Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Elsewhere: Polling, War with Iran?

I keep forgetting to wish everyone, or at least everyone celebrating, a Chag Sameach. I love Sukkot! Nothing like a holiday where we're supposed to spend a week rejoicing. Much better holiday than that one last week.

I was on the Brian Lehrer on WNYC radio this morning talking "skewed" polls. Listen to me duck a question about the PA voting decision because I didn't want to say anything without knowing something about it first!

Meanwhile, at PP I talked about how to answer the question of whether war is more likely with Barack Obama in the White House or with Mitt Romney. I mostly wound up, as you might expect, going with Romney, based on two things: the likely personnel in his administration, and the skills he's demonstrated with foreign policy and national security to date -- although the latter only counts if you think that Iran would be a likely fiasco. This gets back to the old Neustadt idea that ambitious, influence-seeking presidents are well-positioned to support viable public policy because the sorts of things that build a president's influence turn out to be excellent clues to policy that will work. Under that reading, for example, George W. Bush's problem in Iraq is that he just wasn't a good enough president to see how personally damaging that war could be for him. This all came up (I think) because Conor Friedersdorf raised the question...I've still planning to respond to his larger question he's been on about for the last week, but I think on this one I'd say to him: you're certainly correct if you think that Obama has demonstrated that moral reasons would probably not dissuade him from war. However, presidents don't go to war all the time and it's unlikely that the immorality of starting a war is really a very important constraint in any of that.

But then again, as regular readers know, I generally don't want a president who tries hard to do what's good and moral and right; I think that's a recipe for disaster. I want a president who is a highly skilled politician; I think we're all better off with those.


  1. Chag sameach indeed! I am a fan of Yom Kippur myself, but Sukkot is always a welcome follow-up. This is a perfect time of year for an agricultural holiday, -- if not a perfect time of year to spend a lot of time in temporary outdoor structures. At least up here in New England.

  2. Jonathan,
    I listened to the show yesterday, was on hold, but never got to ask my question: Is the charge that the polls are biased or "skewed", just another example of Republicans suffering from "epistemic closure"?

    1. Could be, but I suspect a lot of it is just the normal incentive for campaigns (and parties) who are behind in an election to spin as plausible case as they can that they're still alive, in order to keep their supporters from being discouraged.

  3. Seem to be a lot of incentives for politicians to go the Mr. Smith route. The press usually wants it--and political hacks are usually not nearly as well regarded as the "high minded", or else the ideologically uncompromising. Party activists want it. Historians often seem to demand it. In their pre-politician days, politicians may have absorbed the message from their chosen party that expediency is wrong--liberals " know" that delay on civil rights is wrong and that selling out radicals is cheap (or at least, they constantly receive messages to that effect). While election incentives may encourage listening to the center, personal loyalties and affinities may make the opinions of the "fringe" more important. Your less political friends and perhaps your own ego may see you as not just another politician. So why doesn't it happen more?
    I want to be LBJ, not JFK on civil rights. I'll fast track DADT.
    Look, there's Harper's comparing me to George Bush again. I'll go free everyone in Guantanamo.
    Democray Now (and even more moderate lefties) say I'm in the pocket of Wall Street. I'll return the checks of all those hedge fund managers and make i-banking a disqualification for office.
    All these $1000 a plate fundraisers are humiliated and not what I expected to do in office. I'll cancel them--if the donors care about what they say they care about they'll give anyway.

  4. I drive to work late on Tuesdays, and as a consequence I heard you on WNYC as well. I wanted to call in, too, but well, you know, I was driving on an interstate. Anyway, I wanted to point out that two Fox News polls in a row have Obama leading Romney 48% to 43% among likely voters, proving once and for all that Fox is secretly part of the liberal Mainstream Media conspiracy. (Haven't they concealed it well!)

    Regarding Pennsylvania, I just read that under the new ruling they can still ask voters for an ID, the voters just don't have to give them one. Isn't that a little weird? Apparently, they can still try to intimidate just as long as the voters don't know the rules.

  5. Gotta disagree on that last part. As Jonathan has said previously, the civil libertarian constituency is small. The group that's concerned about killing innocent people in the Middle East is even smaller. Without a personal commitment to principle, what we get is a President who will sign legislation that even he himself believes to be unconstitutional.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?