Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why Not Debtors’ Prison?

So it has come to this:        

While the Muslim world was burning, Mitt Romney was telling Kelly Ripa that he wears as little as possible to bed. And on the day world leaders gathered at the United Nations, President Obama’s only high-level sit-down in New York was with the ladies of “The View,” teasing, “I’m just supposed to be eye candy here for you guys.”

Romney said he was very troubled that Obama went on “The View” and skipped meeting other leaders, especially Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Netanyahu did not deserve a meeting and neither did President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. But Obama would have been better off spending time in New York talking to Hamid Karzai, given that American troops are still in Afghanistan and given how chary we are about turning over security to that less-than-inspiring government.

In a world of dogs, diplomatically speaking, Obama is a cat. Just as he suffered from his standoffish approach with Congress, donors and his base, our feline president can be oblivious to the neediness of other less Zen leaders.

As Helene Cooper and Robert Worth wrote in The Times on Tuesday, some Arab officials are critical of Obama’s impersonal, distant style.

“You can’t fix these problems by remote control,” one Arab diplomat told The Times.

At least the president has a foreign policy. Romney and Paul Ryan haven’t spent time thinking and speaking a lot about foreign policy. They have simply taken the path of least resistance and parroted the views of their neocon advisers. They talk all tough at Iran and Syria and label the president a weak apologist and buildup bogymen and rant about how America must dictate events in the Middle East. That’s not a doctrine; it’s a treacherous neocon echo.

It’s amazing that many of the neocons who were involved in the Iraq debacle are back riding high. (Foreign Policy magazine reports that 17 of Romney’s 24 special advisers on foreign policy were in W.’s administration.) But no one has come along to replace them, or reinstitute some kind of Poppy Bush-James Baker-Brent Scowcroft realpolitik internationalism.

The neocons are still where the G.O.P. intellectual energy is, and they’re still in the blogosphere hammering candidates who stray from their hawkish orthodoxy. Democrats have claimed the international center once inhabited by Bush senior and his advisers.

On foreign and domestic policy, Republicans have outsourced their brains to right-wing think tanks. It’s one thing for conservatives at the American Enterprise Institute and other think tanks to sit around and theorize about the number of people who are “dependent” on government programs and to deplore the trend, or to strategize on privatizing Medicare. If you’ve got a lot of people on government programs, their response is not to help those people get off the programs, it’s to cut the programs.

The Romney campaign has turned conservative theory into ideology and gone off the cliff with it. If you want to inspire, lead and unite people, it won’t fly to take ideologically driven findings and present them unvarnished to voters.

At the Clinton Global Initiative Tuesday, Romney talked about tying foreign aid to “the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise” in the Middle East and other developing countries.

It was a variation on what Romney said on the infamous leaked tape to the fat-cat donors about half the country being victims and moochers, promulgating the idea that any aid makes people worse off instead of better off. Next he will want to bring back debtors’ prisons.

(It’s the same in Europe, as Germany debates how much to give to Greece, Spain and Portugal, or whether to dismiss them as bad, reckless and unworthy of being bailed out more.)

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the neocons were inspired by deus ex machina theories baked at the A.E.I. to try and force democracy on Iraq, assuming that people would just become better — and incredibly grateful to us.

Now the neocons inside Romney’s head are pushing the same idea: that we can whack countries in the Middle East and they’ll behave.

As Dan Senor, a top foreign policy adviser to both Romney and Ryan, told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC on Tuesday about Iran: “We’re not saying the military action should be used. But we are arguing that the threat of military action should be credible so it focuses the Iranian leadership on reaching some diplomatic solution.”

That was exactly the argument the same neocon gaggle used when they were pushing an invasion of Iraq. But somehow the diplomatic part got superseded.

As President Obama said on “60 Minutes,” “If Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so.”

Looking at crumpling poll numbers, Romney may learn that when you don’t think for yourself, you tank. 

Obama Tells U.N. New Democracies Need Free Speech
(September 26, 2012)

The Caucus: Romney Urges Attaching Certain Strings to Foreign Aid
(September 25, 2012)

    • James. jordan
    • Falls Church, Va
    NYT Pick
    Ms Dowd,

    I agree with your analysis but what motivates the neo-cons? Are the neocons seeking a job in the R & R administration? or, are they on retainer with members of the military industrial complex? or on retainers of middle eastern governments to increase U.S. aid in the form of weapons and military stuff? or on retainer of the new private security firms (like 2nd gen Blackwater) who want to drum up Homeland Security threats here and there to keep their order books filled?

