“The President’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” said Chambliss, who recently golfed with the president, in a statement. > more ... (1 comments)
I don’t actually think Tim Pawlenty is a terrible VP candidate for Romney. Not great, but not terrible. Pawlenty has a narrative, for what that’s worth, but he does have a few other things: reasonable credentials for the job, friendship with the Mittster, and (most importantly) no national power base. The latter having a base is problematic in a VP because it gives him (or her) leverage over the top of the ticket, especially if the VP is more liked by the party than the presidential candidate. Palin was an obvious example of this, in that she effectively hijacked the campaign and turned it into what she wanted it to be–some twisted form of demented Andy Kaufman-esque performance art–entirely because she captured Republicans’ imaginations in a way that McCain couldn’t. Biden is the opposite, someone who has some fans but not much of a power base on his own, and who thus has no choice but to be a team player. Both of Romney’s announced choices hew far more to a Biden-like model. Pols like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio have their followings but Pawlenty doesn’t, which is perhaps why Christie and Rubio have not yet been mentioned as top Romney choices. Sure, Pawlenty’s as much a stuffed shirt as can be, but so have most vice presidents over the past half century, and only one has had to take office after a president’s death in that time. And Pawlenty will certainly not deliver many votes, though he probably wouldn’t take away many either. It should play out like an even more boring version of John Edwards’s 2004 VP berth, I suppose.
What’s interesting about the news that Pawlenty and Rob Portman are being actively considered is that it crystallizes a theme in Romney’s campaign, that theme being a Midwest obsession. I hardly expect a candidate to start just throwing states out of consideration (at least, not one who still has some of his marbles), but the man has been boasting about winning Wisconsin and Michigan a lot more than about winning New Mexico and Colorado, at least so far as I can tell. Pawlenty and Portman are, of course, Midwesterners. The attention being paid to this region is interesting and likely smart–Romney’s Mormonism may or may not cause some evangelical Christians to stay home or vote third party rather than vote for a heretic, but that effect is going to be mitigated in the South because of overwhelming Republican dominance, and in the Northeast and West because of fewer evangelicals in these regions. The Midwest, though, could be troublesome for Mitt. Going for a VP candidate with Midwestern appeal is smart, though Portman and Pawlenty are basically empty vessels who engender no loyalty and provoke no excitement. The only person who probably could move votes for Romney in the Midwest would, ironically, be a Southerner: Mike Huckabee, who combines far-right religiosity with a pleasant personality. This is the scenario Democrats should be afraid of, because it fills in so many of Romney’s gaps. But the free market fundies basically hate him because he raised taxes a few times, so this selection would require Romney to stand up just a little bit to his base for the relatively heterodox Arkansan. You know I don’t see that as being very likely.
The Times has a “both sides do it” article on Obama and Romney. A taste:
Is it reasonable to start counting [job numbers] in January 2009? The economy was already shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month by then and none of Mr. Obama’s policies would take effect for some time. Starting the count just one month later would show a small net increase in jobs for the president’s tenure in office. Yet if he cannot be blamed for job losses in the early months of his term, can Mr. Obama be held responsible for not replacing the lost jobs more quickly?
No doubt Romney holds him responsible for that too, but that’s not the question. The question is whether to start counting job numbers for Obama starting in 2009 or 2010. The argument seems to be, 2010 makes sense, but let’s just thrown in another Romney talking point for balance.
Journalism in 2012.
To be honest, the entire article isn’t atrocious, but as with most of these kinds of articles, you read it and wonder, why does this exist? What point is it trying to make? That both sides tend to exaggerate their claims? That’s normally true, but that’s not exactly a great message to put out there when Romney’s camp has compiled a record of flagrant lies greater than any candidate in living memory. I doubt even Dick Nixon could compare to this machine. Of course, Nixon had to deal with editors like Ben Bradlee that were willing to stand up to that kind of deception when it mattered. Now, we have Bill “enhanced interrogation techniques” Keller, who with this article has finally reached self-parody, in nitpicking slight Obama exaggerations while ignoring mountains of Romney distortions like the Benen links show. God forbid they lose their access in a hypothetical Romney Administration, and be forced to actually, you know, do some investigative reporting instead of stenography.
