Barack Obama Financial Crisis Politics

Interpeting Obama’s Stimulus Strategy

Noam Scheiber at The Plank:

Barack Obama is nothing if not a master rope-a-doper. For months last year, anxious liberals pleaded with him to respond to John McCain’s lacerating attacks. And, for months, Obama soared above the fray. Then, in early September, the McCain campaign squeezed out two ludicrously dishonest ads—accusing Obama of force-feeding sex education to kindergarteners and of calling Sarah Palin a pig. The press screamed bloody murder—Joe Klein labeled the former “one of the sleaziest ads I’ve ever seen;” Joy Behar of “The View” personally told McCain they were “lies.” At which point Obama saw an opportunity. With the media having pronounced McCain the aggressor and him the victim, Obama began to whale away—on healthcare, on McCain’s age, even Charles Keating—with virtual impunity.

My sense is that we’re seeing something similar play out with the stimulus.

Andrew Sullivan quotes one of his readers:

What many do not understand is that the government is playing for time, not some brilliant economic miracle. We do not have the money or political leverage to solve this problem from the top down by divine fiat. We have to buy time — literally — for the ten-thousand smaller acts of restoration and renewal to take place. All this flow of money, this vast seemingly indiscriminate transfusion of economic blood, has one purpose: to keep the patient’s heart pumping until the systemic crisis is past — another 6-12-18 months. It is messy, sloppy, gross heroic medicine.

Andrew Sullivan has his own just slightly less optimistic interpretation.

Yglesias points out some of what Obama is dealing with as Representative Steve Austria explains his opposition to Obama’s stimulus in historical terms:

“When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression,” Austria said. “He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

“That’s just history.” The article Yglesias cites points out the slight problem with this “history”:

Most historians date the beginning of the Great Depression at or shortly after the stock-market crash of 1929; Roosevelt took office in 1933.

Election 2008 McCain Politics The Opinionsphere

Jindal 2012

Over at TNR’s The Plank, they’ve begun a discussion of 2012 Republican contenders.

Bobby Jindal is one candidate who I think has the chops to truly challenge Obama if he were to run in 2012- as a reform-minded governor who has strong relationships with the conservatives and christianists in the Republican party that does not contradict his independent streak and reform instincts. McCain’s maverick streak often came at the expense of his party and especially the christianist base. But I think that Christopher Orr might be right when he points out that this campaign has hurt Jindal more than any other Republican candidates

…a large portion of the GOP’s closing argument this cycle has been to stoke white, working class fear and suspicion of the Other. The dark-skinned man with the foreign-sounding name may be a Muslim, or a socialist, or a friend of terrorists, or a racial huckster, or a fake U.S. citizen, or some other vague kind of “radical.” You may never be sure which he is (maybe all of the above), but in your gut you simply don’t “know” him the way you know the other candidates. This is not, to put it mildly, a message likely to benefit Bobby Jindal.

I don’t think this rules Jindal out. Although campaign messages and narratives have a way sinking in for partisans more than actual policy positions (see the Hillary Clinton primary voters), a good candidate, the right circumstances, and the right policy messages can counteract that (see the Hillary Clinton primary voters.)

Daniel Larison (and David Weigel over at Reason seems to agree) thinks that this the fallout from the election of Obama given the campaign McCain has run would have precisely the opposite effect Orr predicts:

…never underestimate the Republican desire to get on the high horse of anti-racism and egalitarianism, to say nothing of the even greater desire to demonstrate that they are in no way racist…

I agree with that as well – but as Larison points out – this especially applies to the “elite Republicans” and less so to the rank-and-file. I think Larison undestimates the poisonous atmosphere that is motivating much of the vicious anti-Obama rhetoric and fear though – an atmosphere that McCain and Palin decided at one point to stoke.

But what I think both miss is that – although if the VP nominee had been Jindal this time around, the Republicans would have rallied to him, because racism is not inherently Republican – by running a campaign that stokes fears of the “foreign,” the Republican party has changed.

If McCain loses – and probably if he wins, but slower – the Republican party is due for a crack-up – as all the various factions fight over what vision they have for America and for their party.

Sarah Palin is clearly a contender – representing the old-style class warfare with a new wink and nice clothes. Most of the neoconservatives will back her, at least to start the 2012 positioning.

Bobby Jindal would be the new fresh face, the reform-minded christianist with an independent streak – the closest to the McCain brand without the baggage of being labeled a traitor by much of the party. He will be the candidate of the Republican elite, the candidate of David Brooks, of Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam. He’ll be the guy whose candidacy will attempt to reform the Republican party with a new policy focus.

Mitt Romney would be the business candidate – and the one with the most chits to cash in. He’ll be the safe choice, the establishment candidate, the next in line.

Mike Huckabee would be the nice guy, the runner-up again. This time around, most prominent evangelicals will back him.

The dark horse, again, will be Newt Gingrich – who this year declined to enter the race after long and public deliberation.

And so, in 2012, the candidates would neatly divide the Republican party into old-style and reform, business and christianist. It’s hard to imagine someone other than Romney taking it with this crowd though. Jindal is the one to watch – the guy who would be able to pull the Republicans out of this most quickly.

Economics Politics

The Failure of Free Market Ideology

Alan Greenspan admits the failure of his pure free market ideology:

I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms

H/t Chait over at The Plank.

Economics Politics

OMF – G20

Clay Risen over at The Plank:

You know things are bad when Bush calls for an emergency meeting of not just the G-7 or the G-8, but the G-20. As they say on the Gossip Girls, OMFG. That’s like when the Justice League called in not just Superman, Aquaman, and the Wonder Twins, but the Black Canary and the Red Tornado, too. The meeting, planned for Nov. 15, will hopefully make significant strides toward a new, forward-looking, structural response to the financial crisis.

Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics

A Page from Nixon’s Playbook

Over at The Plank, Jason Zengerle discusses how Steve Schmidt and friends over at the McCain campaign turned Obama’s popularity into a negative:

you’d think that his popularity – which is something extrinsic to the candidate – would be impossible to demonize. Sure, Hillary Clinton tried, with her digs at Obama for making nice speeches before big crowds, but those attacks ultimately fell short. It wasn’t until the McCain campaign’s celebrity ad – and the repeated meme in other McCain spots of Obama standing before adoring crowds chanting his name – that Obama’s popularity came to be viewed as a sign of his own haughtiness.

This reminds me of what Rick Perlstein describes in Nixonland, as the conflict between the Orthogonians and the Franklins that Nixon used to gain political power.


Quote of the Day

It’s hard to know quite how to respond to politicians who are willing to make things up so brazenly. Except, I suppose, to point out that one should take anything they say with a grain of salt, given that they are bloodthirsty werewolves who defile virgins by the light of the full moon.

Christopher Orr over at The Plank.