    It seems to me that there are plenty of opportunities for trade with Middle Eastern countries who have bundles of oil money to buy lots of U.S manufactured goods and services. The strategy proposed by R&R creates a plausible theory that the neo cons are blocking sales by American manufacturers and thereby are allowing European suppliers of non-military equipment to eat our lunch. This seems inconsistent with Romney's much heralded business acumen.

    Obviously we want to discourage the production of nuclear weapons. There is no upside to another nuclear power in the region. Pakistan is enough, already. It makes more sense to trade in peace and avoid the irrationality of war.

    I watched President Obama today at the UN and the CGI and he seemed very rational and interested in a diplomatic solution to the tensions in the Middle East. This is a much better course than that proposed by the R&R coterie.
      • Brett
      • Los Angeles
      NYT Pick
      "On foreign and domestic policy, Republicans have outsourced their brains to right-wing think tanks." Great line Ms Dowd.

      The single greatest campaign strategy for President Obama is to just sit quietly and let Romney and his hacks talk. And implode.
        • Doug Terry
        • Folly Beach, South Carolina
        NYT Pick
        I listened, a bit, to Romney speaking at the Clinton forum. He said that "the free enterprise system" can not only make us more wealthy and successful, "it can make us better people". Wow. Presumably, what he meant was that by standing up for ourselves, we become stronger and more independent (one has to read into what he says to find any meaning at all).

        While Romney was speaking, I was passing through the Charleston, SC, area where payday loan shops, check cashing fee grabbers, pawn shops and car title loan shacks are as numerous as places to buy bagels in NYC. The purpose of these "service businesses" is singular: to exploit, the problems of the poor and near poor and their need for immediate cash to pay the rent, buy food or get medical care. The "buy here, pay here" used car lots represent an innovative scheme of stark exploitation worthy of a middle-eastern bazaar. Generally, the poor, needing transportation, are taken for their last dollar and sold overpriced, near junk cars at high prices, cars that are frequently taken back, repossessed, after the purchaser has made thousands of dollars in payments. Free enterprise at its best?

        Warren Buffett, echoing others, has said that business is an amoral activity, meaning that turning the dollar is the goal, regardless of the consequences. It is difficult to imagine how Romney, or anyone, can square his proclaimed religious values with amoral activity, carried out aggressively, on a daily basis.
          • David
          • Portland, OR
          NYT Pick
          As an Obama supporter, I must agree with the criticism on Obama here. FDR, JFK, LBJ, and Clinton excelled at schmoozing with all sorts of people, including opponents and potential adversaries. I am somewhat surprised by this because he's obviously very comfortable in his own skin, has a command of facts, a keen intellect, an ability to argue his point, and overall a very likeable person. Making that personal connection with another leader is sometimes all it takes to have them stick their neck out for your position.
            • Brett
            • Los Angeles
            NYT Pick
            As Dan Senor, a top foreign policy adviser to both Romney and Ryan, told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC on Tuesday about Iran: “We’re not saying the military action should be used. But we are arguing that the threat of military action should be credible so it focuses the Iranian leadership on reaching some diplomatic solution.”


            If this is the GOP/Romney argument we better hope President Obama wins.

            It is factually absurd to suggest that Obama has not backed up threats of force – check Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and the numerous direct assaults he has personally green-lighted to the chagrin of many on the left. He is not afraid to use force judiciously and wisely.

            It just may be that the president is trying to be more thoughtful and wise, less reactionary and diplomatic, and a bit less shoot from the hip in his approach to foreign policy.

            Romney on the other hand seemed to have zero interest in foreign policy and diplomacy until he discovered it was part of the portfolio
              • SoCalGal
              • Southern CA
              NYT Pick
              Maureen Dood wrote: While the Muslim world was burning, Mitt Romney was telling Kelly Ripa that he wears as little as possible to bed.

              No, he answered a stupid question as graciously as he could.
                • WestSider
                • NYC
                NYT Pick
                The View was apparently pre-taped. No reason to meet with any of the world leaders. Anything to be said can be done over the phone. Meeting the POTUS is, in case anyone has forgotten, an honor and privilege to any world leader. I can't imagine why Karzai deserves such honor. He showed the Yemeni President his gratitude for recent actions taken against terrorists.

