Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Mattered This Week?

I suppose it has to begin with the events in Libya, and then the president's announcement about Iraq. 

What else? Little bits of potentially good news about the US economy, but nothing as significant as the questions about Europe. 

Some judges were confirmed, and some ambassadors, and even an open cabinet spot...well, it was Commerce, so it's hard to say it really matters, but still...

The GOP contest continued. Herman Cain had the kind of gaffe that could destroy a real candidate, and may wind up bursting his polling bubble, although it was bound to happen one way or another. Rick Perry showed signs of life, sort of. 

That's all I have, except I'll also recommend a nice essay by Matt Glassman about how things matter, since it's relevant here. What do you think mattered this week?


  1. On NPR I heard about a vaccine for malaria that's 50% effective. Good news!

  2. OWS showed it matters; as the Tea Party pushed a focus on debt, OWS is focusing on economic equality, as witnessed by last week's debate questions.

    And the news on Iraq is huge; a strange huge, however, given that it came over a breakdown in negotiations over American service-members' immunity to prosecution under Iraqi law. I do half expect Iraq to back track and claim they really didn't mean it.

  3. zic,

    I don't think the Iraqis will backtrack on this. I think it's highly significant that none of the Iraqi officials who were quietly encouraging us to stay was willing to say as much in public. Moreover, some of the tricks that people have been proposing--such as subordinating troops to the embassy and declaring that they have diplomatic immunity--would be likely to cause a new explosion. A number of Iraqi officials are, no doubt, scared and biting their tongues, but I suspect they won't say anything.

  4. It's obvious that Cain intended his run as a publicity stunt. He never expected to be the nominee, and most likely doesn't want to be. He may have just gotten a scare that he might win, and decided he needed to do something to throw the race. This seems so obvious I'm surprised I haven't seen it mentioned.

  5. @David

    I was first tempted to dismiss your theory, because it seems to me that Cain has been making so many errors during this campaign that if he wanted to throw the race, he'd probably mess that up too.

    Then I began taking a peek through Google's archives on Cain's past statements on abortion. I discovered that not only has he made unambiguously pro-life remarks in the past, he made the issue a centerpiece of his 2004 Senate campaign.

    Some examples:

    From AP, March 27, 2004: "Cain says his conservative credentials are impeccable. For example, he holds the position that, unless a mother's life is threatened, all abortions should be illegal--even if a woman became pregnant through rape or incest."

    From Washington Post, July 18, 2004: "Cain, 58, has used polished television commercials to make abortion the signature issue in the campaign and to establish himself as the aggressor in the run-up to Tuesday's primary.... In an interview on his campaign bus, Cain said he considers 'plausible' a theory that the abortion rights group, Planned Parenthood, was formed to systematically lower the black population. 'One of the motivations was killing black babies,' he said, 'because they didn't want to deal with the problems of illiteracy and poverty'.... Cain and Collins, whose campaign has suffered from sluggish fundraising, have accused Isakson of casting 14 'pro-choice' votes, including supporting a measure to allow privately funded abortions on U.S. military bases abroad."

    From Free Republic, Jan. 22, 2004, reportedly from a Cain speech delivered on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade: "Today we mourn the murder of millions of innocent lives because of the decision made 31 years ago by the United States Supreme Court to give doctors the right to end the life of an unborn child.... How many great accomplishments and discoveries have been lost because of legalized abortion? Have we missed finding the cure for cancer because a life was ended prematurely? Did we lose the next Albert Einstein, Ronald Reagan, Amelia Earhart or Martin Luther King, because the legal termination of life continues? As long as legalized killings are permitted, we not only lose a life, we lose all the potential that life has to offer.... Infanticide will continue as long as our society accepts the lie that a mother has the right to terminate a child's life."

  6. The withdrawal from Iraq was what mattered. That really improved how I feel about Obama and confirmed to me that I made the right call in backing him in the primaries. I seriously doubt Clinton would have withdrawn this quickly and I'm sure McCain wouldn't have. Now get us out of Afghanistan, Mr. President.

  7. @Kylopod - This context makes his gaffe sound like a genuine verbal stumble. Like he was trying so hard to ramp up the anti-government rhetoric that he ended up sounding pro-choice without intending to.

    He needs coaching from Ron Paul, who has more experience at being a glibertarian.

  8. I have now checked TPM's discussion of Cain's recent remarks on abortion. The article also goes a little into his past statements, including his 2004 campaign where he adopted a hardline anti-abortion stance--in contrast to 1998, when he described himself as "pro-life with exceptions" and suggested that the issue wasn't black and white.

    Some people's views evolve, of course, but it's striking that someone who was so mired in this issue before would be so incompetent at explaining his position now. As the TPM article notes, his most confused statement on the matter came several months ago, before his recent surge in the polls. So David Tomlin's theory that he was trying to throw the race out of fear of being nominated doesn't seem to match the timeline.

    Still, the sheer incoherence of his remarks is puzzling. Blaming it on lack of political experience won't do: I have even less experience than he does (I have never run for office), yet I'm familiar with the manner in which abortion is discussed in the public arena. So was Cain, as evidenced by his 2004 campaign. I'm familiar with the fact that every Republican candidate in the modern era with any serious shot at the nomination has officially opposed legalized abortion (though every nominee since Bush Sr. has endorsed the rape and life-of-the-mother exceptions). As a moderate pro-choicer myself, I think the issue is more complicated than it tends to be depicted in political campaigns; however, I would have no difficulty explaining where I stand.

    He essentially gets an F on what should be a first-grade assignment, and this isn't someone like Palin who has difficulty forming coherent sentences in general. Remember how polished he was discussing health care with Clinton in '94? It leads me to wonder about the uncomfortable possibility that this 65-year-old may be quite literally having some sort of "senior moment."

  9. @Kylopod, you have a good point. If he is considering an issue from a particular viewpoint, he answers the question with only that view in mind. So when the topic is the prisoner trade Netanyahu just made, he says he could see himself considering such a prisoner exchange. That plays fine if all you think about is supporting our ally Israel. Not so good when you consider the angle of freeing every person (terrorist or not) at Gitmo.

    Similarly with the abortion question. I think perhaps he has trouble considering more than one viewpoint at a time. Whether this narrowness is due to age or something else, only someone who has observed him for a while could say. By the way, I work professionally with elders, so this isn't just idle speculation.

  10. To complicate the picture a bit more, Cain pointed to Clarence Thomas when he was asked what he would look for in a Supreme Court nominee.

  11. Another piece of Cain's history on abortion, which I would call 'colorful' but for the unintentional pun.


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