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Comments: Week of March 14, 2011


1. In Steve Fishman’s first conversation with the greatest criminal—in dollar terms—in history, the interviewer and interviewee agreed that no one would feel sorry for Madoff (The Madoff Tapes,” March 7). That turned out to be true. But it didn’t mean people didn’t want to read what he had to say or listen to his voice on, where you can still hear it). The dominant reaction was—surprise!—revulsion with Madoff. This was perhaps purest at, where Aaron Smith gathered responses from Madoff’s victims. “The man is a monster, a liar, a thief with absolutely no morals, no regrets, no shame. And he portrays his victims as greedy?” noted one. “He’s got an ego that can’t be fed adequately inside the prison walls,” determined another. The commenters on were equally unmoved: “He is a thief, plain and simple,” wrote one. “I almost choked when the therapist said he wasn’t a sociopath. Lying, manipulation, blaming others—these are all classic signs of sociopathic behavior,” opined another. “And his tears? They’re not tears of remorse. They’re tears of getting caught.”“This is a narcissistic, self-deluded person,” added a third. “As for his family, I feel some sorrow for his sons, very, very little for his wife, and nothing at all for the villain himself.” Several commenters took issue with the fact that we, the taxpayers, are paying for Madoff’s therapy. Beneath the disgust and anger at Madoff, however, there were moral nuances. “Some of his clients were greedy,” wrote Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic’s website. “But culpability for this disaster shouldn’t be a zero-sum proposition. There are different classes of victims here. Some were little old ladies who lost it all. Some were high-powered brokers who were playing an edge and who now claim to be shocked that Madoff’s results were illegitimate. This doesn’t diminish the ­enormity of Madoff’s crimes. But it does provide them with important context. Madoff has nothing to lose by saying so and for that, at least, he deserves some credit.” And while the majority of commenters certainly were of the opinion that nothing that came out of Madoff’s mouth was to believed (many are still convinced that his sons and wife and brother had to be in on it, and that his statements in the piece were a way of deflecting blame), his pot-calls-kettle-black indictment of the financial system was received with a surprising number of amens: “Bernie is where he should be, but most of Wall Street and ­Washington should be right there with him. They lull us into a false sense of security, and we fall for it every time. We are all just lambs being led to the next bubble.”

2. Joe Hagan’s profile of Republican strategist turned fund-raising powerhouse Karl Rove (Goddang It, Baby, We’re Making Good Time,” March 7) seemed to have something for everyone. “Opens with one of the most delightful character-­establishing anecdotes in recent political profiling,” noted Politico’s On Media blog of a scene in which Rove is headed with his girlfriend to a quail hunt. Ben Smith on Politico also noticed that the accompanying photograph of Rove was taken by Andres Serrano, famous for arousing Rudy Giuliani’s ire with his photograph Piss Christ. But many observed that Rove’s real quarry in the article is a certain Mama Grizzly. Politico’s On Media: “The piece is worth a read for its analysis of what the very ­public sparring between Rove and Sarah Palin means for the future of the ­Republican Party.” “An excellent profile,” wrote the Daily Loaf blog. “Perhaps most illuminating in describing the fissures between the most ascendant part of the Republican Party, the tea party, and the more Establishment Rove.” Hagan’s piece seems to have been as widely read on the right as it was on the left, with some bloggers and commenters shocked at the openness with which Rove expressed his views. “Worth a full read,” wrote Guy Benson at conservative website’s Tipsheet blog. “Rove doubled down [on his dislike for Palin], crossing into open mockery.” Commenters on were spirited in their defense of the former Alaska governor. “Rove is irritated as hell that Sarah Palin won’t play his game and roll over so one of the Bush-picked GOP candidates can just waltz in. I hope [she] wins it all and Rove finally realizes that he’s no longer relevant,” argued one. “The Scott Walkers, the Michele Bachmanns, the Alan Wests, the Marco Rubios, these are the new wave and they are led by the most vetted, most unafraid, most truly conservative of them all: ­Sarah Palin. She has been bringing ethics to government and truth to the political discussion her whole career,” wrote another. But Rove did have his supporters: “Karl is awesome, if for the only reason that he scares the hell out of Democrats.”

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