 years in the House and combined them with a lot of background reading on how Americans think and talk about politics. I found the result both enlightening and thought-provoking. (And now I have to go repeat Allen’s reading project, starting with Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart and Robert Putnam’s American Grace.)

His diagnosis, in brief, is that the fundamental cause of the polarization in Congress is a deep worldview difference between Democrats and Republicans that makes them unable to take each other’s points of view seriously, much less find common ground or work out compromises. He goes a long way towards tracing the roots of that worldview difference. Almost accidentally, he ends up tracing out a Republican reform agenda far better than anything Republicans have come up with.

In the weekly summary, the Boston bombing conversation has shifted towards discussions about Islam and conspiracy theories. I’ll give my advice for dealing with the conspiracy theorist in your life.

Also, the George W. Bush Presidential Library opened, and lots of people bent over backwards to say nice things about the Bush legacy. But when the worst presidents in American history are discussed, George W. Bush will always be part of that conversation.

In the shorter notes: Obama may be looking for a way out of the War on Drugs. Attempts to defend austerity are still falling flat. And Medicare is about to end a program that cuts costs and improves care.

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