Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. In 2019-2021, he served as the Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, executive secretary of the department's Commission on Unalienable Rights, and senior adviser to the...
Did the framers of the United States Constitution intend that the Supreme Court be the sole and final interpreter of the Constitution, with the power to place binding decisions on the executive and legislative branches? Or did they intend that the Supreme Court have the final say only on the legal cases that came before it, thus permitting the executive and legislative branches to have wide latitude in interpreting the Constitution for themselves? The former view, that of judicial supremacy, is the dominant view of the Supreme Court today, accepted, for the most part, both within government and in society more generally. Is this view supported by the Constitution? If not, why and when did it arise? Should we support judicial supremacy, or is it time to rein in the Supreme Court?
In 1978, the Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected to the papacy of the Catholic Church, taking the name John Paul II. In the twenty-four years since, Pope John Paul II has traveled more widely and held audiences for more people than any other pope in history. But beyond his long service and high profile, how will John Paul II be remembered? Will he be remembered more for his political impact—many say that he played a crucial role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe—or for his ecclesiastical work? Just how well has John Paul II prepared the Catholic Church for the twenty-first century?
We look back at America during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Each decade was dominated by a two-term President and marked by long economic booms. Do these parallels suggest that 1990s were merely a continuation of the 1980s? Or does each decade have a unique place in American history?
It has been more than fifteen years since the People's Liberation Army crushed the prodemocracy rallies in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing hundreds of students and workers and wounding thousands more. Since then, although stifling political dissent, China has continued to liberalize its economy and is rapidly becoming an economic superpower. Will the explosion of new wealth in China lead to new pressures for democratic reform? And just what is the legacy of Tiananmen? Peter Robinson speaks with William McGurn and Orville Schell.
The First Amendment of the Constitution declares in part that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." What did this amendment mean to the founders who wrote it? Did they intend to establish an inviolate "wall of separation between church and state"? Or was their intent instead to merely preserve religious freedom and prevent the establishment of a national religion?
Fifty years ago, critic Lionel Trilling declared that "in the United States at this time, liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition." Today, however, even most Democrats avoid calling themselves liberal. What happened to the liberal tradition in the second half of the twentieth century? What does liberalism stand for at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Can liberals reclaim their once-dominant position in American politics, or is their ideology history?
There are often said to be two competing schools for interpreting the meaning of the Constitution. On one side are those who believe that the meaning of the Constitution must evolve over time as society itself changes. On the other side are those who insist that the original intent of the framers of the Constitution—what they wrote and what their intent was in writing it—is all that matters. Robert Bork is firmly in the latter school. We asked him to explicate his understanding of the U.S. Constitution, using recent Supreme Court decisions as case studies.
On December 12, 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States brought an end to thirty-six days of dramatic vote recounts and legal challenges in the state of Florida. The decision let stand the initial results of Florida's election, which gave the state's electoral votes, and thus the Presidency, to George W. Bush. What was the legal justification for the Supreme Court's decision? Should the Court have intervened in the first place? And what precedent did the Court create for future elections?
The political philosopher Harvey Mansfield first arrived at Harvard University in the fall of 1949. He has remained at that august institution of higher education and is still teaching at age 90. In this special edition of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson, recorded in the Baker Library at Dartmouth College, Dr. Mansfield answers five questions about America today from his perspective of observing and writing about the country for more than half a century.
As required by the Constitution, the president of the United States is elected not by the national popular vote but by the vote of the Electoral College. In the Electoral College, each state receives as many votes as it has members of Congress. Because every state has two senators and is guaranteed at least one House member, votes of small states count more heavily than votes of large states. Has the Electoral College served the nation well? Or should it be abolished and replaced by a system in which every vote counts the same? Peter Robinson speaks with Jack Rakove and Tara Ross
The Crusades happened almost a thousand years ago—why do they still provoke an argument? Osama bin Laden has used them to attempt to rally the Islamic world to his cause; President Bush has called the war on terrorism a "crusade." But what is the truth about the Crusades? Were they motivated by savage greed and intolerance or by pious idealism? Were they an unprovoked attack by the West on the Islamic world or a reaction to centuries of Islamic incursions? How should we understand the legacy of the Crusades today, in a time of conflict between the West and radical Islamic terrorists?
In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won reelection to a second term in one of the biggest landslides in American history. The outcome was a clear mandate in support of FDR's New Deal—an agenda of large-scale social and economic programs administered by the federal government. Sixty years later, in 1996, William Jefferson Clinton also won reelection to a second term, after declaring earlier that year that "the era of big government was over." How did the Democratic Party get from FDR to Bill Clinton? Now that the Democrats are out of the White House, will they continue the move to the center that Clinton initiated, or will they try to reinvigorate the traditional liberal base of the Democratic Party? Does that traditional base still exist?
George W. Bush, during the 2000 presidential campaign said that "America has never been an empire... We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused." Was then-candidate Bush right when he made those remarks? Or has America become an imperial power in all but name? How do America's unique historical circumstances predispose it to handle the unrivaled power it holds in the world today? And what lessons can we draw from our nearest historical antecedent, the British Empire of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?
In the midst of the Great Recession California students protest in favor of themselves. . . .
Since the end of the cold war, the United States has been the world's only superpower, accounting for 43 percent of the world's military expenditures. During this time, America has led major interventions into Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Are the United States and the world better off when America follows a unilateral, interventionist foreign policy? Or should the United States reduce its overseas presence and instead emphasize international cooperation? Peter Robinson speaks with Niall Ferguson and Ivan Eland.
A half-century ago, the ideology of the American political establishment was liberal—the New Deal was still new and big government was getting bigger. Today, after a political revolution that began with Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, it may be argued that conservativism has become the dominant ideological force in American politics. But what does conservativism mean today? And if it is ascendant, how long can it remain so? Peter Robinson speaks with Clark S. Judge and John Micklethwait.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy ran to the right of Richard Nixon, arguing that under Republicans, the United States had become too weak in the cold war. A dozen years later, the Democratic presidential candidate was George McGovern. How did the Democratics go from hawks to doves in just twelve years? And what does the history of the Left imply for John Kerry, the Democratic Party, and the war on terror today? Peter Robinson speaks with Anne Applebaum and Christopher Hitchens.
Has increased immigration to EU member nations created distrust and delusion, contributing to a continent in the grip of a culture in the midst of its own suicide?
Biographies of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams and histories of the revolutionary era have been bestsellers and Pulitzer Prize winners in the past several years. What explains this recent surge of interest in the founding fathers of the American nation? What does the fascination with the founding fathers tell us about our own time? What would the founders have to say about the state of the nation today?