The Editor's Desk

Sometimes we know we're on to a great story by the length of time we spend discussing it in our weekly Wednesday cover meeting. Several months ago, Senior Editor David Noonan pitched a project on "Generation Excess"--about how kids today grow up wanting and getting more than ever in history. Half an hour later, staffers at the table were still talking about how they've confronted the materialism issue in their own homes. And as we continued mulling during the following weeks, it dawned on us that the real issue isn't why kids covet so much, but why parents have such a hard time saying no. In our cover story, Peg Tyre, Julie Scelfo and Barbara Kantrowitz talk to psychologists about the emotional costs of overindulgence, profile families trying to figure out what to do about it and offer smart, practical advice on how to draw the line. We hope concerned parents will find it helpful--and take some comfort that they're not alone.

For months, major figures in both political parties have been telling us how close this election will be, and how they expect it to go down to the wire. Then, with each turn in the campaign momentum, one side or the other seems to forget that, and tries to persuade us that the outcome is now all but inevitable. That was the Democratic spin when John Kerry was up slightly in the polls during his convention in July. And as George Bush came out of the GOP convention in New York last week riding a much bigger bounce, Republicans worked to convince us in a series of background briefings that it's all over but the counting. Yet as Richard Wolffe and Susannah Meadows report, Camp Kerry is busy plotting how to regain its mo' after a bad August. Meanwhile, Melinda Henneberger profiles Timothy Goeglein, the Bush emissary to the evangelical Christians who could give him the margin of victory in November. Somehow, it's hard to believe there isn't a twist or two left in this race.

How much safer are we since 9/11? In conjunction with a weeklong series of reports on NBC and MSNBC, Michael Hirsh looks at important breakthroughs, and still-troubling gaps, in homeland security. In an exclusive look at Sen. Bob Graham's revealing new book, "Intelligence Matters," Michael Isikoff details the Florida Democrat's arguments about a Saudi connection to 9/11. And Cathleen McGuigan gets a first, exclusive peek at Bill Clinton's new presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., a daring modernist piece of architecture built around his favorite political metaphor: that bridge to the 21st century.