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Chuck Hagel and the end of the ‘Team of Rivals’ theory Print E-mail

How Chuck Hagel’s dismissal is another nail in the coffin of the ‘Team of Rivals’ theory

One of the enduring narratives of the Obama administration is that of a so-called Team of Rivals presidential Cabinet -- the idea that the best and brightest would be brought in (and listened to) whether or not they were part of Obama's campaign inner circle. But Chuck Hagel's "resignation" as defense secretary is the latest sign that the Team of Rivals idea is effectively over -- if it ever really existed in the first place.

While Obama got huge amounts of praise for persuading his former rival Hillary Rodham Clinton to serve as Secretary of State in his first term, her heavily political memoir of that time nonetheless made clear the times she differed with him and his inner circle on policy. And, as Obama's presidency wore on -- and he won a second term -- he almost abandoned the idea of surrounding himself with people who actively disagreed with him. In fact, the decisions to nominate Hagel at the Pentagon, John Brennan at the CIA, John Kerry at the State Department and Jack Lew at Treasury at the start of his second term were widely considered evidence of the president's belief that he needed loyalists around him as he sought to build a second-term legacy.


That consolidation of power into a select few top aides -- and the related powering-down of the Cabinet -- wasn't unique to Obama. Bush had his "Iron Triangle" of advisers -- Joe Allbaugh, Karen Hughes and Karl Rove -- who were considered the final voices on many policy decisions.

But, remember that one of the key arguments Obama made when campaigning in 2008 was that he represented a break from the sort of buddy-buddy government management style that Bush symbolized for many Americans. The very idea of the Team of Rivals concept grew out of Obama's campaign promises to run a meritocracy in direct contrast to how he saw the Bush White House run.

Ferguson: What to Know About Grand Juries Print E-mail

Ferguson: What to Know About Grand Juries

A grand jury decision on the case against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., is expected soon. WSJ's law bureau deputy chief Ashby Jones explains how grand juries work.

How Clausewitz Invented Modern War Print E-mail

How Clausewitz Invented Modern War

Inspired by his combat experience in the Napoleonic wars, Carl von Clausewitz developed theories of warfare so effective that he is still the most quoted man on the battlefield.

Clausewitz’s magnum opus was begun in 1816 after he’d survived the rigors of more than 30 combat engagements in the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of Europe, more or less physically intact. The manuscript for On War was left unfinished at the time of his death from a cholera epidemic in 1831, and first published in German in three volumes a few years later by his wife, the former Countess Marie von Bruhl, who possessed a fine, discriminating intelligence, and a passionate devotion to her husband and his life’s work.

What makes Clausewitz’s now longstanding domination of his subject so remarkable is that since his death in 1831, warfare as a field of study has continuously occupied the professional attention of thousands of very smart, thoughtful human beings. A fair number of these men, and a few women, soldiers and civilians alike, have made important contributions to a steadily growing canon of classic works on warfare that began some 2,500 years with Thucydides and Sun Tzu. Yet, when it comes to understanding the nature of war and strategy today, none of the works in that canon is spoken of so often, or with such reverence and respect, as Clausewitz’s On War. 

 Moreover, since his passing, literally hundreds of wars have been fought, and soldiers and historians have proclaimed uncontroversially that warfare has been transformed and revolutionized not once, but a handful of times. 

The American Civil War is generally recognized to be the first industrial war, in which railroads and mass production played a key role. Then came the horrors of World War I, with the advent of tanks and airplanes and poison gas. After that terrible slaughter, the professional military establishments in all the industrialized countries threw out their field manuals, and began again. But they didn’t throw out On War.


Today the official fighting doctrines of the U.S. armed services all draw heavily on Clausewitz unapologetically, and it is next to impossible to find essays in serious defense and military history journals without substantial references to the most famous Prussian officer in history.

Why? The short answer: this brilliant Prussian saw a great deal of combat up close and personal, read military as well as political history and philosophy voraciously, and then wrote, and rewrote, about his subject compulsively for 30 years—often drawing on disciplines far afield from war studies to make his points. He was as much a student of the human soul as he was about war, which lends his writing about the latter a certain breadth and depth that is hard to capture in short essay like this.


