One theme of the Republican primary season has been voters’ dissatisfaction with the candidates. The apparent unworthiness of the candidates has been intense enough for Chris Christie to be asked every other day if he plans on running–because he simply must, the Republicans need him, the country needs him, etc.
The speculation has continued, but softened–as it has for Paul Ryan. In fact, the idea primary voters were so unhappy with their current choices had evolved into fretting over the “weakness” of the field, and the idea President Obama is a weak incumbent but might be let off the hook by even weaker GOP challengers. But the latest Rasmussen poll suggests this concern–fueled mostly by circular fussing, allowing it to gain momentum–may have encountered its expiration date.
Although President Obama’s job approval rating hit the low point of his administration during the past week and is down among most subgroups, there are no signs yet that he has taken a disproportionate hit among his traditional base of liberals and Democrats. On a relative basis, both of these groups remain as loyal to Obama compared with Americans overall as they have been on average since he took office in January 2009.
According to the most recent Gallup Poll, 41 percent of Americans self-identify as conservative, 36 percent as moderate and 21 percent as liberal.
The most interesting finding isn’t that conservatives outnumber liberals by roughly two-to-one — that has been the case for decades now — but if this pattern continues, 2011 will be the third straight year conservatives significantly outnumber moderates, the next largest ideological bloc.
In addition, among Republicans, conservatives currently outnumber moderates by nearly three-to-one (72 percent v. 24 percent), while only four percent are liberal. On the flip side, about four in 10 Democrats are liberal, another four in 10 are moderate and about two in 10 are conservative. This data, taken together, confirm America remains a center-right country — and in the age of Obama, it is trending more toward the right than the center.
Margaret Thatcher once said our ills create their own anti-bodies, and Barack Obama’s liberalism is creating strong anti-bodies in the American polity. Barack Obama, like Jimmy Carter before him, is providing enormous assistance for those of us who argue the superiority of conservatism over liberalism. It may be the only good thing Obama achieves in office.
As Pete pointed out this morning, Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker predicts economic calamity to come from the debt deal, because it will be restraining federal spending in a time of economic weakness, which by Keynesian lights is exactly the wrong thing to do. And, just to show how up-to-date he is, he takes the conventional–and entirely erroneous–liberal swipe at “Herbert Hoover economics,” as opposed to New-Deal pump priming. (Just for the record, federal government expenditures in 1929 were $3.1 billion. In 1932 they were $4.6 billion, a whopping 48 percent increase, despite swiftly falling federal revenues, which were down 50 percent in that same period. Obama is borrowing 40 cents out of every federal dollar spent in 2011. Herbert Hoover in 1932 was borrowing 58 cents out of every dollar spent.)
Paul Krugman of the New York Times has also been saying insistently that any deviation from the Keynesian true faith will result in renewed recession and economic disaster. As Pete also points out, he does so with his characteristic restraint and evenhandedness.
Nobody can blame House Speaker John Boehner for trying to keep his members in line on the debt ceiling deal, but who is he kidding by claiming tax hikes will be off the table in the “super committee” negotiations?
On Boehner’s PowerPoint aimed at selling the plan to GOP House members, he wrote the plan “requires baseline to be current law, effectively making it impossible for joint committee to increase taxes.” But his argument seems pretty rickety.
Peter poked fun at Paul Krugman’s apocalyptic hand-wringing, but in fairness, the NYT economist is just following the tone set by the Democratic leadership. It’s not just Emanuel Cleaver talking about Satan sandwiches, although that’s fairly risible given the liberal smirks that arise whenever conservatives claim to be guided by their faith. Explicit, actual, that’s-what-the-word-means apocalyptic announcements came from Rep. Pelosi herself, who quite literally described Democrats as being on a quest to “save the world from the Republican budget.”
What’s notable about Pelosi specifically is how easily she indulges in that sort of rhetoric, and how easily it fits into the rest of the Democrats’ campaigning. During the 2008 election, she declared choosing Obama over McCain was imperative because “we’ve got a planet to save [and] nothing less is at stake other than civilization as we know it.” It’s easy to laugh at the overwrought hyperbole – and by all means, do – but it’s also worth noting how well it lines up with what historian Richard Hofstadter identified as the paranoid style:
A mini-storm has erupted in news circles over an item by my colleague Seth Mandel here about Norah O’Donnell of CBS News and whether, in questioning Jay Carney about the debt-ceiling deal, she revealed a bias when she said to him, “We got nothing.” ABC’s Jake Tapper and my friend Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard have both taken us to task for misrepresenting the exchange, because despite some coughing and simultaneous talking by Carney, O’Donnell used the words “Democrats are saying” before she said “we got nothing.” We have amended the item to take account of the attribution.
