Tuesday, July 29, 2008

GPS



No, not that GPS. Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (Global Public Square) on CNN. If you’re not watching this program on Sundays (at 1 PM Eastern) you’re missing the boat. I know I’ve criticized CNN in the past about their downhill slide in programming quality. I’ve seen nothing to change my mind about that -- except this show. It’s brilliant.

For the last segment this week, Mr. Zakaria had Joseph Stiglitz, Adrian Wooldridge and Irshad Manji in his round-table discussion. (If you have time, it would be really helpful to click on those links and read at least part of their Wikipedia entries.)

The following aren’t verbatim quotes -- they’re just as close as I can come without watching each a dozen times.

Joseph Stiglitz a leading economist. Referring to the fact that those that knew better didn’t address the lack of regulation in the financial industry -- “There was a party going on and nobody wanted to be a party-pooper.”

Adrian Wooldridge is a writer for The Economist and I take it, one of the proponents of this mindset I found on Wikipedia. ”The Observer's Stefan Stern wrote that "its writers rarely see a political or economic problem that cannot be solved by the trusted three-card trick of privatization, deregulation and liberalization."”.

After being put on the defensive, Mr. Wooldridge allowed that it seemed like, “America has socialism for the rich and free markets for the poor.” If by that he meant that the CEOs walk away with their golden parachutes and the employees are left with empty bank accounts...yeah, it does seem that way.

As far as I was concerned, Irshad Manji stole the show. On the surface, you wouldn’t think Ms. Manji was the intellectual equal of the other guests. From her bio information (see the link above) she certainly isn’t as well educated. But she was better prepared, she spoke better and her ideas had a verbal clarity sorely lacking in the other two guests. (That goes double for Mr. Wooldridge.)

The essence of Barack Obama’s campaign is that he is “transcending the really vulgar polarities of the left and the right.” I’ve been trying to think of a way to say that for a month (without success.) Senator Obama’s patriotism is called into question by the right wing’s attack dogs and he responds by not only refusing to question Senator McCain’s patriotism but pointing out Senator McCain’s long dedication to country. Not only is it the right thing to do, in the process he shows how wrong (and how desperate) those on the far right really are. And that those on the far left are wrong to respond in kind. Simply put, two wrongs don’t might a right.

Ms. Manji also brought up a point that seems to have been lost in all the spin. “The lower levels of violence (in Iraq) have nothing to do with the surge.” The surge didn’t hurt and probably helped. But it was the collective action of the Iraqi people that drove the insurgency out. To be fair, I believe that was part of General Petraeus’ overall strategy. It’s a hard (but important) point to make without sounding like you’re quibbling. Ms. Manji made it and she did it well.

Not to leave the star of the show out, Mr. Zakaria ends the show with a short commentary. This week’s was particularly insightful, pointing out that the argument about government is narrower now. No one is arguing whether we should embrace capitalism or not. Not even the Communists. On the other hand, with the recent financial disasters, no one is making a serious argument opposing government regulation. We are only arguing about the proper balance.

As Mr. Zakaria points out, the old debate now takes place only on the cable-TV shout shows that are “full of sound and fury -- signifying nothing.” A foreign-affairs journalist with a Ph.D. in Government that can disguise an insult by quoting MacBeth. (I missed it. My son had to educate me. Click the last link.) Where else are you going to find that on TV ?

Don Brown
July 29, 2008

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