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					                                                    C A M P A I G N                                         2 0 0 8

does experience Matter
in a president?
Hillary Clinton and John McCain are arguing that Barack Obama is too green for the job.
But history shows that among Presidents, experience doesn’t guarantee success

by daVid Von dreHle                                                                              two candidates. The fact that this hasn’t stopped Obama’s
                                                                                                 momentum doesn’t mean he’s heard the last of it—not

         story is often told at times like this—times                                            with John McCain, who has spent 26 years on Capitol
         when American voters are choosing among can-                                            Hill and is the likely Republican nominee. “I’m not the
         didates richly seasoned with political experience                                       youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced,”
         and those who are less experienced but perhaps                                          says McCain. “I know how the world works.”
more exciting alternatives. Once upon a time, the torch                                             Obama’s credentials would be an issue in any elec-
was passed to a new generation of Americans, and a                                               tion year. He would be sworn in at age 47, making him
charismatic young President, gifted as a speechmaker                                             one of the youngest Presidents in history, and would
but little tested as an executive, was finding his way                                           arrive in the Oval Office with less executive experience
through his first 100 days. On Day 85, he stumbled, and                                          than most of his predecessors. Depending on what your
the result for John F. Kennedy was the disastrous Bay of                                         leanings are, you could compare his work history—
Pigs. For scholars of the presidency, Kennedy’s failure                                          lawyer, state legislator, Washington short-timer, orator—
to scuttle or fix the ill-conceived invasion of Cuba is a                                        to Abraham Lincoln’s, or to a thousand forgotten figures
classic case of the insufficiency of charisma alone.                                             in The question of experience
   Barack Obama basks in comparisons to J.F.K., but                                              takes on added bite this year, though, because the next
this is one he’d rather
avoid. Obama’s rela-
tively light political
                           Presidential                              A NEW EXPERIENCE
                                                                     The founders set a high bar for
                                                                                                                           THE EXPERIENCE PARADOX
                                                                                                                           Abraham Lincoln, among the least

résumé—eight years
                           Résumés.                                  experience when lling the diverse
                                                                     jobs needed to create a new
                                                                                                                           experienced Presidents ever, served
                                                                                                                           between two of the most veteran
                           How 43 men                                nation. George Washington was                         politicians in U.S. history. Lincoln achieved
as an Illinois legisla-                                              a national hero but the least politically             greatness; the old pros failed miserably
                           got the job—                              experienced among them
tor and three years in ready or not
the U.S. Senate—con- Throughout U.S. history, there
                                     little correlation
tinues to be the focus has been political experience
                           and success as President. This
of his rivals’ attacks. chart shows the political
                                        every American
Hillary Clinton adver- résumés ofEach square
tises her seven years represents a year in an elective
                           or high federal o ce before the
in the Senate and two person became President:                 Years
                                                            in o ce

terms as First Lady,          Vice President
                              U.S. diplomat or Cabinet post

saying “I am ready            U.S. Senate
                              U.S. House of Representatives* 10
to lead on Day One.”          Governor
                              State legislature**
And the message has           Local office                        5

gotten through: by            Army general

clear margins, voters               *Includes the Continental Congresses

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2                                                                                  time, march 10, 2008
                                  C A M P A I G N                                       2 0 0 8

President will inherit a troubled and menacing satchel                               training, background, spiritual outlook and a host of
of problems. From the Iraq tightrope to the stumbling                                other factors,” says presidential historian Richard Norton
economy, from the China challenge to the health-care                                 Smith. “Character is your magic word, it seems to
mess, from loose nukes to oil dependence to (some                                    me—not just what they’ve done but how they’ve done
things never change) Cuba policy—the next President                                  it and what they’ve learned from doing it.”
will be tossed a couple dozen flaming torches at the end                                 Was it Franklin Roosevelt’s experience as gov-
of the inaugural parade, and it would be helpful to know                             ernor of New York that gave him the power to
that this person has juggled before.                                                 inspire in some of the nation’s darkest hours? Or was
   But if one moral of the Bay of Pigs is “Beware of cha-                            that gift a distillate of his dauntless battle with polio?
risma” or “Timeworn trumps inexperience,” what do                                    All of life offers lessons in how to lead, inspire and
we make of the mistakes and miscalculations of deeply                                endure. Richard Nixon served as a Congressman,
experienced leaders? Franklin D. Roosevelt’s failed                                  Senator and Vice President; he watched from the front
court-packing scheme, for example, or Woodrow Wilson’s                               row as Eisenhower assembled one of the best-organized
postwar foreign policy? For that matter, Kennedy would                               administrations in history. When Nixon’s turn came,
not have faced such a harsh early tutorial if the vener-                             though, his core character—insecure, insincere, con-
able warrior and statesman Dwight D. Eisenhower had                                  spiratorial—led him to create a White House doomed
not allowed the Cuba-invasion plan to be put in motion                               by its own dysfunction. Experience, in other words, gets
during the last of his eight years as President.                                     its value from the person who has it.
   Wouldn’t it be nice if time on the job and tickets                                    When Americans pass over the best-credentialed
punched translated neatly into superior performance?                                 candidates because their heart or their gut leads them
Then finding great Presidents would be a simple matter                               elsewhere, they are only reflecting a visceral understand-
of weighing résumés. But it has never worked that way,                               ing that the presidency involves tests unlike all others.
which is why Lincoln’s statue occupies a marble temple                               They are, perhaps, seeking the ineffable quality the writer
on the Mall in Washington, while his far more experi-                                Katherine Anne Porter had in mind when she defined
enced rival William Seward has a little seat on a pedestal                           experience as “the truth that finally overtakes you.” An
in New York City. “Experience never exists in isolation;                             ideal President is both ruthless and compassionate,
it is always a factor that coexists with temperament,                                visionary and pragmatic, cunning and honest, patient
                                                                                                                                  and bold, combin-
NO                             OTHER EXPERIENCE                                                    THE CANDIDATES’                ing the eloquence of
EXPERIENCE                     A lack of political experience can                                  EXPERIENCE
Chester A.                     be misleading. Dwight D.                                            All three are bucking a recent a psalmist with the
Arthur, a                                                                                          trend of former governors
patronage hire
                               Eisenhower had never won an
                               elected o ce but was the                                            becoming President. John       timing of a jungle
and party loyalist, found                                                                          McCain would be the
himself picked for Vice
                               ultimate Commander in Chief. Woodrow Wilson was
                               president of Princeton University and a renowned                    longest-serving Senator to     cat. Not exactly the
                                                                                                   become President. Hillary
President at a splintered
Republican Convention.
                               intellectual. Both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin
                                                                                                   Clinton points to her time in
                                                                                                                                  sort of data you can
                               Roosevelt each served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Then James Gar eld was
assassinated. Surprisingly,
                                                                                                   the White House as First Lady.
                                                                                                   Barack Obama is in his rst
                                                                                                                                  find on a résumé. π
Arthur dedicated himself to                                                                Senate term
civil-service reform and was
a successful President                                                                                                     Questions
                                                                                                                           1.  What factors
                                                                                                          Eight years as
                                                                                                                           argue in favor of
                                                                                                          First Lady
                                                                                                                           electing a President
     Four years as
                                                                                                                           with extensive
                                                                                                                           2. What are some
                                                                                                                           against the belief
                                                                                                                           that a strong Pres-


