Outlook: Worst ideas of the decade

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Dahlia Lithwick and Reihan Salam
Senior Editor, Slate and New America Foundation Fellow
Monday, December 21, 2009; 11:00 AM

Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate Magazine and Reihan Salam, fellow at the New America Foundation were online Monday, Dec. 21 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the worst ideas of the decade.

Worst Ideas of the Decade

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Reihan: Hi everyone. My name is Reihan Salam and I'm a fellow at the New America Foundation, a columnist for Forbes.com and The Daily Beast, and a blogger for National Review Online. I'm here to answer any and all questions. I particularly enjoy hostile questions, but thoughtful questions are also very welcome.

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Raleigh, N.C.: The worst idea of the decade was by GWB. Invade Iraq, which was not a threat to the US and has cost billions of dollars, killed and wounded thousands of soldiers and financially ruined our country.

Reihan: That is an entirely defensible view, and it is also very widely held. My sense is that the editors considered it a bit too straightforward. But it's an excellent question.

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Des Moines, Iowa: Thank you both for being with us and writing excellent, concise takes on these two "worst ideas" of the decade.

Re: torture memos, the tragic legacy of the memos has now become the apparent refusal of the Obama adm. to thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible. It's possibly the prime example of modern Washington's corroded morals. In refusing to rise above the "political ramifications" of taking such action, it seems Obama has simply left the door wide open for more abuses, as you alluded to Ms. Lithwick. Is it almost inevitable that we'll walk down this road again, but with even less resistance due to the institutionalization of torture?

washingtonpost.com: The torture memos (Post, Dec. 20)

Dahlia Lithwick: Hi there and thanks to all of you who read the feature and to those of you who are writing in. Des Moines, this is the question that worries me more than almost any other. Without accountability for the acts of torture and without a probing investigation into how this could have happened, it does seem almost inevitable that we will, sometime down the road, feel justified in doing it again. Certainly the Obama Administration has renounced torture and the memos I referenced were withdrawn. But the issue isn't just these memos but a legal process that was warped. My other nagging fear is that American public opinion has really shifted on torture. Remember how horrified we were by the images from Abu Ghraib? I am not sure we would be as horrified next time. Polling suggests we have come to think of abuse as justified in some instances, despite the fact that the legal prohibition is absolute.

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Silver Spring: Here's what you missed.

1. The "unitary executive." Who needs the Congress? Who needs a Supreme Court? We do.

2. Tax cuts for the rich. From a budget surplus to third world status in two years.

3. Continuum of Alan Greenspaned and Ayn Rand'd. Home ownership for all. Depression for everyone too.

4. The "caging" of America. Voter fraud from the Justice Department.

5. Joe Lieberman for vice president.

Reihan: 1. I imagine Dahlia and I might disagree slightly on this question. I'll just note that the idea of a "unitary executive" might not be exactly what you think it is. For example, some conservative scholars have defended President Obama's decision to name a wide array of "czars" or special policy advisors to help ensure the smooth functioning of executive authority under the rubric of the "unitary executive." We don't really have the scope to debate the issue here, unfortunately.

2. Have you spent much time in the Third World? My sense is that the 2001 Bush tax cut was poorly designed for a wide variety of reasons. Because it was passed under reconciliation, we didn't have a very good sense of what it would really cost. Yet it's not obvious to me that it has caused profound hunger and the collapse of state institutions. I'll grant you that it has undermined our public finances, in large part because there were no concomitant moves to put the federal government on a more sustainable footing on the spending side.

3. Homeownership for all does strike me as a bad idea, or rather not a very sound goal for public policy, not least because of its impact on employment stickiness, etc.

4. The "caging" of America could mean a wide variety of things. I am uncomfortable with the "iron cage of modernity," to perhaps we can agree that "caging" is a bad thing as a general principle.

5. Mixed bag. It seemed to work pretty well in 2000. And in 2008, it might have led to a very different kind of election, though I certainly think that the conservative consensus is that it would have been a very bad idea. I see that you are marching in lockstep with movement conservatives ...

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Anonymous: The self-esteem movement where everyone wins a prize, everyone is special, everyone is unique has produced a society of narcissists.

