Did you hear the falling bombs

17 10 2013

Yet another genius pundit:

If he can split the Republicans in the House, essentially, he regains control of the two houses of Congress and he might be able to enact his agenda. I think that’s what he’s up to,” Krauthammer said.

He added, “I think Obama’s long game has always been, if he’s going to pass his agenda in the second term, where he doesn’t control the House, he has to fracture the Republicans in the House and by rubbing it in or by antagonizing conservatives, he’s going to help in doing that.”

To which I can only say: if only.

President Obama is a smart and able president, and one who certainly thinks beyond the electoral cycle (see: his work regarding nuclear weapons proliferation), but Krauthammer’s glowering take on Obama’s “long game” should be treated with the exact same seriousness as the Sully-dream of him as “eleventh-dimensional chess-master”, i.e., not at all.

What also should not be taken seriously: that the GOP will disappear and/or a nationally-viable third party will emerge in the next decade. Republicans continue to do well at the state level, and the Tea Party, while damaging in some ways at the national level, are unlikely either to get stronger (and thus more damaging) or to leave the Grand Old Party altogether (and if they would, that would likely mean the end of the TPers rather than the GOPpers). Insofar as they turn off independents from the party, they add a few bumps to the 2016 presidential electoral road, but to a deft politician (i.e., not Ted Cruz), they are merely bumps.

Republican puritans make politics more difficult—to say no negotiation, ever, is to repudiate a central function of politics—and thus inflict real harm on the country, but given that they’re unlikely to wreck the GOP, they’re certainly not going to wreck the US of A.

Which is why I have no problem encouraging ruthlessness on the part of the Dems. Politics does benefit from some degree of generosity, but when you know the other guy if given half a chance would stab you in the face, you’d be foolish to hand him a knife.

No, go ahead and twist your own blade. They can take it.





Bury me deep

16 10 2013

The respected senator from South Carolina:

“We won’t be the last political party to overplay our hand,” he said. “It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kinda give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up. But their response is making things worse, not better.”

You want I should stop delivery of those shovels? I got some Dems who’ll take ‘em: somethin’ about fillin’ the hole youse guys dug.

Weren’t interested in the ladder, tho’.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Wrap it up

11 11 2012

And so ends the election season.

A few last points before I lay this theme to rest:

1. Winning is nice. I’ll enjoy it while I can, because wins don’t last. (And for those who lost, don’t despair:  losing doesn’t last, either.)

2. I understand how and why it happened—Gingrich, Trump, Cain, Santorum, Perry, Bachmann—but I’m still amused that the Republicans nominated the man who lost to the man who lost to Barack Obama in 2008.

3. Similarly, while I understand why it happened, it seems to me that a man who made his fortune as a financier was not the best person to send into the ring in the midst of a shaky recovery from a savage recession. It could have worked—turnaround specialist!—but that’s not really what Romney did, and his political personality didn’t allow him to transcend the sense that he was the boss who fired you, not the boss who hired you.

4. I won’t diagnose the ills of  the Republican Party or recommend fixes because a) I am not a Republican and b) concern-trolling is annoying, and c) I’d rather put my efforts in trying to figure out a left-political program than a right-political program.

(And that, it seems, is necessary. Barack Obama deserved the votes of leftists not because he was leftist but because, unlike his opponent, he would at least inch us toward something better. Those of us on the left need continually to make sense of that something better, and to find effective ways to blunt policies which are decidedly not better, e.g., regarding secrecy, surveillance, and the drug war. Oh, and that whole capitalism and immiseration thing.)

5. That said, developing some sort of philosophy of or program for governance might be worth considering. “No!” is a slogan, not a platform.

6. It is entirely too soon to begin speaking intelligently about the chances for possible candidates in 2016. For those who might want to run, however, it is not, unfortunately, too soon to begin thinking about it, and in a year (and certainly in two) to begin working toward it.