                They all have been told what's expected of them. The message is clear: We don't need you, you need us. I couldn't agree more.
                  • Jorge
                  • Ithaca, NY
                  NYT Pick
                  "They have simply taken the path of least resistance and parroted the views of their neocon advisers."

                  Not to nitpick, but this is a problem in general with how foreign policy is formulated in the United States. The presence of think tanks, the foreign service bureaucracy, and an endless array of lobbyists means that any President inherits not only a foreign policy establishment and its policies, but also its baggage. You can count on one hand the amount of Presidents, literally, since the American Revolution that were invested in foreign policy before coming to office. John Quincy Adams? Theodore Roosevelt? Dwight Eisenhower? John F. Kennedy?

                  More importantly, realpolitik is not necessarily pragmatism, and jovial Presidents often do poorly in their foreign affairs. While the Middle East is one of Obama's foreign policy shortcomings, on the balance he is certainly one of the more successful first-term Presidents. Lyndon Johnson was a famous, warm schmoozer, and it served him horribly in the Middle East. Nasser in particular couldn't stand him, complaining that LBJ would ask for photos of his family to put in his office while selling weapons weapons to Israel and backing them against Egypt.

                  There's no question Romney's chameleon nature is ill-suited to foreign affairs. My real worry is that foreign policy is often about effectively choosing the right people. If Ryan is any indication, we better hope Romney's poll numbers stay in the crumpled heap they are right now.
                    • Euge Pol
                    • Eugene, Oregon
                    NYT Pick
                    Frankly, I'm a bit puzzled by the incessant belly-aching from the Beltway that Obama doesn't schmooze. These are the same people who make a living criticizing politicians who live in a bubble (e.g., Mitt Romney) and can't connect with everyday people. Recall from 2008 that Obama promised he would try to change the culture of Washington, and so I think he has tried to do just that, but for that he gets pilloried as aloof or as a "cat" living "in a world of dogs." Actually, I think an accurate analogy is that Obama is a parent of adult children who believes they should not come running home every time they face a problem they don't like or don't want to solve on their own, you know, because they are his children (I.e., family) but they are adults and he talks to and treats them as such. Wow! What a bad parent!

                    As for the neocons, I've got more than a lifetime's worth of disgust and antipathy for them. I sincerely believe, as I have since 2004, that many of them are personally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens and that they should stand trial for war crimes. They do not get and do not deserve another chance to "serve" the American public. They cannot be allowed to start any more wars in our name and kill any more innocent people. If they want to fight the Iranian regime, then by all means, they are free to personally pick up arms and fight for what they believe on the streets of know, if it's that important to them.
                      • Dr. KEM
                      • Cambridge, MA
                      NYT Pick
                      The purported grandfather of neoconservativism, Leo Strauss, wrote "The sophist, in contradistinction to the philosopher, is not set in motion and kept in motion by the sting of the awareness of the fundamental difference between conviction or belief and genuine insight."

                      If and to the extent this distinction is fair, in my view, those who believed in government constrained by the rule of law, in civil liberties, in diplomacy, in questioning the way in which our currency is issued as a loan at interest by a cartel of private banks, and who had some dim understanding of the danger of debt and the compounding interest attached to same - the 'philosophers' - supported Ron Paul.

                      The partisan loyalty, the ad hominem cross-duopoly attacks masquerading as political argument, and a growing contempt for our own Constitution had left us here: buried in debt, entombed in war, and burdened with a government of, for, and by the megacorporations and banks.

                      And the inanity of the 2 party system, and blind, obtuse allegiance thereto, is manifestly to blame.

                      We have a system wherein a party's leadership can remove and replace delegates to install their candidate, and a country where few seemed to care what sort of future this portends.

                      Both liberals and conservatives have engendered the growth of a coercive, omnipotent, and counterdemocratic security state, and it has become nauseating to listen to them bicker and cheat and lie and steal to gain power within that state.
                        • John
                        • France
                        NYT Pick
                        Romney seems to run his team like a CEO runs planning meetings. A CEO sets objectives for the company and the division managers provide plans on how they expect to achieve those objectives. The CEO either accepts the plans or sends them back for more work.

