Q&A: James Fallows

James Fallows, <i>Atlantic Monthly</i> national correspondent and former chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, explains the one circumstance that could redeem Bush’s legacy.


Mother Jones: Of all the things the Bush administration leaves behind, what will be the hardest one to fix?

James Fallows: The loss of America’s standing, good will, and respect in the world may have been the worst of Bush’s legacies, but it may be faster and easier to fix than some others. Either of his successors as president will look better in the world’s eyes than do Bush and Cheney—in John McCain’s case, because of his consistent anti-torture stand. But for obvious reasons, Barack Obama would offer a fresh start in many ways. The mere fact of his election, if it occurs, will demonstrate something about US politics that fits the good rather than the bad image of America; his personal international background is a plus, and the tone of his politics has already had an effect worldwide.

MJ: What problem is most urgent for the new president?

JF: Urgent: Iraq. Important: energy and climate.

MJ: What do you think Bush’s legacy will be 50 years from now?

JF: Some presidents look better in retrospect than they did at the time. Dwight Eisenhower was not popular among the intellectuals by the time he left office. Now many consider him a great man. Then, of course, there is the famous example of Harry Truman. But it appears as if Bush has grabbed onto those cases and assumed that precisely because he is so unpopular now he will look better later on. Two words for him: Herbert Hoover. Two more: James Buchanan, who essentially fiddled as the Civil War came on. In one circumstance only will Bush look significantly better: if conditions in Iraq five or ten years from now are transformed to a counterpart to Germany or Japan. The odds of that happening determine the odds of Bush looking good in retrospect.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate