Saturday, September 3, 2011

What Mattered This Week?

The usual. The economic news over the whole week actually wasn't all that bad, but the jobs report certainly was. Note that the jobs report swamps everything in the short run, but that over time it's only one piece of evidence. Certainly not a good one, though.

The biggest story of the week in electoral politics was probably the success of the Obama administration and various governors and other elected officials in avoiding the perception of failure in dealing with the hurricane. Of course, the hurricane itself mattered quite a bit for those whose lives it disrupted.

I don't know enough to know how much the EPA decision matters on substance (it's not just a question of the substance of what happens if Obama decides the other way; it's also about how the process plays out the other way). On the politics, I do think it matters, although perhaps a fair amount less than it seems in the immediate aftermath.

Libya, Syria...was there anything else in that part of the world? I suppose Israel's continuing efforts to spike it's successful relationships in the region is a story that matters (thinking Turkey this week).

Perhaps I missed it, but it seemed to me that there was a lot less cheerleading than I would have expected for Dick Cheney's book.

I've already said what I didn't think mattered: the flap over scheduling the president's speech. I should respond to a couple of points that commenters made, though. On the question of whether Obama risks getting a reputation as easy to roll...I think that's real, but I don't think this will be a significant contributor to that risk. It's just not significant enough. The EPA thing above, yes, but this one? I can't see it. And on the question of whether Obama risks getting a reputation of amateur hour: I could be wrong, but I don't think that's a significant problem for him right now.

So that's what I have. What do you think mattered this week?


  1. I think the trendlines related to the president most mattered -- that the unemployment rate is still high and is likely to be higher election day 2012 than it was election day 2008. The biggest problem on that front, however, is that there's little reason to be optimistic about things improving. And a good deal of the problem with Obama is that if things were going this way but he had drawn a clear marker in the sand on how things would be if the Congress cooperated with him, the choice and the issue would be easier to swallow and understand. That he comes across as more the referee moving in the direction of the most aggressive team and splitting the difference when its his turn to make a call muddies the differences between the two parties and frustrates not only Democrats but makes him look much more slippery to the other side and doesn't look leaderlike to those less partisan. It might be a useful approach to getting legislation through Congress when the Congress is working with him. But in terms of optics, politically it doesn't work well at all.

    The other trend that continued from last week is the appearance of Perry as solidifying his lead in the Republican field. It would have been one thing if he were a bit behind Romney with the base/tea party/far right voters up for grabs and available to him. Quite another thing if he is in the lead and the Bachmann and Paul and Santorum voters are much more likely his than Romney's. The establishment may have a battle on its hands.

  2. I've been noticing stories on regulation. On one hand this could an area of negotiation and cooperation between Congress and the president. On the other hand, the political atmosphere is so poisonous, it's hard to believe the two sides can work together, even though the public is bloody angry at them fighting and grandstanding all the time. By cutting back regulation, maybe we can get some job growth without deficit growth. Jobs are the new focus for the republicans, but no one is making a convincing argument with the fiscal situation the way it is.

  3. The EPA decision is much bigger than you credit.

    There are two outside groups that can throw people into campaigns: environmental and unions. Don't expect environmental groups to help out on the Presdeintal side much anymore. For individual candidates, yes. For combined campaign efforts, no.

  4. The EPA flap has a single, narrowly defined purpose, and it will be played out over again when the Big One, the decision how to regulate CO2 comes down.

    The purpose is to keep Senator Joe "Nighthorse" Manchin (D-for now-WV)from switching parties in a 50-50 Senate environment.

    Look at who's running for re-election, and where coal mining and/or smokestack industry is located.

    Political decisions have political causes.

  5. Yeah, Obama raised the white flag on regulation. It may be only a temporary thing, because no drama Obama's been quite unstable since November 2010. First signing off on the Bush Tax Cuts, then going all in on tax increases. No strategy... just bouncing about.

    So you can't really know the significance of this decision yet. It could be a sign of Obama bowing to reality and opting for productive policy, or it could just lead to more instability and whack-a-mole. I'd bet on the latter, based upon the man and his history.


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