The Editor’s Desk

A few months ago, Julia Baird, the editor who oversees our science and family coverage, kept coming across stories about Americans (and Brits) going to India to look for surrogates—stories that were prompting angry online debates about the ethics of outsourcing childbearing to the developing world. It was all very interesting, Julia says, "but I kept wondering why no one was talking about the women in this country who enter commercial arrangements to carry other people's babies. The thought of going through childbirth and nine months of pregnancy for someone else seems astonishing for anyone who has been through it themselves. Sure, it's a joyful, miraculous process—but it is not easy. It can be uncomfortable, painful, restricting and traumatic as well as uplifting and curiously magical. So I was puzzled: who would do this? And why?"The great thing about journalism is that we get paid to go in search of answers to the questions that interest us. And so we launched a reporting...

The Editor’s Desk

Last Wednesday, after Ohio and Texas, we were confronting a perennial question: what to do to make the new issue add to the sum of human knowledge—or at least to illuminate a subject, the presidential campaign, in which our readers are immersed. Before arriving at the office, I had worked out what I thought was a strong cover conceit about whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama stood the best chance of defeating John McCain in November—essentially testing, through historical data and on-the-ground reporting in key counties in swing states, which candidate could most plausibly improve on Al Gore's and John Kerry's numbers.It was a perfectly fine idea, but hardly startling. As the day went on, a persistent theme emerged in both passing and more-formal conversations. Many of our writers and editors, particularly but not exclusively women, believed Senator Clinton's victories in Ohio and Texas were the most vivid expressions yet of a female backlash against what they believe to be a...

The Editor’s Desk

The note was unexpected, brief and witty. A few years ago, in The New York Times Book Review, I wrote about a book of William F. Buckley Jr.'s (one of his 50), a "literary autobiography" titled "Miles Gone By." I had found the book charming, and said so. From its pages emerged a portrait of a cheerful cultural and political warrior, a man who loved the clash of ideas, the hurly-burly of the arena—as well as wine, sailing, the Latin mass, John Kenneth Galbraith, Whittaker Chambers and Ronald Reagan.A few days after the piece was published, a National Review envelope arrived in the mail at home. It was a letter from Buckley, whom I did not know. He thanked me for the review, and added that he would endeavor to do nothing in his dotage to embarrass me.He kept his word. His death last week at age 82—he was found at his desk at his country house in Sharon, Conn.—marked the passing of an influential public intellectual and further depressed an already melancholy American right....

The Editor’s Desk

Addiction knows no social or geographic boundaries: what John Cheever called "The Sorrows of Gin" are democratic in their destructiveness. I know few people who have not been affected in some way by addiction—in the world where I grew up, the drug of choice was usually alcohol, with a large side of nicotine—and I suspect the same is true for many of you.It has long been unfashionable to think of addiction as a failure of character or of willpower. More than 50 years ago, in 1956, the American Medical Association recognized addiction as a disease, and we now speak of it in the vernacular of treatment and therapy. But only recently have scientists started making progress in understanding, and possibly treating, the underlying biological factors. When we began hearing about new advances in the search for pharmaceutical solutions for common addictions, we were curious. If addiction is in fact a disease, then could it be treated in the way, say, diabetes is with insulin?As Jeneen...

The Editor’s Desk

Politicians' marriages are not very different from yours or mine: ultimately mysterious to everyone on the outside, and probably somewhat mysterious to the two people on the inside. But there is at least one critical distinction. The marriage of a presidential candidate, and of a president, has wider implications than virtually any other marriage, for the forces that shape the personal worlds of those in power also inevitably play a role in shaping the political one as well. Abigail and John Adams, Dolley and James Madison, Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, Edith and Woodrow Wilson, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, Hillary and Bill Clinton: with them, the marital has mattered to the rest of us.Understanding the spouses of those who would be president, then, is both interesting and important. This week Richard Wolffe profiles Michelle Obama, the formidable Princeton- and Harvard-trained lawyer from Chicago who is emerging as one of the most intriguing characters...

The Editor’s Desk

No one I know really likes being criticized. At our best we acknowledge the utility of differing views, but hearing about our shortcomings is still emotionally taxing. To be reviewed and second-guessed is part of life, and a test of maturity is how well we manage the inevitable feelings of frustration and annoyance that creep in when the criticism starts.John McCain is being tested mightily—and not by the Democrats. The most passionate criticism of McCain is coming from conservative celebrities (and semi-celebrities) who believe he is a sleeper liberal. The ferocity of the remarks from Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and others, Holly Bailey reports, has McCain watching his own words with care."He's still the straight talker, the guy who seems to take some enjoyment in mixing it up with voters at town halls over, for example, immigration reform," says Holly, a coauthor of our cover this week. "But you can also tell he's trying to be very...

