A spoonful of sugar helps the hard truth come out? Recent weeks have seen surprising resurgences for women broadcasters most of us had dismissed for being confined to lifestyle stories. CNN’s Campbell Brown, 40, has recently grilled campaign spokespersons from both parties by sweetly refusing incomplete answers. Meanwhile, the much-slammed 51-year-old Katherine Anne Couric has, in the words of Radar Online, “gotten her groove back.” Since Couric became CBS Evening News’ anchor and managing editor this year, the broadcast has grown with cutting-edge reporting, long-form stories, and special reports on complex issues. As Melissa said today at Women and Hollywood: “Lesson one is: don’t underestimate Katie Couric.”

A funny thing happened to the CBS Evening News on the way to the ratings basement: Katie Couric has finally found her stride. With the help of veteran TV newser Rick Kaplan as her executive producer, she is now anchoring the most substantive evening newscast on network television.


“Maybe it’s working,” added Radar. After the Democratic and Republican conventions, “the broadcast had 6,210,000 viewers—the most it has had since last March.”


CNN political anchor Brown had just completed skewering both McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds and potential vice-president Joe Biden when the financial crisis hit last week — prompting Brown to post her first out-and-out commentary, with enough blame to go around for everyone:



Secretary Paulson, frankly, you didn’t help the situation with your initial, imperious request to Congress that you be handed this money and that your decisions “may not be reviewed by any court of law or administrative agency.” Seriously, what were you thinking? And Democrats, you are by no means blameless in all of this.

At the center of this crisis are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Although they didn’t intend to encourage this spiraling chain reaction, it was leading Democrats in Congress — Senate banking chairman Chris Dodd and his long-time counterpart in the House, Barney Frank — who supported legislation that ultimately led to more and more of these bad loans we are all stuck with.


Here’s what happens when “optimism” beats math: Author Barbara Ehrenreich, writing for the New York Times, blames something else: the cult of “positive thinking,” helpful sometimes in our personal lives but potentially toxic to our financial health.

Positive thinking is endemic to American culture – from weight loss programs to cancer support groups – and in the last two decades it put down deep roots in the corporate world as well. Everyone knows that you won’t get a job paying more than $15 an hour unless you’re a “positive person” — doubt-free, uncritical, and smiling—and no one becomes a CEO by issuing warnings of possible disaster.  According to a rare skeptic, a Washington-based crisis management consultant I interviewed on the eve of the credit meltdown in 2007, even the magical idea that you can have whatever you truly want has been “viral” in the business culture.


The same frothy wave of mandatory optimism swept through the once-sober finance industry. On their websites, scores of motivational speakers proudly list companies like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch among their clients. Angelo Mozilo, the former CEO of Countrywide Mortgage whose subprime ventures precipitated the entire crisis, was known for his congenital optimism and described in the Guardian earlier this year as “absurdly upbeat” even as his industry unraveled. No one was psychologically prepared for hard times, when they hit, because, according to the tenets of positive thinking, even to think of trouble is to bring it on. In May, the New York Times reported that Merrill, caught up short, was suddenly trying to “temper the Pollyannas in its ranks,” and force its analysts to occasionally say the word “sell.”

For those at the very top of the corporate hierarchy, all this positive thinking must not have seemed delusional at all. They actually could have almost anything they wanted, just by expressing the desire… [but] if you live in a bubble of perfect wish-fulfillment, how could you imagine that, for example, some poor fellow in Cleveland might run up against unexpected medical bills or car problems that could waylay his mortgage payments?

– Chris L.

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  • PAT DOUGHERTY September 29, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    COME ON – NO ONE CAN CONVICE ME THIS MELT DOWN WAS EXPECTED MORE THAN 6 MONTHS AGO. THE CONSPIRINCY IS ON BOTH SIDES. THEY VAINLY HOPED THEY (REPLICANS AND DEMS IN POWER) HOPED TO STAVE IT OFF BEFORE THE ELECTION, i HOPED WE WOULD GET HILLARY BECAUSE ONLY SHE AND BILL WOULD KNOW WHAT TO DO – BUT
    IT SEEMS TO BE WORSE THAN EVEN THOSE IN THE KNOW COULD EVER IMAGINE – I THINK HILLARY AND BILL ARE BREATHING A SIGH OF RELIEF, EVEN THEY COULD NOT REVERSE THIS MESS WHICH IS GOING TO GET WORSE AND TAKE LONGER THAN 4 YEARS TO TURN AROUND – NO MATTER WO IS IN OFFICE.

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