James Walcott interrupts his usual snark today for a thought-provoking piece on the U.S. economy, and the nation's short-term political direction. (I like the snark, by the way.)
After quoting at length from a Stephen Roach memo to Morgan Stanley investors worrying that the Chinese and Arabs who now hold our notes are getting sick of our attitude, he neatly summarizes the public mood in the person of CNN anchor Lou Dobbs.
Walcott notes that Dobbs probably did more than anyone to turn the Dubai Ports deal around, and then notes some of his other bugbears -- immigration, pensions, deficits, the middle class squeeze.
Much of Dobbs' work in this area is good, but sometimes, as on the issue of China, he goes off into a jingoism "like something out of the National Review circa 1958." (There's a present in that link.)
Walcott's larger point is that Americans are not heading left nor right, but toward a simpler nationalism we practiced before World War II. Isolationism is too simple a word here. But the desire to both retreat and scapegoat is real. He concludes:
One of the great paradoxes of our age is how the US can be so dimly complacent and so sharply fearful in the same breath. We're in a constant state of sluggish agitation, worked up into a righteous state of indifference.
Is this a good thing? It sort of depends on Lou Dobbs. He can continue the Howard Beale impersonation toward its natural conclusion, or he can start trying to right the ship, interviewing people with real solutions to propose.
But you know what really scares me?
It's that Time-Warner might prefer he become Beale. Boost the ratings, you know.