That is among the many reasons I am very glad that I am not now nor will I ever be a candidate for president of the United States.

7. That presidential campaigns are multi-year endeavors is a pox on our polity.

Election campaigns and governance are not the same thing, and what is required to win in elections can be detrimental to good governance. To the extent that we are fully in an era of the permanent campaign bodes ill for said governance.

8. I take back nothing I said about the “everything goes” nature of presidential campaigns, and I expect that same sensibility to drive the 2016 race.

Now, that lying didn’t always work this campaign doesn’t mean it won’t be a part of the toolkit for future campaigns—although, again, smart tacticians will recognize when such lying is counterproductive. Romney was able to make deft use lies during the primary, but the Obama campaign was much swifter (first debate excepted) in rebutting those lies than were Romney’s fellow Republicans, which meant that lying should have been abandoned in favor of more effective tactics.

The Romney tacticians didn’t do so, which speaks poorly of their abilities.

9. To be fair to those same tacticians, however, the road to the White House is always steeper for the challenger than for the incumbent—that’s just how it is.

There’s plenty of easily-available information on the advantages of incumbency, as well as the role that a declining, advancing, or stagnant economy plays in the election. The US economy was/is still weak in 2012, but it is also clearly in recovery. The Romney campaign focused on the first part without taking account of the second, and thus were unable to shape a message which matched the reality.

10. How much campaigns matter is still up for debate, but in the face of uncertainty, it seems prudent to act as if the campaigns mattered more than anything.

Romney said in his concession speech that he and his staff “left it all on the field”, and I don’t doubt that. But it’s also clear that the Obama campaign was demonstrably superior in organization, especially in voter mobilization. Whatever Romney left on the field, Obama had more, and better.