The author of On War, we learn, established his initial reputation in European military circles by exposing the illusions of the pre-eminent strategists of his own time, men who believed that the scientific method and the rationalistic forces of the Enlightenment could be harnessed to make war a science, in which success on the battlefield could be guaranteed merely by working out a series of equations and ratios relating to firepower, terrain, route marches, and supply trains.

The astonishing rise of Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world. Print E-mail

Herlinde Koelbl has been photographing Merkel since 1991. Koelbl says that Merkel has always been “a bit awkward,” but “you could feel her strength at the beginning.”

The astonishing rise of Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world.

By George Packer

Merkel was born in Hamburg, West Germany, in 1954. Her father, Horst Kasner, was an official in the Lutheran Church, one of the few institutions that continued operating in both Germanys after the postwar division of the country. Serious and demanding, he moved the family across the frontier just a few weeks after Angela’s birth—and against his wife’s wishes—to take up ecclesiastical duties in the German Democratic Republic. That year, almost two hundred thousand East Germans fled in the other direction. Kasner’s unusual decision led West German Church officials to call him “the red minister.” Joachim Gauck, a former East German pastor and dissident, who, in 2012, was elected Germany’s largely ceremonial President, once told a colleague that people in the Lutheran Church under Communism knew to stay away from Kasner, a member of the state-controlled Federation of Evangelical Pastors. By most accounts, Kasner’s motives were as much careerist as ideological.

Angela, the oldest of three children, was raised on the outskirts of Templin, a cobblestoned town in the pine forests of Brandenburg, north of Berlin. The Kasners lived in the seminary at Waldhof, a complex of around thirty buildings, many from the nineteenth century, belonging to the Lutheran Church. Waldhof was—and remains—home to several hundred physically and mentally disabled people, who learned trades and grew crops. Ulrich Schoeneich, who managed the estate in the eighties and knew the Kasners, described Waldhof under the East Germans as a grim place, with up to sixty men crammed into a single room, and no furniture except cots. Merkel once recalled seeing some residents strapped to benches, but she also said, “To grow up in the neighborhood of handicapped people was an important experience for me. I learned back then to treat them in a very normal way.”

Merkel’s upbringing in a Communist state was as normal as she could make it. “I never felt that the G.D.R. was my home country,” she told the German photographer Herlinde Koelbl, in 1991. “I have a relatively sunny spirit, and I always had the expectation that my path through life would be relatively sunny, no matter what happened. I have never allowed myself to be bitter. I always used the free room that the G.D.R. allowed me. . . . There was no shadow over my childhood. And later I acted in such a way that I would not have to live in constant conflict with the state.” During her first campaign for Chancellor, in 2005, she described her calculations more bluntly: “I decided that if the system became too terrible, I would have to try to escape. But if it wasn’t too bad then I wouldn’t lead my life in opposition to the system, because I was scared of the damage that would do to me.”

Being the daughter of a Protestant minister from the West carried both privileges and liabilities. The Kasners had two cars: the standard East German Trabant, an underpowered little box that has become the subject of kitschy Ostalgia, and a more luxurious Wartburg, their official church car. The family received clothes and food from relatives in Hamburg, as well as money in the form of “Forum checks,” convertible from Deutsche marks and valid in shops in large East Berlin hotels that sold Western consumer items. “They were élite,” Erika Benn, Merkel’s Russian teacher in Templin, said. But the Church retained enough independence from the state that the Kasners lived under constant suspicion, and during Angela’s childhood religious organizations came to be seen as agents of Western intelligence. In 1994, an official report on repression in East Germany concluded, “The country of Martin Luther was de-Christianized by the end of the G.D.R.”

