Jonathan Alter

Richard Holbrooke's Lonely Mission

The late diplomat never lost his passion for peacemaking, but it turned out that some of his toughest adversaries were on his own side.

Obama, Sputnik, and the State of the Union

Barack Obama is coming off the most historic legislative achievements since Lyndon Johnson, but politics is the ultimate what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. The president needs to begin charting a new course now for the nation. Notice how I didn't say "for the world."

An American in Full

Richard Holbrooke was a larger-than-life figure on the U.S. political landscape.

Alter: A Personal Remembrance of Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards died today at age 61. The author, attorney, and estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards had suffered from breast cancer since 2004. On Monday, a friend of the Edwards family called me from their home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She said Elizabeth wanted me to know that the doctors had stopped treatment and the end was very near.

Alter: Education Is Top Priority for Gates

There's a backlash against the rich taking on school reform as a cause. Some liberals figure they must have an angle and are scapegoating teachers. But most of the wealthy people underwriting this long-delayed social movement for better performance are on the right track.

Money, Politics, and Campaign Finance

With all the secret cash flowing into politics, we're returning to the days when powerful interests could buy influence without any way to trace it.

Locavore Is for Food, Not Politics

If present trends continue and Republicans retake the House, blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of Democrats who followed Tip O'Neill's famous advice that "all politics is local." It isn't anymore. The only way for the Obama White House to have limited the damage would have been to nationalize the midterms. It's too late for that now.

Alter: Rick Perry, Texas, and the Death Penalty

"Why would you abolish the death penalty when a majority of the voters support it?" Republican Tom Foley asked Democrat Dan Malloy in a robust debate last week to help determine which man should be Connecticut's next governor. "Why would you do that? It's arrogant."

Rahm, Rouse, and Obama's New Right-Hand Man

On the day Barack Obama took the oath of office, Pete Rouse, already his most unassuming adviser, turned down a prime seat on the inaugural platform to watch the historic event on TV. On the evening last March when the landmark health-care bill passed, an occasion Obama considered more satisfying than election night, the president asked Rouse to join a small group for champagne on the Truman Balcony.

Obama, Clinton, and Clean Energy

Shortly after the 2008 election, President-elect Obama told close aides he wanted them to "think big." Rahm Emanuel, soon to be chief of staff, argued, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

Will Rahm Emanuel Run for Chicago Mayor?

Rahm Emanuel has never been shy about his ambition to be mayor of Chicago. He told me and a bunch of other people last year that he would run if Rich Daley decided not to seek a seventh term. With Daley now retiring next year, odds are good that Emanuel will run.

Wanted: Obama-Boehner Midterm Debates

If President Obama has any sense, he'll do more than go to Ohio on Wednesday and give a speech about the economy. His expected proposal—to make permanent the research and development tax credit for business—is overdue, expensive ($100 billion over 10 years) and about as politically exciting as a vacation to Moldavia with your accountant.

Alter: How Obama Can Fight the Lies

President Obama is our era's Illustrated Man. His enemies—and even some of his ostensible allies—have been busy for three years painting Obama as some kind of alien threat. His name, race, exotic upbringing, and determination to reach out to moderate Muslims have given those who would delegitimize him a fresh palette of dark colors.

Schwarzman: 'It's a War' Between Obama, Wall St.

President Obama and the business community have been at odds for months. But in July the chairman and cofounder of the Blackstone Group, one of the world's largest private-equity firms, amped up the rhetoric. Stephen Schwarzman—the leading John McCain supporter in a firm that, in 2008, gave more money to Obama—was addressing board members of a nonprofit organization when he let loose.

Senate Saves Race to the Top Education Program

In a surprise move, the U.S. Senate did something good Wednesday—it moved to prevent more than 100,000 teachers from being laid off this fall and restored funds for President Obama's signature Race to the Top education program.

Obama Would Be Wrong to Reject Warren

Obama will eventually recover if he decides not to appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is the best-known part of the new financial-regulation law. But he would be making a terrible mistake to reject her, on both political and substantive grounds.

Why Pro-Regulation Americans May Vote GOP

With Wall Street reform added to health care, President Obama is now two-for-two on his major domestic initiatives. If you include big bills expanding college loans and cracking down on credit-card companies (further strengthened in the new Dodd-Frank financial legislation), he's four-for-four.

A Modest Proposal: the Pelosi-Boehner Speaker Debates

With the 2010 congressional midterm elections looming, analysts say the House of Representatives could change hands. If so, Ohio Republican John Boehner would replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California as speaker of the House.

A Timetable for Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Last veterans day, Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus had a polite but pointed exchange in the White House Situation Room. The president wanted to know why the Pentagon needed 21 months to send 40,000 troops to Afghanistan when it had taken only six months to send a similar number to Iraq in 2007.