Saturday, May 14, 2011

What Mattered This Week?

I'm going to need your help here; I have no idea what mattered this week. I know, as Chevy Chase would say, that Osama bin Laden is still dead...I know that the Huck is going to tell us what he's doing later today. Beyond that, I know that I'm a good week behind on everything going on in the world; sometimes, travel and work commitments will just do that to you, I guess. So I'm going to need your help: what do you think mattered this week?


  1. I think the the OBL thing is half right; the failure of the "show us the photos" story to transition into fully-echoed hullaballo on the Sunday shows and through WaPo from the GOP is a sort of pleasant victory, perhaps helped by McCain's uncharacteristic yelp of decency.

    I'd also point to Obama's immigration reform speech, especially when paired with Lugar's unfortunate (and unseemly) panic. There's little doubt that anything will pass at all, but it's salient as (1) the start of the 2012 election (2) the search for the eventual Democratic Latino Presidential Nominee (3) second-order death hug from the Obama White House after the ceaseless Romney vice grip.

    The first is about trying to put or keep the states with the greatest Hispanic growth rates in play (NC; Iowa; Arizona, among others. I doubt it'll matter in Indiana, but may salvage that Senate Seat for Donnelly. Texas excluded until 2016) and maybe poison the well against the GOP in Florida. Or force the Hispanic integrationist wing to make disqualifying statements before the GOP VP nominee is picked.

    The second is just a matter creating the deepest bench possible, and at this point is not very interesting. I'd wager that the eventual nominee in question is someone we almost certainly haven't met yet, having recently graduated from law school, but is a person that the Democratic Party wants to capture and engage.

    Third, well; bringing immigration back to the front doesn't just placate a major Democratic constituency (which rescued all the Senate seats West of the Mississippi last year) but it also makes the GOP choose sides in the run up to the now-heavily Hispanic Iowa.

  2. Marc Lynch has an excellent post on the GCC's consideration of Jordan and Morocco (?!) for membership, and why it's actually a potentially very significant anomaly. Basically it has to do with slightly rejiggering the two blocs of countries in the Middle East; going from a broadly "pro-American" vs. "resistance" rubric to a "conservative (monarchical)" vs. "revolutionary" divide. (One of the things that's very interesting about that, to me, is that it's not very clear what each bloc's orientation to the US might be if you take each of them as a whole.) If Jordan and Morocco were to actually join, to the exclusion of countries like Iraq and Egypt, it could push those two major players closer to countries like Syria and Iran than they might otherwise have moved. As always from him, it's a great piece.

  3. I don't know how much it will matter, but if the worst case scenarios do come to pass, the Mississippi flooding will be huge. As it is, we're inundating hundreds of square miles of farmland and destroying hundreds of homes, to avert a bigger disaster if the Mississippi were to change course. Check out this excellent New Yorker piece for more.

  4. Eh; Jordan and Morocco have preexisting ties with the GCC, which draws its officer corps from Jordanian/Moroccan soldiers in retirement or on secondment.

    Marc's post is OK, but the problems the GCC has really doesn't orbit around Jordan or Morocco (the latter has recommitted to the Union of the Maghreb, or whatever it's being called now) but rather, the potential for Saudi Arabia to consolidate regional heft among Sunni states and strand Iraq in the middle, while intensifying tensions with Iran over Bahrain.

    The collapse of the Saudi-American Alliance would be a severe headache.

  5. Blogger being down for two days.

  6. I'm thinking George Mitchell stepping down as envoy to the Middle East Peace Process.

    With the Arab Spring, OBL's death, and a troop draw downs, it's a good time for a fresh focus on Peace.

  7. Cribbing from the NYT infographic (, and judging by your standards of mattering for national politics, I'd say:

    1) The Rajaratnam conviction mattered, if the administration follows with other financial industry prosecutions, pleasing populists and repelling corporate types.

    2) The Senate Ethics Committee on Ensign mattered, if Senators now fear legal accountability even after they leave office, and shift their behavior in office accordingly.

