Rich In Opinion

Monday, February 23, 2009

Frank Rich, New York Times op-ed columnist and the author of The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina (Penguin, 2006), offers his insight into the Washington battles over the stimulus bill and the economy.


Frank Rich

Comments [34]

gaetano catelli from manhattan

i can't think of anyone more qualified to "fix" (as in neuter) the economy than a former theater critic who has never even run a newspaper stand.

as for the Oscars, in addition to the obligatgory awards for casting gays in an angelic halo and casting Germans as satanic, a B- movie (i'm being generous) received EIGHT Oscars, while "Gran Tourino", the crowning achievement at, or at least near, the end of the career of one of America's foremost auteurs did not receive a SINGLE nomination.

hmmm ...

Feb. 24 2009 08:41 PM


I also remember when a Sean Penn performance was something really exciting, instead of something really didactic.

Having said that, he did beautifully as Harvey Milk. I just happen to think that Steve Carrell, who was also considered for the role, would have done a cleaner and more thoughtful job of it.

And as a San Franciscan who well remembers the dual assassinations of Milk/Moscone from childhood, it is unfathomable that Van Sant, who I generally admire, left out any mention of Milk's reluctant involvement and eventual support of Jim Jones and the Peoples' Temple. The whole notion of excluding the impact of the Jonestown massacre on San Francisco in the week before the assassinations is... frankly bizarre.

Feb. 23 2009 03:36 PM

#23, Leo:

"Sean Penn, in my opinion just a bit over the top, you can see his acting. You'll never catch Mr. Rourke acting! That's what makes it special!"

i don't know if that's supposed to be a compliment to Rourke, but in a weird way, I agree with you.

I also think that Sean Penn forfeited a fantastic career as a comic actor - a career that required every bit of angsty rage that he employs now as a "serious" actor.

I'd any day rather watch Lewis Black employ real rage than Sean Penn's somewhat artless sublimated feelings. Even if, by and large, I tend to agree with Penn politically. I just think that overwrought acting is over-rated.

Unless it's Kate Winslet, who, oddly, manages to be twice as courageous (a character trait usually claimed loudly by men like Penn) as Penn, with only half the bluster.

Feb. 23 2009 03:26 PM
markBrown from

Did I actually hear (re-listening to segment again) Frank Rich AGREE with me (at 4min:13 seconds into the clip that we ARE in a NEW deal again>>>

Jeez Louise... Perhaps someone will start to listen to my "rantings and ravings" now.

Feb. 23 2009 02:44 PM
Prince R. from Hoboken

I don't think that Sean Penn or his performance in Milk was overrated. He performed flawlessly in the film, it's too bad that Gus Van Sant didn't receive anything (once again) for such a great job. And finally, his acceptance speech is correct...if you don't like gay marriage, don't have one.

Feb. 23 2009 02:39 PM
b.adams from New Jersey

It would be amusing if it were not so dismaying that those who rant most of using taxpayer dollars to stabilize the housing problem are often those who have benefited most from the federal subsidies, i.e., mortgage deduction/taxpayer dollars that have made home ownership affordable for them! Hypocrisy or economic and historical ignorance?

Feb. 23 2009 11:25 AM
Margie Adams from Queens NY

Louisiana of all places! The governor has just given a slap in the face to all of the nation's young people and church volunteers (and friends of mine) who went there and reached out to help. They need our prayers now more than ever!

Feb. 23 2009 11:03 AM
hjs from 11211

" he got his face bashed in boxing"
i did n't know about that :(
thanks for the info

Feb. 23 2009 11:00 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I couldn't help feeling a little pull for Rourke. He really lost it when he got his face bashed in boxing and, I think, lost part of his brain too. But then he came back with this performance that even Sean Penn could not resist. I have never been a Rourke fan, but if you believe in comebacks, his is an inspiring one.

Feb. 23 2009 10:55 AM
hjs from 11211

and for the oddest plastic surgery the award goes to …
mickey rourke

Feb. 23 2009 10:50 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Adam #21
How do you see Jindal playing into this scenario? Just curious what you think given the fact that he's in his 30's and not white.

Feb. 23 2009 10:48 AM
Leo Farley from Manhattan

I think the Oscars were done pretty well this year with some interesting changes in format that seemed a little more intimate than in years past.
My only disappointment was that Mr. Rourke who gave the most amazing performance in the "Wrestler" with a fictitous character that he created within himself, unlike Sean Penn who was playing an historice figure more or less. Mr. Rourke performance was honest and not one false moment in the entire film from him.
Sean Penn, in my opinion just a bit over the top, you can see his acting. You'll never catch Mr. Rourke acting! That's what makes it special!