                        The recent Times article "C.E.O.’s and the Pay-’Em-or-Lose-’Em Myth" contained the statement that "C.E.O.’s selected from within a company perform better than outsiders". A reason for this performance is that CEO's who rise through the ranks of an industry and company are so knowledgeable about their business that they can challenge the assumptions of their subordinates. A manager can't get away with a plan to meet the objectives by raising prices when the CEO knows that the customers will refuse and shift their business to competitors.

                        The sense I have is that Romney either lacks the experience and knowledge or the will to challenge his advisers. When they said that 47% of American adults do not pay taxes, Romney accepted the conclusions that these Americans were a) addicted to government handouts, b) unworthy of such support, and c) in the pocket of Obama. We can imagine the assumptions built into the notions that foreign aid should be tied to fostering jobs and free enterprise or that saber-rattling is the backbone of good foreign policy.

                        If Romney cannot press his policy advisers for higher quality input, how will he behave as president? A weak CEO is bad for business; a weak president is bad for the world.
                          • Jason Shapiro
                          • Santa Fe
                          NYT Pick
                          It is interesting that neither Bush, Cheney, nor Rumsfeld, were present at the Republican National Convention for the obvious reason that the leaders of the GOP did not wish to scare portions of the voting public by reminding them of the failures, debacles, and wasted trillions of dollars of the last Republican administration. On the other hand, it is now clear that the same neocons who engineered those failures and wasted those monies have been placed in charge of developing Romney's foreign policy initiatives. Romney's embrace of neocon philosophy is thus one part irony and one part con because Americans are being duped again, and need to know that a Romney administration would be nothing less than a "third term for Dubya" including new wars with all of the attendant death and destruction.
                            • Sandalwood
                            • New York
                            NYT Pick
                            "[O]ur feline president can be oblivious to the neediness of other less Zen leaders. "

                            Dear Maureen Dowd,

                            With due respect, your casual reference to Zen betrays a misunderstanding of the teachings and the practice. Like Buddhism in general, Zen Buddhist practice is not primarily about keeping one's distance. On the contrary, it is about intimacy with things as they are. The true Zen practitioner is not aloof and not always calm. Rather, he or she is fully aware of what is occurring, within and without. President Obama may well be a "Zen president," insofar as he remains thoroughly grounded in the present reality. But this has nothing to do with being oblivious or culpably detached. To suggest as much is to misunderstand a 2500-year-old tradition and perpetuate a popular misconception.
                              • Nuschler
                              • Cambridge
                              NYT Pick
                              Oh Maureen!
                              "...our feline president can be oblivious to the neediness of other less Zen leaders."

                              On Tuesday night's "The Daily Show", JonStewart specifically asked Jordan's King Abdullah ii if President Obama's lack of one-on-one meetings "caused a stir" in the UN Assembly. Abdullah just shrugged his shoulders and said that the leaders of the rest of the world were very busy with everything else happening. So Stewart said "I guess we are over-reacting?" Abdullah casually said "Yes."

                              And so Ms. Dowd once again you are taking yourself far too seriously. You relate a comment from another column that "some Arab officials are critical of Obama’s impersonal, distant style." I guess that Arab officials would be happier with the head-on take no prisoners style of Bush 43/Cheney/Rumsfield instead?
                                • Nan Socolow
                                • Cayman Islands, British West Indies
                                NYT Pick
                                How much more proof do you need that Willard Mit Romney can't think for himself? As this campaign winds up or winds down, take your pick, Mitt becomes more and more unreal, in his wooden posture and gingerly steps to the mikes on the hustings, in his canned and repeated speechs (sans laughtracks). In his woeful ignorance. President Obama may have been "eye candy" on "The View", but he gave a rowsing and passionate, intelligent and moving speech to the United Nations yesterday. By not backslapping, high-fiving and playing hail fellow well met with Bibi Netanyahu of Israel and Mohammed Morsi of Egypt who were in New York City for the UN meetings, he slipped neatly and coolly between Scylla and Charibdis and avoided being cannon fodder for his opponents and their neocon handlers.
                                  • ChloeZZZ
                                  • Manhattan
                                  NYT Pick
                                  I disagree with you that Obama is a cat in a dog eat dog world. I also think it's rich that Arab officials are critical of Obama’s impersonal, distant style. These are leaders whose leadership style is typically to pronounce but not allow visitation, especially from anyone who disagrees with them. If anything, it's that Arab leadership can be more easily characterized as cats. Obama is simply playing their game to give them a taste. After all, Obama won in 2008 by openly saying he believed in diplomacy and would meet with Arab leadership in strong contrast to Bush style strike first ask questions later. Why should Obama be floundering for a leadership that has flouted secrecy about their nuclear capabilities? I hope the Arabs unusual experience of being frozen out a little bit sends them home to contemplate how they do things diplomatically. Sometimes, on the playground, when the more aggressive kids experience what they dish out to others, they become nicer kids to play with.

