By Mark Green
Just when the country was expected to focus on jobs and debt, a vendor self-immolates in Tunisia leading to the overthrow of perhaps two authoritarian governments. Who knew? The words Arab and Democracy are no longer oxymoronic. And Mary does not -- NOT! -- agree that the science behind global warming is irrefutable.
Again, Both Sides Now sharpens -- or bridges -- the political divide.
*On the Convulsions in Egypt. Arianna wonders why policy-makers were so surprised that unemployment, kleptocracy and torture combusted into the street revolt in Egypt. It's our misplaced security spending in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, she adds, that stops us from seeing "icebergs before the Titanic sails." While Mary agrees that the issue is beyond Left-Right -- Mubarak was supported by five American presidents, Democratic and Republican alike -- she notes that Bush's "freedom agenda" anticipated these developments. And we listen to Obama's 2009 Cairo speech about the value of democratic rights in the region.
The women both think that the president has seemed ad hoc and inconsistent about the crisis and that America has no option other than supporting a democracy model in Egypt. Those who flinch about elections because of fears about the Muslim Brotherhood or even an Islamic state, says Arianna, "have an imperialist mindset about a bygone era."
*On Snowmageddon & Climate Change. Do recent epochal snows (Dallas!) and record hot temperatures (the warmest 10 years on record all occurred within the last 11) confirm the scientific consensus about extreme weather? We hear from Sen. Inhofe that global warming is a "hoax" and from Al Gore that when you pour 90,000 million tons of pollutants into the air annually, ice caps melt.
Arianna passionately says that the science is irrefutable and only flat-earth-like cranks can deny man-made global warming. Mary just as vehemently argues that the science is inconclusive and disparages advocates like Al Gore for a) being motivated only by money, b) dismissing anyone with a view contrary to their environmental "religion" and c) pushing policies that would send us economically back to the Paleolithic age. Definitely not beyond Left and Right here.
*The Takeaway after Obama's SOTU. Before last month's State of the Union, the women agreed that Obama had no clear "narrative" to summarize his record or vision. Well, did his new focus on "winning the future... in this Sputnik moment... by out-competing, out-educating and out-building competitors" provide the missing political narrative? Mary thinks not because he ignored the problem of entitlements and Arianna thinks not because he wasn't specific about policies for investment and jobs.
Mary then concludes that she and Arianna "agree" about Obama. The show's host respectfully observes that one believes Obama was too liberal and the other not liberal enough, unlike 80%-90% majorities who in overnight polls loved the talk, and unlike commentators from Buchanan to Brazille who concurred that it worked. Undeterred, Mary scoffs at what she called "the limits of redistribution" and Arianna says that though SOTU had "beautiful music," she's still worried whether Obama would again "cave in, like with tax cuts for the rich."
*Quick Takes: MTV, Diet Guidelines, Financial Crisis. Although each woman has two daughters in their mid-teens to 20s, they have different takes on the two controversial MTV series called Skins and 16 and Pregnant. Arianna expresses concern about shows that seem to minimize the effect of teen sexuality and pregnancy "on their lives and self-esteem," while Mary instead says that the series do show the adverse impacts and, in any event, there's no way to shield young adults from the issue. They also split on the Angelides Commission Report on the financial crisis -- Arianna agrees that the causes were Wall Street, fraud and deregulation but doubts that we've learned our lesson; Mary thinks that the majority view is simplistic and political.
There is, however, agreement about the new federal dietary guidelines urging people to eat less, eat better and avoid salt. Mary's fine with such helpful information so long as it isn't "mandatory" -- adding that in any event food for her is "a vehicle to eat salt." Arianna responds that for her "coffee is a vehicle for cream" and that strong government efforts to reduce the epidemic of childhood obesity are essential.
*On the Radar: Mary is excited about her trip to the Superbowl in Dallas even though it's without her sainted Saints while Arianna talks up her efforts for the charitable Wildcare.com to "protect animals who pre-date us."
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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