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                                                      time, march 10, 2008                                                                          3
                              C A M P A I G N                         2 0 0 8

Changing the Script
His independence, a liability in the GOP primaries, may be his
biggest strength in November. How John McCain plans to win

by MicHael ScHerer                                                            he often admits, a superstitious
                                                                              fellow who depends on talismans

          ever mind all those                                                 for good luck—the penny he carries
          maps of red and blue                                                in his pocket or that rubber band
          America, a nation polar-                                            strapped around his left wrist.
          ized between Democrat                                                   Throughout the campaign,
          and Republican, city                                                McCain has been busy attempting
and country, with entire elections                                            to convince his party and its
teetering on the last-minute deci-                                            conservative base that he is not to
sions of a few Ohio soccer moms.                                              be feared. Witness his endorsement
Forget what you know about the                                                road show: Mitt Romney in Boston,
inaccessible general-election                                                 George H.W. Bush in Houston and
candidate, hidden behind layers                                               a bunch of big-name Republican
of Secret Service and stage-man-                                              representatives in Washington.
aged pomp. Scratch those notions                                              These are the moves of a man still
of a Republican Party that sidles                                             speaking to his party’s base.
up to pharmaceutical companies                                                    In recent days, McCain met
and oil giants, never ruffling the
paymasters’ feathers.                 ≤We’ll be competing                     with his advisers at his ranch, near
                                                                              Sedona, Arizona, to plot a strategy
   With much of the attention
focused on the unprecedented
                                          everywhere,                         that will keep alive what the
                                                                              campaign sees as its magic: the face-
photo finish of a woman and
an African American in the
                                       including the state                    to-face charm that reinvigorated
                                                                              the 71-year-old candidate after his
Democratic primaries, it’s easy          of California.≥                      campaign imploded last summer.
to underestimate how much a                                                   It is a strategy calling for more bus
Republican challenger could                      —John McCain                 tours and large group discussions
change the political playing field.                                           with voters. It also calls for a
If John McCain has his way in the coming campaign,      concerted effort to court voters outside the Republican
the party of Ronald Reagan will shift its priorities on base—a Barack Obama-like gambit that is already
key domestic issues ranging from global warming to      seeping into McCain’s public rhetoric.
the cheap importation of prescription drugs. Despite       “I will not confine myself to the comfort of speaking
the pressures of a national campaign, the candidate     only to those who agree with me,” he said after winning
will remain open to the public and press, continuing    the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia
the regular town halls and reporter gabfests, often in  primaries. “I will make my case to all the people.”
traditionally Democratic bastions. And the campaign     Nearly a week later, he was even more direct about his
will attempt to make inroads with independent voters    aims: “We’ll be competing everywhere, including the
in states that the electoral map has long counted as    state of California.”
beyond Republican reach.                                   McCain plans to bring new cards to the table—his
   Does this sound too good to be true? McCain is, as   unconventional campaign style combined with a set of

4                                            time, march 3, 2008
                                  C A M P A I G N                              2 0 0 8

issues that appeal to the political center. He wants to                dares describe the sometimes maverick McCain as
regulate greenhouse gases. He opposes drilling for oil                 a maverick.
in the Arctic, voted to fund stem-cell research and has                    At the heart of the coming debate with Democrats is
a history of fighting against the corrosive influence of               the war in Iraq, for which McCain is the nation’s most
money in politics. He initially voted against the Bush                 public proponent outside the White House. Democrats,
tax cuts, which he now supports, saying at the time                    including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, hope to
that they “mostly benefit the wealthy.” To this day,                   focus the debate on the past, on the mistakes that have
he does not favor an absolute repeal of the estate tax.                been made and the cost in blood and treasure, which
Despite a full-blown rebellion                                                                   most Americans disapprove of.

                                         tIMe pOLL
in the Republican grass roots,                                                                   McCain, on the other hand, is
he remains committed to                                                                          determined to focus the debate
providing a path to citizenship                                                                  on what to do next, about which
for most illegal immigrants in                                                                   the Democratic candidates have
the U.S.
   “We always thought that if
                                         How McCain Matches up                                   remained remarkably vague
                                                                                                 beyond saying they want to
he could survive a primary,           if the general election were being held
                                                                                                 promptly begin a drawdown in
he would be a phenomenal              today between John Mccain (r) and barack                   forces. “I believe I can convince
general-election candidate,”          obama (d), for whom would you vote?                        the American people that after
says John Weaver, McCain’s                                                                       nearly four years of mishandling
onetime political strategist,            Obama 48% | McCain 41%                                  of the war, that we’re now
who broke with the campaign                                                                      doing the right thing and we’re
last summer. “The Democrats           if the general election were being held                    succeeding,” McCain told abc’s
                                      today between John Mccain (r) and Hillary
will be on the defensive if John      clinton (d), for whom would you vote?
                                                                                                 George Stephanopoulos.
runs the kind of campaign that                                                                      But far more than on the
I know he wants to run.”
   The Democratic Party and
                                         Clinton 46% | McCain 46%                                issues, McCain’s fortunes will
                                                                                                 depend on his ability to preserve
its allies, of course, see the                                                                   his aura of independence
                                      This TIME poll was conducted Feb. 1–4 among 958
danger that lies ahead. Despite                                                                  and his enthusiasm for the
                                      randomly selected registered voters, including people who
an enormous enthusiasm                were leaning toward a particular candidate. The margin of  campaign trail. For him, the
advantage that Democrats have         error is ±3 percentage points.                             lessons of his campaign’s
enjoyed for a year, national                                                                     collapse and rebirth could not
head-to-head polls show Obama with only a single-                      be clearer. If his personality gets lost in the process,
digit lead over McCain; McCain and Clinton are tied.                   as it did last spring, he is done. But if he can run as
More important, McCain retains a favorable rating,                     an individual, unafraid of jousting with reporters and
according to USA Today/Gallup, that stands a full 13                   voters, he may find he’s rewarded not just in votes
points ahead of the Republican Party. Those close to                   but in his own satisfaction. “I love it,” he often says
him see a real shot at picking up longtime blue states on              of campaigning. His close friend and adviser South
the West Coast (Oregon and Washington), the Midwest                    Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham puts it a different
(Minnesota and Wisconsin) and New England (Maine                       way. “The hard part,” Graham says, “will be getting him
and Connecticut).                                                      to stop campaigning.” π
   So the Democratic Party has begun flooding
reporters with a series of “myth buster” e-mails arguing               Questions
that McCain is “pandering to the right wing,” “walking                 1. How does John McCain hope to convince voters
in lockstep with President Bush” and “embracing                        outside the Republican Party to support him in the
the ideology he once denounced.” At the same time,                     2008 election?
the liberal advocacy group Media Matters has been                      2. What do Democrats anticipate will be the heart of
releasing broadsides against any journalist who                        the debate between them and McCain?