Feb. 23 2009 10:43 AM
hjs from 11211

GOP governors, what a bunch of hypocrits
look at the map the RED states already get too much federal welfare

Feb. 23 2009 10:41 AM
Adam Holland from Brooklyn, NY

The governors who have rejected the federal stimulus money are banking on an old southern strategy. They will reject aid that is perceived by white voters to assist blacks. These governors view it as a win/win. They can blame the victims of poverty and get political support for denying them help. They can also try to drive out their black and poor citizens who they don't want and don't care about.

In this moment when the country has achieved some significant racial progress with the election of a black president, these governors are counting on the old-time racist politics of division.

(I'm thinking of Barbour (MS), Jindal (LA) and Sanford (SC).)

Feb. 23 2009 10:40 AM
hjs from 11211


Feb. 23 2009 10:37 AM
Nina from East Village

RE the Oscars:

IMHO, the dullest show ever. WHY does it have to be so long? And I agree with Ellen from Brooklyn -- I'd much rather watch clips of the acting nominees than listen to syrupy drivel by past winners (De Niro was an exception, of course!)

Sean Penn deserved it, though, so I was happy about that. Meryl was, as expected, shafted, as was 'Doubt' itself, which should have been nominated for Best Picture -- and won.

Again, IMHO. Not that anyone asked. Sometimes you just need to express yourself!

Feb. 23 2009 10:37 AM

1 of the Sunday morning "deficit hawks", S Carolina Guv, admitted on The Takeaway that his primary objection was that the Fed $ is loans and not gifts.

Too controversial to suggest that it might be time to cut the South loose?

Feb. 23 2009 10:33 AM
Hugh from Brooklyn, NY

Jindal of Louisiana sounds like he is betting on national failure and positioning himself for some kind of national run.

Feb. 23 2009 10:33 AM
mc from Brooklyn


I think you will find that Rich likes to go after anyone when he smells blood in the water. To wit: his treatment of Al Gore that you described, his treatment of Hillary Clinton last year, and his treatment of the Broadway trade unions back when he used to be a theater critic and blamed the financial challenges of putting up a show on the workers doing the work.

Trust me--he is not one of the good guys just because he likes to slam Bush & Co.

Feb. 23 2009 10:32 AM
Matthieu from Brooklyn

Brian! The opening sequence of the Oscars was the best non-awards part of the show. It was very funny and played to Hugh Jackman's strengths while remaining a bit self-deprecating (unlike the rather wretched musical medley later). A lot of the rest was pretty lame. Go check it out on YouTube. It's worth it just for the gag about "The Reader". Smart writing.

Feb. 23 2009 10:32 AM
sara from nyc

As an economic indicator, how 'bout rolling the credits underneath "clips" a.k.a. "ads" for upcoming movies rather than rolling them over candid shots of celebs milling about after the party. Think they had to pay ad rates for that time?

Feb. 23 2009 10:31 AM
suzanne haig from Deep River, Ct

Obama will go after social security and medicare while billions go to banks and corporations.

People are very angry by the fact we are bailing out the same banks that are foreclosing on us and are charging obscene interest rates on credit cards (CitiBank sent out millions of letters raising rates in January) to the very people who are and will be bailing them out.

As for bailing out homeowners, its the lenders that are getting bailed out. Better that all foreclosures be stopped and all mortgages reduced to a level people can pay with no compensation to banks.

The rant on homeowners is an attempt to shift the argument away from who is really responsible and get us fighting among ourselves.

Obama claims to be concerned about our needs but really be helping out the banks and corporations.

Feb. 23 2009 10:31 AM
Hugh from Brooklyn, NY

Nice that you're devoting so much time to the Oscars, the patting on the back of millionaires by millionaires. Bread and circuses.

For something more pressing: The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes several unemployment figures. It is interesting that the media picks the lowest.

The intuitively obvious rate would be one that captures all people who cannot get enough work to sustain their own livelihood or that of their families. That would be U6 which currently stands at about 14%.

Feb. 23 2009 10:29 AM
hjs from 11211

does anyone else feel sean penn is OVERRATED or is it just me?

Feb. 23 2009 10:28 AM
BigGuy from Forest Hills

Ten years ago, Frank Rich helped to elect George W. Bush by accepting lies of the Right about Al Gore and by equating the two candidates in his columns. Has he ever publicly apologized for his role in helping the Right, albeit indirectly? Perhaps he can do so now?