Reihan: You know, this seems like such an obviously bad idea that I'm temped to argue that perhaps it really is a good idea. But I can't. I'll say this, though: it is a darn sight better than taunting and tormenting the weak and vulnerable. My sense, however, is that there is some happy middle ground, focusing, say, on encouraging "achievement" rather than praising intrinsic awesomeness.

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Silver Spring, Md.: The worst idea of the decade has to be the idea that you can make a profit by loaning money to people who can't pay it back.

Reihan: I'll second this one. And yet we don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Consumption smoothing has been a pretty good thing.

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Santa Monica, Calif.: I'd like to nominate Croc sandals. Yuck. Plastic shoes are for little girls and they are called jellies...in the '80s. Crocs are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen and my boyfriend used to wear them all the time. My poor eyes!

Dahlia Lithwick: Hi Santa Monica. While I agree that Crocs are hideous, as a mother of small kids they have been life-changing in terms of self-dressing. Also, in light of the monster snowstorm that has made my street impassable for three straight days, I should add that I once heard you can turn crocs into a tasty and nutritious broth in a pinch. This may prove useful if the streets aren't cleared soon. Please don't try this at home!

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Salam:

Your brief article on the subject of failed "compassionate conservatism" is very interesting, though I'm not sure that I agree with every example you cited. What would have been the fate of George Bush's version of conservatism if not for the extraordinary events of 9/11/01? Certainly, the president's agenda turned from one emphasizing domestic issues to one consumed with battling terrorism and conducting the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is it possible that, without such an all-consuming fight, George Bush's policies (and the Republicans' in Congress) would have been more successful?

washingtonpost.com: Compassionate conservatism (Post, Dec. 20)

Reihan: That's a very hard question to answer. I happen to really love counterfactual scenarios, however, and I've spent a lot of time on this one. The wrinkle is that GWB's popularity was declining sharply throughout 2001, and his overreliance on Dick Cheney in a wide variety of domains may have continued apace. Some of the successes of the second term, including the surge strategy, were arguably pursued despite Cheney (not to demonize the man).

There were a number of talented officials in the Bush domestic policy shop, but it's not clear to me that the president did enough to draw on the talents of people like Stephen Goldsmith, who ended up not serving in the White House for a wide variety of reasons that don't all reflect well on the White House.

Basically, it's not clear to me that the Bush-Rove team was as politically astute as advertised.

Also: Medicare Part D had some virtues, but it had some extremely problematic design flaws that derived, in my view, from a serious misreading of the political and economic landscape. So again, it's not obvious to me that 9/11 derailed what would have been a highly success Bush domestic policy. But on some fronts, like broader Medicare reform, it's possible.

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Justices discovering state's rights in Bush v. Gore: One could say this flip-flop by conservative justices that decided the 2000 election led to a trail of horrendously bad consequences --some of which made the list.

Dahlia Lithwick: I don't think the Justices discovered states rights in Bush v Gore. That was part of a "federalism revolution" that predated the election and then sort of petered out in recent years. In fact although Bush v Gore may have been something of a political mess I really would't overstate its legal consequences: It was a one-time only case that never pretended to have any precedential value. Whether or not the court should have stepped into this dispute in the first place is a more complicated question. Nor can one assert that every election since has been a disaster as a result, I don't think.

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Pacifica, Calif.: I can't help notice in the informal poll taken on this question that Compassionate Conservatism and the Prosperity Gospel rank the highest in the list of the baddest ideas of the decade. I think that both of these are somehow intertwined though perhaps mutually exclusive one being political the other religious. Which, in your opinion, has done the most damage?

Reihan: This is a really terrific question, and I'm afraid I can't quite answer it. The impact of Compassionate Conservatism was primarily limited to public policy. And I should stress that many aspects of it -- the emphasis on the humane treatment of prisoners, on decentralized delivery of social services, etc. -- were very appealing and very sensible. As for the political strategy and the emphasis on the federal government, those struck me as really wrong-headed.

The Prosperity Gospel, in contrast, is more about a mood or sensibility that shaped the lives of a pretty large number of religiously devout Americans -- one assumes that it impacted lots of economic decisions, and some would submit that it encouraged speculative buying and selling that all but the most financially sophisticated and richly resourced and risk-tolerant should avoid. At the same time, perhaps it had virtues that we're forgetting, e.g., encouraging devout believers to engage the wider world, and to see their daily work as part of a broader humane mission.

So again, I'm not 100 percent sure about this one.

