Clinton’s choice of Posner means that one of our smartest and most articulate advocates will have the ear of the new administration’s top policy makers. And that is great news for everyone.
Winner: David Gates, for producing the most literate and erudite takedown of Jonathan Littell’s strange, 975-page novel , The Kindly Ones, which is the most unlikely sensation in France since Jerry Lewis. The book’s narrator is an SS functionary for whom incest, matricide, and sadomasochism are among his more mundane obsessions.
The book won two of France’s most important literary prizes, but Gates make it abundantly clear why “it’s hard to trust that the author knows what he’s doing”—and calls the book “less a moral challenge than a sheer test of endurance.”
Sinners: All of the Washington economic reporters who missed the news in last week’s piece on 60 Minutes, narrated by Scott Pelley and produced by Henry Schuster. The story was about what happens when the FDIC takes over a bank that fails, but this was the news in it: Sheila Bair, the chair of the FDIC, and the only sensible financial official from the Bush administration, said Congress should start thinking about limiting the size of American banks. Here is the relevant exchange:
‘“And going forward, I think we need to really review the size of these institutions and whether we should do something about that, frankly,’ said Bair. Bair surprised Pelley when she suggested that maybe the mega banks, those bailed out by taxpayers, shouldn’t be allowed to exist in the future. ‘I think that may be something that Congress needs to think about,’ she said.
“‘Actually limit how big a bank can be?’ Pelley asked.
‘“Yeah. Well, you know, I think taxpayers rightfully should ask that if an institution has become so large that there is no alternative except for the taxpayers to provide support, should we allow so many institutions to exceed that kind of threshold,’ she explained.
‘“The idea would be that no bank would grow so large that it posed a systemic risk to the economy,’ Pelley said.
‘“Systemic risk, that’s right,’ Bair agreed.”
Winners: Lesley Stahl and Shari Finkelstein. The unreliability of eyewitness testimony is the oldest story in the criminal justice world, but CBS’s Stahl and producer Finkelstein still managed to make it new and dramatic with a double-length 60 Minutes segment about Ronald Cotton, who was wrongly accused of rape and spent eleven years in prison after Jennifer Thompson misidentified him as her attacker. After Cotton was released, he forgave his accuser. Then the two of them became close friends and even co-authored a book together, called Picking Cotton. A heartbreaking tale of injustice and redemption.