                                                   time, march 3, 2008                                                          5
                                 C A M P A I G N                          2 0 0 8

He’s Got Game
The challenger has managed to dislodge the idea of Hillary Clinton’s
inevitability. Now Obama promises to push back even harder
by nancy GibbS                                                                        domestic. In her mockery of
                                                                                      Obama for his pretty speeches and

           ot long after michelle                                                     airy promises, Clinton’s subtext
           Robinson started getting                                                   was always clear: you may like the
           serious about the tall,                                                    music, but this guy is nowhere near
           skinny law student she                                                     tough enough for this job. It was a
           was dating, she asked her                                                  charge made explicit by the Red
brother Craig, a former basketball                                                    Phone ad, whose very existence
star at Princeton and now the head                                                    testified to her own toughness: I’m
coach at Brown, to hoop it up with                                                    prepared to do anything, including
him, one on one. “She had heard                                                       hand John McCain a grenade, to
our father and me talk about how                                                      win this thing. She played on the
you can tell a lot about a person’s                                                   guilty conscience of the national
personality based on how they                                                         press corps, recasting herself as
play,” says Craig, recalling his                                                      the vilified victim and Obama as
first game against Barack Obama.                                                      the bubble-wrapped ingenue.
“Especially when they’re tired.”                                                         But you don’t rise in Chicago
   The two men played then and have played whenever            politics or come this far this fast in a national race
possible ever since. Especially on primary days, when          by being soft, naive or scared of a fight. What has
campaigns go silent until the results come in, Obama           distinguished Obama in this campaign is how hard he
slips away to a gym—though it tells you something              has battled without appearing to do so. The message that
about him that he usually doesn’t let anyone watch. On         moves the crowds at his rallies is made possible by many
Tuesday, March 4, Team Obama found the Concord                 layers of calculation underneath. His mild manner belies
Athletic Club near the San Antonio airport, where he           fierce self-control. The frequent self-mocking conceals
played five on five with aides and his Secret Service          a stubborn self-confidence. He not only plays hard; he
detail. He is captain, coach and referee all at once,          plays to win, rubs it in sometimes if he does and takes
signaling teammates to set up plays. A lefty, Obama            losses hard. “He is,” says a friend who has known his
keeps opponents off balance: fake right, then go left with     share of strivers, “one of the most competitive people
a very quick crossover dribble and a finish to the basket      I’ve ever met.”
with his left hand. His instinct is to play opponents             If Obama’s history is any guide, losses tend to speed
very close—though nowadays, says Craig Robinson,               him up, not slow him down. As an Illinois state senator in
“everybody’s being real careful not to give him a fat lip or   2000, he took on the Cook County machine to challenge
something that would show up when he’s on TV.” After a         a sitting four-term Congressman and lost—a pre-emptive
couple of hours, having won three of four games, Obama         strike against the political establishment and a cocky
wanted to keep playing. “Every once in a while,” he says,      signal that he wasn’t going to wait his turn.
smiling, “this 46-year-old body pulls out some moves.”            In his memoir, Obama recalls a tactic he learned as a
   But as he was tapping into his inner 19-year-old,           black teenager in a white world. “People were satisfied
Hillary Clinton was winning three states out of four           so long as you were courteous and smiled and made
on the charge that Obama just wasn’t man enough                no sudden moves,” he writes. “They were more than
to protect the country from its enemies, foreign and           satisfied; they were relieved—such a pleasant surprise

6                                                time, march 17, 2008
                                C A M P A I G N                          2 0 0 8

to find a well-mannered young black man who didn’t            Obama was born in America but raised on its outer
seem angry all the time.”                                  boundaries, neither white nor black but both. He’s
   But as the Obama campaign unfolded in 2007, the         famed for his oratory, but watching him speak, you
charge wasn’t that he was too angry but that he wasn’t     suspect he leaves about 30% of the emotion on the
angry enough. His party’s more inflamed activists          table. He repeats one mantra to his staff over and over
wanted a candidate who would burn bridges, not build       during the insane days and nights of the campaign:
them. If primaries are about winning the base, Obama’s     “Stay cool. Stay focused. Don’t get distracted.”
accommodating approach could                                                          Obama’s instincts are often liberal
not have been more out of tune,
and by last summer, he looked as if
                                          ≤We have a chance                       if you look at his votes and his plans,
                                                                                  but he is careful not to sound like a
he might fizzle. Come September,
he was trailing Clinton by about 2
                                          to bring the country                    liberal. His stump speech is dotted
                                                                                  with the Morse code of the middle—
to 1 in most surveys.                         together in a                       assurances that he understands what
   To the pros, the fix was obvious:                                              it is about liberalism that makes
“All of the experienced hands gave         new majority…≥                         nonliberals nervous. “We have a
the same advice: ‘You gotta get                                                   chance to bring the country together
down, get dirty, get tough,’” said                 —Barack Obama                  in a new majority to finally tackle
one, who echoed them too. But                                                     problems that George Bush made
Obama pushed back, more willing to fight his advisers      far worse but that had festered long before George Bush
than to fight his opponents. A heated showdown in          ever took office,” he declares. He talks about the need to
Chicago, attended by a core group of only half a dozen     pay for better teachers but also about the responsibility
or so, took place over Labor Day weekend. “But he          of parents. He can be for “sensible” gun control, like
wouldn’t do it,” says one of the attendees. “Against the   reinstating the assault-weapons ban, but he can also
advice, against the history ... It shows he understood his tell Idaho voters, “I’ve got no intention of taking away
persona and the qualities that were implicit in it.” And   people’s guns.” He says he’s against school vouchers but
he understood what he stood to lose if he changed his      would consider anything that is proven to help kids. His
game. “If I gotta kneecap her,” he told them, “I’m not     promises of more money for college are often tied to
gonna go there.”                                           mandatory national service.
   This wasn’t decency or chivalry at work; it was an         Whatever the drawbacks of this long and brutal
understanding that the rationale for his campaign would    campaign season, Obama believes the exercise is a good
fade if he became just another grubby politician —or an    one for picking a President. “Ultimately, the process
angry black man.                                           reveals aspects of an individual’s character and judgment.
   The politics of hope brought him a long way—            If you think about past Presidents, probably those two
including a first-place finish in the Iowa caucuses—but    things, along with vision, are the most important aspects
the calculations have changed. Obama will continue to      of a presidency,” he says. “Do you know where you want
tie Clinton to McCain and other Republicans for voting     to take the country? Do you have the judgment to figure
for the Iraq war and liken her experience to that of       out what’s important and what’s not? Do you have the
Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. “I’m going to be          character to withstand trials and tribulations and to
interested in finding out what exactly she thinks makes    bounce back from setbacks?” In the coming weeks, voters
her particularly well prepared, for example, on foreign    will form their own answers to all those questions. π
policy,” he told Time on Wednesday. When her aides
are asked, he notes, they cite, of all things, a speech,   Questions
the one she gave on human rights in China in 1995.         1. How did experts advise Obama to counter
“Has she negotiated any treaties? When she traveled to     Clinton’s 2-to-1 lead in early polls? How did Obama
these 80 countries, was she involved in policymaking?      respond?
If so, what? My suspicion is that you’re not going to get  2. What three attributes does Obama consider most
a bunch of particularly impressive answers.”               important in a President?