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Anonymous: The worst idea of the decade is in the article Vaccine Scares, suggesting that the anti-vaccine movement was responsible for the H1N1 vaccine shortage because we want mercury-free vaccines. There are only ever a very small percentage of mercury-free flu vaccines made, so that tiny percentage could not possibly have caused an overall shortage.

Another worst idea of the decade is using tax dollars to pay for vaccines. Let the people who want them pay for them....

washingtonpost.com: Vaccine scares (Post, Dec. 20)

Reihan: I have to say, that strikes me as pretty unwise. A vaccinated population is pretty much the textbook definition of a public good. And I see nothing wrong with using taxes to pay for public goods, particularly when it comes to folks who don't have the resources to pay for vaccines themselves -- or when we're talking about children who don't have adequate supervision, or parents with limited English proficiency and other limitations that make matters harder than they have to be.

I respect your strongly-held views, but I'm with the author of the article on this one.

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Fairfax, Va.: I realize that it must have been difficult to limit the list to a Top Ten. What are some of the runners-up Worst Ideas?

My nomination is the Patriot Act and warrantless surveillance of our phone and network traffic. George Orwell was right about Big Brother, except that Orwell was 20 years early in his prediction.

Dahlia Lithwick: Hi Fairfax. I had initially thought to argue that the "War on Terror" as a whole was the worst idea of the decade because it folds in the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention and some of the Unitary Executive mayhem referenced above (although I agree with Reihan that the original notion of the unitary executive was far more limited than the later iterations would suggest). In fairness, parts of the Patriot Act were necessary, and the wiretap laws in this country were hopelessly outdated. So I am not willing to say that every legal change put forward was unnecessary or a power-grab. I would agree with you, however, that the decision to frame the post 9/11 conflict as a war to be won at all costs has been a disaster for civil liberties in many contexts.

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Lexington, Ky.: Mr. Salam,

The core idea of your entry on Compassionate Conservatism -- abandonment of grass-root entrepreneurship is favor of "central planning" in education and other command-economy follies is exactly what I see myself. Hailing from the former USSR I, with horror, see the USA following in the steps of the fallen super-power, and I commend you for noticing the bizarre transformation here. My question: how do you think can the entrepreneurial spirit of the Americans be revived given the mommy-state attitudes on the left and the right here? And please, don't end with the entrepreneurial ed for K-12... We all -- the young and the old -- need to catch the kind of entrepreneurial bug that is so plentiful in China, Brazil, India and even Russia these days. I have my ideas, but I'd love to hear yours.

Reihan: Thanks for your very generous message, Lexington. This is a subject I think about a great deal. If you're really interested in this subject, I recommend reading Edmund Phelps, an economist and one of my favorite thinkers. One of his arguments is that the central virtue of entrepreneurial capitalism isn't that it creates more wealth than other varieties -- in fact, more corporatist systems like those you'll find in much of Europe and East Asia do a reasonably good job. Rather, the central virtue is the discovery process: the way that market competition creates better and more fulfilling work for individuals, and accelerates the rate of change and improvement in how we organize our economic life.

There are plenty of people who will disagree with Phelps's characterization. But I find it very compelling. There are forms of "wealth" that aren't easily captured in statistics -- a sense of adventure and self-respect that derives from having control over one's own work, etc. -- that we often neglect when comparing one political economy regime from another. The open-endedness of entrepreneurial societies is rare and pretty great.

One thing I really like about, say, Hong Kong in its heyday is that it was common for working class people with little in the way of resources to start businesses -- it was utterly commonplace. And that created this pervasive sense of self-reliance and self-respect that is, unfortunately, less common among the very poor in more affluent societies. The kind of hierarchies that emerge in corporatist, noblesse oblige societies -- I'm thinking of the suburbs of Paris and Gothenburg, where poor immigrants are "cared for" yet excluded from the mainstream economy -- are pernicious in their own way.

But of course entrepreneurial societies have deficiencies of their own as well.

I've gone on for too long!

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Boston, Mass.: Toss up: Harriet Myers Supreme Court Justice or Alberto Gonzales Attorney General.

Reihan: Many on the right would agree with you on both.

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Chicago, Ill.: Sarah Palin, vice president.