  8. Romney's health-care speech. What struck me was not so much the speech itself as the overwhelmingly negative reaction to it by the conservative press. A while ago, I thought there would be at least some conservative pundits who defended Romney's health-care record, including arguing that his bill was at least okay while Obama's was terrible. My reasons for thinking this were as follows:

    (1) In raising fears last year about both government takeover of health care and Medicare cuts, the GOP establishment proved that they were perfectly willing to resort to philosophically incoherent attacks on Democrats. In contrast, Romney's use of federalism to distinguish between his record and Obama's--despite being unconvincing, disingenuous, and out of step with the Tea Party--is at least in principle a philosophically defensible position. I expected at least some pundits to rally behind Romney using such arguments, but no, he seems to have provoked universal condemnation on the right.

    (2) Lots of conservative commentators, from Rush Limbaugh to the National Review, enthusiastically got behind Romney four years ago, deeming him a "true conservative" unlike those fake conservatives, McCain and Huck. The fact that they'd now abandon him opens them up to charges of inconsistency and insincerity that even their supporters might have a hard time ignoring.

    (3) The Tea Party backed Scott Brown, who supported Romneycare. He has since distanced himself from the TP and revealed himself as one of the GOP's biggest moderates in the Senate, but the TP should have anticipated that from both his previous record and the fact that he was running in MA. I got the sense they were backing him purely for pragmatic reasons, and if they could do that, why would Romney himself be so toxic?

    (4) Polls suggest Romney is one of the most electable of the GOP contenders, in a field with many weird candidates feared by the establishment. If the conservative establishment doesn't support Romney, who will they choose in his place? They might go for Pawlenty, or for Daniels if he runs. But there's a good chance neither one of them will catch fire. You can't get something from nothing, and having conservative elites coalesce around one of these alternatives won't be enough to make them win. They might be stuck with Romney, but if their attacks on him greatly weaken his candidacy, it could open the way for one the really weird candidates to emerge.

    What the elite attacks on Romney suggest to me most of all is that the conservatives care more about undermining Obamacare than choosing a viable candidate.

  9. Commenters to the rescue :). Always nice to be asked Jonathan,

    1. Huckabee out (which you know).
    2. Green piece on Palin a nice bookend telling one how freak show driven one our two major parties have become (sounds like she was an estimable governor though her appeal was on the non-accomplishments and the personality.
    3. The Osama story has had no apparent effect on the Republican's assessment of their ability to use the debt ceiling vote to either get bigconcessions or permanently hurt the economy and increase the costs of government borrowing meaning increasing the costs of running the federal government.
    4. The poll indicating that the public overwhelmingly opposes raising the debt ceiling bodes I'll for a deal on this.
    5. The Republicans indicating (I think this week) that they would oppose any nominee to the Consumer Agency Elizabeth Warren has been working on, housed at the Federal Reserve).
    6. A more prominent outlet for the divided and angry Wisconsin political establishment as their senior Senator announces his resignation.
    7. Little if any use of the Osama triumph to move things forward in a big way on Afghanistan or the "War on Terror."
    8. Fallout which sounds pretty severe for the Pakistani political and military establishment for allowing the US to humiliate them, seeming to have OBL under their nose, and looking both incompetent but unable to address itself internally to move forward and past the current crisis.
    9. And finally, and most importantly, revelations that OBL was far savvier on American politics than many Washington pundits, as he recognized that it was a waste of time and effort to perceive vice president Biden as an imporrant target rather than a likable, inimitable, amiable, joke :).

  10. Jonathan,

    I agree that it was an "I'm not sure what really happened that matters" week. And in a sense that's telling. One would have expected, however, for things to look different for Romney than they do. Its striking how difficult things have been for him given that the alternatives seem so improbable as nominees.

    I think the birth control issue, an opportunity to raise a wedge issue, will be tested and tested to see if it elicits a strong reaction that serves one party or doesn't resonate.

    And I think Obama looks much more secure today than he looked a month or two ago. I find it hard to know whether or not the GOP will be so unhappy losing the White House in November given that they may be better off controlling the Congress, if they do, yet pushing as much as they can responsibility on the White House for the mammoth deficits and "government spending."


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