Peter Beinart has been at The New Republic since 1999, where he is a journalist and editor-at-large. He is also a contributor to Time magazine and writes a monthly column for the Washington Post. Beinart graduated in 1993 from Yale University, where he was a member of the Yale Political Union. In 1995, he received his MA in international relations from Oxford University, which he attended on a Rhodes Scholarship. Critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war and its aftermath, Beinart was nonetheless a vocal supporter of the war itself, defending that position on the PBS show Buying The War, with Bill Moyers. However, in Beinart's book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals-and Only Liberals-Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (2006), which he expanded from an essay as a guest scholar at The Brookings Institution, he renounced his position, claiming that if he'd known then what he knows now about the capitulation of the War on Terror, he wouldn't have supported it in the first place. Beinart is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Question: Who has the power in Washington?
Peter Beinart: It’s a complicated dynamic to understand who really wields power; but I think as a general rule what one can say is the less . . . that ultimately people . . . Elected officials are ultimately empowered by the people who elect them. When those people who elect them are very engaged and active in a kind of a . . . in a . . . in a large scale way, it gives the people who represent them a lot of power, vis-à-vis unelected . . . unelected people. But when the people are by and large passive and not involved, then I think the balance tips in favor of . . . of . . . of non-elected . . . of non-elected . . . non-elected forces. And so I think that the . . . the . . . the key is how energized and active is the citizenry. When the citizenry is more energized and active, then I think their democratic representatives . . . their democratic representatives have to listen to them, but are also empowered by them. When they are not, I think that this . . . the void is filled by . . . by non-elected figures who have influence often because of their financial power.
Recorded on: 9/12/07