When Thinkers Get It Wrong — And Escape Blame

On Climate Change Deniers, Budget Hawks and 'Democratizers'

Remember Him? Former FEMA leader Michael Browne won infamy when President George W. Bush congratulated him for doing a ‘heckuva job’ after Hurricane Katrina. Others deserve similar plaudits.
getty images
Remember Him? Former FEMA leader Michael Browne won infamy when President George W. Bush congratulated him for doing a ‘heckuva job’ after Hurricane Katrina. Others deserve similar plaudits.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published December 24, 2012, issue of December 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

These waning days of December are traditionally a time for journalists to sum up the events of the past year and choose highlights for your consideration. A favorite approach is to pick winners and losers, but given the year we’ve just had, that doesn’t feel right. Sure, Obama won and Romney lost. Then what?

Instead, let’s look at some folks who nearly took a hit in 2012, and may have had it coming, but managed to dodge the bullet and hang on for another round. Let’s hand out the first annual Brownie Awards. Heck of a job, guys.

First up, advocates of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Perennial kibitzers, they were galvanized into a movement by Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1993 book, “A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World.” Bibi claimed that Israel could never negotiate peace with its neighbors until they were brought from dictatorship into democracy. To be fair, he probably never imagined anyone would be crazy enough to try it, intending it only as a way to avoid ever having to negotiate and compromise.

Netanyahu, of course, couldn’t foresee how the horrors of September 2001 would make the fight against Islamist terrorism into an American crusade, marrying righteous anger with can-do American grit and down-home Texas recklessness. Nor could he foresee Osama bin Laden’s ingenious harnessing of American firepower to accomplish what bin Laden never could have done on his own: begin toppling secular Arab dictators and replacing them with democratically elected Islamic fundamentalists. And nobody could have foreseen the time lag between the first and second rounds of toppling, allowing the authors of the blunder to blame their mess on the guy elected to clean it up, Barack Obama. Not everyone buys the dodge, of course, but they’ve found just enough suckers to keep themselves in business. Congrats, democratizers. Heck of a job.

Next up, those so-called fiscal conservatives who tell us that lowering taxes, deregulating business, muzzling unions and reducing government spending is what makes an economy grow. They’ve been peddling this snake-oil assiduously for three decades, ever since a genial Hollywood actor was elected to try it out on us. What we got, amazingly, was the same growth rate we’d had during the previous three decades of higher taxes and tighter regulation. Government didn’t shrink, of course; instead, we got a steadily rising mountain of public debt to pay for what taxes used to cover. And with unions crippled, most of the growth went into the pockets of the wealthiest few, who became rich beyond their wildest dreams (or, perhaps, precisely as they’d dreamed) while most of us treaded water or worse.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.