Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Mattered This Week?

Ah, plenty to discuss this week. Start with economic policy news: the Fed's decisions mattered, while I'm not at all convinced that Barack Obama's new long-term budget plans make any difference at all. There's also the threat of a government shutdown; I think it probably tells us something about the House and John Boehner (although not really anything we didn't know), but I don't really think it's very likely that we'l get an extended shutdown over these issues right now. Up to a 72-hour shutdown, possibly, but hard to believe we'll get more than that over the issues in play. November, however, is another story.

I've talked about the GOP debate a lot's not very likely that it mattered much. Sooner or later Rick Perry will need to have a better debate performance, but I don't see why he wouldn't be able to.

Lots of other news...Afghanistan/Pakistan, the Palestinians and Israel, Yemen...what else? I'm inclined to think that what's happening in Pakistan is fairly important. And, getting back to the first item, the European economic problems are a major continuing story, with some new developments this week.

OK, that's what I have. What am I missing? What did I get wrong? What do you think mattered this week?


  1. Saw a gallup poll that over 50 percent blame obama for economic cOnditions. And another poll from the economist that has Obama at 36 percent approval... Though not sure about how reliable that polling was... Seems ominous for Obama

  2. From my response last week: Once is an aberration, twice is a coincidence.. but if there's a third time? This is the sort of thing that can be put into a format where a casual voter will quickly be able to understand who these Republican candidates are.

    For the third straight time, the Republican Debate *Audience made clowns of their party. And even the village has sat up, and began to take notice.

  3. I agree that Perry will have every opportunity to fix his debate problems; time and resources are on his side. Indeed, the fact that so many will be gritting their teeth and watching through their fingers the next time the spotlight shines on Perry, diminished expectations could be his friend (if he jumps over the low bar) in the weeks ahead. Though a proverbial wounded animal, Perry should find it relatively easy to heal.

    That said, he likely burned most or all of his 'margin for error' chits this week; however he handles the road forward, that is certainly important to the 2012 election.

  4. Earlier today, I read a story saying Perry was saying that Florida's worthless straw poll today wasn't worthless. Now, Cain has won it.

    I'm not sure if there's video of Perry saying it would matter to go with his 2nd place finish to the guy who sells cheap pizza. And it doesn't change much. But it does mean that we're looking at another bad week for Perry, at least, bad through Tuesday.

    I agree with CSH: none of this stuff is deadly. But, eventually, a campaign does need to do something right to win. Rick Perry just pushed the window for that to happen back another few days. Not a big deal, but Perry could die the death of a thousand cuts.

  5. I agree with Matt and CSH, but I'll go a step further: if Perry's campaign fizzles in the early primaries, this will be the week that people look back on as the beginning of the end. He just looks very far from presidential right now, his campaign doesn't seem to be effectively responding to attacks from everywhere, and and I feel like the GOP chattering class is getting nervous.

    The GOP debates are amazing, too. I don't even think the 1988 Democratic campaign had this many utterly unelectable candidates, and that's got to be the gold standard. Up until now.

  6. I don't know; it's a lot easier to imagine all of this (Perry that is) being completely forgotten, in my view. I mean, it's possible that he just keeps going downhill, but there's a lot of reality behind his campaign, and that's unlikely to dissipate easily. Not that he'll necessarily win, or even come close, but I just can't see a couple of bad debates (and the FL straw poll) as a big deal.

  7. Well, still the Euro business. That would make it a month straight or so, I should think.

    The Brit chancellor is yammering about only 6 weeks left before the euro crisis hits. And all the EUcrats had a good larf at Tax Cheat Timmy Geithner's feverish suggestion that they all discover fiscal conservatism, and address their spending and deficit and debt issues straight on ("You mean like you, Monsieur Le Secretary Geithner?").

    But the Euros know they're in a world of hurt, and it's starting to spill over into their political realms. Merkel is getting hammered in state and local elections regularly, a slow motion replay of that single horrible day last November here. Her coalition won't hold on current course. Cameron's government won't survive even a stiff breeze, let alone the gale of major EU defaults, and resultant failure among the banks in the London bubble. The Scandinavian nations are growing restive. And they all now seem to recognize that we are in a bond bubble, similar to the housing bubble that blew up only recently. They're mostly piling up debt, but they all realize that the bond bubble is gonna pop eventually, and is only a reflection of a transient need for safe harbor, which will end. Those rates are gonna jump, and the Euros know it. And their economies are showing no growth, same as here, so that can't help bail them out.

    Greece first, and then we'll see. The cycle I perceive is that at the first bank default resultant of Greece, bank assets start being scooped up by various hedgies and sharks, and the bond bubble begins to burst, interest rates rising as investors flee the bubble and toward the new opportunities. The Chinese will scoop up some of it too, and lay off US T-Bills some. And the cycle will begin to compound, as other EU nations see the cycle may have some benefit to them. Spain, Portugal, Ireland... even Italy.

