Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday, October 26 in the NY Times

Today's NY Times features a must-see special election section. Many OpEd columns were held to appear in this edition. If you can't buy the paper edition, check out the online version.

The OpEds as usual are fantastic. Let's start with Frank Rich, "In Defense of White Americans." Rich's premise is that, contrary to the claims of McCain/Palin (who follow in the footsteps of George "Macaca" Allen), most of us are NOT bigots. At the conclusion of his discussion of Obama's race speech, describing how Obama spoke about his own grandmother's fear of black men on the street, Rich writes, "Such human nuances are lost on conservative warriors of the Allen-McCain-Palin ilk. They see all Americans as only white or black, as either us or them."

For a lighter note, there's Maureen Dowd, who's column "A Makeover with an Ugly Gloss," is about Sarah Palin and her clothes, make-up/hair, and speech coach expenses. Dowd writes, "The sartorial upgrade was bound to turn into a strategy downgrade, as Palin pressed her case as a homespun gal who was ever so much more American than the elite, foreignish Obama, while she was gussied up in Italian couture."

Then we move on to the sad, David Brooks' column "Ceding the Center." Brooks argues that though we have but two parties, there are really three political positions in America: orthodox liberalism, a belief in using government to maximize equality; free-market conservatism, the belief in limiting government to maximize freedom; and the third, progressive conservativism, which understanda and valuea traditional institutions but also seea the pursuit of wealth as a way to enhance America's greatness. Brooks concludes his essay, "McCain would be an outstanding president. In government, he has almost always had an instinct for the right cause. He has become an experienced legislative craftsman. He is stalwart against the country’s foes and cooperative with its friends. But he never escaped the straitjacket of a party that is ailing and a conservatism that is behind the times. And that’s what makes the final weeks of this campaign so unspeakably sad. "

Paul Krugman's OpEd piece is called "Desparately Seeking Seriousness." Krugman writes that he would like to believe that Obama's surge in the polls - which coincided with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of the financial crisis - is due to Americans' recognition that "the right’s economic ideas are wrong and progressive ideas are right. " Krugman, however, postulates that economics is not the real reason Obama is looking close to success. He writes, "But I suspect that the main reason for the dramatic swing in the polls is something less concrete and more meta than the fact that events have discredited free-market fundamentalism. As the economic scene has darkened, I’d argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. " He points to McCain's inability to speak convincingly about the economy, but more importantly his focus on trivial issues with roots that are well in the past. Krugman likens our current situation to post-9/11:

"But the Barack Obama voters see now is cool, calm, intellectual and knowledgeable, able to talk coherently about the financial crisis in a way Mr. McCain can’t. And when the world seems to be falling apart, you don’t turn to a guy you’d like to have a beer with, you turn to someone who might actually know how to fix the situation."

Like Dowd, Judith Warner also has something to say about Sarah Palin in her OpExtra column, "No Ordinary Woman." Warner's thesis is that, with Sarah Palin, woman have finally reached equality by Bella Abzug's measure - that a mediocre women can be promoted as quickly as a mediocre man. Warner writes,

"... Clinton was a lifelong overachiever, a star in a generational vanguard who clearly took to heart the maxim that women “must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good,” and in so doing divorced herself from the world of the merely average. In that, she was not unlike Barack Obama — taxed by his race to be twice as reassuring, twice as un-angry, twice as presidential as any white candidate . . . Palin is a woman who has risen to national prominence without, apparently, even remotely being twice as good as her male competitors. On the contrary, her claim to fame lies in her repudiation of Clinton-type exceptionalism."

Then there's Thomas Friedman's "If Larry and Sergey Asked for a Loan ..." (which has the terrific line "Some things are true, even if George Bush believes them.) This piece is a warning about some possible consequences of the government taking over banks. In the Larry and Sergey example Friedman uses, a government-controlled bank would not likely have extended the loan needed to launch Google. Friedman concludes,

"Bottom line: We must not overshoot in regulating the markets just because they overshot in their risk-taking. That’s what markets do. We need to fix capitalism, not install socialism. Because, ultimately, we can’t bail our way out of this crisis. We can only grow our way out — with more innovation and entrepreneurship, which create new businesses and better jobs.
So let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Save the system, install smart regulations and get the government out of the banking business as soon as possible so that the surviving banks can freely and unabashedly get back into their business: risk-taking without recklessness. "

The remaining NY Times opinion pieces are Gail Collins' "Blue State Blues," a humorous look at how the Electoral College results in some states being more important than others; Nicholas Kristof's "The Endorsement from Hell," which talks about why an al Qaeda- affiliated website endorsed John McCain (4 more years of non-nuanced American policy toward Islam); and Timothy Egan's "The Party of Yesterday," an indictment that the Republican party has written American cities ("vibrant, prosperous places where a knowledge economy and cool things to do after hours attract people from all over the country") off as not part of "real" America.

(On a totally gratuitous side note, look at the similarity in names between NY Times rural cultural columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg and Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann's opponent Elwyn Tinklenberg.)

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