                                               time, march 17, 2008                                                    7
                                C A M P A I G N                          2 0 0 8

ready to rumble
Hillary Clinton has rescued her campaign by getting a lot rougher on Barack
Obama. But Democrats worry: How much collateral damage will be done?

by Karen tuMulty and                                                                  her charge that the first-term Illinois
daVid Von dreHle                                                                      Senator would be unprepared in
                                                                                      a national-security crisis, Clinton

              hen it comes to                                                         went so far as to compare him
              politics, the Clinton                                                   unfavorably with John McCain, the
              philosophy is simple:                                                   presumptive Republican nominee.
              It’s war, and wars are                                                  “I have a lifetime of experience I
              for winning. Bill put                                                   will bring to the White House. I
it this way, back in 1981: “When                                                      know Senator McCain has a lifetime
someone is beating you over the                                                       of experience he will bring to the
head with a hammer, don’t sit                                                         White House,” she told reporters
there and take it. Take out a meat                                                    the morning before the contests.
cleaver and cut off their hand.”                                                      “And Senator Obama has a speech
   With her presidential hopes at                                                     he made in 2002”—a reference to
stake in Texas and Ohio, Hillary                                                      Obama’s declaration against the
Clinton reached for the cleaver. Her                                                  Iraq invasion that she and McCain
campaign made good on its promise                                                     had voted to authorize. Obama
to throw “the kitchen sink” at Barack Obama, and that        has repeatedly referred to that speech as proof that his
paid off with clear popular-vote victories in both states.   judgment is superior, even if his résumé is shorter.
What’s more, she said, “I’m just getting warmed up.”             At the same time, the Clinton campaign stepped up
   Even for some of her supporters, those are ominous        its attacks on the media, insisting that Obama has been
words. Democrats now face a reality they were hoping         receiving kid-glove treatment. The theme sank into the
they might avoid: a knock-down, drag-out struggle            broad public consciousness when Saturday Night Live
between two strong candidates lasting at least seven         returned from the writers’ strike to make a recurring
more weeks and possibly all the way to the convention.       theme of the fawning press.
For the party that was assumed to have the advantage             After years of battling the scandal machine that
in November against a G.O.P. that was unpopular              Hillary Clinton once called the “vast right-wing
and torn apart by infighting, this turnabout is both         conspiracy,” she and her inner circle feel well prepared
depressing and distressing.                                  for this sort of fight. Students of the Clintons’ long career
   Four days before the March 4 primaries, Clinton           have noted that they do better in a scrape. Combat
went up with a chilling and provocative advertisement        brings them to the balls of their feet; by contrast, they
juxtaposing images of slumbering children with the           tend to spring leaks on calm seas. Clinton’s successful
urgent ringing of the national-security hotline in the       attacks broke Obama’s 12-win streak that had buoyed
White House. “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe         him through a month of victories, and her advisers
and asleep,” the announcer says. “Who do you want            now feel they have put a stick in the spokes of his
answering the phone?”                                        momentum. “They thought they could kill us,” a Clinton
   For months, the Democratic candidates, including          campaign official crowed as the Ohio and Texas results
Clinton, devoutly observed that any of them would be a       were coming in. “They know time is their enemy; time
better President than another Republican. But in leveling    is our friend.”

8                                              time, march 17, 2008
                                 C A M P A I G N                            2 0 0 8

