Rank #1: Ta-Nehisi Coates Revisits the Case for Reparations
When Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations” for The Atlantic, in 2014, he didn’t expect the government to make reparations anytime soon. He told David Remnick that he had a more modest goal. “My notion,” Coates says, “was you could get people to stop laughing.” For Coates, to treat reparations as a punch line is to misunderstand their purpose. He argues that reparations weren’t only meant to atone for the horror of chattel slavery but to address racial inequities and the economic impact that has persisted since emancipation, more than a century ago. “The case I’m trying to make is, within the lifetime of a large number of Americans in this country, there was theft.”
“The Case for Reparations” was an intellectual sensation, and Coates did change the conversation; of the more than twenty candidates in the 2020 Democratic Presidential race, eight have said they’re in favor of at least establishing a commission to study the subject. He points to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who sought out Coates to discuss his article years before she was considered a candidate. But Coates’s own hopes for America truly making amends remain modest. “It may be true that this is something folks rally around,” he says, “but that’s never been my sense.”
Rank #2: James Comey Makes His Case to America
In a long career in law enforcement, the former F.B.I. Director James Comey aimed to be above politics, but in the 2016 election he stepped directly into it. In his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey makes the case to America that he handled the F.B.I. investigations into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and Donald Trump’s campaign correctly, regardless of the consequences. Even after being fired by President Trump, the former F.B.I Director says he doesn’t dislike the President; he tells David Remnick that what he feels is more akin to sympathy. Trump “has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation, that I’ve never seen in an adult,” Comey says. “He lacks external reference points. Instead of making hard decisions by calling upon a religious tradition, or logic, or tradition or history, it’s all, ‘what will fill this hole?’ ” As a result, Comey says, “The President poses significant threats to the rule of law,” and he chides Congressional Republicans for going along with the President’s aberrations. “What,” he rhetorically asks Mitch McConnell and others, “are you going to tell your grandchildren?” Nevertheless, Comey remains hopeful about the resilience of American institutions. “There isn’t a ‘deep state,’ [but] there is a deep culture,” he believes. “It is [about] the rule of law and doing it the right way,” and it serves as “a ballast” during political turmoil. David Remnick’s interview with James Comey was taped live at New York’s Town Hall on April 19, 2018.
Rank #3: How China Sees Trump and the Rapidly Escalating Trade War
In May, President Donald Trump instructed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to impose a ban on foreign-made equipment, much of it from China, that might pose a security threat to the U.S. Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, characterizes the new U.S. policy as “bullying” and called it a threat to “liberal, laws-based order.” Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Chinese hacking of the 2012 American election and decades of intellectual theft, and China’s response to the Trump Administration’s “nuclear option” in the trade war.
Rank #4: Trump Versus the Intelligence Community
The tensions between President Trump and the intelligence agencies escalated this week. On Tuesday, the nation’s top national-security officials warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that the current security-clearance program at the White House is broken, and that the country is dangerously vulnerable to ongoing cyber attacks by Russia. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the Trump White House is undermining the nation’s security.
Rank #5: Bob Woodward and an Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed Show Trump Isolated and In Peril
Bob Woodward's book about life inside the Trump White House won't be published until next week, but an excerpt published in the Washington Post this week portrays Trump as erratic and ignorant, and quotes top officials describing measures they've taken to limit the President's destructive impulses. Similarly, an Op-Ed in the New York Times this week, written by an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration, describes a cabal of "unsung heroes" that acts to thwart parts of Trump's agenda and his worst impulses. In response, Trump reportedly worried to a friend that he could trust no one but members of his own family. Susan B. Glasser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the revelations of Woodward's book and the perils facing a President who values personal loyalty above all else.
Rank #6: Will the Midterm Elections Produce a Women's Wave?
As of this week, five hundred and twenty-nine women are running in 2018 for Congress. Another seventy-eight are pursuing governorships. Margaret Talbot joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the surge in female candidates, and how the sexual scandals surrounding Trump may affect the elections in November.
Rank #7: Trump, Robert Mueller, and Obstruction of Justice
In June, President Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. He changed his mind when Don McGahn, the White House counsel, threatened to resign. Jeffrey Toobin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Trump's growing legal vulnerabilities.
Rank #8: Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Dossier
The dossier—a secret report alleging various corrupt dealings between Donald Trump, his campaign, and the government of Russia, made public after the 2016 election—is one of the most hotly debated documents in Washington. The dossier’s author, Christopher Steele, is a former British spy working on contract, and went into hiding after its publication. “The Man Behind the Dossier,” Jane Mayer’s report on Steele, was just published in The New Yorker. She reports that Steele is in the "unenviable predicament" of being hated by both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin—and that he documented more evidence than he put in the dossier.
Rank #9: A Reckoning at Facebook
We now know that Russian operatives exploited Facebook and other social media to sow division and undermine the election of 2016, and special counsel Robert Mueller recently indicted Russian nationals and Russian entities for this activity. During that period, however, Facebook executives kept their heads down, and the C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, denied and underplayed the extent of the damage. Now Zuckerberg is in a process of soul-searching, attempting to right Facebook’s missteps—even if it means less traffic to the site. Nicholas Thompson, the editor in chief of Wired (formerly the editor of NewYorker.com), interviewed fifty-one current and former employees of Facebook for a Wired cover story, co-written with Fred Vogelstein, called “Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook—and the World.” He tells David Remnick that the effort is not just lip service: for a business like Facebook, reputation really is everything.
Rank #10: Cambridge Analytica and the Dark Arts of Voter Manipulation
This week, new stories emerged about how the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook profiles to shape Trump's culture war. Cambridge Analytica is almost wholly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, a billionaire donor with a far-right vision of America. Jane Mayer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how dark money and data mining are being used to influence elections and undermine democracy.