I’m a hopeless contrarian and I know it. When people are shrugging, I go nuclear, and vice versa. So, since apparently elite progressives are panicking because of some poll showing Obama losing black voters and because James “Cajun-style” Carville wrote a memo, I feel the need to point out a few basic facts:
- Barack Obama is currently leading Mitt Romney in the aggregate national poll by about two points. Without the right-leaning Rasmussen polls, it’s about three. No real change there over the past few weeks.
He also does better than average in many of the key swing states.
- Mitt Romney has invariably worn poorly on every electorate he’s ever faced. Just a fact. And he’s never faced an electorate this big before, or had the focus on him for so long! Sure, fundamentals matter most in a presidential campaign, but the man has no real personality and no evident ability to connect with normal people. This matters because a vague sense of weirdness really can be a disqualifying factor for a lot of voters with respect to presidential candidates. At least it’s happened before (see: Gore, Al).
- Romney has lost two of the three elections he previously competed in, and almost got his apparently easy bid hijacked by Santorum this year. Again, not exactly a great candidate.
- While Obama will likely be outspent, he also has the advantage of being president, which means that he has a lot more control over events and a greater megaphone just by virtue of the job. This is why so few presidents lose re-election unless they really, really screw something up (Ford, with the Nixon pardon and draft dodger amnesty, or LBJ with Vietnam) or just piss too many people off (Carter). Carter continually infuriated his own base of liberals and the conservatives who would soon switch to Reagan. While Obama has done his share of triangulating, the overall mood of the base seems to be some form support, if resigned support among many. Not exactly great news, but better than the alternatives.
- Given that Obama has mostly retained the advantage in spite of everything that’s happened, I suspect Romney will need some sort of wild card to beat him, which could happen (esp. in the form of an Israel-Iran conflict or Eurocrash), but it’s awfully hard to predict that stuff. And if you’re depending on that, you’re losing.
..goes to Daniel Larison:
Many observers look at this apparent contradiction and readily assume that Romney wouldn’t actually conduct foreign policy as disastrously and recklessly as his campaign statements suggest he would. One way to make this unpersuasive argument is by appealing to campaign rhetoric: Romney can’t possibly believe the ridiculous things he says, and he’s just saying them during the campaign to mobilize his supporters, so no one needs to worry about what he’s saying. The candidate makes this a little easier to believe because of his willingness to say almost anything to win political support. At the same time, Romney is thoroughly untrustworthy for the same reason. Another way to resolve the contradiction is to say that Romney’s absurd hawkishness is shaped by his risk-averse personality. In other words, he grossly overestimates foreign threats, overreacts to them, and emphasizes the need for overwhelming military power and global hegemony because he is risk-averse, which does not mean that he is averse to conflict. Suppose that Romney’s risk-aversion doesn’t encourage prudence and restraint in the conduct of foreign policy, but instead promotes exaggerated fears of the capabilities of other governments that have to be countered and “preempted.” If that’s right, Romney might not seem reckless, but his foreign policy still would be.
Dead on, I think. And needless to say, putting another person who thinks that we can only survive by being preemptively aggressive toward other countries is not a good idea.
It’s immensely satisfying to see Newt Gingrich’s business empire go down in flames. If you recall, the Republican field this year was divided into “serious” and “business plan” candidates, the former of which included Romney, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, etc., and the latter included Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, people who had no interest in being president, but rather just wanted to say some crazy things to get exposure and sell more conservative books. Which category was Newt in? I’m not sure even he knew. In the beginning it seemed as though he was a “business plan” kind of guy, taking weeks off in the middle of the campaign and such. But at some point the poor sap started to think he really could win the nomination, and he went from a silly pretend run to an even sillier real run. More like a crawl, really.
But the irony is that Newt’s businesses–which mostly peddle bad policy advice to gullible people–have fallen apart, whether due to his own neglect or Republicans tiring of him. And business was why he got in all those months ago. Perhaps everyone finally realized he’s a complete poseur? In any event, it’s good to see Dr. Gingrich, the premier flim-flam artist of our time, finally getting out of the public what he put into it for all those years: nothing.
Andrew Leonard has some specific advice for Barack Obama:
Why on earth would the Obama administration want to “avoid an ugly public fight with powerful interests in an election year”? Shouldn’t the opposite be true? Shouldn’t the Obama administration be going out of its way to pick a fight with Wall Street? Could there be any better opportunity to tap enduring popular anger at the financial sector and draw a clear line demarcating Obama from his challenger, Mitt Romney?