   That’s bold talk and could be true, though even               help to fill what has been a weakness in comparison to
inhabitants of the Amazonian jungle have probably                Obama’s operation. If these factors once again add up
concluded by now that the only certain thing in this             to a big-state win, Clinton’s team is sure to argue to the
race is uncertainty. If you look at a four-month graph           superdelegates that only she has the toughness necessary
of the campaign, you will see that up to now, time               to survive the fall campaign and that Obama can’t land
has been very, very good to Obama. He has turned a               the knockout punch. For a party still regretting the glass-
20-plus-point deficit in the national polls into a dead heat,    jawed vulnerability of its 2004 nominee, John Kerry, this
spoiled Clinton’s plans to wrap things up by February            argument will likely pack some selling power.
5 and ground his way through 43                                                             Neither campaign releases its
primaries and caucuses to build a                                                       internal tallies of superdelegates,
lead in pledged convention delegates          ≤I have a lifetime                        but since Super Tuesday, Obama
that appears virtually impossible to
close. As impressive as her wins in
                                                of experience                           has been cutting into Clinton’s
                                                                                        once formidable lead. The latest
Ohio and Texas were, Clinton made
up little ground in the delegate
                                                I will bring to                         estimate by CNN suggests her edge
                                                                                        is now only 238 to 199. “When
count, where she now trails 1,186 to         the White House.≥                          you look at the numbers, this is a
1,321, according to CNN.                                                                fistfight,” says a Clinton strategist.
   It is hard to come up with a                        —Hillary Clinton                 “It is going to be a much more
scenario in which either candidate                                                      rugged fight, because her lifeline
can amass the 2,025 delegates needed to win without              is these uncommitted delegates, and they can be shaky
relying upon so-called superdelegates. These are the             sometimes.” Obama’s team continues to push the case
roughly 800 party leaders and elected officials who are          that the supers ought to follow the lead of the pledged
automatically delegates to the party convention this             delegates for the sake of party unity.
summer in Denver, and they are free to support whichever             Like the people who are running her bid for the
candidate they wish. In a sense, the Pennsylvania primary,       White House, Clinton is a pragmatist. “During this
to be held on April 22, will be aimed directly at impressing     campaign, you’re going to hear me talk a lot about the
them. Obama will get another chance to beat Clinton              importance of balance,” she told voters in Iowa. “You
when all the chips are in the pot. For Clinton, it is another    know, our politics can get a little imbalanced sometimes.
chance to demonstrate her appeal to the core Democratic          We move off to the left or off to the right, but eventually
constituencies that have favored her in this campaign:           we find our way back to the center because Americans
women, older voters, Hispanics and households earning            are problem solvers. We are not ideologues. Most people
under $50,000.                                                   are just looking for sensible, commonsense solutions.”
   Her strategists argue that the general election will be a         It is precisely this sense of balance that some say
close-fought contest that may come down to Florida and           Clinton has lost. “The Clinton campaign strategy
Ohio, two states where the Clinton coalition has been            is simply going to be to try to run a scorched-earth
strong—or, alternatively, to a cluster of smaller states that    campaign,” says Obama campaign manager David
includes Arkansas, New Mexico and Nevada. In most of             Plouffe. “Which would be catastrophic for the party.”
those states, they say, Clinton’s supporters will matter             It all comes down to one thing, as Hillary Clinton made
more than Obama’s appeal among upscale voters and                clear in her last press conference before the Tuesday
African Americans. They are, in other words, willing to          primaries: “Winning. Winning. Winning. Winning. That’s
admit that her hard-fought primary campaign could cost           my measurement of success,” she said. “Winning.” π
the party African-American votes in November.
   Clinton officials note that the political terrain in          Questions
Pennsylvania is, like Ohio’s, abundant with downscale            1. What are superdelegates and what role do they
voters who are feeling an economic pinch. And as in              play in the nominating process?
Ohio, she has the support of the Democratic governor             2. To what core Democratic constituencies does
and can draw on his ground organization, which can               Hillary Clinton have strong appeal?

                                                 time, march 17, 2008                                                       9
     Name                                                               Date                            worksheet

                                                              among Hillary Clinton, John McCain and
                                                              Barack Obama in their approach to the key
                                                              issues currently facing Americans. Use the
                                                              worksheet below to take a closer look at where

     the Issues
                                                              the candidates stand on these issues. To answer
                                                              the questions on this worksheet, you may find it
                                                              useful to supplement the articles in the Current
                                                              Events Update with information from the
     As the articles on campaign 2008 on pages                candidates’ websites (urls are listed below). If you
     2 through 9 make clear, there are significant            need additional space for your answers, use the
     differences—and some striking similarities—              back of this sheet or another piece of paper.

                                   Hillary Clinton              John McCain                  Barack Obama
 1. Read through this
 candidate’s speeches and
 select one quote that you
 feel captures his or her
 political philosophy.

 2. What are the key
 points in this candidate’s
 approach to addressing
 America’s healthcare

 3. Did this candidate
 support the decision to go
 to war in Iraq?
 4. What is this candidate’s
 stance on ending the war
 in Iraq?
 5. Does this candidate favor
 caps on industrial emissions
 of global-warming gases?

 6. Now choose an issue
 you are particularly
 interested in and compare
 the candidates’ positions.
 Name your issue here:

 (If you need more space
 for your answers, please
 use the back of this page.)
10                                  Worksheet Prepared by Time Learning Ventures
                           N A T I O N A L                             S E R V I C E

a time to Serve
In a changing society facing all manner of new challenges, volunteers
are helping bind America together. Why the U.S. and the next President
should make a new commitment to national service
by ricHard StenGel                                                    explanation is pretty simple. People, especially young
                                                                      people, think the government and the public sphere
As the Constitutional Convention of 1787 came to a                    are broken, but they feel they can personally make a
close, after three and a half months of deliberation, a               difference through community service.
lady asked Dr. Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we                      Another reality the founders could not have possibly
got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic,” replied the             foreseen was that a country that originally enslaved
Doctor, “if you can keep it.”                                         African Americans would be a majority non-white nation
                      —Anecdote from The Records of the               by 2050. Robert Putnam, the famed Harvard political
                               Federal Convention of 1787             scientist who wrote about the decline of civic engagement
                                                                      in Bowling Alone, recently released a new study that

          republic, if you can keep it. the founders                  showed the more diverse a community is, the less people
          were not at all optimistic about the future of              care about and engage with that community. Diversity,
          the Republic. There had been only a handful                 in fact, seems to breed distrust and disengagement.
          of other republics in all of human history, and             The study lands in the midst of an intense immigration
          most were small and far away. The founders’                 debate, but even if all immigration were to cease
pessimism, though, came not from history but from                     tomorrow, we would still be diverse whether we liked
their knowledge of human nature. A republic, to                       it or not. Yet the course of American history, Putnam
survive, needed not only the consent of the governed                  writes, has always given way to “more encompassing
but also their active participation.                                                          identities” that create a “more
It was not a machine that would
go of itself; free societies do not        BeSt and WOrSt                                     larger sense of ‘we.’”
                                                                                                  But at this moment in our
stay free without the involvement        States with the BeSt volunteer rates:                history, 220 years after the
of their citizens.                       utah ....................................... 45.9%   Constitutional Convention, the
    Today the two central acts of                                                             way to get citizens involved in civic
democratic citizenship are voting        nebraska .................................42.4%      life, the way to create a common
and paying taxes. That’s basically       Minnesota .............................. 40.4%       culture that will make a virtue
it. The last time we demanded            alaska .................................... 38.8%    of our diversity, the way to give
anything else from people was                                                                 us that more capacious sense of
                                         Kansas ................................... 38.3%
before the draft ended in 1973.                                                               “we”—finally, the way to keep the
Polls show that while confidence                                                              Republic—is universal national
in our democracy and our                 States with the WOrSt volunteer rates:               service. No, not mandatory or
government is near an all-time           nevada .................................... 17.5%    compulsory service but service that
low, volunteerism and civic              new York .................................20.1%      is in our enlightened self-interest
participation since the 1970s                                                                 as a nation.
are near all-time highs. Political       Louisiana.................................21.2%          In 2006 more than 61 mil-
scientists are perplexed about this.     Florida.....................................21.8%    lion Americans dedicated 8.1
If confidence is so low, why would       Mississippi ..............................24.2%      billion hours to volunteerism.
people bother volunteering? The                                                               The nation’s volunteer rate has

