Liberals are catching their breath after spending the first few days after Mitt Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential choice huffing and puffing about how happy they are to have Paul Ryan to attack this fall. But amid the complacent over-confidence, some are claiming to welcome the opportunity to have a debate about debt and the budget that Ryan’s presence on a national ticket will ensure. On the New York Times’ op-ed page, Joe Nocera attempts to broach the discussion in a serious manner while on the paper’s website, the less serious Roger Cohen also writes that such a debate would be good. Both seem to assume that most Americans share their prejudices about Ryan’s “radical” ideas about shrinking government but understand that the instinctive liberal refusal to contemplate a limit to federal spending is bad for the country’s long-term security.
This shows that despite their glib self-assurance that Americans can be Mediscared out of listening to Ryan’s ideas about reforming the government, some on the left are beginning to understand that Democrats must come up with an answer to the challenge posed by the intellectual leader of the GOP. Read Virginia Postrel’s suggestion yesterday in Bloomberg that the Republicans place Ryan front and center in a series of infomercials about the fiscal crisis this fall. The model would be the half hour prime time commercials that were broadcast by Ross Perot’s campaign in 1992 in which the eccentric and wealthy independent galvanized public attention on the budget with hand-held charts and lectures. While this idea may give heart attacks to some of Mitt Romney’s media consultants, it has some merit. For all of the arguments we’ve heard lately about the public’s willingness to listen to serious budget proposals like the one promoted by the GOP veep, the Republicans ought not to ignore the possibility that giving Ryan the opportunity to present his ideas is the last thing President Obama should want.
The Washington Post pitches in today to join those hyping the notion that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a viable third-party candidate for president in 2012. The Bloomberg boomlet, such as it is, is mostly the result of the nonstop efforts of the mayor’s staff and the billionaire’s various publication and public relations businesses, such as the Bloomberg Government website. But there have always been enough non-Bloomberg employees attracted by the mayor’s supposed centrism and independence to keep the idea alive.
So what’s the scenario for a Bloomberg candidacy? Of course, it starts and ends with money: Bloomberg has enough money to fund a first-class 50-state presidential run. And as his three mayoral victories demonstrate, he will spend as much money as is necessary.
Another integral element of the scenario is the ideological slot into which Bloomberg can fit. The former member of both the Democratic and Republican parties and his paid flacks have carefully crafted an image of a pragmatist middle-of-the-road technocrat who eschews labels and ideological rigidity. With American politics becoming increasingly polarized and the nation basically split between Red Staters who watch FOX News and Blue Staters who listen to NPR, Bloomberg is supposedly the perfect man to appeal to independents and partisans who are sick of gridlock.
The putative Bloomberg candidacy is helped by the current state of both major parties. The Democrats, led by an unpopular hyper-liberal Barack Obama, have lost the center. At the same time, the Bloomberg boosters are whispering that the Republicans, though on the rebound from their 2008 disaster, have swung too far to the right to appease their conservative base and the Tea Party insurgents to capture the centrists they’ll need to recapture the White House in 2012. And if Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee, they claim the GOP will be doomed. With the nation split between a leftist Obama and a right-wing Palin, a centrist Bloomberg will slip neatly between them and, lubricated by a campaign war chest that could dwarf even the impressive amounts raised in the last cycle by Obama, the mayor will cakewalk to victory, becoming the first ever third-party president.
It’s a neat plan, and if Palin is the GOP standard-bearer and if the economy is still in the doldrums in the summer and fall of 2012, thereby sinking Obama’s hopes, it’s just possible the wealthy mayor could win. Read More
Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:
One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.
Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.
Kurtz then opines:
On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.
Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.
Look, chances are Hillary Clinton’s revival this week is only a pothole the Obama steamroller will have to fill in on its way to the nomination. He’s still ahead in delegates and in the popular vote. The math is against her. He’ll win the next few contests. She’ll win a few later. In a month’s time, his dominant standing will seem so obvious that the superdelegates will naturally gravitate to him and away from Hillary and effectively hand him the nomination. This is the likeliest scenario at the present moment. What will stop him, perhaps the only thing to stop him, is real trouble that the Clintons will have nothing to do with: Revelations at the Rezko trial, or a series of missteps of the sort that have afflicted his campaign in the past week (Susan Rice saying he’s not ready for that 3 am call; Samantha Power saying, well, just about anything).
If anything, Hillary is doing Obama a favor. She’s giving him a flavor of what he will get later on, and is toughening him up a bit and giving him room to develop stronger and more credible responses to the “he’s got no experience” charge that is McCain’s strongest card to play against him.
