HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

November 17, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


I've heard numerous pundits talk about whether we the people should allow General Motors to go under. After listening to it all, I have no firm convictions. Yet when I reflect that Paul Krugman and Barney Frank are for saving GM and Richard Shelby and George Will are for letting it fly apart that tells me where I would put my vote if I had one.

Tom Friedman declaims sternly that the automakers have no plan for making themselves healthy. That may be so. But, then, I wonder who does have a plan? What would happen if Congress decreed that no cars other than hybrids could be manufactured in the United States? We say we have to take dramatic action to cure ourselves from addiction to oil. But how dramatic are we willing to be?

On The McLaughin Group, Eleanor Clift said that Henry Paulson, who was our savior just a few weeks ago, now looks like an outright fool. Is that true? I confess that when I hear Paulson speak on TV, he doesn't make much sense to me.

Most people say that the housing crisis remains the core of our economic difficulty. If that's so, why not attack the housing crisis directly by using government funds to lower interest rates on existing mortgages. How much would it cost for the government, for one or two years, to lower all private mortgages to four percent? Maybe that would be more than government could possibly do. But I would like to see the figure. Nothing would pump money into the economy faster than that.

I don't know if Hillary Clinton should become the Secretary of State. I leave that up to her and Barack Obama. But if they decide it's a good idea, I don't think they should let Bill Clinton's business deals get in the way. We need to forget about Bill Clinton for a while.

I watched the Obamas being interviewed by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes. The thing that impresses me about them is that they seem to be the same people wherever they appear. It will be a fine thing if the Obamas turn out to that rarity in public affairs: what you see is what you get.

I've seen Republican governor Tim Pawlenty, who some say is the future of the party, appear often on TV lately. His mantra is that the Republicans are the market party and that, recently it has lost market share. I hope he keeps saying things like that. I have no wish to see any Republican close to the reins of national power for a while.

Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side, continues to around asking what the American people want to do about the undoubted war crimes that have been committed. She seems to feel that the people don't want to do anything about them. And I'm inclined to agree with her. She points out that elsewhere in the world people are more inflamed about these transgressions than Americans are. She's right about that. It's just that Americans are very slow in coming to care what others think about their actions.

By next week we'll probably know more about the government Barack Obama is putting together. And that will give us lots to write about.


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