The Breakfast Table

Passive-Aggressive Tactics

Dear Lucianne–

My inability to feel any connection to the financial crisis now threatening to destabilize the world is a pretty serious personal failure. It’s unquestionably the story of the week, and if we’re unlucky it might be the story of the year. Current conditions obviously pose a rather large hazard for all of us, and the case could therefore be made that as conscientious citizens we have an obligation to understand what’s happening and why. Besides, one doesn’t have to be a Marxist to believe that much of human history is determined by economics. And in addition, economics is my wife’s profession, so I ought to be able to scrape up some interest simply out of uxorious obligation. But I’m afraid, all of that notwithstanding, doing so is simply beyond me. I feel about it the way I feel about understanding how my car works: I don’t get it and while I imagine I could grasp the rudiments if I worked really hard at it, I’m not especially eager to bother. All I ask is for the thing to go when I press the pedal. And for a good trustworthy mechanic when it doesn’t.

Having considered at length the Larry King Live line-up you provide, I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that Jonah Goldberg et al. will be chewing over the doings of Mr. Clinton once again. I guess it’s impossible to exhaust this topic. And I’m confident all the participants will take positions that are guaranteed to shock and surprise us. Now, Lucianne, I couldn’t help noticing you snuck in a couple of anti-administration digs while listing Larry’s dramatis personae (don’t think those slip by unnoticed, even when they’releft unanswered). Your doing so leads me to suspect you’re still itching to get into it.

So I say, A pox on such passive-aggressive tactics! We haven’t abandoned Clinton-related subjects altogether, not by a long chalk. I’ll bet you have at least a couple of arrows left in that commodious quiver of yours. And after this letter, we have only one letter apiece to go. So please, go ahead, take your best shot. I’ll respond. I’ll even respond with the seriousness the subject merits.

Meanwhile, what do you think of the issue of the Million Youth March, the one you raised this morning? It seems to me that this ought to be the sort of question that transcends ordinary liberal-vs.-conservative divisions; the heinousness of what the March organizers might have to say should be irrelevant to their right to demonstrate. But perhaps in your eyes that’s just an unacknowledged ACLU-type bias? Apparently Rudy Guiliani doesn’t agree with me, somaybe my faith is naïve. (I can be naïve about these matters: I was very moved a couple of years ago, for example, when I attended a Washington party Christopher Hitchens and Carol Blue were giving in support of Salmon Rushdie. Notable figures from both the right and the left margins of the political spectrum were conspicuously in attendance, and I felt a kind of pride in the First Amendment–in the seriousness with which all of us took the First Amendment, regardless of our disparate political leanings–which was almost embarrassing in its boyish patriotism.) But what are your thoughts on the subject?

Back to this business of economics (well, sort of): My wife has toddled off to Jackson Hole for the week-end. Some sort of Federal Reserve Bank boondoggle (she characterizes it a little differently, as you might already have guessed). And my son is staying at a friend’s. So I’m at loose ends here. Abandoned! Those two movies you mentioned earlier…On second thought, nah. Neither appeals. Even slightly. Arc or no arc. So it looks as if it’s going to be a couple of monkish days hereabouts, with just me, those Schumann symphonies, and Ron Rosenbaum’s provocative new book Explaining Hitler.

Sounds like a lot of laughs, no? It actually might be more fun to be holed up with Boris, Bill, and some room-temperature vodka.