Roger Cohen, NYT columnist (“In The Seventh Year“, 9/1/08) describes how, far from 9-11 bringing the country closer together, it has sundered America in two: with some fighting for our country while others backdated options, packaged toxic mortgage-backed securities, and got themselves wealthy in the process. America, far from other countries has become noticeably more uneven in wealth over the past few years. [You can see how this growth in inequality is greater than than in the UK, Canada, France or Japan.]
In an interesting companion piece, Scott Leigh notes wistfully how the promised civility of the 2008 campaign has given way to rancorous squabbling (“Civility is Casualty as Campaigns Spar“, Boston Globe, 9/1/08). While largely initiated by the McCain/Palin team, especially in her nasty (but humorously and folksily delivered) speech at the nomination; Obama has now countered calling McCain/Palin, laughingly commenting: ““You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change; it’s still going to stink after eight years.” McCain has lambasted the use of the “lipstick on a pig” image, a phrase McCain claims is a dig on Palin, even though McCain used this phrase himself earlier in the campaign. Woe to the higher plane on which these candidates said they would play: appearing at joint meetings to discuss their policies. And McCain’s tactics make a mockery of his claim that he will usher in a new era in bipartisan politics in Washington — live by the sword, die by it.
I myself think that President Bush squandered a remarkable opportunity after 9-11. We had the world’s admiration and sympathies after 9-11 and now we have their enmity for our cowboy foreign policy. We had amazing class solidarity, with financiers helping waiters out of the Twin Towers and vice versa, and now we are back to every class looking out for itself. We had a remarkable opportunity to give Americans a chance to sacrifice for the good of our country: e.g., conserving fuel use to make us less dependent on the Arab undemocratic states, but instead we were encouraged to shop by Bush and initially the Administration’s policies drive down gas prices and made us use all the more fuel. And we had an opportunity to use our powerful assets to reshape the world for good: to teach Muslim youth so they saw that there was opportunity to learn beyond going to radical madrassah schools, to invest mightily in our own educational system so we could ensure that our citizens prospered in the years ahead amidst a much more globally competitive world, and to usher in the next wave of green technologies so we were exporting these technologies to the world with lots of jobs, rather than the reverse. But all this has been squandered along with trillions of dollars on the Iraq War, which has radicalized Arab youth rather than made the world safer. Let’s hope that we can do a far better job in the next 8 years.