Dahlia Lithwick: Chicago: I imagine you'd rather hear from Reihan than me on this but I want to go out on a limb and say that Sarah Palin for Vice President wasn't the worst idea of the decade by any means. Polarizing and complicated, yes. Fraught for feminism, yes. But I learned more about America watching this past presidental race than I can possibly type in a moment. I wonder what other readers think? Me, I wouldn't have traded McCain/Palin for anything.

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U.S. Military Soldiers vs. Contractors (Mercenaries): Isn't one of the worst ideas of the decade Bush's decision to use taxpayer money to hire over 100,000 mercenaries (so-called contractors) for what amounts to long-term U.S. military commitments to the Middle East? These mercenaries aren't held to U.S. military Standards of Conduct and have done a bad job of things in Iraq and Afghanistan the U.S. military could/should do better. It's the proverbial robbing GI Peter to Pay mercenary Paul scenario. The U.S. military was ill-equipped and under-manned to fight these wars and money going to contractors who are paid far more individually than our soldiers could be better spent on the U.S. military. Likely some soldiers opt for signing up as contractors rather than re-up with the military. Was Bush's decision to use them simply poor planning, shot-from-the-hip expediency or because it's much easier to get significant political contributions from corporate contractors than from individual soldiers? Note that Gen. Petraeus recently said to better serve the country he's apolitical and doesn't vote.

Reihan: I think that there have been egregious abuse of private contractors, and there are definitely agency problems -- e.g., contractors want to extend their contract, taxpayers want to get their money's worth.

But I don't think that banning private isn't the right solution. Rather, we need stronger oversight, and we need to use contractors in more narrowly tailored roles.

The essential problem is that the U.S. military doesn't undertake certain roles for lots of reasons: (1) political sensitivities, (2) distraction from core competencies, and (3) degrading military readiness. And there are certain skills that are heavily concentrated in the private sector. There are certain thing that nimble, small-scale private outfits can do better than the military.

So I think that the issue is actually pretty complicated. I'll also add that some people -- in a very inflammatory way -- consider the All-Volunteer Force to be a "mercenary" army. If fighting for pay makes you a "mercenary," we're in trouble.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a bit amazed that none of the ten or so "Worst Ideas" cited by commenters occurred in 2000 to mid-2001. Does anyone remember Clinton's pardoning of Mark Rich? The failure of the Clinton and then Bush administrations to act to stop the worst attack on American soil? The Gore campaign's decision to concede, then un-concede, then fight have the courts decide he 2000 election? What would be your pick for the "Worst Idea" of the decade prior to 9/11/01?

Reihan: To tell you the truth, I think that people genuinely have a hard time looking that far back. And we also tend to focus on the things we care about. I really care about the fate of conservatism in the U.S., so I'm more exercised by "what could have been" than by Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich, which I consider pretty egregious. I guess I don't see the Rich pardon as having very wide consequences, though I could be wrong about that.

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Germantown, Md.: How did televised dance competitions come to be the worst idea of the decade? How could this award not go to Fox "News" Channel? To Jim Cramer's Mad Money? To anything related to Paris Hilton and/or Kim Kardashian?

Dahlia Lithwick: I'm with you Germantown. Watching folks dance on tv -- even when they do it badly -- is positively inspirational compared to watching people swap spouses on TV, or conspire to land a McbBchelor on TV, or to spend pots and pots of your husband's money on TV. I love Dancing with the Stars for the sheer goofy joy of it. And like you I would rather watch sheer goofy joy than TV pundits slashing at each other any day. I think your other criticism here is of media that's become wildly partisan. TV that feeds your hates and biases alone is about as nourishing as broth made from Crocs . . .

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Prince George's County: First, let me agree that loaning money to people who can't pay it back has to rank in the top five. As does a bonus pay structure that focuses on short term profits without regard to the long term.

But, the continuing campaign against the public sector has to rank up there. People have been conditioned to hate government. We still think the DMV is a nightmare, even though it most states it runs pretty darn well. We think that the public option for health care spells doom, even though millions of military, vets, and old people have pretty good and efficient health care with minimal administrative costs. Etc.

I love my roads (they are great in Maryland), accessible public transportation, the library, free schools for my kids...

Reihan: Well, this is a tough one. What you describe as a continuing campaign against the public sector is in the view of other people -- like me! -- a constellation of different things, e.g., for some it is a campaign to *improve* the public sector. Mitch Daniels, the conservative Republican governor of Indiana, dramatically improved the performance of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles by drawing on ideas from the private sector. Some folks at the bureau saw this as a "campaign against the public sector," but Mitch didn't.

