Thursday, September 3, 2009
I came across a very interesting piece by legal and international relations scholar Phillip Bobbitt recently. He wrote a piece for the NYT about Robert McNamara "Calculus and Compassion". In it, he relates how his uncle, none other than Lyndon Johnson, described McNamara as the most compassionate man in his cabinet. A far cry from the public that later came to demonize McNamara during his tenure as Secretary of Defense. However, it doesn't surprise me, as a viewer of "The Fog of War", the documentary about McNamara directed by Errol Morris. The film is poignant, and McNamara a sympathetic figure. (Thanks to my friend F for watching it with me this summer after McNamara's death, along with a viewing of "Thirteen Days"). I highly commend the film ("Fog of War") and the column for a consideration of this complex, and in some ways, tragic figure.
Nicholas Kristoff shares an interesting and persuasive take on health care delivery today in his column "Heath Care That Works". He points out that Medicare and the VA system, two of the largest providers in the nation, have the highest patient satisfaction rates. Further, he notes that some goods, such as education, police and fire protection, and other like services are best handled by the government--and we know because that used to be provided privately, and it didn't work well. This raises an interesting question: how did the anti-government ideology become so strong in the U.S.?
I've been listening to Jean Edward Smith's biography of FDR, and it's fascinating. Thus, I read an article by Smith in the NYT today ("Roosevelt the Great Divider") with a great deal of interest. Smith describes how FDR pushed through almost all of the New Deal legislation without any Republican support. FDR threw down the gauntlet to the vested, moneyed interests--and won. He suggests that Obama should do the same. I'm more and more inclined to agree. "Bipartisanship" has a place, but when push comes to shove, as it must for any real change, you've got to prepare to vanquish your adversary (democratically, of course).