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Posts Tagged ‘Presidential Election’

Warning: Time for Ideas Not Attacks

This cannot be just another mud-slinging Presidential contest.  Our economy- the world economy- is looking at a steep drop off a tall cliff if leaders do not step forward and if we keep on with politics-as-usual.

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz has a terrific analysis piece that makes all the right points.  He juxtaposes the horrible jobless numbers released Friday with what was a week of campaign hijinks from both sides.  The American electorate needs and deserves this election to be a battle of ideas about how to keep the economy from falling into a second recession.  Both the President and his Republican opponent need to give us details on their vision for the next four years instead of relying on attack strategies that usually work well in typical election years.

There is nothing typical about where we are today.  The continuing debt meltdown in Europe coupled with suddenly slowing economies in China and Brazil have combined to paint a dire situation for the world economy.  The challenges are as formidable as anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

This has to be about more than “we’re not doing as badly as everyone else.” Nor do we have the luxury of wasting our precious time discussing television celebrities and birth certificates.

This desperately needs to be a referendum in November on ideas and policy.  If the campaign devolves into the usual non-stop partisan warfare that has helped get us into this mess to begin with and skirts around the hard truths we need to address in terms of both economic growth and debt reduction- then our elected President will have neither a philosophical mandate or the public support for the actions he needs to take to protect us from economic calamity.

This is a time for adults not adolescent spit-ball battles and clever pot-shots.

The Perils of Political Forecasting

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment


Seems obvious, of course, but it’s all about the unknown. Things that seem logical on paper have a way of being ripped apart by unexpected events.

It seemed an absolute given, for example, that a President drowning in 9% unemployment figures would make an easy target. Entire political campaigns- like Mitt Romney’s- have been built on that assumption. Enter the “turnaround specialist” strategy. Touting his business and private sector credentials, Romney built a logical model for the foundation of a political strategy. Except what happens to this course if the economy starts recovering and unemployment starts dropping significantly?

In this case, many pundits are making the argument that an improving economy is one of the reasons Rich Santorum has surged. Widely seen as a candidate more focused on championing the conservative position on social issues from abortion and gay marriage to birth control and women’s role in the military, the theory goes that conservative voters will gravitate to politicians with strong social views absent alarm over the state of the economy.

Except what happens if all hell breaks loose in the world and, say, Israel decides to bomb Iran in a preemptive attempt to delay or kill off their nuclear capability? With the world on full alert in the case of such military action, Iran under attack and closing the Strait of Hormuz, and tensions escalating throughout the Middle East- it kind of makes birth control a bit of a back-seat issue, doesn’t it?

And what of the recently embraced assumptions that the American economy is on the mend and that with the President’s approval ratings on the rise, he is looking much more secure in his reelection efforts?

Looks good- except what happens if Italy, Spain and Greece go into default and world stock markets panic and the business climate suddenly becomes toxic out of fear and uncertainty? This would be the double-dip recession scenario.

But it doesn’t take cataclysmic events like war or the collapse of the European economy to change the political calculus. Today, for example, there are reports that retail sales were really sluggish in January. Maybe the jobless drop last month was just a positive blip in a still rocky road to recovery.

There’s concern that with gas prices already at $3.50 a gallon in the U.S., unusually high for this early in the year, that there could easily be $5 a gallon gas by election day. That’s a squeeze on consumers that could make for some pretty angry voters.

Taken to its extreme, the argument about the effects of unforeseen events on politics can get silly. What happens if a large meteorite strikes the Earth. What happens if a sudden burst of radiation from the Sun melts our electrical grid and modern society collapses. You could go on and on.

But here’s the thing: Our own Secretary of Defense says there’s a chance Israel really will launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, possibly as early as the spring. Moody’s really did downgrade the economies of Spain, Italy, and Portugal this week and warns the same may be in store for France and England. Gasoline prices really are already high- even without a Middle East war.

The problem with those who make political predictions for a living- the punditry class- is they can only base their assumptions on the present and guess a little on what else might happen.

