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Degrade and Destroy

David Bromwich, 25 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 Reagan, and the triumvirate of Bill Clinton, George W ...

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 possible that Ryan’s extreme proposals for federal budget-cutting and lowering taxes on the rich could be presented as evidence of a manly concern with principle which any impartial spectator ought to admire ...

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 2009); and performances equal to any of that decade, by Bob Peck and Joe Don Baker ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Springtime for Donald, 20 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 gifts ...

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’; they ‘shout’ or ‘bellow’, and ‘gesticulate ...

The Fastidious President

David Bromwich: The Matter with Obama, 18 November 2010

... 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 running interference with the Pentagon, but Obama preferred ...

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 establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or co-ordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities ...

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 ...

Warthog Dynamism

David Bromwich, 19 November 2020

... One​  of the undoubted advantages of a Trump rally is that you can get the experience of reality TV without having to stay at home. The star is right there on the podium, just a stone’s throw away, surrounded by a crowd of 20,000 who may claim the status of longtime fans or enthusiastic converts. It should have been predictable that Trump would make no concessions to the pandemic ...

Narcissus and Cain

David Bromwich, 6 August 1992

Mary and Maria by Mary Wollstonecraft, Matilda by Mary Shelley 
edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 217 pp., £24.95, January 1992, 1 85196 023 6
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Lady Sophia Sternheim 
by Sophie von La Roche, edited by James Lynn.
Pickering & Chatto, 216 pp., £24.95, January 1992, 9781851960217
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... Sensibility’ was the name of a faculty before it was the name of a style. On the divide of the physical and mental, it suggested a power to receive life’s pleasures and pains, and a less certain power to judge their worth. Such was the critical usage of the late 18th century, largely derived from Hume. Popular usage went further and has lasted longer ...


David Bromwich: A Bad President, 5 July 2012

... 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 father who went back to Africa, belong to an early ...

Working the Dark Side

David Bromwich: On the Uses of Torture, 8 January 2015

... 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 ‘professional misconduct’ to ‘poor judgment’. Like the ...


David Bromwich: The Snowden Case, 4 July 2013

... 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 scope of NSA operations in December 2005 when the New York ...


David Bromwich: Putin to the Rescue, 26 September 2013

... The anti-government insurgency in Syria was given an intoxicating vision of triumph by the words President Obama spoke in August 2011 that were translated, correctly, into the headline ‘Assad must go.’ He had earlier conveyed similar messages: ‘Mubarak must go’ and ‘Gaddafi must go.’ Obama may have entertained the idea that he was playing a benign role in the Arab Spring – showing himself ‘on the right side of history’, as he likes to say ...

Why do you make me do it?

David Bromwich: Robert Ryan, 18 February 2016

... Angry men​ and furious machines.’ No verb, no explanation – it is the first line of ‘Dutch Graves in Bucks County’, a poem that Wallace Stevens published in 1943. The image may have come from a march-of-time documentary of Americans training to fight in the Second World War. Probably the machines included tanks and a lorry convoy, possibly a squadron of fighter planes ...

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