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6 September 1984
Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... Jacobin (much as Conor Cruise O’Brien used to be an anti-Anti-Communist, before he found other fish to fry). To write about the works of Hazlitt, one needs a bias towards history and philosophy. DavidBromwich’s study concentrates on the latter discipline, for he is appraising Hazlitt’s understanding of Abstract Ideas and his command of words to express them. But there is also a historical ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Edges of Darkness

27 May 2010
... The release a few months ago of an American chase-thriller called Edge of Darkness brought to mind the 1985 Edge of Darkness: a BBC film originally shown in six parts, and one of the best political thrillers ever in any medium. Diversely admirable energies went into it: a script by Troy Kennedy Martin, music by Eric Clapton, direction by Martin Campbell (who also directed the Bourne-like version of ...

Degrade and Destroy

David Bromwich

24 September 2014
... America​ has now officially embarked on a long war in the Middle East, a war so taxing that officials judge it ill-advised to predict a termination in fifteen years or fifty. If one regards the entanglement as a product of American mistakes – a judgment shared by many observers – the causes in arrogance and ideology go a long way back. Among the culprits are Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Ronald ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Romney-Ryan

30 August 2012
... On 11 August, Mitt Romney stirred excitement in a dull election by announcing that he would share the Republican ticket with Paul Ryan: a seven-term congressman, chairman of the House Budget Committee and intellectual guru of the congressional Tea Party. The choice was not altogether surprising. The moderate lawmakers whom Romney might have picked were without popular appeal, and it must have seemed ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Springtime for Donald

9 February 2020
... Watching​ Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on 4 February, I felt that we had crossed a line. This president was setting up as the benevolent ruler of – it wasn’t clear what. Not a constitutional democracy. A different kind of country. He had brought along, as guests, individuals who were given honourable mentions in his speech, people who looked up in gratitude as he scattered his ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Stirrers Up of Strife

17 March 2016
... This election year​ will be remembered as the one in which two candidates rallied the indignation of millions against the establishment. Both Trump and Sanders actually call it that. The reflexive response of the establishment – proof of its existence, if you needed proof – has been its uniform portrayal of the two. Trump and Sanders alike are called ‘loud’, ‘boisterous’, ‘blustering ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Mueller Time

18 April 2019
... On 22 March​ , Robert Mueller, the special counsel charged with investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and its possible connection with the Trump campaign, submitted his report to William Barr, the US attorney general. Two days later, Barr sent a letter to Congress summarising the two main conclusions of the report. First, he quoted Mueller’s conclusion that the inquiry ‘did not ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Alexander Hamilton’s Worst Idea

24 October 2019
... On​ 6 October, Donald Trump made a phone call to Recep Erdoğan signalling the withdrawal of around two hundred US troops who were protecting Kurdish soldiers in northern Syria. Trump announced that he would soon make room for Turkey to clear the area and create the buffer zone Erdoğan had long wanted to impose against a hostile political entity. This sudden declaration was doubtless meant above ...
22 July 1993
Politics by Other Means: Higher Education and Group Thinking 
by David Bromwich.
Yale, 296 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 300 05702 4
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Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts can Revitalise American Education 
by Gerald Graff.
Norton, 224 pp., £13.95, March 1993, 0 393 03424 0
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... Thanks to David Mamet’s new play Oleanna, the distracted, bumbling and self-regarding male professor has now become the archetypal victim of political correctness. Mamet’s John is victimised by Carol, the ...

The Fastidious President

David Bromwich: The Matter with Obama

18 November 2010
... no point arguing with the generals or doing more than a fast and perfunctory ‘review’. Give them what they want, a Democrat has to: that was his line. Hillary Clinton also backed the generals, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal and the chief of staff Admiral Mullen, in their request for 40,000 more troops. Indeed she supported them more strongly than Gates did. Jones sought to help Obama by ...

No Theatricks

Ferdinand Mount: Burke

20 August 2014
The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: from the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence 
by David Bromwich.
Harvard, 500 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 0 674 72970 4
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Moral Imagination: Essays 
by David Bromwich.
Princeton, 350 pp., £19.95, March 2014, 978 0 691 16141 9
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... not argue with you about Burke. I know virtually nothing about him except what most people know – the image handed down in history books and conversation, which is plainly not good enough.’ It is DavidBromwich’s aim in The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke that people should know a good deal more about what Burke actually said and wrote. This is the first of two projected volumes; the second ...


David Bromwich: The Snowden Case

4 July 2013
... to spy on their neighbours to fight terrorism), but found the country not yet ready for it. So he took the project underground and executed it in secret. Cheney issued the orders, his lawyer David Addington drew up the rationale, and Hayden at NSA made the practical arrangements. Eventually Cheney would appoint Hayden director of the CIA. Americans caught our first glimpse of the possible ...

Working the Dark Side

David Bromwich: On the Uses of Torture

8 January 2015
... between 2001 and 2008 especially, and with decreasing intensity thereafter – to do things which if rightly understood would naturally be forgiven. This was the alibi endorsed in January 2010 by David Margolis, the Justice Department official who reviewed the recommended censure of the ‘torture memos’ by the lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee and upgraded the evaluation of their actions from ...


David Bromwich: A Bad President

5 July 2012
... a theatrical impulse that lies deep in Obama’s idea of his proper powers – an impulse he has always recognised, which, at most times in his life, he has taken great care to repress. One reward of David Maraniss’s biography of Obama’s first 27 years is that it confirms a hunch about Obama’s self-invention.* His vagabond life with a bohemian intellectual mother, and the charismatic and reckless ...

Of the Mule Breed

David Bromwich: Robert Southey

21 May 1998
Robert Southey: A Life 
by Mark Storey.
Oxford, 405 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 811246 7
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... Southey was never a ‘marvellous boy’, but he lived a boyish life in books for half a century, and Mark Storey’s Life promises to solve a puzzle about his reputation: how someone so earnest and full of ideals could draw the loyalty of one generation, the livid contempt of another, and the nostalgic indulgence of a third, without any noticeable change of character. Almost all his verse is sensational ...

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