                                                 time, september 10, 2007                                                       11
                          N A T I O N A L                           S E R V I C E

increased by more than 6 percent-                                                             Expand Existing Programs
age points since 1989. Overall,
27% of Americans engage in civic
                                         SpOtLIGHt On ServICe                                 Since 1994, 500,000 people
                                                                                              have gone through Ameri-
                                            Are there students at your school or in
life by volunteering. Dr. Franklin                                                       Corps programs tutoring and
                                            your community who are volunteering
would be impressed. The service                                                          teaching in urban schools; manag-
                                            and giving back in remarkable ways?
movement itself began to take off                                                        ing after-school programs; clean-
                                            Go to to
in the 1980s, and today there is                                                         ing up playgrounds, schools and
                                            nominate them for recognition in Time
a renaissance of dynamic altruis-                                                        parks; and caring for the elderly.
                                            For Kids’ “Spotlight on Service” series.
tic organizations in the U.S., from                                                      AmeriCorps members earn a
                                            Each month through May, one of these
Teach for America to City Year to                                                        small stipend for their volunteer-
                                            outstanding youth service projects will
Senior Corps, many of them under                                                         ing and receive education awards
                                            be featured in Time For Kids magazine.
the umbrella of AmeriCorps.                                                              of up to $4,725 per year. But
    So what would a plan for                                                             under this national-service pro-
universal national service look like? It would be voluntary,      posal, the program would more than triple in size, from
not mandatory. Americans don’t like to be told what they          75,000 members each year to approximately 250,000.
have to do; many have argued that requiring service drains

the gift of its virtue. It would be based on carrots, not sticks       Create an Education Corps
—“doing well by doing good,” as Benjamin Franklin, the                 The idea here is to create a group of tutors,
true father of civic engagement, put it. The ideas here are            teachers and volunteers who can help the
a mixture of suggestions already made, revised versions           38% of fourth-graders who can’t read at a basic
of other proposals and a few new concepts:                        level. The members of the Education Corps would
                                                                  also lead after-school programs for the 14 million stu-

      Create a National-Service Baby Bond                         dents—a quarter of all school-age kids—who do not
      Every time an American baby is born, the Fed-               have a supervised activity between 3 and 6 p.m. on
      eral Government would invest $5,000 in that child’s         schooldays. Studies show that students who spend
name in a 529-type fund — the kind many Americans are             no time in after-school programs are almost 50%
already using for college savings. At a rate of return of         more likely to have used drugs and 37% more likely to
7% — the historic return for equities — that money would          become teen parents than students who spend one to
total roughly $19,000 by the time that baby reaches age           four hours a week in an extracurricular activity.
20. That money could be accessed between the ages of

18 and 25 on one condition: that he or she commits to at               Institute a Summer of Service
least one year of national or military service.                        For many teenagers, the summer between middle
                                                                       school and high school is an awkward time. Shirley

      Make National Service a Cabinet-Level Department            Sagawa, an architect of the AmeriCorps legislation, is
      Right now, the Corporation for National and                 proposing a Summer of Service. One hundred thou-
      Community Service—created in 1993 to manage                 sand students would volunteer for organizations like City
AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America—             Year, a national volunteering program and think tank, or
is a small, independent federal agency. Find a catchier           Citizen Schools, which organizes after-school activities for
name, streamline its responsibilities and bring it up to          middle schoolers, and run summer programs for younger
Cabinet level.                                                    students in exchange for a $500 college scholarship.

          at this moment in our history, 220 years after the
      Constitutional Convention, the way to get citizens involved
               in civic life is universal national service.
12                                             time, september 10, 2007
                          N A T I O N A L                            S E R V I C E

      Build a Health Corps                                                       The idea is to provide a focused education
      There are nearly 7 million American
      children who are eligible for but not
                                                    tIMe Spent                   for people who will serve in the public sec-
                                                                                 tor—either the federal, state or local govern-
enrolled in government-sponsored health-
insurance programs. Health Corps volun-
                                                       In 2006,                  ment—and thereby create a new generation
                                                                                 of civic leaders. Asch and Raymond were
                                                      million americans
teers would assist the mostly low-income                                         so dismayed by the government’s response
families of children in accessing available
                                                           dedicated             to Katrina that they wanted to create a new
public insurance offerings like the Children’s
Health Insurance Program. These volun-
                                                            8.1                  generation of people who were idealistic
                                                                                 about government.
teers could also act as nonmedical support
                                                        billion hours to

staff such as caseworkers and community                  volunteerism                      Create a Baby-Boomer
education specialists in underserved rural                                                 Education Bond
health clinics—which have less than three-quarters of the                                  Just as AmeriCorps members
nonmedical staffing they need, according to Voices for            receive scholarships, baby-boomer volunteers would be
National Service, a coalition of service organizations that       able to designate a scholarship of $1,000 for every 500
advocates expanding federal service programs.                     hours of community service they complete. The $1,000
                                                                  would be deposited into an education savings account

     Launch a Green Corps                                         or a 529 fund to be used by the volunteer’s children or
     This would be a combination of F.D.R.’s Civilian             grandchildren or a student they designate.
     Conservation Corps—which put 3 million “boys                    So how much would all this cost? There are about
in the woods” to build the foundation of our modern               4 million babies born each year, and if each receives a
park system—and a group that would improve national               $5,000 baby bond, that would be about $20 billion a
infrastructure and combat climate change. The Green               year; that is, roughly two months of funding for the Iraq
Corps could reclaim polluted streams and blighted                 war and about half what the government spends per year
urban lots; repair and rehabilitate railroad lines, ports,        on the federal prison system. The government would get
schools and hospitals; and build energy-efficient green           $1 billion in dividends from the investment and would
housing for elderly and low-income people.                        be able to cash in the bonds that people don’t use. At the
                                                                  same time, corporate America would need to play a criti-

      Recruit a Rapid-Response Reserve Corps                      cal role in a plan for universal national service.
      The disarray and lack of a coordinated response to             Between 1944 and 1956, 8 million returning veterans
      9/11 and Katrina tell us there is a role volunteers can     received debt-free education, low-interest mortgages
plan in responding quickly to disasters and emergencies.          or small-business loans. The GI Bill helped assimilate
The new Rapid-Response Corps would consist of retired             those young men into a new postwar society and helped
military and National Guard personnel as well as national-        turn America into a middle-class nation. A new GI Bill
and community-service program alumni to focus on disas-           for national service involving men and women, young
ter preparedness and immediate response to local and na-          and old, could help secure America for the future and
tional disasters. The program would initially train 50,000        turn every new generation into a Greatest Generation.
members, who could be deployed for two-week periods               The courageous souls who signed the Declaration of
in response to emergencies and serve under the guidance           Independence pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and
of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.                       our sacred Honor.” The least we can do to keep the
                                                                  Republic is to pledge a little time. π

      Start a National-Service Academy
      Conceived by two former Teach for America corps             Questions
      members, Chris Myers Asch and Shawn Raymond,                1. What are the two central acts of democratic
the U.S. Public Service Academy would give under-                 citizenship today?
graduates a four-year education in exchange for a five-           2. Why are more young people volunteering at
year commitment to public service after they graduate.            present than in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s?