Among German leaders, Merkel is a triple anomaly: a woman (divorced, remarried, no children), a scientist (quantum chemistry), and an Ossi (a product of East Germany). These qualities, though making her an outsider in German politics, also helped to propel her extraordinary rise. Yet some observers, attempting to explain her success, look everywhere but to Merkel herself. “There are some who say what should not be can’t really exist—that a woman from East Germany, who doesn’t have the typical qualities a politician should have, shouldn’t be in this position,” Göring-Eckardt, another woman from East Germany, said. “They don’t want to say she’s just a very good politician.” Throughout her career, Merkel has made older and more powerful politicians, almost all of them men, pay a high price for underestimating her.


Merkel studied physics at Leipzig University and earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry in Berlin. She was allowed to pursue graduate studies, in no small part because she never ran afoul of the ruling party. Ulrich Schoeneich, who became Templin’s mayor after reunification, expressed bitterness to me that Merkel hasn’t been challenged much on her accommodation with the East German system. Schoeneich’s father, Harro, was also a Protestant minister, but, unlike Kasner, he openly dissented from the state. Ulrich Schoeneich refused to join the Free German Youth, the blue-shirted “fighting reserve” of the ruling party which the vast majority of East German teen-agers joined, including Angela Kasner, who participated well into adulthood. “Not just as a dead person in the files but as the officer responsible for agitation and propaganda,” Schoeneich told me, referring to a revelation in a controversial recent biography, “The First Life of Angela M.” He added, “I’m convinced that she could get her doctorate only because she was active in the Free German Youth, even in her postgraduate days. Most people say it was forced, but I demonstrated that you didn’t have to join it.” Merkel herself once admitted that her participation in the Free German Youth was “seventy per cent opportunism.”

How to Get Back in the Game After Job Loss Print E-mail

How to Get Back in the Game After Job Loss

Getting your head back in the game after losing a job can be a challenge. Here are 14 simple strategies to help you pick yourself up and move on ... and up!

1. Hunker down. Do a quick assessment of where you stand financially, and if necessary, start to cut out some of the fat in your spending habits. Although you're likely spinning in a whirlwind of emotion right after you get the pink slip, it's important to think rationally and realistically (or if you can't do it, ask a trusted person for help). You may need to temporarily replace that daily $5 Starbucks Frappucino with a home-made cup of coffee. If your children buy lunch at school, think about packing lunches from home at least until things get back to status quo (or better). If your family was dependent on your income, everyone is going to have to make some modifications to get the family through the job hunting period.

Rand Paul Declares War on ISIS Print E-mail

Rand Paul Declares War on ISIS—and Allows Boots on the Ground

The Kentucky senator, seeking to define himself as a foreign-policy heavyweight ahead of 2016, will introduce a measure in the Senate next month declaring war on the terror group.

“The most important” part of Rand Paul’s assessment of “questions of war,” the Kentucky senator told The Daily Beast this fall, is “how you go to war.” Now he’s putting that assessment into action with a plan to introduce a declaration of war against ISIS in the Senate next month.

The move is part of Paul’s ongoing campaign to position himself as a foreign-policy heavyweight ahead of the Republican presidential primaries, when he is expected to mount a campaign for the nomination. But it may simply be dismissed as a tit-for-tat gesture as Republicans complain of executive overreach in the aftermath of President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

As Obama is hit with charges of overstepping his power, Paul’s resolution could be perceived as an attempt to strike back in another conflict: the now 200-year-old war between the executive and legislative branches of government. The senator’s resolution would turn on its head the traditional process by which presidents lead the United States into conflict and Congress says, “Sure, why not?”

In a draft of the resolution obtained by The Daily Beast, Paul states that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and that ISIS “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and consulate in Erbil, Iraq."

Obama Dissatisfied, Officials Say, Amid Global Crises Print E-mail

Obama Dissatisfied, Officials Say, Amid Global Crises

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was asked to resign his post, officials said, as President Obama’s national security team has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel handed in his resignation on Monday, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team to respond to an onslaught of global crises.

In announcing Mr. Hagel’s resignation from the State Dining Room on Monday, the president, flanked by Mr. Hagel and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., called Mr. Hagel critical to ushering the military “through a significant period of transition” and lauded “a young Army sergeant from Vietnam who rose to serve as America’s 24th secretary of defense.”

