Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lou Dobbs' Quest (and the non-Lou)

I'm sure it is easy go make too much of it, but I am intriguey the fact (per Wiki) that Lou Dobbs is the son of a propane dealer. And in Childress County, Texas, which looks to be one of the loneliest, most forlorn places on the planet. Not only that, but his father's business failed when Lou was 12. I don't think it is too much of a stretch to look at this past for the seedbeds of his truculence and resentment. I say this with compassion: hell, with a record like that, which of us would not be truculent (at least until we became multimillionaires, but by that point, truculence might have become a habit).

Notwithstanding these obscure beginnings, I see he made it to Harvard, but my guess is he wasn't happy there. The Wiki doesn't mention any marks of distinction and it is hard to see him chairing the Lampoon or cutting up with the Hasty Pudding. And he seems to have begun adulthood with a trackless procession of crap jobs--until (like Rush) he seems to have discovered that he had a face made for radio.

I remember Dobbs as actually a pretty good business reporter before he went off the rails, although even in his heyday, I found something cringeworthy about the pompous chumminess with which he chatted up the economic high and mighty--you suspected even then that the felt he didn't really belong there.

I am dismisive, but I do not want to be too dismissive. You've got to respect the range of concerns that Lou seems to have tapped into with such resonance--general insecurity, declining mobility, the disintegration of middle class lives. But Lou's response seems sullied o'er with such sa crippling failure of imagination: there doesn't seem to be any problem he can't solve by finding some scheming foreigner devoted to making our own lives more miserable. It's an intelligible human response, but a damned unconstructive one, and sometimes it makes you wish he would just high-tail it back home.

Meanwhile Joel commends us to this to Tim Egan's NYT account of the great betrayal in American economics. That would be the Tim Egan who wrote about the Dust Bowl, and The Worst Hard Time (about the Dust Bowl); he also worked on the NYT series, How Race is Lived in America.Af first glance I dismissed it with a snark about "the thinking man's Lou Dobbs"--the non-Lou. I don't know precisely what I meant by that, nor whether I cvan defend it. They seem to have many of the same concerns. But Egan seems at least more discriminating in his choice of villains. In any event, there certainly is an overlsap. Hell, the Dust Bowl almost certainly made it to Childress County, Texas.

Addendum: Here's a far less generous view of Lou. And maybe nore accurate.

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