                                               time, september 10, 2007                                                     13
                                   E N V I R O N M E N T

the Fire this time
Fierce winds and years of drought put the torch to hundreds of square miles
in California and displace nearly a million people. How we got here and
what—if anything—we can do to prevent conflagrations like this in the future
by bryan walSH                                                                      quickly burst into life throughout
                                                                                    a dry, hot landscape. By midweek,

          he santa ana winds                                                        more than 20 separate blazes
          begin cold, gathering                                                     formed pockets of fire running
          power and mass in the                                                     from the Mexican border north to
          high desert between Las                                                   Simi Valley outside Los Angeles. In
          Vegas and Los Angeles.                                                    many places, the heat and smoke
Air pressure pushes the winds                                                       were so intense that the 7,000
up and over the San Gabriel                                                         firefighters recruited from around
Mountains, westward toward the                                                      the country could do little but
Pacific Ocean, until gravity takes                                                  watch. The flames consumed more
hold. The air becomes compressed                                                    than 400,000 acres, destroyed
as it drops, growing hotter and                                                     more than 2,000 houses and
dryer, stripping moisture from the                                                  forced the temporary evacuation
ground, accelerating—sometimes                                                      of nearly 1 million people—the
past 100 miles per hour as it                                                       biggest mass migration in the U.S.
squeezes through Southern                                                           since Hurricane Katrina, and far
California’s many canyons.                                    more than were evacuated during the 2003 San Diego
   The punishing gusts of the Santa Anas herald cursed        wildfires, previously considered California’s worst.
weather, days and nights of devilish heat. Should a fire          In San Diego County, site of the worst fires, people
spark in the dry woodlands surrounding the region’s           spent a few minutes gathering some mementos before
cities and suburbs, the winds become a flamethrower,          abandoning their houses ahead of the flames, seeking
spreading glowing embers half a mile or more. The Santa       refuge with relatives or friends or even in Qualcomm
Anas have been midwife to the most destructive wildfires      Stadium, which went from being the home of the San
in California’s history, from the Great Fire of 1889 to the   Diego Chargers to a temporary shelter for more than
2003 disaster that blackened nearly 700,000 acres of          20,000 refugees—stirring worrisome memories of the
forest. Lifelong residents of the state know the Santa Anas   tens of thousands who swarmed to the Superdome
and dread them. As Joan Didion has written, “The wind         in New Orleans two years ago. Hotels filled quickly,
shows us how close to the edge we are.”                       highways jammed and grocery-store shelves ran bare.
   In later October, the people of Southern California        Some residents learned of the danger through television
came close to reaching that edge. “We’re in a state of        coverage of the fire. The images of the flames they
shock right now,” says Dr. Zab Mosenifar, director of         couldn’t yet see out their windows but knew were on the
the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Guild Pulmonary Disease              march only added to an atmosphere of terror. “Everyone
Institute in Los Angeles, who was preparing for an            is running around scared,” said Dr. Sanjana Chaturvedi,
influx of smoke-inhalation victims at his hospital. “This     a San Diego resident who fled her home with her
is beyond thinking.” Beginning overnight on October           husband and two children. “No one knows what to do.
20, unusually fierce Santa Ana winds stoked fires that        There is no place to go. I have no place to go.”

14                                            time, november 5, 2007
                                     E N V I R O N M E N T

   Often the flames moved faster than the residents. When         on the shrinking borderlands between edge suburbs and
Jay Blankenbeckler went to bed the night of October 21 at         untouched wilderness. More than 8.6 million Western
his home in Rancho Bernardo, he could see smoke, but              homes have been built within 30 miles of national forest
the fire still seemed far away. Upon awakening early the          since 1982; in California, where the population has more
next morning and turning on the TV, he saw a newscaster           than tripled since 1950, in excess of 50% of new housing
reporting in front of a blaze— one that was less than half a      has been built in a severe-fire zone.
mile from Blankenbeckler’s house. “It had already burned             Then, too, there’s climate change. As occurred after
through an entire neighborhood,” he says. “That’s when I          Hurricane Katrina, the question of what role global
thought, ‘This is real.’ ”                                        warming might have played in the disaster arose before
                                                                                        the fires had even begun to die down.
                                                                                        While environmental scientists are
the Government Steps In                     the flames consumed                         careful not to blame the droughts
State and federal officials did their
best to calm the anxiety of refu-
                                             more than 400,000                          or heat waves of any one season on
                                                                                        climate change, the overwhelming
gees and of people who, at least for
the time being, were still in their
                                               acres, destroyed                         majority of climate models point to
                                                                                        more of these extreme conditions
homes. California Governor Ar-                 more than 2,000                          in the already dry Southwest as
nold Schwarzenegger was in full
action-hero mode, traveling to the          houses and forced the                       the planet warms. A study led by
                                                                                        researchers at the Scripps Institution
firefighters’ front lines, while Presi-
dent George W. Bush—chastened
                                             evacuation of nearly                       of Oceanography in La Jolla,
                                                                                        California, and published in Science
by Washington’s late response                 one million people                        last year found that as temperatures
to Katrina—declared the region                                                          increased in the West, which is now
a “major disaster” and prompt-                                                          1.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than
ly dispatched Homeland Security Secretary                         it was in 1987, so did the length of the wildfire season and
Michael Chertoff, along with Army helicopters, troops             the size and duration of the average fire.
and millions of dollars in federal aid. San Diego city
officials even implemented a reverse 911 system with
automated warning calls going to residents, urging them           raising the risk
to evacuate. This early and aggressive emptying of the            Even when we try to be smart about fires, we often just
region—a hard-earned lesson of the 2003 fires, which left         make things worse. For more than a century, the U.S.
20 people dead—likely saved Californians’ lives, if not           Forest Service—the federal agency responsible for com-
their property. “The issue this time is not preparedness,”        bating wildfires—has pursued a policy of stamping out
said San Diego City Council president Scott Peters. “It’s         blazes wherever they occur and doing so all the more
that the event is so overwhelming.”                               aggressively as population grows in the endangered
   The question is, why? Fires have always been with              regions. For those accustomed to living in urban areas,
us and are one way nature cleans house, burning off               that makes sense—the job of a city fire department is to
dry vegetation and opening up old ground for new                  stop blazes before they damage property. But that’s not
growth. So why have these natural events become                   how things work in the great Western forests. Paradoxi-
natural disasters? Why do there seem to be more of                cally, trying to put out every minor blaze may raise the
them, and when they do strike, why are they ever more             risk for the occasional megafire since the forests are
catastrophic?                                                     not permitted to do their important work of occasion-
   Part of the reason Southern California has become such         ally clearing out accumulated vegetation. This is a little
a dangerous place to live is that it’s such an attractive place   like letting newspapers pile up in your kitchen: If a fire
to live. The migration of people drawn to the West by the         occurs, the place is primed to blow.
region’s mountains, forests and proximity to the ocean               The situation was worsened by a relatively wet winter in
has led to more and more new residents building houses            2004–05, which let trees and scrub grow densely, followed