This is in response to the suggestion that the Administration wants to avoid an ugly fight with powerful interests in an election year. Leonard does invoke the now cliched FDR “I welcome their hatred” speech from Madison Square Garden in 1936, though he keeps it in fair territory because he’s not suggesting Obama can just use the bully pulpit to shame the banks and get Republicans to buckle, but rather merely to win the general election. This is appropriate, I think. FDR didn’t exactly precede that speech with slashing attacks on the wealthy, nor did he succeed it with such attacks. He used that rhetoric to win the election, and then spent most of that term attacking an overly activist Supreme Court, trying to purge racist reactionaries out of his party, and preparing the country to enter into war. On the last, at least, Roosevelt came to rely more and more on wealthy elites and Republicans, ultimately bringing Henry Stimson and Frank Knox, two of the very people whose hatred his 1936 self welcomed, into his cabinet in the top two military posts.
I agree with Leonard that a strong Volcker Rule (making banks gamble with their own money, basically) would boost Obama’s standing with the public. Certainly, a loud fight over it would. And Obama could do it! For all we’ve heard about how Obama hates to play hardball, he has done it before, most recently by recess appointing Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And that also shows he’s willing to play hardball against finance. But, as I’ve written before, Obama doesn’t seem to share my (or the progressive left’s) opinions when it comes to Wall Street. This is neither a surprise nor is it incomprehensible. Wall Street heavily supported Obama in 2008, and Obama treated them like part of the team from then on. And politicians in power tend to try to hold together their coalitions. In retrospect, Wall Street’s support of Obama in 2008 was a blip, they’d always backed Republicans before that, and they’ve backed them since. Obama would have been wise to be absolutely ruthless with them from the start, treating them as the fairweather friends they are, but he thought they were his friends, and treated them accordingly. He avoided any direct (and only rarely indulged in general) criticism toward them. He appointed one of their faves, Tim Geithner, to Treasury, and later one of their own as Chief of Staff. His team was endlessly conciliatory toward the bankers, to no effect. This is, basically, a dangerously shortsighted sector of the economy we’re dealing with here, one with no mission other than making lots of money, and the riskier the bets, the more money you get. There’s no perspective, no appreciation for how they can hurt people, as John Lanchester has argued many times. Even modest safeguards and criticism insult these folks, which is why they back Republicans, who offer none. But Obama’s team never saw it this way, and it’s still not clear that they do. At this point, changing their tack on Wall Street would require overcoming significant inertia, not to mention it complicates the narrative of the bailouts. I wouldn’t take out a derivative contract on it happening.
What I find odd is how passive Obama has become about the Volcker Rule. During the FinReg fight, Obama touted it more than any other provision of the bill. He trotted out Volcker for the cameras and sold it as the signature policy of the entire measure, the thing that would keep more bailouts from happening. Sure, other elements of the bill were mentioned, but the Volcker Rule was front and center. It was never really what bankers or conservatives wanted (that would have been no bill at all), or what progressives wanted (Glass-Stegall reinstatement, Canadian-style limits on leverage and capital requirements, and a financial transaction tax were the big ones that I recall), or what moderates wanted (?). The Volcker Rule, in other words, wasn’t a “hip” policy, but it made a good amount of sense, and one had to have figured that Obama mentioned it so often because his policy wonk side was passionate about the idea. Which is good. But then he allowed Tim Geithner to get it stripped out of the bill and to get written by Treasury regulators, which was certain to result in a weaker provision, and now he seems oddly impassive about the strength of what will probably be his last chance to make substantive policy this term. We go from signature issue to “not wanting to fight with powerful interests in an election year,” which neatly exemplifies the contradiction of Obama’s term: he wanted to simultaneously change the face of American government and society while healing America, avoiding bickering and bringing the people together, and (of course) winning another term too. You can have one of those things, maybe two, but all is an impossibility–the only president who pulled it off was Lyndon Johnson, and that was only because a president was murdered. If Obama wants to make good policy on the Volcker Rule–and help himself get another term–he’s going to have to intentionally piss off a lot of people when he has a choice not to (and it should be mentioned that the Cordray recess appointment was the result of having no other choice). While it would be good policy and a good campaign issue, there is some risk attached to the move. I don’t know that he can do it. I hope so.
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