Seth explains why he believes the item stands in his updated version. As the editor who suggested it and approved it in the first place, I think it’s proper for me to explain why I think it stands as well.
Defense hawks have two areas of concern in the debt ceiling deal. The first is the initial $917 billion savings, which includes $350 billion in cuts during the next 10 years to a wide swath of “security” agencies, ranging from the Department of Defense to the Department of Homeland Security.
On the plus side, this means these reductions won’t necessarily be confined to the Pentagon, and agencies conservatives loathe – like the TSA – could see their budgets slashed as well. On the other hand, the broadness of the category means the departments covered under the “security category” may have to duke it out every year over how much money each of them gets:
Liberals, deflated by the right’s debt ceiling victory, have seized on a new accusation against the Tea Partiers and conservatives who effected a seismic shift in Washington. “Among foreign leaders and in global markets,” writes the New York Times’ David E. Sanger, “the political histrionics have eroded America’s already diminishing aura as the world’s economic haven and the sole country with the power to lead the rest of the world out of financial crisis and recession.” So the unruly policy debate itself has hurt the U.S.
Not quite. In Greece, leaders enacted an austerity program that produced a season of violent riots; In Spain, spending cuts led to a nationwide squat-in; In France, where the semi-permanent retiree class is always on a low-boil, riots and strikes followed announced changes in entitlements; In Britain, new spending cuts met mass-vandalism. And in the U.S., elected representatives wrangled, negotiated, and ultimately voted in a new borrowing and spending paradigm—one that has the support of their constituents and that will begin to take on the monstrous national debt. Read More
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was clearly in an upbeat mood during today’s press briefing. Many of the reporters in the room, however, were not feeling the love.
Specifically, CBS’s Norah O’Donnell peppered Carney with terse, accusatory questions about the lack of tax revenue (read: tax increases) in the debt ceiling deal. O’Donnell complained about how many GOP demands were met by the deal, and then said to Carney: “You have Democrats saying you gave them everything they wanted and we got nothing.” [Second update: I've added the words "you have Democrats saying..." from the transcript since this item was first published.] That “we” is very telling. It was a tense moment in the room, and O’Donnell seemed to give voice to frustrated liberals who feel the deal gave significantly more to Republicans than Democrats, and included no tax increases–something President Obama had demanded be included for most of the negotiations.
I don’t always agree with Paul Krugman of the New York Times, but one of the things I appreciate about him is his equanimity, his measured words and his lack of hyperbole. As an example, take the conclusion to his most recent column:
What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question. After all, how can American democracy work if whichever party is most prepared to be ruthless, to threaten the nation’s economic security, gets to dictate policy? And the answer is, maybe it can’t.
In response to ideologues who insist the left has nothing to contribute to national security debates, I offer their Bush-era sloganeering about the ontological doom reserved for those who rush to war. The complaints were obviously not apt in the context of the seemingly interminable lead-up to the liberation of Iraq, but there’s definitely something to be said for the principle. Take, for example, the Libya campaign, which was launched after the president decided on a Tuesday to go to war that Friday. Neglected in the process, apparently, was any sustained analysis of how long it would take to overthrow Qaddafi or what would happen in the meantime or on whose behalf we were fighting.
The news this morning was the Libyan rebels have turned on each other–this in the aftermath of that totally insane killing of Libyan rebel general Abdel Fattah Younis. Younis was recalled from the front where he was leading the fight against Qaddafi’s forces, hauled before a rebel committee to answer charges of treason, and in the process somehow ended up dead. His followers and tribesmen are, suffice it to say, displeased. Given what CNN calls the fading of diplomatic hopes for a resolution to the conflict, the collapse of rebel unity does not bode well.
The Democratic lawmakers worry that the Tea Party freshmen have already “neutered” the president, as one told me. They fret that Obama is an inept negotiator. They worry that he should have been out in the country selling a concrete plan, rather than once more kowtowing to Republicans and, as with the stimulus plan, health care and Libya, leading from behind.
As one Democratic senator complained: “The president veers between talking like a peevish professor and a scolding parent.” (Not to mention a jilted lover.) Another moaned: “We are watching him turn into Jimmy Carter right before our eyes.”
