Journalist Critiques Politics

Robert Scheer, author, journalist, and editor of the online political magazine Truthdig, challenged his audience to understand the financial sector in a talk entitled “The Pornography of Power: Lies, Injustice, and the American Way,” at the Harvard Kennedy School yesterday.

Moderated by Timothy P. McCarthy—director of the Carr Center’s Human Rights and Social Movements Program and a History and Literature lecturer—the talk centered on a critique of modern American politics and emphasized the disastrous side effects of political bipartisanship.

In his opening remarks, Sheer made jabs at the Bush administration, criticized the Clinton administration, and expressed hope that President Barack H. Obama would outperform his predecessors.

Bringing his audience through a narrative about the United States’ current financial situation, Scheer highlighted the importance of figures like former President Ronald Reagan, former Secretary of the Treasury Robert E. Rubin ’60, and former University President Lawrence H. Summers, who Scheer referred to as “our local hero.” Summers will return to campus at the close of 2010 after serving as head of the National Economic Council under Obama.

The talk reflected the contents of Scheer’s most recent book, “The Great American Stick Up: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

Scheer drew an analogy between someone who drives a car over a cliff with those who steered America into the financial crisis.

“A deal with the devil was made,” Scheer said.

McCarthy also said these various actors could be characterized as “supervillains and slightly less super villains.”

The parallels that Scheer drew between members of the American political leadership and the mafia resonated with his audience. But one comment from an audience member drew ire from another audience member, who walked out in the middle of the question and answer session, which followed the initial talk.

In response to the speedy exit, Scheer asked, “Is that what happens at the Tea Party meetings?”

Despite the interruption, the dialogue continued, and when time became short at the end, the question and answer session moved to a rapid-fire format, with audience members directing questions to Scheer, who made an effort to respond to the question in a short burst.

When time was up, Scheer could not help but share one last story and comment with the group.

“There are many things I want to talk about,” Scheer said, “many of which I know very little about.”

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