In a similar vein, there are lots of people who think that introduces competition in the provision of public services could make them better. Again, we're talking about lots of different overlapping debates, and these ideas have more merit in some domains than in others. But it's not crazy. It's a valuable debate that we really should have.

Also, there is the issue of sustainability. For example, Detroit has a shrinking population, yet it relies on contracts and institutions built for a very different environment. It can be very hard for public sector institutions to adapt quickly to new circumstances. The D.C. metro area has mushroomed over the last couple of decades, and it is home to some of country's most affluent suburbs. I'm not sure judging the public sector writ large by its performance around here is the right way to approach the issue.

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D.C.: Bill Kristol, New York Times columnist.

Reihan: I'm a pretty big fan of Bill Kristol, so I disagree with you there. And I also think that there were some pretty darn bad ideas over the past decade, and I'm not sure that the decisions made by Op-Ed editors at a major metropolitan daily pass muster in terms of gravity and far-reaching consequences.

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Washington, D.C.: I disagree with John Freeman's assessment of the BlackBerry, iPhone and other mobile devices. Each device can all be turned off when necessary. The last time I checked, no one had a gun to anyone's head forcing them to use one 24/7.

My BlackBerry has helped me reduce my workload, keep track of Metro's schedule, manage my finances while keeping me connected to family and friends. In an emergency, it has proven to be valuable almost lifesaving. This is considered bad?

Dahlia Lithwick: Hi Washington. I am of two minds on the Blackberry. After all, it helped me take my kids to the park while still being able to check for last-minute story edits. Here's the problem? I am always checking for last-minute story edits now when I am at the park with my kids. I think John Freeman is probably right that modern technology intrudes on our inner lives in ways we will never reverse. But I guess they said that about the printing press once too, right.

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Newspaper business models: Can you can characterize a lack of a sustainable business model in the post-Internet era for traditional print newspapers as a worst idea (or lack thereof) of the decade?

Reihan: I don't think you can. My sense -- my tragic sense -- is that the dislocation we're seeing was all but inevitable, as it is really hard for large incumbent institutions to just reinvent themselves without a powerful spur. And the kind of reinvention that would have been required would have seemed premature and insane -- "You want us to cannibalize our existing business model! But you're crazy!" You still hear this, actually. A handful of newspapers are surviving and even thriving by diversifying and becoming very different institutions. But that's a wrenching process that was always going to be hard.

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Wilmington, N.C.: Without the invasion of Iraq, your list is absurd and meaningless. Sorry, there are no excuses that might cover that omission.

Reihan: Now I'm going to be sad all day, and I haven't even had lunch yet. As I noted earlier, the invasion of Iraq was a strong candidate for worst idea. But the idea that it was a bad idea is more than a little familiar.

I'm imagining you making pronouncements like this in your daily life. "I'm sorry, but not offering a pastrami sandwich is absurd. There are no excuses that might cover that omission."

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Hackensack, N.J.: Reihan and Dahlia,

I think the first poster broke your gimic by giving the unassailable right answer, so I'll just write to say I wish you guys were both on the Post to chat more often. I don't agree with practically a thing Reihan writes, but I really appreciate the thoughtfulness with which he explains a conservative position and I'm always educated by his chats. And no one reports on the Supreme Court like Dhalia.

Please Post, give these two a steady platform!

Dahlia Lithwick: That is very kind of you Hackensack. Here's hoping that whatever the news-business is about to become in the next decade, there will still be millions of consumers like you willing to read thoughtful arguments with which you differ.

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Denver, Colo.: Here are two of mine: 1) Going to war with Iraq. 2) Cash for clunkers -- though as bad as the economy is/was it wasn't necessary wrong to throw a lot of things at the wall to see what stuck.

Reihan: Interesting. The fact that you're picking both seems to reflect an admirably consistent worldview. I don't necessarily agree with you, but I like the way you're thinking. That last point suggests that you believe that we need experimentation in public policy. I couldn't agree more, and I think that it's an idea that could really transform the way the public sector works for the better.

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Derwood, Md.: Punditry with political power. Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly have ruined rational political debate. As did the (albeit less vocal) equivalents on the left.

