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Pundits & Editorials

Commentators defend the New Yorker's satire and weigh in on Phil Gramm's 'whiner' comments. Plus: Chertoff defends inspections of electronic data.

• "The furor over this week's New Yorker cover... boils down to this: We get it, but what will those folks in fly-over country think?" guest columnist Timothy Egan contends in the New York Times. "The answer is that they get it as well. Irony, it turns out, does cross the Hudson River."

Tim Rutten thinks the reaction to the cover was overblown and shows how "humor's salutary bite" has been drained from politics. "When it comes to political comment and satire, we're becoming a nation of visual illiterates," he laments.


• Also responding to the magazine cover controversy, Maureen Dowd recommends that Barack Obama lighten up. "If Obama keeps being stingy with his quips and smiles, and if the dominant perception of him is that you can't make jokes about him, it might infect his campaign with an airless quality."

• "This silly flap" that the cover has generated "is typical of a campaign where a candid observation or poorly phrased remark or impolitic utterance regularly touches off a foofaraw that hops from hyper-partisan websites or YouTube to talk-radio or cable TV, and then sometimes into mainstream news," Scott Lehigh observes.

William Murchison supports John McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm's comment about the U.S. being a country of whiners. "There's a lot of whining going on, and if, as Phil avers, he was 'talking about our leaders,' not our people in general, he makes a serious point with something of the blunt force requisite to the task. Alas for him!"


Thomas Frank, meanwhile, sees a deeper lesson in Gramm's comments. "Historians will someday say" this "was the snarling end of an era in which our leaders believed that markets represented the very will of the people; that to serve one was to serve the other."

• "A sitting president collecting secret cash in unlimited sums from corporations and wealthy favor-seekers. This might sound outrageous, and it is," Ruth Marcus maintains. "But it's also perfectly legal, as fundraisers for sitting presidents work to fill the coffers of future presidential libraries with six- and seven-figure checks."

David Hill offers some suggestions to political pollsters as to how they can improve their surveys between now and the conventions.

• "I wish that Treasury and Federal Reserve officials would do a better job of bargaining -- so taxpayers wouldn't have to dig into their pockets again in a few months to rescue yet another group of spendthrift financiers," David Ignatius writes. "Perhaps Congress can ask some tough questions before approving the Fannie and Freddie package."


• "With Fannie and Freddie on the ropes politically, let's put them on a path to privatization and liquidation," suggests Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

• "If we want a health-care system that promotes value -- that promotes the highest quality care at the lowest possible prices -- Congress simply must do better" than the Medicare bill passed Tuesday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt concludes in the Washington Times.

Michael Gerson draws upon his experience at the Arctic Circle, where he observed sea ice melting at faster rates than expected, to acknowledge that "Arctic warming is part of an increasingly compelling case for global warming -- or, more accurately, climate disruption that seems to come from warming."

Robert J. Samuelson poses some questions about globalization: "Is an increasingly interconnected world economy basically stable? Or does it generate periodic crises that harm everyone and spawn international conflict?"

• "There was something truly filthy about Russia's and China's vetoes of the American-led U.N. Security Council effort to impose targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe's ruling clique in Zimbabwe," Thomas L. Friedman fumes.

From The Editorial Boards...

The Hill commends Congress for shifting its focus and attention to the weakening economy. "It is refreshing to see members on both sides of the aisle adapting to the circumstances around them."

• "After hinting earlier this month that he might 'refine' his Iraq strategy after visiting the country and listening to commanders, Mr. Obama appears to have decided that sticking to his arbitrary, 16-month timetable is more important than adjusting to the dramatic changes in Iraq," the Washington Post notes, responding to his speech Tuesday on national security.

• Reacting to Hillary Rodham Clinton's request to "donors asking them to place their $2300 donation given to her for the 2008 general election into her Senate election coffers for 2012," the Washington Times accuses Clinton of "once again demonstrating her greed and lack of taste."

• As he muses about possibly working with an Obama administration on climate change, the Los Angeles Times is none too pleased with what it sees as a lack of attention from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) for his own state.

• The Boston Globe asserts that "more government oversight of home mortgages during the first half of this decade would have meant more attention to whether borrowers could repay their loans" and could have prevented the Fannie and Freddie crisis.

• "Americans apparently will have to wait for the next president to see any responsible action on regulating greenhouse gases," projects the Dallas Morning News. "The Bush administration seems to be crossing its arms, closing its eyes and holding its breath until the bitter end to avoid doing the right thing on climate change."

• "Widespread -- and, we suspect, self-induced -- amnesia among high officials of the Bush administration and its Defense Department has made it impossible for House investigators to determine whether top officials helped spread two bogus stories of heroism used to bolster support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," the New York Times charges.

• "The notion that the government can arbitrarily have a free crack at your e-mail, Web searches and other personal electronic data" when you are coming into or out of the country "is chilling," USA Today frets.

• In an opposing view, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff counters: "We cannot abandon our responsibility to inspect what enters the U.S. just because the information is on an electronic device. To do so would open a dangerous window for terrorists and criminals to exploit our borders in new and unacceptable ways."

• "The International Criminal Court's decision to seek an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Bashir is being hailed in the usual places as a landmark in the effort to stop the bloodshed in Darfur. In fact, the indictment is of a piece with the same toothless moral posturing that has already prolonged Darfur's misery for more than four years," the Wall Street Journal seethes.

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