The Editor’s Desk

"Rebels often make good warriors," Evan Thomas was saying to John McCain late last week in Los Angeles. "What is it about that rebellious streak that makes good fighters?""I think if you can channel it—and it took me a long time to channel it, as you well know—and mature with it, then I think it's an attribute," McCain replied. You have to get past "self-glory—that 'it's all me' and 'it's my gratification' " and "make the transition" to what he called "a cause greater than myself."Like many people, particularly many politicians, John Sidney McCain III is a complex figure. His wit can be charming or searing; his temper stoic or volcanic. Unlike virtually anyone else in America other than his comrades in captivity, though, he has endured the unimaginable, and lived not only to tell the tale but to rise from his broken bones and teeth, from years of torture and pain, to become a congressman, a senator and now the front runner to become the Republican nominee for president of the United...

The Editor’s Desk

Wandering around the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Daniel Gross noticed that things felt different—especially for Americans. "In normal times, Davos—which attracts Type A's the way Florida attracts retirees—isn't very relaxing," Daniel said. "But this year, it was particularly not relaxing because of the turmoil in the global markets all week. Tuesday, pre-opening, is a good time for private-equity types to get in some skiing. The mountain was closed, though, due to poor visibility. Just as well, since most were too busy on the phone with brokers, portfolio managers and colleagues, following the market's gyrations, to ski."Understood as widespread contractions in economic activity, recessions are officially defined only in retrospect, when financial data is later analyzed. But with the subprime-mortgage effect still rippling through the economy—leading to defaults, foreclosures and ultimately tens of billions in write-downs for big firms like Citigroup and Merrill...

The Editor’s Desk

For many, the rise of Ronald Reagan happened the day before yesterday. But it has, in fact, been a long while: the Battle of Britain and Tet Offensive are as proximate in time as we are to 1980. For a great spell, then, American politics has been shaped, directly and indirectly, by the coalition of voters and interests Reagan brought together: fiscal conservatives, foreign-policy hawks and politically conservative evangelicals. The Republican Party he built held competitive primaries, but the seasons were short and the GOP instinct for orderliness tended to assert itself early on, which meant that George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole and George W. Bush won the nomination fairly quickly.Not so in 2008, and one reason for the chaotic nature of the Republican primary race is that the party of Reagan is now divided in ways it has not been in more than a generation. This view, which informs our lead essay by Evan Thomas, is not the unsurprising opinion of what many people think of as the liberal...

Letting Hillary Be Hillary

Fighting for her political life, she has found her voice. How the historic Clinton-Obama contest is raising questions of race, gender and power.

‘I Get a Little Wonky’

It was not a smart assumption, the senator says in an interview, for her or her staff to think voters knew the real Hillary Clinton from her Senate campaigns.

The Editor’s Desk

After a NEWSWEEK cover shoot directed by Simon Barnett at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles on Friday, Hillary Clinton was on her way to a nearby union event. One of the questions she fielded there was a fairly common one for Clinton. Do you feel any pressure running to be the first woman president? She replied: "It is truly a great honor. My 88-year-old mother lives with us. She was born before women could vote. If you think about our daughters, of the options and opportunities they have, it's very exciting … [but] I'm not running for president because I am a woman, I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified." It is an argument we'll hear more of as the primaries proceed.Will Senator Clinton win this week, or in the contests after that, or on Feb. 5 or even beyond? We do not know, and we do not pretend to know. In our view, Clinton is the most consuming story of the moment for many of the same reasons Barack Obama was the story coming out of Iowa: she made not only news but...

The Editor’s Desk

There was broken glass on the floor and garbage bags of shredded documents in the stairwells. On a sunny day in Beijing in 1999—dusty, of course, but still bright—Melinda Liu and I were being given a tour of the ravaged American Embassy in the Chinese capital. Our host was Ambassador Jim Sasser, who had just emerged from four days of siege in the compound. His captors? Protesters enraged by the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. It was, Sasser said, "anything goes. Rocks, Molotov cocktails, paint. The first night I tried to sleep, but all I could hear was the sound of rocks hitting the embassy."It had been an odd kind of protest—but then, China is an odd kind of superpower. As Melinda reported at the time, "Beijing leaders quickly seized control of the demonstrations, allowing protesters to let off steam—but not actually to overrun U.S. installations. The government provided permits and buses for the Beijing demonstrators … Officials put up metal signs pointing out the...

The Editor’s Desk

John Edwards had just changed his shirt—blue for blue—and opened a Diet Sunkist orange soda. It was a hot New Hampshire day late in the summer, and Jonathan Darman and I had gone up to check in on Edwards's retail political performances. After a sweaty speech in the sun in front of a public school, the Democratic candidate climbed back aboard his bus for a conversation about the campaign. Then as now, the preponderance of coverage of the race seemed to focus on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and I asked Edwards how he felt about that. "I have been through this before," he said, referring to his 2004 bid. "And in Iowa and New Hampshire, you just have to go look people in the eye, and you never really know what is going to happen until late in the game." Four years ago, Howard Dean had been all the rage—and then Iowans actually caucused. Edwards remembered the season the shift began. "In '04, it was December before I started getting a really telling question: 'Tell us why you would...

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