Thursday, April 02, 2009

Jack Cafferty: Now or Never (except, not yet!)


Author: Jack Cafferty.
Title: "Now or Never: Getting Down to the Business of Saving Our American Dream."
Publication: New York: Wiley, 2009. ISBN 978-0-470-37230-2, 266 pages, hardcover.

Cafferty is best known for his “Situation Room” and its “Cafferty Files” on CNN.

This book is obviously a sequel to “It’s Getting Ugly Out There” (with a big Roman II) but it really does not give a lot of advice or “moralize” (either at the public policy level or “personal responsibility” level). That is, the book really does not tell us how to save "the American Dream," but it certainly tells us how not to. It traces the meltdown of our financial system and of the credibility of our national security through, first, the 2008 presidential primaries, and then through the presidential election campaign. Cafferty, at several points, interrupts his narrative with some oblique discussion of family values seen through his own experiences, dealing with the bottle earlier in life, and then with the death of his wife at the end.

On page 13, he writes, and says nicely something a lot of people say in private much more crudely:

“Whether W. wants to take credit for it or not, his legacy, beyond ending voter apathy, is actually an African American political progeny named Barack Obama, who owes his astonishing triumph to Bush, Cheney, and the arrogant neocons who loyally served their imperial regime.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I had always thought of Cafferty as a conservative and a Republican, or perhaps independent, whose message is similar to that of fellow anchor Lou Dobbs, who (himself a conservative with some social progressiveness) says that W. was the most reckless and intellectually incompetent president we had ever had. Cafferty tends to use stronger language sometimes, but his outlook is certainly similar to that of Dobbs (who tends to focus more attention on the hemorrhage of jobs overseas). But many of the problems we have today were building up during the Clinton years (even with Clinton’s surpluses) and go back to earlier times when liberals sold the idea that we could sell people homes that they could not afford or qualify for – that we could keep politicians in office by promising Americans that they could live beyond their means and that the rest of the world could really tolerate it forever. What’s the good word, drill sergeant, today? It’s “sustainability”, folks.

Cafferty does inventory W.’s “crimes” in handling national security, as if they were like “Nicole’s crimes” on “Days of our Lives”. He missed 9/11 when he had clear evidence of immediate danger. But then, he just took on imperial powers, and readily broke the law to avoid disclosure of various communiqu├ęs, and then take on new modes of unsupervised surveillance, which Cafferty thinks was not all that effective. He talks about the quagmire in Afghanistan, which will get us in real trouble if radical Islam gets a hold on Pakistan’s suitcase nukes, and says about our relationship with China (when he talks about the spectacle of the Olympics). On p 65 he writes, “We didn’t just our moral high ground with China. We gave it away.” Later he talks about the possibility of using “end user leverage” with China on dangerous, if slave-labor produced, imported products. Later he calls W. “Howdy Doody”’ I wondered whom he would identify as Mr. Bluster (Cheney, perhaps) and Clarabelle (Karl Rove, of course).

Cafferty doesn't go that much into the personal sacrifice ukase in this sequel book (despite the book's suggestive title); on p 204 he mentions W.'s call for shopping and business as usual, and an unwillingness to face the idea of personal sacrifice. Of course, we all know about the stop-loss in the military (which Obama says he will end), and Cafferty, recall, had argued that the draft should not have been abolished in his first book. My own take on all this still seems inductive.

While I get the impression that Cafferty is personally "OK" on gay issues, he makes the remark that voters didn't care a hoot about gay marriage (as "conservatives" tried to exploit the issue) as they did about the economy. (People who tracked Proposition 8 in California might not agree with him.) I notice the same thing on my own web stats (which cover a lot of ground despite my own personal background). My blog postings about GM's looming failure, possible bankruptcy and pension collapse get traffic, as do my postings about the Conficker Internet worm; my posting on a new court ruling on gay marriage is hardly noticed. The more people who are affected by an issue, the more people care about it.

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