Monday, October 17, 2011

Catch of the Day

David Frum is just brutal on Rick Perry's "jobs" plan. Best part:
Suppose we just continue on the present policy path. What happens to those 1.2 million jobs in that case? And the answer is: many of them show up anyway. Perry hypothesizes that the Obama administration will impose future regulations to inhibit the development of the gas-fracking industry in the US – and then counts as “new” jobs the jobs that would come by not imposing those as-yet-nonexistent regulations. Likewise he counts as “new” jobs the jobs that would come from approval of pipelines to Canadian oil sands. Yet those approvals are roaring ahead anyway.
It's a nice catch, but I disagree with Frum's interpretation, which is that it shows Perry isn't a very serious candidate, which I think means Perry is either lazy or over his head.

I'd go in another direction: Perry is confronted with a tough problem, and is taking a sensible way out. The tough problem is that doing policy in the GOP nomination contest is almost impossible. What motivates Tea Partiers and other enthusiastic primary voters? A lot of it is mythical, such as the immanent Obamcrackdown on fracking seen here, or Obama's apology tour, or Obama's plans to seize everyone's guns, or all those IRS agents that Jon Huntsman was complaining about in last week's debate. Others are internally contradictory; good luck proposing a budget that eliminates the deficit, cuts taxes, and doesn't cut spending on the military or current Medicare or SS payments. Still others are massively unpopular general election positions; that part is normal in all presidential nomination contests, but particularly an issue this time around. And hanging over all of it is the possibility that something on the approved list today could be the mark of a RINO tomorrow (see: Mitt Romney, health care reform). Not to mention that there are a half dozen or so "candidates" who are prone to making up stuff intended to ingratiate themselves to the crazies (well, it's really mainly three -- Newt, Bachmann, Cain).

In that environment, calling for a tough stand against the mythical is an obvious and probably smart choice. Thus Mitt Romney's foreign policy, which appears to be entirely designed against opposition to mythical apologies, not to mention everyone's opposition to the mythical "Obamacare" version of ACA. And thus Rick Perry's energy plan.

One more thing: strawman attacks during the general election are normal, and for the most part (IMO) relatively unobjectionable. Strawman attacks on the other party are seriously unhealthy during the nomination fight, at least if they dominate to the extent that policy fights are all about who is best able to stop nonexistent plots. After all, nomination fights are when parties really have a chance to determine what they want to do. Republicans have some serious questions they could be fighting over, beginning with whether they want to return to George W. Bush's first term foreign policy, and what they actually believe should be done about the economy in the short and long term. If they don't deal with those things now, they're going to wind up (should they win) with someone in the White House who won't really be constrained by actual party preferences on the issues, beyond, you know, not reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

It's not Rick Perry and Mitt Romney who aren't serious; it's the party they're trying to lead.

Back to the original point: nice catch!

(Link fixed)


  1. jonathan, i would really like to hear more on your rick perry views. i live in san antonio. i'm not at your level in following politics, but i do pay way more attention than most (i'm not necessarily saying that's a good thing). i do not see what you see. rick does a good job playing to the texas business establishment and he can speak to the texas white guys (me, i'm a displaced northern white guy), but in all these years i have never read or heard anything that made me think, hey, rick's not dumb as he appears. i understand and agree with your take on bush's disengagement, but goodness bush at least a few times made me think he had some smarts and some people skills, even among those who didn't agree with him. i haven't seen that with rick. if rick gets elected president, i think he will prove to be more overwhelmed and less qualified than gwb. i really do want to hear you talk about this more, cause i don't see any real skills in rick. he's just riding the business/white texas wave which, if it has crested, and it may have, is still rolling.

  2. So Frum thinks shedding Obama's regulatory onslaught on the fossil fuel industry won't create jobs here?

    You and Frum should probably refrain from commenting on anything but lefty politics. It's just not a good fit for you. ;-)

  3. big bad wolf,

    I don't really have a very good handle on Perry, despite living in Texas for almost all of his long stint as governor. I'm open to the idea that he's not too bright, but it's clear evidence in his favor that he's managed a very successful electoral career.

    Mostly, I just think that a twice-reelected governor of Texas with mainstream conservative views is automatically a serious contender for a GOP presidential nomination, regardless of how able he is -- and doubly so in a field without a true heavyweight and, at this point, only one (other) serious contender.

  4. jonathan, i appreciate your reply. i'm watching rick with interest, both narrow, being a texas resident, and broader, wondering how someone like him fits in the larger world. i don't disagree with your assessment of why he might have a chance at the nomination, but in the end i think rick is just too incompetent. it may be because he is kind of dumb---being a snarky northerner i've thought that---but more realistically i think he loses because he is lazy. he doesn't want to study for the debates, and it showed again tonight. it's possible to get away with being unprepared (bush 2004 first debate shows that), but i think skating on the debates requires incumbency, which rick, in 02, 06, and 10 had. he doesn't have it now and he looks inadequate.

    we shall see. you have a great site and great insight. thanks for doing all that you do.


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