U.S. Political Extremes Are "Alarming"

Question: How far \r\nleft is Obama?

David Remnick: I think the notion that\r\n Barack Obama is a radical is preposterous. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who \r\nis quoted in my book as saying that the only radical thing, the only \r\ntrue radical thing about Barack Obama is that he’s African-American. And\r\n I think that’s true. That his politics are center/center-left, they \r\ncome out \r\nof the tradition of the Democratic Party. In many ways they are \r\ncontinuations of lines taken by the Clinton Administration. You know, \r\nlook at the healthcare bill itself. This is a more modest healthcare \r\nbill than many proposed by others. He got what he could get and he \r\nsucceeded. Look at the so-called radical nuclear arms treaty just signed\r\n with the Russians. There’s a lot of criticism on the right saying, \r\nBarack Obama is giving away our security. He is stripping us of our \r\ncapacity to project strength in the world and to protect ourselves, and \r\nin fact, the great left-winger Ronald Reagan was far more radical when \r\nit came to nuclear arms policy.

Remember, Rekjavik in the \r\nperiod,\r\n I think Gorbachev-Reagan period were those two men who were intent on \r\nreducing nuclear stockpiles to nothing. And here we’ve reduced it by a \r\nthird. I mean, the notion that Barack Obama somehow came out of a \r\nradical cauldron in Chicago and somewhere in his desk drawer, in the \r\nResolute Desk in the Oval Office is a copy of Marx and Gramsci and Lenin\r\n is just obscene. It’s ridiculous. And there are just too many elements \r\nin the media and in politics trying to stoke these fires for those \r\nabsurd notions to disappear.

Question: Will the \r\nRepublicans win in the midterm elections?

David Remnick:\r\n It’s very difficult to see. Look, I think there is a legitimate \r\nconservative opposition, as you would expect. Of course that’s going to \r\nhappen. There’s going to be a legitimate Republican opposition, there’s \r\ngoing to be battles. What concerns me is not that so much. What concerns\r\n me deeply is the outer edges of it and the nature of the outer edges of\r\n it, and the way the outer edges are provoked by certain politicians and\r\n \r\ncertain parts of the internet and television, cable television and all \r\nthe rest. And the end result of some of that kind of ugliness can be \r\nbeyond our reckoning; really beyond our reckoning. And I don’t want to \r\nbe too alarmist of it, but I remember, for example, in Israeli politics \r\nduring Yitzhak Rabin’s time, when the far right there stirred things up \r\nto such a degree that the political atmosphere in certain quarter became\r\n quite literally murderous.

So, I think we need to be very \r\ncareful about lumping everybody together in, even the Tea Party \r\nMovement. I might not agree with any of it, but the extremes of it are \r\nreally alarming.

Recorded on April 9, 2010

The New Yorker editor compares the current atmosphere in the U.S. to what happened in Israel under Yitzhak Rabin: the far right stirred things up so much that the political atmosphere became, literally, murderous.

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less