Friday, October 10, 2008

The Economic Crisis Deepens: It Makes Me Think of Guys and Dolls and Broadcast News and Thomas Jefferson

The grownups wheeled George W. Bush out again this morning in another attempt to calm the markets, which ignored him as usual and went right on tanking. In fact, since Congress passed the economic “rescue” bill, proposed by the White House, the Dow Jones Industrial average has dropped more than a thousand points. Apparently I’m not the only person in whom our chief executive does not inspire confidence.

What awful luck that America should be going through this at the same time we are having a presidential election. In Britain, where an election for Prime Minister takes no more than a month, the country can turn quickly from a bad leader to an excellent one with very little fuss. When World War II began, the appeaser Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister. Eight months later without missing a step, Chamberlain resigned and the great Winston Churchill stepped in to lead the nation.

Our system is such that we can’t go back and re-examine the candidates we’ve rejected over the past primary season to find someone who might be a better fit for the crisis at hand. What we’re left with are two people who have zero economic leadership credentials and who both seem to believe that the insertion of government into the market is the best way to keep Americans from financial panic. Where will all this money come from for bailouts and FDIC insurance and mortgage rescues?

John McCain is beginning to remind me of Nathan Detroit in the musical Guys and Dolls, always promising marriage to his “fiancĂ©” poor Adelaide and never following through. I don’t know if McCain really does intend to help out individual homeowners by inserting the government between the homeowner in default and his bank, but to me, that seems implausible. So, like Adelaide, in Guys and Dolls, I sing:

You promise me this, you promise me that
You promise me anything under the sun
Then you give me a kiss,
And you're grabbing your hat
And you're off to the races again
When I think of the time gone by
When I think of the way I cry
I could honestly die.”

(”Sue Me” from Guys and Dolls, 1955, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser)

Our other candidate,Obama, is a cipher to me. So smooth, so slick, and no completely unknowable. The only thing we do know about him is that he picks some really creepy friends, from his minister who thought America should be hit again harder after September 11, 2001, to Bill Ayers, his pal who was a fugitive from the feds for bombing the pentagon and the capitol and who said in the book he wrote after he surrendered, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” You can tell a lot from the friends a man chooses.

Our choice then, on one hand, is John “Nathan Detroit” McCain and on the other is a guy who reminds me of the speech Albert Brooks’ gives in the movie Broadcast News. In it he is speaking about a shallow anchorman who has stolen his girl, but it could be about anybody who looks good on the outside and who is something else underneath:

“What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing . . . he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance . . . Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. . . . And he’ll get all the great women.” (From the film Broadcast News)

I’m disillusioned by this campaign with all its pandering and promises and by its angry tone and lack of real passion for the spirit of America. I’m concerned because it is just at times like this that a country can turn to a really dangerous leader, one who speaks one agenda but holds secretly to another. We have to worry about that, because we are in troubled times. I mean things must be tough. The Mass Mutual Financial Group is using Donavan's "Try and Catch the Wind" in a recent advertisement. My sentiments exactly.

This economic crisis has shed light on the fact that our congress is bogged down in corruption and has betrayed those of us who entrusted our beloved country to its care. Our president, too, has let us down by his negligence and his arrogance, and apparent lack of an iota of common sense. I dislike being a pessimist because I believe the best leaders are optimists with brains like, FDR, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, all of whom had uplifting visions of their nations and led the people to raise their own view of what was possible. Still it is a tough time for us right now. So today, just for today, I can agree with Thomas Jefferson when he said so long ago: "I weep for my country when I reflect that God is just.”

1 comment:


To Ms. Robin Chapman

The punches of economic crisis would rub out the talks of election campaign from the people's minds. Now Indian market is also showing signs of some weakness.

Naval Langa