Jonathan Alter is an award-winning author, political analyst, documentary filmmaker, columnist, television producer and radio host. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers: “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies”(2013), “The Promise: President Obama, Year One” (2010) and “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope”(2006), also one of the Times’ “Notable Books” of the year. Since 1996, Alter has been a contributing correspondent and political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. In 2019, he co-produced and co-directed the HBO documentary, “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists.”
After 28 years as a columnist and senior editor at Newsweek, where he wrote more than 50 cover stories, Alter is now a columnist for the Daily Beast and the co-host, with his wife, Emily Lazar, and their three children, Charlotte Alter, Tommy Alter, and Molly Alter, of “Alter Family Politics,” which airs Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. on RadioAndy on SiriusXM, 102. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the National Headliner Award for his coverage of 9/11, the Gerald Loeb Award, and the Book Award from the New Jersey Council of the Humanities. In 2019, he was one of the inaugural inductees into the New Jersey Journalism Hall of Fame.
A Chicago native, Harvard graduate and resident of Montclair, New Jersey, Alter has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Monthly, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Esquire, Bloomberg View and other publications. In the 2013-2014 season, he served as an executive producer of “Alpha House,” a 21-episode half-hour political comedy available on Amazon. He is currently at work on a full-length biography of former President Jimmy Carter.
Mayor Pete’s campaign is about finally grabbing ‘freedom, security, and democracy’ back from the GOP, and dashing for higher, non-ideological ground.
Why is Pete Buttigieg suddenly everywhere? Why has he moved so quickly from obscure flavor of the month to serious contender for the Democratic nomination and the presidency? And why does a 37-year-old gay mayor of a small city in Indiana match up so well against President Trump?
The answers lie not only in his appeal as a fresh-faced, hand-crafted product of the heartland—a whip-smart artisanal candidate for the wine-and-brie part of the party; not only in his barrier-breaking age, sexual orientation, and unorthodox political experience, which have helped him stand out from the pack and allowed many Democrats to congratulate themselves for their open-mindedness; not only in his calm and, for a young guy, surprisingly authoritative comportment that can fairly be described as presidential.
Buttigieg is also going viral because in addition to Spanish, French, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Farsi, and Norwegian, he speaks a compelling form of English. He is fluent in the subtext of American politics—the ideas and phrases that tap into our deeper sense of who we are and what we owe each other and future generations. At least for now, his generational and aspirational themes are working at a more powerful level than policy proposals or ideological positioning, and they lift him above the cut and thrust of the tiresome news cycle.
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PINCH THE PLUTOCRATS
Elizabeth Warren’s Ultra-Millionaire Tax Isn’t Just Smart Policy, It’s Brilliant Politics
Want to finance a bold social agenda? Here’s the politically savvy way to do it.
The reporters behind it are either the new Woodward and Bernstein—or the new Judith Miller.
Three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney was already trying to tie the horror to Iraq. He floated a bogus story that earlier in 2001, Mohammad Atta, ringleader of the terrorist attacks, had met in a Prague cafe with an Iraqi intelligence official.
Now another shadowy meeting in Prague that may or may not have taken place is in the news.
On Dec. 27, McClatchy DC—a reputable news outlet that broke the most important stories about the Iraq War—reported that cell phone tower records obtained by foreign intelligence sources place Michael Cohen (or at least his phone) in Prague in the late summer of 2016. The story says this information, as well as the fruits of electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency that picked up discussion among Russians of Cohen’s presence in Prague, are now in the possession of the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
If the McClatchy story is true, it has huge implications for Donald Trump’s survival in the presidency. But that’s a major if; unlike many other scoops about the Mueller probe, no other outlet has been able to confirm McClatchy’s reporting. And the McClatchy reporters have made it clear that they have no corroborating evidence of their claims and that some of their sources are indirect at best.
The stakes are immense. If the McClatchy story is validated, it would strongly suggest that Mueller has evidence that in 2016 Trump sent his personal lawyer and fixer to Europe to meet with a high-ranking Kremlin official. The point of the meeting, if it occurred, was ostensibly to discuss Russian concerns that their intrusion in the presidential campaign on Trump’s behalf might be exposed. This would confirm an important section of the (in)famous “Steele dossier” and offer major evidence of Trump’s participation in a criminal conspiracy.
Paying off porn stars, obstruction of justice, corrupt Russian real estate deals—they’re all serious, even criminal, but not in the same league as “Prague” (or another place where Prague-like meetings might have taken place). A meeting or multiple meetings of this kind would be the crown jewels of what Mueller in court filings calls the “core” of his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
On the other hand, if the McClatchy story is false, it significantly lessens the odds that Mueller can prove a conspiracy case—the only case that is likely to lead to impeaching the president and removing him from office.
The Prague story is also critical for the reputations of reporters Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, who say they have four sources confirming that Cohen’s cell phone briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area.
“If the foreign intelligence intercepts are accurate,” Stone and Gordon write, “the big questions now are whether Cohen has acknowledged to investigators that a meeting in Prague occurred, informed them what transpired and revealed what, if anything, he told Trump about it.”
Cohen, who has already cut plea deals with Mueller and other federal prosecutors, continues to deny he was in Prague.
“Feels like McClatchy is ***really*** out on a limb if they’re wrong about this Cohen/Prague stuff,” tweeted MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “They’re either right or they got massively snookered.”
A number of major media outlets have attempted to stand up the allegation that Cohen visited Prague in 2016, but McClatchy remains the only outlet that has published evidence suggesting a meeting may have taken place. Multiple prominent national security reporters told The Daily Beast they were unconvinced by the story, noting its lack of detail and both reporters’ interviews, at times tortured, about their report on MSNBC.
Until then, the way the first “Prague” story played out may be instructive. Shortly after 9/11, Cheney went on “Meet the Press” to say that it “has been pretty well confirmed” that Mohammad Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in a Prague cafe just five months before he and 18 other terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into the towers and the Pentagon. The Czech interior minister said the story was true.
The Bush White House flogged the Prague meeting hard to build support for the phony charge that Iraq was to blame for 9/11. But over time, the story looked less and less believable and in 2006, Cheney admitted there was no evidence for it. Of course by then the disastrous Iraq War—sold to the American public as a response to the 9/11 attacks—was in its fourth bloody year.
Both the Iraqi-Atta “Prague” story favored nearly two decades ago by the right and the Cohen “Prague” story favored today by the left (and anyone else who detests Trump) are essentially unsubstantiated intelligence reports converted, wrongly or rightly, for the use of propagandists and law enforcement. We’ll likely know by spring—“Prague Spring”—if this time that stunning city on the Vltava River helps shape the fate of an American president.
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NEVER TOO EARLY
The Democrats Who Stand a Chance in 2020
There could be as many as 30 candidates (!). Who can stand out in a crowd like that? Hint: He lost Tuesday.
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