Mr. Obama called Mr. Hagel “no ordinary secretary of defense,” adding that he had “been in the dirt” of combat like no other defense chief. He said that Mr. Hagel would remain in the job until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.

The officials characterized the decision as a recognition that the threat from the militant group Islamic State will require different skills from those that Mr. Hagel, who often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint and was widely viewed as a passive defense secretary, was brought in to employ.

How Election 2014 humbled the high priests of American politics Print E-mail

How Election 2014 humbled the high priests of American politics

By Gail Russell Chaddock

Washington's political class – armed with tons of big data – took a beating in the midterm elections. In several ways, that could be a good thing for American democracy.
The big losers in this month’s midterm elections weren’t only Democrats. The permanent political class – bristling with big money and big data – also failed to deliver. And that may be good for democracy.

When a politician loses, it’s personal: Aides get fired, offices change hands, often so do houses, apartments, or condos. But the pollsters, publicists, media gurus, and political handicappers that people the permanent campaign don’t decamp, even if their advice and projections turn out badly.  A candidate that commits a gaffe, especially one that’s weaponized over the Internet, lives with it forever. But memory runs short for the actual record of the political class that advises them – and is wooing (or vetting) clients for the next election while the recounts and runoffs for the last one are still underway.

Well, the political class bet big on big data this fall, and it didn't turn out so hot. Big data – the capacity to collect vast amounts of data on voter preferences – has increasingly directed how candidates raise money, get voters to the polls, and even settle on campaign themes and slogans. The “disciplined candidate” so often sought by political kingmakers embraces big data and rigorously follows its dictates.

The Strand’s Stand: How It Keeps Going in the Age of Amazon Print E-mail

The Strand’s Stand: How It Keeps Going in the Age of Amazon

By Christopher Bonanos

Walk into the Strand Book Store, at East 12th and Broadway, and the retail experience you’ll have is unexpectedly contemporary. The walls are white, the lighting bright; crisp red signage is visible at every turn. The main floor is bustling, and the store now employs merchandising experts to refine its traffic flow and make sure that prime display space goes to stuff that’s selling. Whereas you can leave a Barnes & Noble feeling numbed, particularly if a clerk directs you to Gardening when you ask for Leaves of Grass, the Strand is simply a warmer place for readers.

In the middle of the room, though, is a big concrete column holding up the building, and it looks … wrong. It’s painted gray, and not a soft designer gray but some dead color like you’d see on a basement floor. Crudely stenciled signs reading BOOKS SHIPPED ANYWHERE are tacked to it. Bookcases surround the column, and they’re beat to hell, their finish nearly black with age.

This tableau was left intact when the store was renovated in 2003. Until then, the Strand had been a beloved, indispensable, and physically grim place. Like a lot of businesses that had hung on through the FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD years, it looked broken-down and patched-up. The bathroom was even dirtier than the one in the Astor Place subway. You got the feeling that a lot of books had been on the shelves for years. The ceiling was dark with the exhalations from a million Chesterfields. There were mice. People arriving with review copies to sell received an escort to the basement after a guard’s bellow: “Books to go down!” It was an experience that, once you adjusted to its sourness, you might appreciate and even enjoy. Maybe.

That New York is mostly gone, replaced by a cleaner and more efficient city—not to mention a cleaner and more efficient Strand. “Books to go down!” is extinct. So is Book Row, the Fourth Avenue strip that fortified the readers and writers of Greenwich Village. Though there are signs of life in the independent-bookseller business — consider the success of McNally-Jackson — few secondhand-book stores are left in Manhattan. Only two survive in midtown, and the necrology is long. Skyline on West 18th Street, New York Bound Bookshop in Rockefeller Center, the Gotham Book Mart on West 47th — closed. Academy Books is now Academy Records & CDs.

So, then: Why is there still a Strand Book Store?

In large part because of Fred Bass. He’s pretty much the human analogue for the store’s gray column. His father, Ben, founded the Strand around the corner in 1927, and he was born in 1928. Ask him about his childhood, and he recalls going on buying trips on the subway with his father, hauling back bundles of books tied with rope that cut into his hands. (“Along the line, we got some handles.”) Ask him about the 1970s, and he’ll tell you about hiding cash in the store because it was too dangerous to go to the bank after dark. He’s 86, and he still makes buying trips, though mostly not by subway. “Part of my job is going out to look at estates — it’s a treasure hunt.” New York, to him, “is an incredible source — a highly educated group of people in a concentrated area, with universities and Wall Street wealth. The libraries are here.” Printed and bound ore, ready to be mined. 

Four days a week, he’s on the main floor, working the book-buying desk in back. Stand there, and you’ll see the full gamut of New York readers. Critics and junior editors, selling recent releases. Academics. Weirdos. “Book scouts,” who pan for first-edition gold at yard sales and on Goodwill shelves. They walk in with heavy shopping bags and leave with a few $20s. Usually fewer than they’d hoped: The Strand rejects a lot, because unsalable books are deadweight. Whatever arrives has to go out quickly. “Our stock isn’t stale,” Bass says. “You come in, and there’ll be new stuff continually.” Slow sellers are culled, then marked down, then moved to the bargain racks outside, then finally sold in bulk for stage sets and the like.

Secondhand books have to be judged individually as they come in, a process that requires time and experience. (A couple of buyers have been on the job upwards of 40 years.) Though it takes less experience than it once did: Arriving books now have their UPCs scanned, and the database “gives us information where it used to be guesswork,” says Bass. “The guesswork was so great then, I filled up an 11,000-square-foot warehouse with unsold books.” He pauses, deadpan. “Using my expertise.

All of this suggests that the Strand is a used-book store. It isn’t, not exactly. Over the past decade or so, new books have come to represent about 40 percent of sales. They constitute, Bass explains, a more predictable business: “New books, we can sell 50, 100, 200 copies of. I make less money, but it’s a little bit more scientific. The used-book business, we have a bigger market — of course, we have to carry a bigger inventory.”

Those new books are also profitable because of a source almost unique to the Strand: broke editorial assistants. When the Strand buys their review copies, it pays about a quarter of the cover price, sometimes less. They’re indistinguishable from new, and the Strand sells most of them as such. (When Bass buys from wholesalers, he generally pays about 40 percent of list.) Publishers hate this gray market but accept it; one book publicist I know cringes when she sees her press releases peeking out of copies at the store. Bass shrugs: “I tell them it’s the cost of doing business.”

If the old used-book Strand is built around Fred Bass, the new Strand is a joint production with his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden. She started working here three decades ago as a teenager, and the family has done well since: Fred lives in Trump World Tower, and Nancy married a senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon. (She is charming with me, although a few bloggers say that she’s not so patient with her employees.) You get the sense that she’s trying to leave the core of the business intact while branching out beyond East 12th Street.

For example, at Fifth Avenue near 21st Street, there’s a satellite Strand built into a Club Monaco. It’s spotless, selling mostly new books plus some expensive first editions. “Not a home run,” Fred says, “but it’s working.” Adds Nancy, “We now have this expanded customer base — people who are Club Monaco shoppers who may not have been to the Strand before.”

The Basses have also tapped into New York’s great subsidizing resource: the global rich. If you’ve bought $15 million worth of living space on Park Avenue, it probably has a library, so what’s another $80,000 to fill those shelves? Make a call to the Strand with a few suggestions — “sports, business, art” — and a truckful of well-chosen, excellent-condition books will arrive. (Fred recalls that when Ron Perelman bought his estate on the East End from the late artist Alfonso Ossorio, the Strand had just cleared out Ossorio’s library; Perelman ordered a new selection of books, refilling the shelves.) In more than a few cases, the buyers request not subject matter but color. In the Hamptons, a wall of white books is a popular order, cheerfully fulfilled.

