Faced with rising costs of postage and newsstand distribution, a number of publications have decided to cut back on the frequency of issues, relying on their websites for news reports and focusing on “think pieces” for their print versions.
The liberal weekly The New Republic has joined this trend. The March 19 issue, with an arresting painting of Barack Obama by Dana Schutz on the cover, is its first biweekly issue. It will publish 24 issues a year, each thicker than in the past, and with a redesign that features better paper stock and more art and photography.
The “new” New Republic has retained its sharp wit. You encounter it early on in the “TRB” column, which for many years had no byline. Now it does, and Jonathan Chait sifts accusations by Republican presidential hopefuls that their opponents have changed their positions on issues such as abortion, tax cuts and health care reform as they appeal to red state voters. Chait comments gleefully, “Watching the next year’s worth of flip-flop attacks is going to be like watching hemophiliacs go at one another with chainsaws.”
Speaking of blood and Republicans, Michelle Cottle follows with an exploration of the state of mind and body of Vice-President Dick Cheney. She reports that speculation is rampant in Washington that Cheney may be losing his marbles, and segues into an elaborate analysis of how heart and circulation problems — Cheney has had four heart attacks since 1978 — can cause dementia, mood swings and depression.
Leaving the Republicans bloodied, bruised, and depressed, we now arrive at the cover story, Ryan Lizza’s account of Barack Obama’s four years as a community organizer in Chicago starting in 1985.
Obama had graduated from Columbia University the year before, and answered an ad in The New York Times for a community organizer to work in Chicago’s South Side. The ad was put in the paper by the Calumet Community Religious Conference (CCRC), an activist group heavily influenced by the late and legendary organizer Saul Alinsky that wanted to convert black churches into “agents of social change.”