Dahlia Lithwick: Derwood, is the core of your objection that pundits are powerful or irrational? I agree that conflating opinion and emotion with news has been terrible for news but I am wondering how you would propose to fix it?

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Cleveland, Ohio: Savagely bombing Israel, Gaza and Lebanon.

Reihan: We're dealing with a lot of separate issues here. In Israel, many people believe that the attack on Hezbollah in southern Lebanon was very badly mishandled. Yet I'm also of the strong conviction that Israel finds itself in an extremely difficult, precarious position, and that any democracy will face pressures to respond to violent attacks with overwhelming force. I'm strongly inclined to give Israel the benefit of the doubt.

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Minneapolis. Minn.: The "color coded" terror threats which during the Bush years seemed to be stuck at yellow/orange -- though I'm sure they really wanted to just leave it at Red.....(Boo!)

Reihan: I'm with you on this one. If the list were longer, this would definitely have to be on it.

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NYC: Jimmy Fallon Late Night

Reihan: But the show has some very charming and smart writers, so I'm going to disagree with you. As a kid, my dream was to become a Regis Philbin-style talk show host. One day I hope to that my talk show will be deemed a "worst idea of the decade." Perhaps in the 2020s, when I hope to have a distinguished head of salt-and-pepper hair.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Why stop with dancing on TV? Isn't reality TV itself the worst idea of the last 20 years? Art means creation, not watching life pass by even if it is highly selected life.

Yes, humans love to watch other humans. But we love stories even more.

Dahlia Lithwick: There have been a TON of blistering posts about the evils of reality TV today. It occurs to me that the problem isn't reality television per se, but the weird notion that watching people who are just like us (or in fact us) in interesting. I'm with you Silver Spring. I think we need to watch more tv about lives we wouldnt recognize.

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Washington, D.C.: How about the U.S.'s bipolar position(s) -- yes, let's help and no, let's stay out of it when it comes to its involvement in Africa.

Reihan: Again, this is a really tough one. It depends on the domain that you have in mind. Some would argue that U.S. aid for Ethiopia's military has led to tremendous blowback after that country's armed intervention in Somalia. But we could also be talking about our public health efforts. I'm not quite sure how to answer the question.

Our hour is almost up, so I should probably wrap things up here. Thanks to the Washington Post for having me, and thanks to all of you for writing in such thoughtful questions. I hope you have an excellent holiday season.

And it's a tremendous honor to share a forum with Dahlia Lithwick, one of the liveliest writers in North America. Dahlia doesn't know this, but I'm a huge Canadaphile. One day I hope we can take part in a forum exclusively devoted to Canadian federal politics.

Til next year!

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About Mitch Daniels: Regarding your response about the public sector and privatization --isn't Mitch Daniels the guy who paid IBM a billion dollars (no really, a BILLION) to run that state's welfare system. Now, why would anyone think that a computer company could run a welfare system better than, say, social workers who have been trained in this field.

There is a knee-jerk reaction that the private sector can do everything better, and they can't. There is a real role for the public sector, and a public workforce. You can't just contract out everything to profiteers.

Reihan: How embarrassing! I'm coming back for one more bite at the apple.

Not sure if you read my response -- I tried to note that there are some cases where competition might work and others where it might not. Yep, Daniels made a big misstep there. He also had a great success infrastructure. That's what happens when you try to do things differently. I guess I don't think of people who start profit-making businesses as "profiteers." I could characterize public sector workers in some ungenerous fashion, but I like my parents, who worked in the public sector for a long time, and I don't think it's a good way to debate serious issues.

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Troy, N.Y.: I think the worst idea of the decade is that the president of the United States is all- powerful and solely responsible for our economy, security and happiness. It's similar to earlier people that thought Zeus was throwing lightning bolts. G.W. Bush is one man. There are billions of people. We even have a government that goes to great pains to separate powers. We all have a stake in the events of the decade.

Dahlia Lithwick: This country has cycled in and out of periods in which the President has been more or less powerful. See, wartime in general. I'm not sure it's no although I do think Bush's advisers tried to go for the gold on accruing power. It's going to be hard for the Obama Administration to want to give that away. Thanks so much for these great questions and for the opportunity to spend time together. Looking forward to Reihan's Regis-style talkshow more than anything else in the coming decade! Happy holidays and Happy New Year.

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