But anybody who’s willing to venture a prediction about who will win the next election in November is full of it. Remember that if turns out, say Jeb Bush, is standing on the west front of the Capitol building taking the oath of office next January.

How’d that happen? We don’t know now. But we’ll know then after a zillion words will have been written about how reality is stranger than fiction and how weird it was that the incredibly implausible scenario came to pass.

US Economy on the Rebound? Implications for the Presidential Race

February 3, 2012 Leave a comment

History has shown us that it is not a wise thing to bet against America. It’s a pretty resilient country. And though millions are still without work, the housing crisis continues and Europe may yet be unable to contain its debt crisis, Friday’s unemployment report has significantly surpassed most economist’s expectations and offers more than a glimmer of hope that a recovery is actually taking hold.

The job gains were impressive and across all sectors of the American economy. There have now been five consecutive monthly drops in the national jobless rate and the 8.3% figure represents a three-year low in the unemployment number. Wall Street seems impressed and the Dow Jones is now flirting with the 13,000 mark.

The political implications are huge. It’s estimated that if the current monthly gains of over 200,000 new jobs continues until election day, the jobless rate in November may well come in at just under 8%. It’s a significant number. No incumbent President has ever been re-elected with a jobless rate over 8%.

For Republicans seeking the presidential nomination and centering their campaigns on a cratering American economy, there are still enough weak points and looming threats to the nation’s finances to make a case but there’s also a political danger. It is not an advantageous position to appear to be rooting for the continuing demise of the American economy. It is not a “morning in America” message and it threatens to make President Obama the optimist and Republicans the party of gloom-and-doom.

There is an obvious pivot that can be made to other issues and they are also important ones to be settled in a campaign. The debate over the size of government. The arguments of over-regulation versus government protection of consumers and the environment, for example. There’s the continuing danger of massive budget deficits.

But there’s a ritual that occurs on the morning of the first Friday of every month. The current leader of the Republican party, House Speaker John Boehner, releases a public statement on the latest jobless report. For five straight months now, he’s had to say, in essence, we’re glad things are looking up but the situation is still dire. How long that message continues to resonate if the string of positive economic news continues, could well end up determining who gets to live in the White House for the next four years.

A Plausible Herman Cain Scenario

November 9, 2011 1 comment

I don’t know exactly how this will end for Herman Cain but it probably won’t matter because all is still going according to plan. If the plan is, as many in the political punditry class suspect, that what Mr. Cain wanted all along just in case he didn’t actually become President, was to get some limelight, quadruple his speaking fees and land a sweet gig on a cable news network.

Highly likely, so the theory goes, Cain was as surprised as anyone to find himself the improbable frontrunner for his party’s presidential nomination. More than once in the case of Herman Cain I’ve heard the old line over the past few weeks from political insiders about “the dog catching the car.” Now what’s he do with it?

Except he’s caught more than a car. Now he’s caught a full-fledged tiger. The sexual harassment claims are not a “he said-she said situation.” They are turning more into a “he said-she said, she said, she said and she said situation.” If there really is a news conference coming in the next few days with two or three of Herman Cain’s accusers talking before the microphones and telling their stories, I would think it entirely possible he may get a visit from some Republican dignitaries in short order.

For the good of the party, Herman, this has become too much of a distraction, they will say. Every minute spent talking about your past is once less minute talking about an economy in the kind of shape no incumbent President has ever survived in American history. And Herman Cain can maintain his innocence and bow out for the good of the party while vowing that he may not be running for President anymore, but he will never be silenced. A sad day for America, he might say, but there are bigger things at play than himself- namely an election and the future of the American people and their children and their grand children and their great-great grand children, etc. etc.

Once he’s not running for President the media won’t care anymore and it won’t matter what he said and she said. I’m guessing the inevitable book will drive up the speaking fees for awhile and that a media gig awaits him somewhere out there.

As for the truth and what really happened some 14 years ago, people will have to draw their own conclusions because there are no witnesses. But no matter how bad it looks, no matter how many women go public, Herman Cain will not be destroyed. Just not likely he’ll be leader of the free world.