David Hirschman’s question for a 2004 Media Bistro article was the same one reporters had been asking Graydon Carter for more than a year: “Do you plan to keep Vanity Fair more political?” Hirschman was referring to the magazine generally and to Carter’s ferocious editor’s letters in particular, which, since 2003, had become an outlet for his disgust with the Bush administration. Carter’s reply was defensive. “Vanity Fair’s always covered politics quite heavily,” he said. “I think that my own participation has probably run its course. I’ve said everything I want to say.”

He had not, however. Two and half years have passed and Carter shows no sign of quieting his political voice. Vanity Fair readers can now expect to open their magazine each month and find an editor’s letter that, instead of introducing an article — though that occasionally happens — or extolling the virtues of the current issue, will attack the current administration. Carter’s foray into political commentary began with his May 2003 letter, which went to press on the eve of the Iraq war. In it, Carter acknowledged the strangeness of editing a glossy and, at least superficially, celebrity-obsessed magazine that also publishes serious, long-form journalism: “I’m in the curious position of being in Los Angeles preparing Vanity Fair’s annual Oscar party … and at the same time organizing our coverage of the conflict,” he wrote. In the space of half a page, Carter went on to criticize the president’s complacency (“I see none of the worry lines that should be etched in the face of a man taking the greatest military power ever assembled to war”), his decision to declare war on “a country that has not attacked us,” and what he saw as the careless economic and diplomatic policies of the administration.

Carter’s...

Complete access to this article will soon be available for purchase. Subscribers will be able to access this article, and the rest of CJR’s magazine archive, for free. Select articles from the last 6 months will remain free for all visitors to CJR.org.