Maddow Matters

Since "Channel Changer," assistant Web editor Sam Boyd's profile of MSNBC rising star and liberal icon Rachel Maddow, hit newsstands, Maddow has doubled the ratings of her predecessor in the same time slot. We're expecting our official MSNBC fruit basket any day now. Gossip blog declared, "The industry freakin' loves her." The post quoted Boyd's piece ("Of all the hosts Air America sent to cable news, Maddow was the one with staying power") and called it a "rave review." We prefer to think of it as an accurate prediction.

However, other readers expressed skepticism at Boyd's optimistic thesis that Maddow would usher in an era of substance on cable news. One commenter on TAPPED, the Prospect's group blog, argued that Maddow has no deeper knowledge of policy than any other anchor, writing, "Maddow is very bright, but any expertise she has extends no further than the nexus of AIDS, prisons, and health care. Upon completing her dissertation, Maddow has worked exclusively in radio and television. Maddow is successful because she is bright, good-looking, has a great voice, and comes across as very likeable. She is not, however, an expert on political economy."

Color Blocked took note of The Color of Opportunity, our special report on race and the economy, and highlighted the pieces about women of color. "Few of the authors of these pieces offer any concrete answers given that the reasons the wage gap persists are so varied," wrote blogger Megan Carpentier. "But maybe, as Bill Clinton said on The View this morning, the first step really is to acknowledge not how far we've come but how far we have left to go. As these studies indicate, that's quite a way." And writing in the Seattle Weekly, Judy McGuire succinctly stated that the report "shows that women of color get completely screwed when it comes to making money."

Treasury Notes

Menzie Chinn at the blog Econbrowser linked to Robert Kuttner's "Meet the Next Treasury Secretary," noting that The Wall Street Journal also found New York Fed Chairman Timothy Geithner and FDIC Chair Sheila Bair to be buzz-worthy. Chinn cautioned of the bailout bill, "When thinking about what should be built into this legislation, think also about who you think will be implementing that legislation, come January 20." The fact that Bob Kuttner and The Wall Street Journal agree on who that person should probably be is nothing short of remarkable....

Meltdown Lowdown

Speaking of the financial crisis and subsequent bailout legislation, Kuttner has been posting daily commentary to TAP Online and appearing regularly on media outlets from Fox News to National Public Radio. "Kuttner reminds us," writes Matthew Boudway on Commonweal magazine's blog, "that the de- and non-regulation that led to the mess [have] been going on for decades." With this in mind, staff writer and TAPPED blogger Dana Goldstein asked Bill Clinton whether the financial meltdown was making him rethink the deregulation that occurred on his watch. The answer? Not really. And Robert Gordon wrote an online article debunking conservative claims that liberals caused the sub-prime crisis by supporting the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which required banks to lend throughout the communities they serve.  Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates declared, "Gordon offers a more technical takedown giving us a history of the CRA and basically summing up why the 'Blame the Negroes' theory is just wrong."

Write to us at or to The Editors, The American Prospect, 1710 Rhode Island Ave., NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036. Or join the conversation online at

From the Executive Editor

The best-selling cover in the history of this magazine, I'm told, was the one that warned in early 2003 that George W. Bush would prove "The Most Dangerous President Ever." The last eight years have been a sharp reminder that the intelligence, curiosity, and moral character of the president—or lack thereof—can be profoundly dangerous to peace and prosperity, or can, on the other hand, offer profound hope. Writing on the cusp of the election that will determine who succeeds that most dangerous president, we are more conscious than I can remember being that the identity of the president is all but synonymous with our nation's fate.

And yet, that classically American quest for a hero can easily tempt us to overstate the role of the president. As any of us who were working in government or politics during the presidential transition of 1993 know well, there are institutions that can make or break the president and our hopes for progress. Those institutions include not just formal legal entities, like the U.S. Senate and its most critical committee, Senate Finance, and the Federal Reserve, but the less tangible structure of ideas and assumptions that control what's possible in Washington. This issue, framed by Ezra Klein's short essay that puts the power of the president in perspective, looks at three of those institutions and the individuals who hold influence within them today. It is a crucial primer for the months and years of transition to a new political era. — Mark Schmitt

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