HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

November 24, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


The biggest piece of underreported news of the past week was the announcement by James Pethokoukis, the political blogger for the U.S. News and World Report, and Michael F. Cannon, director of health and policy studies for the Cato Institute (i.e., both big Republican strategists) that if Obama is able to pass a comprehensive health plan, the American people will like it. Consequently, conservatives need to marshal all their force to block such a plan. If Obama gets it through, it will be hard for Republicans to win elections for some time to come.

This is the essential policy of Republicans: maintain power regardless of the effect it has on the citizens of America. It's one more piece of evidence that Republicans see the people as nothing but pawns to be used to maintain their own privileged position in society. We can thank Pethokousis and Cannon, at least, for being frank about it.

Barbara Goldsmith had an intriguing essay in The Daily Beast titled "Why Rich People Are So Miserable." Even though they have more money than any reasonable person should want, they are always fighting about it. Their lives are consumed by hostility. At least, so says Ms. Goldsmith. Her piece reminded me that in The Wanderer and His Shadow, Nietzsche has an aphorism titled "Being Ashamed of Wealth." He says that rich people cause a sentiment similar "to that experienced at the sight of a repulsively swollen invalid, one suffering from diabetes or dropsy" If that's the case, it must be because excessive wealth, almost always, tells us what a person really cares about. People seldom get rich idly. They do it by thinking about money to the exclusion of all else. And, that is a repulsive habit.

Kathleen Parker, with her column in the Washington Post -- "Giving Up On God" -- descended even farther into Republican apostasy than she had before with her remarks about Sarah Palin. Ms. Parker suggests that religious fanaticism is no longer a winning political stance in America. I think it's true that quite a few people have grown weary of being told they are less than beatified because they can't accept propositions that make no sense. The superiority of the fool for God can go just so far before it begins to emit an odor that most people find repugnant.

I just watched Obama's introduction of his new economic team. I was impressed most by the tone of it all. Obama seems clearly to be a no nonsense guy, who's not interested in bells and whistles. I suspect the country is more than ready for that type of approach. The amount of money to be put into a stimulus program will be vast. It must not be misspent. And nobody should get rich off it. If the new president can keep graft out of this effort he will demonstrate a control that should serve him well throughout his term in office

On the nonpolitical front, winter has come to Vermont. We had our first snow a couple days ago, not a big one but enough to cover the ground. And the temperature has not crept above freezing for several days. I have mixed feelings about the approaching frigidity. It might be pleasant just to sit somewhere in the sunshine, and, yet, being able to cope with vigorous weather can develop a sense of confidence that keeps one alert. We'll see how it goes.


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