So why is Andrew Sullivan — the ultimate Obamamaniac on the web — having a hysterical, screaming, over-the-top fit about all this? I can’t link to a single item; you’d have to read two days’ worth of postings at andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com to get the full flavor of the rhetorical tantrum he’s pitching at Hillary Clinton’s refusal to stand aside and let America move on with its coronation of the Man Who Will Change Everything.
It’s not as though Hillary Clinton has no claim on the Democratic nomination. She’s not Ross Perot, who, in the end, ran for president solely to deny George H.W. Bush a second term in part out of a paranoid delusion about Bush disrupting Perot’s daughter’s wedding. She’s a hundred delegates back. She’s won a bunch of primaries, including in the nation’s largest states.
There is nothing illegitimate going on here. It’s an electoral contest. Hillary won Ohio and Texas fair and square. The very fact that the Obama fanciers like Sullivan and the entire cast of characters at the Huffington Post are so shaken by her unwillingness to lie down and die suggests to me that they are terrified Obama can’t handle the stress test she is forcing him to undergo. And if he can’t, then they shouldn’t want him to be the nominee, because he’ll collapse by Election Day.
One of the benefits of spending the past couple of weeks tracking down and reading Ron Paul’s old newsletters, interviewing his past and present associates and boning up on the history of libertarianism in America (see Reason editor Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, which I recommend) was learning about the strange history of libertarians and paleoconservatives (also explored today by Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez of Reason).
Daniel Larison is a prominent fixture in paleoconservative circles. He writes a regular column for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and contributes to Buchanan crony Taki Theodoracopulos’s website. He also writes for the popular right-of-center blog The American Scene and is often cited by mainstream political bloggers and publications, including my own. He is no doubt an eloquent proponent of the paleoconservative cause.
He happens, in addition, to be a member in good standing (at least until 2005, when he celebrated ten years of membership) of the League of the South. A little background on the League of the South, which is the most prominent neo-Confederate group in America. The League describes itself as a “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic” and “encourage[s] individuals and families to personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America.” For more on this merry band of would-be traitors, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2000 report on the League, which SPLC labeled a “hate group.”
Conspicuous by its absence in this Iowa campaign is the absence of any single, leading “anti-establishment” issue. Sure, there is the usual anti-Washington blather from Fred Thompson and John Edwards. But where is the equivalent of Steve Forbes’ flat tax, Ross Perot’s budget ovehaul, Buchanan’s anti-NAFTA tirades, or even Pete DuPont and his campaign for “change.” The anti-corporate stuff at Democratic debates has become Iowa boilerplate. But no one has introduced a killer single, “damn right” issue, not even Huckabee. Will this be an issue-less campaign?
Yesterday the stock market edged up again, with the Dow Jones Index cruising once more toward record highs. This ought to be good news for Republicans entering the presidential season. But is it really? Although Republicans are loath to be candid on this point, a surging stock market really does disproportionately help the rich and the super-rich. The accompanying growth in income inequality is a big, ripe target for a John Edwards, a James Webb, a Barack Obama, and others who want to frame the next election around themes of rich versus poor.
For a Republican party that wants to attract the votes of Bill O’Reilly’s “folks,” extremes in income inequality aren’t getting easier to defend. Private equity deals are now roaring through Asia, often enriching a relatively small handful of the American financial elite. Until Republican politicians know how to speak with confidence about globalization, capitalism, and wealth creation, Democratic calls to punish the rich can be made without fear of rebuttal.
Even with Robert Rubin and Gene Sperling whispering in her ear, Hillary Clinton, with her hand firmly on the pulse of her pollster, remains likely to join the economic populism gang. In 1996, with Ross Perot breathing down his neck, Bob Dole, a life-long trade advocate, suddenly started talking about trade restrictions and offering second thoughts on NAFTA. There is no reason to believe Hillary is more principled.
Of course, it is not clear what exactly the economic populist proposals will consist of. A new tax on the super-wealthy is probably an inevitable plank of their platform. But in his State of the Union response, Senator Webb spoke about how much more a CEO makes than an average worker. Will he unveil a proposal, beyond raising taxes, to fix that?
What aspiring Democratic and Republican presidential candidates alike should bear in mind is that the evidence of whether class warfare “works” as an electoral strategy is mixed. A much-cited paper by a group of Columbia University professors shows it is not easy to assume that wealth or perceived inequality determines voting preferences.