Feb. 23 2009 10:27 AM

It is disingenuous to keep repeating, like a mantra, "we're all in this togehter." No, we are not: bailouts go to banks and insurance companies to big to fail, feckless holders of mortgages they cannot or, worse still, will not pay, auto giants, and state governments who get to dole out the pork (see Harry Reed's LA to Vegas railroad). Meanwhile, if you live in a rental (usually, poorer people), you will be evicted if you can't pay the rent. If you put money into your retirement account (actual money, not the money you DID NOT put in your real estate investment (AKA your 'home'), you get to pay for all these bailouts, despite having suffered losses proportionally as great as any of them. Please address why real estate is privileged above all other investments, banks above all other businesses, etc. Until these questions are addressed equitably, people will be enraged, and rightly so: I repeat, we are NOT all in this together, and we know it.

Feb. 23 2009 10:24 AM
BigGuy from Forest Hills

Ten years ago, Frank Rich, helped George W. Bush to get elected by accepting and publishing lies about Al Gore in his columns and by equating the two candidates as both being preppies pretending to be otherwise. Has he ever apologized publicly for how he helped to put George W. Bush into office, albeit indirectly? How about saying he is SORRY now on the radio?

Feb. 23 2009 10:24 AM
Hugh from Brooklyn, NY

To readers and listeners, a question: There is a website that tracks unemployment using the standard of measurement applied in 1980 -- before the obfuscating revisions by Reagan (1983) and Clinton (1994) which were designed to reduce the official number and mask the real. Perhaps someone who knows this site, can post the url here.

That site, and many economists, peg the current unemployment rate at somewhere between 14 and 18 percent.

Feb. 23 2009 10:21 AM
Ellen from Brooklyn

Re: the Oscars (since you are talking about them)
The presentation format for the acting awards felt like group therapy and I didn't like it. It felt really fake (more fake than the show normally is with the borrowed clothes and the Botox). I would have preferred to have seen clips of the individual performances.

Feb. 23 2009 10:19 AM
Born in DC from NYC


Feb. 23 2009 10:19 AM
Hugh from Brooklyn, NY

All of Obama's lead economic advisors have a well-established record advocating deregulation. There is not one representative of labor on his staff.

And at every turn, Obama has shown his determination to protect private profit at the expense of We the People who had _no_ hand in creating Credit Default Swaps or Collateralized Debt Obligations or the institution of subprime loans.

Obama shows _none_ of the populist sentiment that he campaigned on. Meanwhile, he has okayed detention entirely without rights or due process at Bagram Airbase. His foreign policy so far shows little departure from Bush.

Feb. 23 2009 10:15 AM
markBrown from

PS: Take a look HERE:

The CURRENT head of the IMF has ALSO (besides me) called it a DEPRESSION...

Feb. 23 2009 08:52 AM
markBrown from

Good analysis Leo (#1)

We ARE in a second depression already.

The problem now is attempting to cut the BUSH legacy deficit(tm) and appease (yes I mean APPEASE) the (so called loyal opposition) REPUBLICANs who will create much worse economic conditions.

We need: INCOME REFORM: Tax the top: A new minimum millionaires tax: a 1% surcharge per 1 million dollars of GROSS income: NO exemptions, and for both corporations AND individuals.

We need: A LIVING wage: NOT A new name for a minimum wage, but something that will allow workers to work 40 hours and SUPPORT their family.

We Need: a FULL federal buyout of the banking AND the Auto industry. Both of them have been mis-managed, and might eventually be returned to private hands.
BUT in the meantime, we need to steer them into new (unfamiliar ) businesses

Like (banking: loan and HOLD policies, not loan and bailout )
(Auto: become suppliers of MASS and Heavy transit parts and systems)

We need: Single payer health insurance phased in over 5-20 years.

See my blog for my top 10 list:

mark in westfield

Feb. 23 2009 08:48 AM
Leo in Staten Island from Staten Island

Obama badly wanted to usher in a new era of comity and bipartisanship (understandable, laudable). He was right to go and meet with Republicans on the hill; he set the perfect tone. But setting the tone is different than deciding on the contents of the bill. And his one and only job as President of the United States should be to push for the best bill that he can. Best: as in most perfectly effective and likely to solve the problem at hand. That's it.

Because 100 years or 10 years or 1 year from now the only thing that anyone anywhere will remember is whether 2009 was the first year of the Second Great Depression (aka The Obama Catastrophe) or the first year of the New American Renaissance (no aka needed). What no one anywhere will remember was whether the stimulus package was $700 billion or $900 billion or whether it passed with 3 or 6 or 40 GOP votes.

Compromising on the effectiveness of the bill to pick up a few Republican votes is nuts, especially since with 20/20 hindsight we can see that he gave away the farm just to get Snowe, Specter and Collins, who probably would have voted for it anyway.

Feb. 22 2009 12:37 PM

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