It has come to my attention that, at the top of this page, I am described as a fellow at the New America Foundation. I also understand that the Foundation’s publicity strategy does not entail its fellows publicly denying its existence. So, okay, I admit it, I took a year’s leave from the New Republic to enjoy the cushy life of a journalistic fellow. The trouble is that so far it’s not quite as cushy as I had hoped. The office opened this week without giving us access to e-mail, the Internet, or voice mail. Yesterday the drinking fountain ceased to function and when I entered my office my desk was gone, replaced by a worker kneeling over what looked like several thousand desk parts. So this week I have fled back to the New Republic, which is less plush but more functional, to work on my new projects, which so far include writing the Breakfast Table, thinking big thoughts, having lunches, and pondering articles to write. The first day back at TNR, Monday, my once and future colleagues were glad to see me back. But memories are short. My editors are already asking that I work in return for the use of my ex-office. My voice mail was unceremoniously disconnected. And when I try to make a long-distance call, I get a stern female voice saying just, “Please hang up,” in the tone of a snooty maitre d’ asking you to leave the country club without making a scene.
Yet I have managed to steal some newspapers and whip myself up into an appropriate lather. Yesterday Alan Greenspan testified before the House Ways & Means Committee on President Clinton’s Social Security plan. This is treated as major news by all the papers. Greenspan approves of using the budget surplus to shore up Social Security, but he disapproves of putting it in the market. This is not treated as the opinion of one libertarian economist; it is a pronouncement. While Greenspan’s pronouncements on monetary policy matter, I’ve never understood why his views on anything else should be accorded such deference. Even Congressmen who disagree with Greenspan’s views do not dare to say so. If he told them they should get the tuna instead of the roast beef, would they listen?
Item two: Pat Robertson says the Republicans should give up trying to remove Clinton because they have no chance. Keep in mind that Robertson believes that Clinton is literally an agent of Satan. How crazy are the Republicans? So crazy that Pat Robertson is now part of the party’s moderate pragmatist wing. Senate Majority leader Trent Lott, meanwhile, continues to be lambasted for his excessive moderation, despite the fact that he has been revealed to be a member of a white supremacist organization.