    And you all are worried about some Perry hick? Please!

    Poor Obama, he just did not play this to political advantage, and now it'll be a drag. He needed to force a Greek default FAR earlier in his reelection cycle. I'da done anything I could have, IMF, pressuring Bernanke, ANYTHING... to force the Euros to take the bitter pill, and at least 6 months ago. A year or more would have been better. Now it's a pure wild card... and right in election season.

  8. @Jonathan:

    I agree. I don't think the marginal effect of this week is particularly significant for Perry. His chances of nomination/presidency strike me as similar to last week.

    But if we take the conditional that he does fizzle (even if that's only a, say, 5% chance), this will be the week people will point at. And the ineffective attack on Romney re: flip-floping + the response on Pakistan will be the sound-byte the historians use to describe his failure, looking back.

    I think. (And we know what that's worth!)

  9. Perry can improve his debate skills.

    Perry can not take back saying people disagreeing with his tuition policy are heartless. Conservatives are disgusted with immigration policies and rhetoric like Perry voiced. CIS released a study last week claiming that 81% of TX jobs went to immigrants which gives more ammunition to his opponents.

  10. I think Jonathan is probably right here that the more likely outcome is that Perry's campaign survives this moment, and if it fails, it does so for other reasons than these debate fiascoes. I base this on the surfeit of Perry-friendly explanations for the last week (too complacent, unprepared, klieg lights too bright, big money will clean him up, etc), vs. Perry-hostile ones (pretty much just: inferior candidate).

    What makes this such a fascinating moment, though, is that the saga is so wholly unexpected from a deep-pocketed candidate. Suppose you were a handler for a candidate whose primary opponent for a Presidential nomination was Mitt Romney. Suppose further that you knew, and everyone else supporting your candidate knew, that your candidate was - the Village Idiot.

    As you strategerized how to attack Romney, you'd give some thought to the Mormon thing, but you'd scrap that as too dangerous for your Village Idiot. You'd throw out a "RINO" soundbite or two, but again, as handler of the Village Idiot, you wouldn't venture too far into those weeds.

    The one thing that would be silver and gold to you, the home run your Village Idiot could hit again and again and again, would be Romney as flip-flopper. Easy. Everyone gets it, it sticks to Romney, same punch line each time, possibly enough to knock out the Mittster.

    So as we marvel at Perry's arguably HOF-quality debate struggles, we should remember that he wasn't attempting to make some nuanced point about the constitutionality of Obamneycare, Romney's likely tax policy, or the Mormon Church's growth plans.

    No, Perry was trying to tag Romney as a flip-flopper, and failing in a manner that would have been embarrassing if he were discussing the Constitution, but considering the topic, was almost unprecedented as a public display of rhetorical incompetence.

    In conclusion, logic tells us that Perry should certainly have the means, motive and opportunity to recover.

    But logic would also tell us we would never have seen anything quite like Perry's flip-flop mangle in our lifetime.

    Interesting times.

  11. I concur with the basic thrust here.

    Did it "matter"? No. This week had no independent effect.
    But, it's evidence that Perry's not ready for primetime. This is alongside evidence that he IS ready: the polls, the money, the previous support of party insiders. I'd say that our measure of whether or not Perry is still a decent enough candidate to make it still points towards yes. But it's not as dead certain as it ws before.

    In the end, this week won't matter. But think back to Thompson 2007 (Fred, not Tommy). The rumor on Thompson was that he was only running because his trophy wife wanted to be trophy First Lady. But, he was still, on paper, a strong candidate. But then he ran for president by sitting on his butt doing nothing. He was a bad candidate, and the rumor was true. We didn't know that for sure in early 2007, but we knew it by late 2007. Well, we didn't know Perry was bad at campaigning in early 2011. We STILL don't know that. But, if we do end up knowing that....well, then you can bet your sweet bippy that county chairs in IA will know that too. And THAT will matter.

  12. I think Perry survives this week, but it's a lasting wound and won't be forgotten. The difference between his bad, early debates and those of others (particularly Obama) is that Perry's happened *after* he skyrocketed into first place. For it to be forgotten, he has to have a straight-A debate, *and* land some real punches on Romney. If he doesn't get that, he has to hope for Romney to stumble into a similar bad week, and then just pounce on him.

    re a shutdown: I don't see it happening now, because it's about disaster relief. It's too easy for Dems to cry "pattern of hostage-taking": first it was the full faith and credit of the USA, now it's emergency relief for homeless hurricane victims. What next? Are they going to cancel the Capitol Christmas Tree unless we abolish all green energy investment?

