Bob Herbert – Pessimism and Blowing Opportunities!

Dear Commons Community,

Bob Herbert has a rather pessimistic column today that refers to a number of blown opportunities by both the Bush and Obama’s administrations.   The Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the economic recovery and unemployment, and the Gulf oil spill are presented as examples of how our country has shown its inability to resolve major issues.  I don’t generally give in to pessimism but I do think of myself as a realist and some of what Herbert is saying is true.  I would add that a major part of the problem is that we lack a cohesive governing system and instead have a party system wherein the loyalty of our elected official are to their parties and vested interests first rather than to the country or people as a whole.  Every decision made is with a view as to how to get re-elected or how to keep one’s seat in Congress, a legislature, a senate, etc.  The overall good of the country is a second priority.  Herbert concludes his piece with  “the greatness of the United States, which so many have taken for granted for so long, is steadily slipping away.”

I hope not!!!


The full column is available at:


  1. Tim,

    First, congratulations on predicting that I would reference the Herbert piece. If you were an Urban Education student, I would give you a 3-credit independent study as a reward.

    Second, your call for activism is good. Those of us who were active in the 1960s took it a step further than you suggest and some changes were made, many of which were for the good. Unfortunately many of the 60s generation then had to support families and make a living and a lot of the activism faded. It seems the left needs something like the enthusiasm we see with the Tea Party. If you notice, a lot of the Tea Party enthusiasts are somewhat older not necessarily wiser. President Obama brought a bit of a spark to the left in 2008 and I was very happy if not elated that there would be change in America. It has not happened yet and I am fearful that after the midterm elections, things will only get worse.

    However, you deserve a better reply to your call than I am able to give you. I am not sure where this country is heading but I do believe that if enough people do many of the basic things well (take care of themselves and families, help their children in school, give back to one’s community, be modestly active in political processes), it is possible that our country will pull through this difficult period.

    Thanks for such an insightful posting.


  2. Hey Tony,

    Ha! I think I won Brian’s game of guessing which New York Times link you’ll blog, as I linked to this one too ( For me, the major question is: what can America do about this?

    Three directions come to mind right away:

    (1) We can donate or offer petition support to lobby groups that are outspoken presences in Washington (like the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby:

    (2) We can sign up with less directly involved organizations like “Repower America” ( or the “Plue Planet Project” ( These groups encourage average folk to take it upon themselves to do their own reading. They also make it easy for those inclined to send emails to relevant members Congress and furnish opportunities for involvement through volunteering, demonstrating, or donating.

    (3) We can just participate in the passing on of information, energizing friends and colleagues to read up, look at what they can do to help, and possible cause the eking out of a few petition signatures, a few Congress-bound emails, and a few dollars donated along the way. (Though here it is admittedly most often a case of the in-the-know letting the in-the-know into the know…over and over again. Not that this is bad…just not particularly efficient)

    The problem, of course, is that participation through the avenues I’ve just mentioned rarely sees concrete results. Satisfaction is sparse for politically active middle Americans. But how to change that?

    (Beats me.)