                                                 time, november 5, 2007                                                    15
                                                                                                                                                                          E N V I R O N M E N T

Inside a Wildfire. Once sparked, these blazes
create their own dynamic. add hot wind,
and disaster is inevitable
Wildfires result from a
confluence of fuel, dryness
and some kind of trigger.
Each factor contributes to the                                                                                                                                                 Once a fire is burning, a                                          This convection system
severity of the blaze                                                                                                                                                          column of smoke and                                                creates and strengthens
                                                                                                                                                                          heat can rise for miles in the                                    gale-force winds that can propel
                                                                                                                                                                          atmosphere. The rising air                                        blowing embers as
                                                                                                                                                                          creates a void below                                              much as half a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            mile (0.8 km)

                                                                                                                                                                                    Fresh air
Fuel means flammable                                                                                                                                                                rushes in,
solids—grass, pine                                                                                                                                                              bringing more
needles, undergrowth,                                                                                                                                                           oxygen to fuel
smaller trees and,                                                                                                                                                               the flames
unfortunately, houses—
that, with oxygen, feed
the fire

Dryness can be caused by
short-term weather patterns
with low humidity or by a
lengthy drought. In California
the Santa Ana winds help
parch the landscape

Triggers can be as natural
as a lightning strike, as
innocent as a campfire or as
sinister as an arsonist

                                                                                                                                                                  PROTECTED FUEL                           SOIL INSULATION                          TORNADO WINDS
                                                                                                                                                                  Decades of fighting every forest fire    Soil is an excellent insulator           In rare cases, erratic winds
                                                                                                                                                                  have left many areas dangerously full    that can protect tree roots              within a wildfire create
                                                                                                                                                                  of fuel—sticks, fallen timber and        from a fire’s heat, permitting           powerful minitornadoes that
                                                                                                                                                                  brush. Add rampant development and       regrowth to begin quickly. But           can shoot spirals of flame
                                                                                                                                                                  drought, and there’s little hope of      a charred landscape is                   into the air and twist trees
                                                                                                                                                                  containing a fire quickly                vulnerable to erosion                    apart at their trunks

16                                                                                                                                                                                       time, november 5, 2007
                                                   E N V I R O N M E N T

                                                                                              by extremely dry weather since, which turned
                                                                                              the vegetation to still more fuel. In fact, this
                                                                                              past year has seen the worst drought in Los
                                                                                              Angeles’ recorded history. Adding to the tinder
                                                                                              were those Santa Ana winds, which strike
                                                                                              regularly in the autumn but rarely with the
                                                                                              power that they had in October. “They usually
                                                                                                 come in small, medium and large,” says
                                                                                                          Bill Patzert, a climatologist with
                                                                                                          nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
                                                                                                          in Pasadena, Calif. “These were
                                                                                                          Godzilla winds.”
                                             fertilizer mixed with water
                                             can coat fuel and prevent
                                             burning. Iron oxide in the
                                             retardant gives it its orange color              the Outlook
                                                                                              Does all this mean that the only way to stop
    Blowing embers allow
    the fire to jump                                                                          the cycle of catastrophic forest fires is to
    natural barriers
    such as rivers
                                                                                              change the way Americans live in the West?
    and valleys                                                                               Probably—but the transition will be pain-
                                                                                              ful. Population growth in the affected areas
                                                                                              has implicitly been supported by federal
                                                                                              policies that protect private homes even if
                                  A fire dies when it is deprived of
                                                                                              they’re built in risky areas. This, in turn,
                                  fuel, heat or oxygen. The main strategy for                 has caused the Forest Service—which is
                                  fighting wildfires is containment:
                                                                                              supposed to perform a range of wilderness
                                     Helicopters       Firefighters       Controlled
                                  and tanker        clear areas of     fires are
                                                                                              functions—to become largely a firefight-
                                  planes drop       fuel that          sometimes set          ing agency, devoting nearly half its budget
                                  retardants to     would allow        to deny fuel to
                                  slow the          the fire to        an
                                                                                              to that one job. That has caught the eye
                                  flames            spread             approaching            of Congress, which wants spending to be
                                                                                              brought under control.
                                                                                                  The loss in recent years of several fire-
                                                                                              fighters who died protecting homes has fur-
                                                                                              ther caused Washington to rethink its poli-
                                                                                              cies. “So much development in California
                                                                                              has followed the pioneering spirit,” says Jon
                                                                                              Keeley, a research ecologist with the U.S.
                                                                                              Geographical Survey. “But we’re reaching
                                                                                              critical limits in growth, and people have to
                                                                                              realize that they will lose certain freedoms
                                                                                              if they want to be safe.” π

UPHILL BATTLE                                WHY SO BAD IN CALIFORNIA?                        1.   What makes the Santa Ana winds a
Wildfires charge rapidly up                  Weather is the primary force that drives or      major factor in the spread and severity of
mountainsides because the                    contains wildfires. Southern California has an
heat from the fire rises and is              extra, very powerful ingredient: unusually       wildfires in Southern California?
directed at the fuel uphill,                 strong seasonal winds—the Santa Anas—            2. Why is it not smart to tamp out every
drying it out before the                     roaring through mountains and valleys
flames arrive                                packed with homes                                little fire that crops up?

                                                                 time, november 5, 2007                                                    17

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