My day with EJ

Yesterday, the NCSU Political Science department sponsored EJ Dionne as a featured speaker as part of our annual “American Values” lecture series.  Since Dionne has long been one of my favorite columnists, I was very excited that he agreed to come and give two talks based on his new book, Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right.  From reading his columns all these years, I already knew that Dionne was a smart, thoughtful, Liberal Catholic (like me– well, at least the latter two terms).  After basically spending 10 hours straight with him yesterday, I have to say that he is genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met.  Virtually, every single faculty member and student he met left impressed by just how down-to-earth and friendly he was.  And, of course, his comments on politics were smart and thoughtful.  I don't have any particularly great insights to share– you can always read the book (or the nice discussion over at TPM Cafe), but I did think it was interesting just how impressed he is by Obama.  It was also really great to overhear the finishing touches put on today's column over the phone.  The strong conclusion:

But in the enthusiasm for deregulation that took root in the late
1970s, flowered in the Reagan era and reached its apogee in the second
Bush years, we forgot the lesson that government needs to keep a
careful watch on what capitalists do. Of course, some deregulation can
be salutary, and the market system is, on balance, a wondrous
instrument — when it works. But the free market is just that: an
instrument, not a principle.

In 1996, back when he was a Republican senator from Maine, William Cohen told me: “We have been saying for so long that government is the enemy. Government is the enemy until you need a friend.”

So now the bailouts begin, and Wall Street usefully might feel a bit
of gratitude, perhaps by being willing to have the wealthy foot some of
the bill or to acknowledge that while its denizens were getting rich, a
lot of Americans were losing jobs and health insurance. I'm waiting.

So, if you haven't been reading Dionne's columns, but you like my blog, give it a try.  He has probably influenced my political views as much as any political writer out there.  And, he's a damn nice guy.

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