    I also don't see a shutdown in November. IIRC, using a holiday recess to force major concessions tends to fizzle. Your own guys just want to get the hell home. And in this case, if they do shut it down on the 18th, and they do go home for the next 9 days, it's going to be one crappy Thanksgiving, courtesy your friendly neighborhood GOP.

  13. @ Andrew re: shutdown ---

    Recall that the first 1995 shutdown started in mid-November. A shutdown focuses attention so quickly that I don't think a looming holiday that's 10 days off is an impediment.


  14. "This week had no independent effect.
    But, it's evidence that Perry's not ready for primetime. This is alongside evidence that he IS ready: the polls, the money, the previous support of party insiders."

    Sounds like a natural experiment to test just how much independent effect the early debates have come to have.

  15. What mattered this week is the dog that didn't bark.

    On the verge of a euro-zone default and/or breakdup, international finaical policy did not make it into the Republican debate. Or anything about the g20 meeting.

  16. I think some of the discussion here gets to the heart of what "What mattered this week?" means. When JB asks the question, I assume it's supposed to suggest what events will have important long-term effects. But there's another possible angle to this question: what do the events of this week tell us about what might happen in the future?

    It may be true (though I remain unconvinced) that Perry's poor debate performance in itself won't make a difference. But the fact that he did so poorly tells us something about him. Yes, he may have abundant opportunity to do better in future debates, and yes, he may even be aided by the low expectations, but that doesn't mean he has that ability.

    Obama did improve in his debate performances, but that may be because he's a quick learner--which would make sense, considering how rapidly he ascended to the presidency. Perry has been in politics much longer than Obama was in 2007 (or even now), and if he still stumbles this badly in extemporaneous situations, it may indicate not merely lack of practice, but fundamental ineptitude at this kind of thing. And that could have significant long-term consequences.

  17. DADT ended; many service members left the closet behind, and yet it was just another day-on-the-job in the military. The world didn't end.

    And the follow-the-crowd bigotry of Republican's running for president didn't matter, either. None displayed true leadership when folks cheered executing convicts, health care for the poor, or the rights of service members. Three strikes, they should all be out.

  18. I'm actually quite glad that Kylopod brought up his point, since it relates to a thought I've had about the "what's important" topic, for which Perry's debate disaster is a good illustration.

    If the important thing in a Presidential campaign is who wins or loses, and why (in the final analysis), there's a pretty decent chance that Perry's debate issues don't matter (but that's far from certain for the reasons Kylopod notes).

    However, if the journey to the Presidency is also important, in itself, (if not, obviously, as important as who finally wins), then Perry's debate troubles, and the way they change the current Republican Presidential landscape, are extremely important.

    I can't tell from Kylopod's comment where he comes down on the importance of the journey, but I harbor the delusion that its at least somewhat important, so even if Perry ultimately wins this thing - a road that is still certainly out there - this week was no doubt important in the journey.

  19. @ Matt: yes, but that first shutdown was just 6 days, and was resolved *before* the Thanksgiving recess. That's a short-term shutdown, along the lines of what Jonathan is estimating could happen at the end of *this* month. And then he said he thinks Nov. could be a different story, i.e., a longer stalemate. With the current CR set to expire on Friday Nov. 18, the last day Congress is in session, I'd say any shutdown would probably last just the weekend and get resolved by Tuesday the 22nd. I'm not sure to whose satisfaction.

    One big difference from 1995 is that Dems control the Senate. So a really awful CR has much less of a chance getting to Obama's desk for veto, which Republicans would welcome, thinking it gives him the lion's share of responsibility for any shutdown. In fact, that is exactly what happened to Clinton, until Gingrich shot himself in the face.

    The GOP does not have the upper hand in this shutdown go-round. They've already threatened it in April; they took the country to the precipice of disaster in August; and now the Dems are more united in their opposition than any other time this year. They have rhetorical ammo to oppose Republican irresponsibility, and they seem ready to use it.

    I agree that a shutdown could happen either time, I just don't think it's going to work out well for Republicans.

  20. This won't matter, but it should:

    NYPD cop pepper-sprays women held in a police enclosure at the Wall St. protests.

  21. I think Perry shouldn't be written off but he didn't have a good week. Another couple of months of this and he'll be in real trouble.

    But still, for many Romney may feel too much like McCain. I think the 2010 elections energized the base and they prefer not to compromise if they don't have to. And I think they would be delighted to undermine their party's establishment.

    The news from CERN that there's a possibility that Einstein's theory of relativity may be wrong, if it turns out the experiment can be replicated involving neutrinos may be a historical event. Its a bit hard to believe and there's lots of sceticisim. But if confirmed, our understanding of important parts of fundamental physics will need to be reworked.

    I also think the Congressional election in New York ended up not hurting Obama as much as it could have.


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