During the weekend, Bashar al-Assad’s forces rolled into the city of Hama–where his father once had up to 40,000 civilians murdered–and killed at least 140 residents. Twitter is overflowing with reports the assault continues today, and tanks are storming other towns. Protesters have flooded the streets across Syria in response, leading German intelligence to declare that actually, no, Assad’s regime is still probably going to survive.
But the continued stability of the Syrian regime is only one highly unpleasant option. The other side of that coin is Assad will conclude his power is finally slipping. Unable to ratchet up internal repression, he might try to provoke a war with Israel.
Powerline, the great conservative blog, has been running a contest on how to explain the debt crisis, with a $100,000 prize to the winner. Here’s my winner: an immensely catchy song redolent of the tuneful punk stylings of the Ramones of the 1970s called “You’re Gonna Pay.” The video is a little juvenile, but as a whole it does exactly what popularizing should do: Makes something difficult to understand intelligible in a clever way.
At the Washington Examiner, Phil Klein sees a potential war brewing between national security hawks and the anti-tax movement. While both groups avoided any immediate concessions in the debt ceiling deal – no defense cuts, no taxes – they may clash during the upcoming committee negotiations if it turns into an intra-conservative debate between defense reductions and tax hikes:
President Obama said during his brief remarks tonight that he would continue to push for a “balanced approach” (i.e. higher taxes). No doubt, Democrats on the congressional committee will be insisting on raising taxes as part of deficit reduction, and Republicans will be torn in both directions. Either they agree to tax increases, or they trigger automatic defense cuts on top of the cuts that they already agreed to.
No doubt, we’ll start to see more and more opposition from conservative defense hawks to slashing the military budget, while the Norquist crowd will continue to push Republicans to accept more defense cuts to avoid any increase in taxes.
Mitt Romney’s executive experience, especially in the private sector, is the key pillar of his presidential campaign. As his advertisements already indicate, he will focus specifically on the national unemployment picture and work to convince voters President Obama’s policies have been job killers, and that he’ll be a job-creating president.
But the one obstacle in the way of that narrative is that for Romney, as head of the private equity firm Bain Capital, fixing companies’ finances often meant shedding jobs–at least at first. As Bloombergput it, “It’s a facet of his career that presents a particular challenge for the Republican primary frontrunner: Tough business decisions don’t necessarily translate into good politics.” That fact will undoubtedly come up in the general election if Romney is the nominee–though it will probably be raised by one of Romney’s GOP rivals as the field narrows. Romney will have to have a defense at the ready, and it seems he has found that defense:
If there is one fact proven again and again in the Middle East, it is that what happens in one country affects other countries as well. Back in 2003, for example, when U.S. forces had just taken down the Baathist regime in Iraq and pulled Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi was eager to deal away his weapons of mass destruction and support for terrorism in order to avoid a similar fate. More recently, the Arab Spring started with one fruit seller setting himself on fire in Tunisia. The firestorm of protest he ignited rapidly spread across the entire region.
Keep all this in mind as you read—or watch—the horrifying news about Bashar al-Assad’s brutal, bloodthirsty crackdown in Syria. His soldiers are massacring people across the entire country, and most recently in Hama, a traditional center of protest against the Alawite regime. What might give Assad the impression he has impunity to slaughter his own people? Perhaps he is watching as rulers from Bahrain to Libya do precisely that—and get away with it.
Yesterday, Democratic consultant Donna Brazile tweeted, “Last time I checked, God is above this partisan stuff. But I believe (as a woman of faith) Jesus would be fair & support shared sacrifice.” And last time I checked, for a Christian to use Jesus as a pawn in the debt ceiling debate bordered on heresy.
The New Testament gives instructions on how to pray, on how congregations should function and deacons should manage their households, and on how husbands and wives should treat each other. Yet astonishingly, it says nothing at all about what a deal raising the debt ceiling debate should look like.
Islamists flooded Tahrir Square at the end of last week calling for the creation of a sharia state, the subjugation of women, the destruction of Israel, the banning of alcohol, and so on. Banners and chants filled the Square declaring “Islam, Islam, we do not want a liberal State” and “the people want Islamic law.”
Salafists to the right of the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the crowd, but the Brotherhood is confident their superior organizational capacity can overwhelm the Salafists’ demographic advantage in coming elections. The difference, according to an MB-sympathetic email posted by Jeffrey Goldberg, is that at least the Muslim Brotherhood will allow tourists to drink. So that’s where we’re at.