FALSE SENSE OF INSECURITY? Yesterday's New York Times Week in Review piece about the state of the war on terrorism does the service of raising a notion and a possibility that no politician has found very useful to acknowledge:
THE LEFT'S COMING OF AGE. For years now, the standard attack on liberals or liberal Democrats has been two-pronged. The first prong proceeds from the idea that the vast majority of liberals are weak, slow-to-learn political bunglers who repeat the same mistakes, chose the same dumb candidates, take lumps without fighting back, etc. The second prong of the attack is to assert that the small sliver of politically competent liberals are ruthless, shameless, rabid radicals bent on destroying the country and its values -- not to mention liberalism itself and the Democratic Party along the way. Call it the feckless-or-reckless critique: The smart, reasonable elements are weak, and the strong elements are unhinged lunatics.
REMEMBERING POST-9-11. I'm going to eschew the 9-11 remembrance motif that's flitting through the blogosphere. Like all Americans, I found the day to be wrenching and horrific, the experience hallucinatory and unsettling. But I lived all the way out in California -- indeed, in the very same town where Duncannoticed a curious detachment from the event -- and to pretend that I can even start to understand the agony it caused those who were immediately affected would be nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to use a national tragedy to enhance my own moral credibility. So I won't.
THE RETURN OF GOREWATCH It�s been awhile since we did this, but I'm becoming convinced that Al Gore will run. Part of my reasoning has to do with grapevine, friend-of-a-friend type of stuff; part of it is that the realization of Hillary's weaknesses has made the field look more open than it previously did; part of it is warm reception his movie received; and part is that Gore's "denials" have become about as convincing as Hillary's.
I COME NOT TO BURY DAVID BROOKS... Last week I wrote extensively on the problems I saw with David Brooks' recent column on inequality. I thought it both dead wrong and totally misleading as to the views of Lawrence Katz, the Clinton economist Brooks brandishes for bipartisan cred. Folks can check out the interview I did with Katz here, rebutting much of it. That said, Brooks' follow-up piece, where he proposes some solutions to inequality, was actually quite good, and is coming in for some rather unfair criticism.
FROM THE SEPTEMBER PRINT ISSUE: THE REAL RUDY.Rudy Giuliani became "America's Mayor" five years ago today with a show of strong leadership while New York was attacked. But the credibility regarding terrorism and security that Giuliani garnered for himself that day doesn't stand up to scrutiny. In this piece from the September print issue of the Prospect (adapted from the upcoming book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11), Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins lay out an eight-year history of error and negligence on the mayor's part that has never gotten the attention it deserves.
OBSCENE. Both the Times and the Post note this morning that Bush laid two wreaths at ground zero last night in the company of George Pataki, Mike Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani. The Post goes well out of its way to remark that the event �left aside the partisan rancor� that�well, that Bush & Co. have enforced on the country since about 9-14.
After getting a few things wrong in his last column, David Brooks is back to tell us his remedy for the problem of inequality: education (sorry, it�s Times Select and therefore not linkable). He proposes an agenda that would promote educational opportunity for middle class and poor kids. I question whether his route is the best one for this task (universal child care and health care would rank higher on my list), but promoting educational opportunities for the less advantaged is certainly a good thing.
The Fed released data for consumer debt for July on Friday. The release got little attention, and the short pieces that did cover it mostly focused on the slower rate of growth. The growth in consumer credit overall slowed from a 7.3 percent annual rate in June to a 2.8 percent rate in July. For the revolving debt component (primarily credit card debt), the slowdown was much sharper, from 13.2 percent in June to a 3.4 percent rate in July.
LAWRENCE KATZ SPEAKS. One last thing on yesterday's David Brookscolumn. My friend Reihan Salamwondered why I was so dismissive of the piece, and he was right to. In short, I've done a lot of reading into the economic literature on inequality and never, ever come across what Brooks was saying. Moreover, I'd read a fair amount of Lawrence Katz's work on inequality and it also failed to support Brooks' thesis. Something seemed wildly awry.