HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

September 29, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


We've had a fairly tumultuous week which I assume you've monitored as closely as I have. It strikes me as probably the craziest time I've experienced, so far as public affairs go.

The best political analysis I read over the week came from Roger Cohen, writing in the New York Times, who said the key issue in the campaign was the choice between McCain's American exceptionalism and Obama's universalism.  I think Cohen is right. For me, the notion that any group of people, whether they constitute a nation, or a club, or a religion, or a learned society, or a business organization, are exceptional in the sense of being superior to others in intelligence, morals, or devotion to nobility, is nuts. And any group of people who tell themselves that they are exceptional in that way are a pack of arrogant fools. This is a thing I can say because I am not a politician and, therefore, am not required to flatter the American people. Consequently, I think Cohen is right to argue that for the United States to persist in a philosophy of separateness rather than adopting the connectedness that Barack Obama is calling for, would be devastating.

As for the big bailout plan, I agree with Hillary Bok of Johns Hopkins, who posts on the internet under the name of Hilzoy. It's a flawed plan, full of hazards, which will not solve all our economic problems. But, under the current circumstances, it's probably better to go along with it than to allow the financial and credit structures to collapse.

The most foolish column of the week came from David Brooks, who assured us that though John McCain is conducting a dishonest campaign and is behaving in an alarmingly erratic way, he will return to being the old, sensible, steady John McCain when he gets elected.

We haven't heard much from Carly Fiorina lately, and that's a soothing development.

There's a photograph being displayed by the tabloids showing Sarah Palin clad in a skimpy bathing suit, brandishing some sort of large rifle. Does anyone know whether that's a real picture, or something that was put together on a computer?

I watched the presidential debate, and like a lot of other people wished that Barack Obama had been sharper in his responses to McCain. But, overall, the debate seems to have turned out all right for the Democratic candidate. Maybe his quiet, steady approach will be enough to win the election. I still, think, though, that he will need to hit harder at his opponent sometime between now and November.

We've been in this campaign mode for so long it's hard to imagine what it will be like when its over. I'm ready to find out, though.

I drove over to Burlington yesterday and was treated to strong evidence that the economic troubles are not confined to Wall Street. There are at least eight dead store fronts along the the active section of Church Street, which is Burlington's main street. It's a doleful sight. But I suspect we'll all see a lot worse before these troubles pass us by.

Maybe by next week, there'll be a miracle. Who knows?


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