Comments: Week of August 19, 2019

1 Vanessa Grigoriadis interviewed 60 friends and colleagues of the First Daughter to find out what the post-­presidency will have in store for her and who, at the end of the day, she really is (“Ivanka ­Aeternum,” August 5–18). The cover, a nod to the Daily News’ 1975 FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD headline, prodded @NicholasGazin to tweet, “I was thinking the other day how Trump has a ‘Ford to New York: Drop Dead’ moment at least weekly and how strange that would be to the people of the ’70s.” Many readers took note of conservative commentator Doug Wead’s assessment of Ivanka, with Cristina Maza tweeting, “Throwing up a little after reading Doug Wead say that very few women in history have been both brilliant and beautiful.The New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe praised the story: “I’d much rather read the piece based on 60 interviews with people who know the subject than on one interview with the subject herself.” A few found the profile’s tone mean-spirited, with Kim Weitkamp writing, “Give me all the negatives, all the dirt, and all the truthful nasty politics; but let’s keep the middle-school mean-girls crap off the page.” New York contributor Hillary Kelly added her own Ivanka story: “Ivanka was two years ahead of me at Penn. I once saw her walking down the street in sweatpants a day after I’d read an article in which she’d declared it was trashy to wear sweatpants to class.

2 Andrew Sullivan asked whether America under Trump might soon go the way of Rome in “Our Caesar (August 5–18). Erich Gruen, the author of The Last Generation of the Roman Republic wrote, “Sullivan has done his homework and recognizes that the Republic stood for half a millennium before its collapse. It might have been useful to explore what kept it together for so long rather than to shine the spotlight on developments that presaged the turbulence at its end. There is an important message there for those dismayed and alarmed by Trump’s flouting of precedent and grasping after unchecked authority. The critical glue that held together the Republic was the mos maiorum, a respect for tradition, established norms, and principles that underpinned loyalty to the nation. Insistence upon our own ancestral values as a banner with which to rally resistance to Trump’s transgressions might be more effective than setting him in the disheartening mold of Pompey and Caesar.” Stanford classicist Richard Saller wrote, “I have sympathy with Sullivan’s distaste for this era in American politics, but his essay is tendentious. Among the many differences between Trump and Caesar (one of the most gifted literary figures of his time), the most important in explaining the fall of the Republic is that the legionaries depended on rewards from their individual generals in return for their loyalty, not on payment from the state. The Republic collapsed when Caesar’s legions followed him across the Rubicon, just as Sulla’s legions and Pompey’s legions had followed them for their rewards. As Mr. Sullivan notes in passing, he cannot imagine today’s army following the president in the overthrow of the Constitution. That difference is crucial. The true parallel between imperial Rome and contemporary America is that both had vivid narratives of moral decline. The U.S. may be in decline, but not because it is Rome.” Arthur M. Eckstein, professor of history at the University of Maryland, wrote, “Romans of the Republic would have been deeply suspicious of the American president — a one-man head of state and commander of the armed forces, elected for four full years with a possible immediate second four-year term. That way lay tyranny. Though he is no Caesar, Trump is ­accelerating the crisis of presidential power. Since the 1930s, that power has inexorably grown in response to internal and external crises, no matter who held office.

3 Rebecca Traister explored what it would mean to have a teacher in the White House (“Elizabeth Warren’s Classroom Strategy,” August 5–18). Vanderbilt Law’s Ganesh Sitaraman tweeted, “It’s true. @ewarren was a spectacular classroom teacher … I’m ­reminded of — and still inspired by — her use of the socratic method to bring out the best in students.” Another former student, Representative Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, wrote, “Liz Warren’s impact has a way of sticking with you. Not just because she isn’t afraid to challenge you, to keep you on your toes, to demand your very best — but because the impact is the point. Her career isn’t about lip service or box checking or rhetoric for rhetoric’s sake. It’s about communicating that the law — all those abstract, hard-to-remember, hard-to-define words on a page — is quite real for the families it touches. Rebecca Traister captured the Warren approach beautifully. It’s the reason she is a beloved teacher, a powerhouse U.S. senator and — soon — a horizon-shattering president of the United States.

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*This article appears in the August 19, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

Comments: Week of August 19, 2019