Can the New America Foundation possibly get any hotter? Three of its scholars made the list of new thinkers proclaimed "the best and the brightest" in the current issue of Esquire. Now comes word that all but one of the 13 policy essays in a 36-page special section to appear in the January/February issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine are by writers closely associated with New America.
What's more, New America and the Atlantic plan to make the jointly produced "State of the Union" feature into an annual event.
"We want this to become an occasion where we assess the real state of the union, what the empirical situation is and ways we can do better to meet the country's needs," said Scott Stossel, Atlantic senior editor. "The actual [presidential] address has become an occasion for empty pomp and circumstance . . . a distillation of the two parties talking past each other. We wanted to cut through that."
David Bradley, the policy impresario who owns the Atlantic, National Journal and Hotline, suggested the special relationship with the nonpartisan New America. Bradley is a pal of Ted Halstead, the founder of New America (Halstead also writes the introduction to the section). James Fallows, the Atlantic's national correspondent and its marquee writer, is the chairman of New America's board of directors and writes the concluding essay.
In between, a dozen New Americans hold forth on a potpourri of policy prescriptions. Katherine Boo, a senior fellow currently on leave from The Washington Post, offers a battle plan for winning the war on child poverty; the ubiquitous Jedediah Purdy, the New America fellow who has been featured in both the New York Times Magazine and a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, declaims on "social trust"; and Senior Fellow Shannon Brownlee asks whether Americans get too much health care.
The only non-New American to make the cut: Jonathan Rauch, a columnist for National Journal and a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution. The writers will be paid standard contributor's rates, Stossel said. New America gets nothing, other than beaucoup exposure, which of course is priceless.
The magazine had briefly considered going to Brookings or another nonpartisan tank for talent. But Brookings "is a bit more staid, and we wanted access to fresh and innovative thinking; many of [New America's] fellows are youngish, under 40," Stossel said. "Their basic policy stances squared with ours and they had new, young talent we wanted to take advantage of."