John Powers

John Powers, the author of Sore Winners (And the Rest of Us) in George Bush's America (Doubleday), writes about culture and politics for Vogue and is critic-at-large for NPR's Fresh Air.

Recent Articles

Manning Up

Rick Perry, the man George W. Bush pretended to be, personifies the allure of Texastosterone.

John Cuneo IIn Master of the Senate , the third volume of his massive, still-unfinished biography of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro devotes a memorable paragraph to the great man’s fondness for exhibiting his sexual equipment, which, with characteristic humility, he called “Jumbo.” If he was urinating in a bathroom of the House Office Building and a colleague came in, Johnson, finishing, would sometimes turn to him with his penis in his hand. Without putting it back in his pants, he would begin a conversation, still holding it, “and shaking it, as if he was showing off,” says one man with whom he did this. He asked another man, “Have you ever seen anything as big as this?” Now, I don’t know the slightest thing about Governor Rick Perry’s endowment or whether he’s endowed it with a nickname, but when he entered the Republican presidential race in mid-August, he did so in the same spirit as a Method actor auditioning for the lead...

The Dirty Work

In their new movies, George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh capture the conflicting strains of Obama culture.

Joe Ciardiello
Back in the Clinton years, a friend moved to D.C. to become a Washington correspondent. Shortly after he arrived, the job fell through. When I called to ask how he was doing, he told me he was actually kind of relieved: "I realized that I love politics," he said, "but that I don't give a damn about government. It bores me stiff." Aside from corporate lobbyists and (if this is not a redundancy) conservative think-tankers and readers of this magazine, the rest of America pretty much agrees. This certainly includes Hollywood, or Liberal Hollywood, as it's invariably termed by right-wing talk-show hosts who themselves earn as much as movie stars. People in L.A. whirred with excitement when Obama was running for president, but since he got into office, most of them have spent their time yawning--who dreamed the new JFK would be so boring? Of course, even at the best times, governing strikes movie people as possessing all the glamour of a paper-bag lunch at the Department of Agriculture...

Same As It Ever Was

American culture has not changed radically in the years since the attacks—certainly not as much as many predicted—and that may speak well of us.

Even by the standards of a country notorious for losing its innocence every decade or so—surely our national anthem should be "Like a Virgin"—September 11, 2001, would appear to deserve its oft-given moniker, The Day Everything Changed. The spectacle of those jets bringing down the World Trade Center wasn't merely unforgettable: It was revelatory. Theodor Adorno once wrote that a splinter in the eye is the best magnifying glass, and on that infamous morning, what came into sharp view was our vulnerability. We weren't accustomed to seeing our citizens slaughtered on American soil, at least not by people who weren't born here. Since that day, it's become an article of faith that we live under the shadow of September 11. This is indisputable. Al-Qaeda's murderous attacks did change America in many observable ways, from the proliferation of closed-circuit television cameras to the official and unofficial targeting of Muslims. It led the country into two wars that continue to...