HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

January 21, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


I was happy to see this morning in The New York Times Stanley Fish's disquisition on independent voters. Hearing people who don't have enough sense to know which of the major political parties to support being described as brighter and more thoughtful than the rest of us is, indeed, irritating. Fish's essay is an enjoyable explanation of why their presumed superiority is nonsense.

I watched Rudy Giuliani being interviewed on ABC's This Week. Every time I hear him talk he sounds like an utter loon. Who is it that supports such a man for president? I know -- we have had George Bush. But can there actually be people who want to make it two in a row?

The government seems set to give most of us some money. This is an attempt to buy our votes, but the question is, who will it buy them for? The truth seems to be that once the idea got bruited about, nobody dared to stand up against it for fear of losing votes. It's a curious way to spend $145 billion.

All the talking heads on TV agree that the United States is in for a bad economic period. And this may be one of the rare occasions when they are right. I've heard Pat Buchanan say about a dozen times now that we're tapped out. But all we have to do to avoid trouble is to elect Mitt Romney president. He knows how to do it because he turned the Olympics around.

George Will says Barack Obama made a gaffe by praising Ronald Reagan. A gaffe in politics, notes Will, is an instance of telling the truth. Maybe, but I find Paul Krugman's explanation of Obama's seeming respect more convincing. We are astoundingly good at forgetting who Reagan actually was and what he did.

I watched the Giants last night beat the Packers in below zero weather in Green Bay. The cold didn't seem to affect the play very much, except that the punts were, perhaps, ten yards shorter than they are normally. I heard several of the players say they didn't really notice the cold all that much, which says something about professional football players, but I'm not sure what.

I've been trying to get clear in my head the difference between a neo-liberal and a neo-conservative. About the best I've been able to come up with is that both are willing to make money off of starving children, but the neo-liberal doesn't like to think about it whereas the neo-conservative is exhilarated by the idea.

Chris Matthews apologized -- sort of -- for being a schmuck about Hillary Clinton. Evidently, the executives at NBC got so much flack about his snide comments they made him do it. The thing about Matthews that bothers me is not so much what he says but that he appears completely unaware of why he says it. In that respect, though, I don't guess he's a lot different from most of the people on TV who tell us how we should think.

We're in for a cold week here in Vermont which will force me to hole up with my books -- not a bad thing altogether. I read up a bit more on Kindle, Amazon's new electronic reader. It's still out of stock, but you can order one and get on the list. And Amazon is so thoughtful they won't charge your credit card until the device is shipped. I've more or less made up my mind to buy one sometime over the next few months, if they do come back into stock. If any of you have one, it would be great for you to send us an account of how well it works.


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