Nancy has also grasped that the Strand’s future can be bolstered by selling things besides books. Fifteen percent of the store’s revenue now comes from merch: T-shirts, postcards, notebooks, superhero action figures (they’re near the graphic novels), and especially those canvas tote bags, produced in dozens of variations. The success of the tchotchke business is, she says, one way in which book shopping has changed. Whereas individuals used to come in and root around for hours, today’s buyers shop faster and in a targeted way, often in groups. More tourists come than ever, and books about New York are piled up by the front for them. The store also has a big event space, and the wine flows regularly: launch parties, signings, a book-swapping mixer created in partnership with OkCupid. Bookstore visits are “a social thing,” Nancy explains as we walk past a wall of T-shirts. She points to one that displays a John Waters quote: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t f**k em.” She chuckles: “My father hates that one.”

Are there existential threats to the Strand? There are. E-books, which require no retail space, have cut into best-seller sales. The Strand has pushed back with remaindered hardcovers, placed by the front door under a sign reading LOWER-PRICED THAN E-BOOKS.

There’s also the Strand’s relationship with its unionized employees, who were organized by the UAW back in the ’70s. They just signed a new contract this past month. Mostly, the labor-management situation seems equable; still, every few years, when contract time comes, someone writes a news story about strife. “The union demands something up here,” says Fred, gesturing, “and we’re down here … There’s always going to be conflict.” In general, the union is quite aware that the Strand is not Google, and the Basses are perfectly aware that relative harmony benefits the business. In October, a pro-union staffer named Greg Farrell published a graphic-novel-style book critical of both management and the union’s representatives. Oddly, he still works at the store. More oddly, the Strand sells the book.

Internet used-book sales, too, would seem to be a long-term concern. When you visit Amazon or AbeBooks (which is owned by Amazon) and search for an out-of-print title, your results are usually listed from cheapest to most expensive. The first “store” on the list often turns out to be a barn full of books in rural Minnesota or Vermont. Some are charity stores, selling donated books—no acquisition costs at all. They certainly aren’t paying Manhattan overhead. Yet here, too, the Strand is holding on, owing mostly to that churning turnover and the quality of its stock. That barn isn’t going to have many of last year’s $75 art books for $40, and the Strand always does. Plus there are the only–in–New York surprises that come through the store’s front door. Opening a box can reveal a Warhol monograph that will sell for more than $1,000, or an editor’s library full of warm inscriptions from authors.

If that’s the future, could the Strand wind up virtual? Surely operating out of one of those barns would be cheaper. “Not with our formula,” says Bass firmly. “We need the store. This business requires a lot of cash flow to operate,” and much of it comes in with the tourists. That funds the book-buying, which supplies the next cycle of inventory.

Which requires this expensive retail space, and the renovation of 2003 did not just come from a desire to spiff up. It happened because of a specific event, one that probably saved the Strand: In 1996, after four decades of renting, the Basses bought the building. “Frankly,” Fred says, “for a while, I thought, This isn’t going to work anymore.” He’d always negotiated the lease renewal with his landlord at the nearby Knickerbocker Bar & Grill — they once had to reconstruct their deal the next day, after knocking back one too many — and a bookstore would not have been able to hang on to 44,000 square feet for much longer. It took Bass two years to hammer out a price, but once he became his own tenant, he paid rent at a significant discount. “When I want to negotiate my own lease,” he jokes, “I have to go to the bar myself.” He’s got leverage in those talks, because the store occupies four floors out of 12, and rent from the others flows back into the business. Warehoused books, once upstairs, are now in much cheaper space across the East River.

There is only one true long-term threat to the Strand, and it comes from within. Bass, whose entire life has revolved around this business, loves bookselling. It appears that Nancy does, too. The store makes money, if not a crazy amount, and the family has good reasons to keep it going. But the Strand is, when you get down to it, a real-estate business, fronted by a bookstore subsidized by its own below-market lease and the office tenants upstairs. The ground floor of 828 Broadway is worth more as a Trader Joe’s than it is selling Tom Wolfe. When a business continues to exist mostly because its owners like it, the next generation has to like it just as much. Otherwise they’ll cash out. If Nancy stays, the Strand stays. If her kids do, too, it stays longer. Simple as that.

The Priceless Gift of Being Nice To The One You Love Print E-mail

The Priceless Gift of Being Nice To The One You Love

By Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D.

Read on to learn how to get out the "I did this you, now you have to do this for me" relationship trap.

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