Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Mattered This Week?

I think there was enough interest that I'll continue this one a second week.  Explanation here.

Lots of stuff to consider this week...I've already said that I think the White House CoS is important, and we had two Fed nominees finally confirmed, and all sorts of other things that Congress did or failed to do on their way out of town.  I'll stick, however, with Afghanistan.  Two major pieces of news.  The Kandahar operations reportedly picked up after stalling over the summer.  That it moved ahead seems important to me, and obviously (well, at least to me), how it goes is terribly important.  Meanwhile, coalition deaths were actually down a bit in September, the first year-to-year decrease since June '09.  There were also additional reports about possible future deals with the Taliban, and a lot of news out of Pakistan, as well.  My thoroughly amateur reading is that we're at or coming to a decision point there, with multiple possible future directions, and that the events of the week that just passed and the next month or so are going to do a lot to push things one way or another.  One question, of course, is what long-term plans the administration has.  For that, I'd recommend Fred Kaplan's reading of the Bob Woodward book.

So that's what I thought mattered.  What do you think?


  1. Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan... this is a BIG, poor, and unstable country with nuclear weapons. We have pushed them far enough that they cut off our shipping/trucking access to Afghanistan and denied hot-pursuit entry... not good -- that we have pushed them that far not that they chose to do that.

  2. Afghanistan and Pakistan definitely matter, as always, in a big way.

    I think that the exit of Emanual is going to matter. It will probably go a long way to change the tenor of what is coming out of the White House -- not so much from Obama, but the undercurrent of brashness and hubris, the type of self-serving spin that was a mark of Rahmboism. I'm sure the established reporters just hate to see him go. See Peter Baker's piece on Rahmism here: The Limits of Rahmism - Rahm Emanuel - Fascinating.

    Rouse seems a lot more of a low-key facilitator and less of a self-serving self-promoter. I'll be curious to see whether he improves WH operations in the way that Joshua Bolten immeasurably improved the way the George W. Bush White House did business.

  3. I think the closing of the Af/Pak border is a big deal and I believe forces the administration into having to make a decision about what to do in Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier then they want to.

    I also think the bailout of the Irish bank and the protests in Europe against the austerity measures are also big. I think it shows how fragile the economic recovery is and how much political instability the poor economic conditions continue to cause.

  4. Not necessarily a story this week, but in pure politics, I think the polls coming out of California are huge. The Dems' rebounds are one thing (and not a small thing- it'd be unified control going into redisticting, and the state has way more Republican Congressmen then you'd think from the PVI kinda stuff), but the marijuana referendum and the simple majority budget are huge. It seems like the state will still have to get public approval for tax hikes (Brown seems to support that, and Whitman's, y'know, a Republican) but just those other two things could put the state well on the road to recovery- which would probably drag much of the west with it.

  5. @Colby,
    After prop 11, unified control for redistricting in CA won't matter, because it's a commission that'll do the lines. Unless that other prop passes in November, but it doesn't look too likely to me.

    However, what really mattered this week was the Senate passing the anti-loud commercials bill. Or, at least, what mattered to me: I might care about policies and Afghanistan and Rahm and what-not, but the most direct impact on the quality of my life will be that. Now, if I wasn't such a selfish bastard, I might say one of these other things.

  6. I don't have a substantive comment, but I just wanted to say that I think this is a great feature, and I hope you keep going with it.

  7. Nitish,


    Anon 2:28,

    Great call. Anyone know if it applies to ads on radio broadcasts through I swear the ads are twice as loud.

    Colby & Anon,

    Interesting call on CA politics. I'm pretty much assuming that CA will have a(nother) terrible governor for the next four years.


    I suspect that we'll find down the road that the WH was generally pretty well-run over the last two years, with the big exception of some of the exec branch stuff. Think about how few scandals there have been, and how far-fetched have been the "scandals" that are out there -- that's all to Rahm's credit. I'll say one thing -- normally, you would expect plenty of semi-public stuff thrown at Rahm from his enemies w/in the WH (surely, he's made plenty), but the fact that he's running for office might shut that down. Or not! We'll see.

  8. @Jonathan,

    Well, Rahm's a very complex fellow, and he probably did a lot of things right. I don't think the WH was particularly well-run, but I imagine a lot of that wasn't all Rahm's fault. But there were a number of embarrassing gaffes and huge strategic mistakes in the early months, and Rahm is responsible in part for some of those.

    And, you forget a lot of the semi-public quarrels between Rahm and other WH staff over the past 2 years. That piece by Baker that I linked to was just one of a number of Rahm stories that week, whose source, Baker let us know very subtly, was Rahm himself, covering and playing for Rahm. He won that round. And it wasn't just the one time either.

    Rahm is/was a very divisive figure who made a lot of news, unfavorable news. Is a CoS supposed to *make* news? In my view, a better CoS should operate out of sight, under the radar, and that just isn't Rahm Emanual's nature.

    I look back on the two CoS for the bushies, and see a much, much more professionsal and better run WH; particularly Bolten, I thought, ran a good, loyal WH for bush. I'm willing to concede if my memory is faulty, however.

  9. James,

    I agree about Bolten, for the most part. But Card? They did a very good job of surface professionalism, but the CoS is also supposed to help the president avoid political and policy disasters, and the first six Bush years were a relentless string of political and policy disasters. Now, one might want to blame Rice, or Cheney, or W. himself for it, and they all deserve plenty of blame, but the CoS is responsible for setting up a successful policy-making process, and Card as far as I can see utterly failed at that, and as far as we know did nothing about it.

  10. It's hard to imagine how Card as WH CoS could have held up the debacle that was the runaway Fourth Branch Cheney Administration and the forces of the neoconservatives in the early Bush Administration. But sure, if his job was to hold back Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, John Bolton, Karl Rove, et al and prevent them from damaging the Bush Administration, then he was definitely a failure. I just saw him as a minor figure in all that. He seemed to be treated as more of a man-servant from what I saw. Bush certainly didn't listen to or rever his advice. In fact, his job seemed to have been going out for hamburgers, as I recall.

    So you are right. I'll stick with Bolten for a competent Chief of Staff, though.


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