21 April 2008

What'd They Say?

Here's a quick survey of opinions I found in the papers over the past few days, starting with David Brooks, one of the house conservatives at the New York Times, in defense of the ABC debate:

Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are taking a lot of heat for spending so much time asking about Jeremiah Wright and the 'bitter' comments. But the fact is that voters want a president who basically shares their values and life experiences. Fairly or not, they look at symbols like Michael Dukakis in a tank, John Kerry's windsurfing or John Edwards' haircut as clues about shared values.

If Brooks is right, then the country has become more democratic in a way that does no credit to democracy. Most voters of 200 years ago most likely neither shared nor expected to share the "life experiences" of aristocrats like Washington and Jefferson or learned men like the Adamses, but that didn't disqualify such people from political life in American eyes. I grant that American voters of 200 years ago were an "elite" unto themselves by today's standards, but the "anti-elitism" that today's conservatives want to foster didn't automatically follow from the country getting more democratic, as the popularity of FDR and JFK will prove. Something else is at work that Brooks wants to call "values" but is really "ideology." He wants to convince the working class that the corporate class shares with them "values" that those decadent godless pervert liberals oppose, and that it's the liberals, not the corporate guys, who dare tell the rest of us how to live. This tactic has seemed to work before; let's see if it will again.

Now here's George Will with an amazing proposal for corporate America:

If Congress cannot suppress its itch to 'do something' while markets are correcting the prices of housing and money, Congress could pass a law saying: No company benefiting from a substantial federal subvention ... may pay any executive more than the highest pay of a federal civil servant ($124,010). That would dampen Wall Street's enthusiasm for measures that socialize losses while keeping profits private.

This sounds like a good idea, but I fear that Will only proposes it sarcastically. He's a market idolator who argues that the Federal Reserve's "duty is not to avoid a recession at all costs" and fears that its efforts will only exacerbate the developing one. No business is "too big to fail" as far as Will's concerned, so he opposes any kind of bailout. I suspect that, once CEOs learn their lesson and agree to play purely by market rules, Will would be happy to see them paid as much as the mighty market will permit.

Let's move on to some theological speculation from Bill O'Reilly:

Are you telling me that Jesus would not have used TV, radio and the Net to spread his word? Come on. If Jesus were here right now, he'd definitely have a cable program or at least be doing commentary on '60 Minutes.' Clerics might think about that.

The Fox talker must have been watching South Park too often. Contrary to that show's suggestion, even public access cable would probably be beyond the capacity of the historical Jesus. Since believers and non-believers appear to agree that the man never wrote anything, it would appear that he didn't even avail himself of the most advanced communication technology of his own time. Why would he do differently now?

Finally, these are excerpts from a letter to the Albany Times Union written by Larry Roth of Ravena:

Sen. Barack Obama is being subjected to a lot of synthetic criticism for choosing to describe a certain class of Americans as bitter. Understandably so, too. Americans are supposed to be the most cheerful, optimistic people in the world. They have to be -- because if they weren't, they might be asking people like Sens. John McCain and Hilary Clinton some tough questions...
Apparently, someone who wants to be president is supposed to be some kind of national cheerleader, to make us feel good about ourselves. Well, that's exactly what we have now, a president who spent his college days as
a cheerleader. He's also the same man who lied us into an unending war, done his best to bankrupt the country while enriching his friends, and signed off on the job his top people did on deciding the best ways to
torture people while bending the law to make it 'legal.'
A majority of Americans think America is on the wrong track -- but that's OK as long as they're not bitter about it. That would be unthinkable -- and talking about it, unacceptable.

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