                                  And how many times has Romney been on the View? I think this is a dead issue, thank you.
                                    • Peter C
                                    • Ottawa, Canada
                                    NYT Pick
                                    Maureen, when you say "Netanyahu did not deserve a meeting and neither did President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt." you obviously did not read the interview with Morsi, earlier this week. We might not like everything this man is saying, but he seems to have a good balance of understanding the Muslim world and the west. He shows respect for and understandin of our and their values. Netanyahu on the other hand is offensive and disrespectful and is not worthy of a meeting.

                                    Netanyahu's view of what American foreign policy should be, and the neo con foreign policy are anachronisms. The days of exerting foreign policy by bullying are over, as they should have observed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
                                      • Mark Bernstein
                                      • Honolulu
                                      NYT Pick
                                      When we re-establish the debtors' prisons, will the officers and directors of companies that go bankrupt be incarcerated? In that case we have a new suit for you Mitt "corporations are people" Romney, but I don't think you're going to like it.
                                        • Peter
                                        • Metro Boston
                                        NYT Pick
                                        President Obama has said repeatedly that "no options are off the table" when it comes to an Iranian nuclear device. For someone who has shown no compunction about delivering death and destruction from the air, I find it hard to give much credence to comments like Dan Senor's. How much more "credible" does the Administration need to be? Or is it simply that "credibility" in this case means following Bibi Netanyahu's lead wherever it may take us?


                                        Personally I think the world could live with a nuclear Iran just as we learned to live with a nuclear Pakistan, a nuclear Israel, and a nuclear North Korea. If anything, I see Pakistan as a much bigger threat to global stability than Iran currently is. "Massive retaliation" is an horrific military doctrine, but one that has prevented any state from using a nuclear device since 1945.
                                          • Gregg
                                          • Toronto
                                          NYT Pick
                                          Obama's appearance on "The View" is another reminder of how he has done more than any other president to diminish the mystique of the office The U.S. President is a head of state as well as head of government, and Obama's TV compensation for the standoffishness Ms. Dowd describes debases the currency of that status. Could we imagine Queen Elizabeth appearing on British breakfast television? Likely the late Neil Postman feared that this would happen, as the U.S. presidency succumbs to infotainment.
                                            • Daniel DeGrandpre
                                            • Vancouver, Wa
                                            NYT Pick
                                            A few years before we first went into Iraq during Desert Storm I had a friend who had come to the United States from Iran. He had been a high ranking member of the state run media, so returning home was safe. He would travel back every now and then to visit his mother and other family members. One of the things he noted on his return not long after our first incursion with Saddam Hussein from Kuwait was that his countrymen really believed that the US was going to invade Iran next. Though we had no intention of invading Iran at the time, many people there thought that was our intention. Did George Jr.'s men have any idea that during a time when we had no big beef with Iran that the average Iranian Joe thought we did? I doubt Bush’s men, who are just itching to get another bite at the apple, had any idea of what the mind set was in most of the Middle East. Like Romney, who is willing to disregard 47% of his own people, these folks care little, if at all, about how we are seen in the Middle East, because after all these are just Muslims, not seen by these folks as any higher on the social ladder than how our own Native Americans were seen during our Manifest Destiny period. This mindset has been around for a long time and recently is communicated in coded language on Fox News and conservative talk radio. As we found out this month, behind closed doors this kind of mindset that separates the have's from the have not’s is prevalent in the top ranks of Romney's campaign.



                                            1. I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your website. It's a very
                                              easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often.
                                              Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
                                              Superb work!
                                              Also see my web page :: work From Home jobs

                                            2. I don't know whether it's just me or if perhaps everyone else encountering issues with your website.
                                              It seems like some of the written text in your posts are running off the screen.
                                              Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to
                                              them as well? This could be a problem with my browser because
                                              I've had this happen previously. Appreciate it
                                              Stop by my blog : day trading forex live

                                            3. Usually I don't read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite nice article.
                                              Here is my web-site :: payday loans