And, of course, Obama was a good candidate. Yes, he was flat in the first debate, but that misstep was so magnified in part because it was so rare. Romney wasn’t terrible as a candidate, but as the challenger he needed to be much, much better than the incumbent. He was not.

~~~

Herein lyeth the end of the Mayan campaign mashup of 2012. May we all find some peace and comfort before the circus beginneth again.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: What the hell am I doing here?

24 09 2012

Mitt Romney does not know what he is doing, does not understand what electoral campaigns are, and is unable to comprehend that his opponent does know what he is doing and does understand what electoral campaigns are:

Asked why he was behind in the polls in most swing states, Mr. Romney accused the Obama campaign of distorting his record.

“I think that the president’s campaign has focused its advertising in many cases on very inaccurate portrayals of my positions,” he said. “They’ve been very aggressive in their attacks both on a personal basis and on a policy basis. I think as time goes on, people will realize that those attacks are not accurate and we’ll be able to have a choice which is based upon each other’s accurate views for the future of country.”

Mahhhhmmm! He’s hitting me!

Standing in the back of his plane, and pressed by reporters to explain his lagging position in many polls, Mr. Romney — whose campaign recently said that they would not allow fact-checkers to dictate their campaign — found himself calling for fact-checkers.

“I understand that politics is politics but in the past, when you’ve had an ad which has been roundly pointed out to be wrong, you take it out and you correct it and you put something back on,” Mr. Romney said.

“He keeps running these things even though he knows they’re wrong and saying them in rallies even though he knows they’re wrong.”

Make him stahhhhppp!

Asked if voters should expect to see Mr. Romney become more aggressive in coming days, he demurred: “You’ll see what you’re going to see,” he said. “I’m not going to lay out precisely the nature of our campaign strategy.” But he did say that he expected the upcoming debates to help crystallize his case to the voting public.

“The president describes my direction in a way that is simply inaccurate and I will describe my own direction,” he said. “I think as we have the debates we’ll get a chance for people to hear our distinctions quite clearly and they’ll make their choice as to what they think is the right course forward.”

I’ve been out here running all this time for president, and he just comes in here and tells everyone who I am and and and. . . no fair! Just wait ’til I get my chance! I’ll show you!

No, I do not think this election is in the bag—I will not believe that Obama will win until Obama has actually won—but JesusMary&Joseph is Romney a terrible candidate.

Not that he knows this:

And as for his trailing poll numbers in most battleground states, the former governor appeared relaxed and unworried.

“I’ll either go up or I’ll go down,” he said.

Normally I’d appreciate the Zen-ness of this, but lordy. . . .

h/t: Deeky at Shakesville





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Equus asinus follow-up

12 09 2012

James Fallows said what I said, only better, and with less swearing.

I have a bit of a writer’s-crush on Fallows, I must admit. It’s most unexpected: I knew who he was before I started reading TNC (with whom he shares space in the “Voices” box at The Atlantic Monthly), but he hadn’t made much of an impression on me. At some point, however,  some header or another lead me to click on his name, and it’s been a one-sided love-affair ever since.

He’s smart, he’s measured, he’s reflective, he’s honest, and he really knows how—and when—to bring the hammer down. I’d call him an exemplary pundit if it weren’t such an insult to refer to him as a pundit.

A Wise Man, then.

Anyway, Jonathan Bernstein has another, more general take on Romney’s ill-considered response:

I said yesterday that Republicans don’t appear to read political scientists on the subject of the effect of the economy on elections. But I’ve always suspected that sometime in the 1990s Republicans did read Richard Brody’s classic article about the “rally effect” — in which he found that “rally around the flag” effects depend on the reaction of the out-party, not (for example) whether the event in question is successful or not. If the out-party immediately criticizes the president, then he doesn’t get a bump in his approval ratings; if they support him or stay quiet, then there’s a positive bounce.

. . .

But: why don’t out-party politicians simply always attack the president on everything? Ah, that’s a good question, and one that Team Romney might have asked itself before it jumped. The main reason is paradoxical, in a fun way. Out-party politicians often hesitate to attack during a foreign policy crisis because they’re afraid that they’ll be branded partisan during a time of national unity, for one thing. Those potential attacks might be unfair — as Democrats during the Bush years correctly said, it’s patriotic to dissent if you believe that the nation’s policy is wrong — but nevertheless, politicians must reckon with a national political culture that sometimes (and not entirely predictably) can turn against partisanship. The paradox part is that out-party politicians may refrain from attacking out of fear that the president’s handling of the event will prove wildly popular, when it’s the restraint from normal partisan attacks which actually signals to voters that the president did the correct thing and therefore makes the president’s actions wildly popular.

This snapped me back to my electoral-realist stance: Attacking the president over his administration’s  response(s) to the assaults on the Cairo embassy and the Benghazi consulate is not in and of itself wrong.

What was wrong about the attack was that it didn’t work.

It didn’t lead to a general condemnation of Obama, didn’t lead Republican politicians to rally around Romney, and didn’t burnish his credentials as would-be commander-in-chief. Romney committed one of the only real sins in electoral politics: He hurt himself and helped his opponent.

This doesn’t mean he can’t recover his mojo, but it’s never a good thing to have to recover one’s mojo—especially if the existence of said mojo is in doubt.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: You can’t make this shit up

28 08 2012

This is among the many, many, many reasons why you cannot be too cynical when it comes to America presidential elections, courtesy of Greg Sargent:

Get this: The Romney campaign’s position is now that the Obama camp should pull its ads when fact checkers call them out as false — but that Romney and his advisers should feel no such constraint. This is not an exaggeration. This is really the Romney campaign’s position.

As Buzzfeed reports this morning, top Romney advisers say their most effective ads are the ones attacking Obama over welfare, and that they will not allow their widespread denunciation by fact checkers as false slow down their campaign one little bit:

“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”… The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed. “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.

That’s a very interesting admission. But it gets better. Reading this brought to mind Romney’s own remarks about fact-checking and political advertising not long ago. Needless to say, he has a different standard for the Obama campaign:

“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”

The upshot is that Romney doesn’t have an intellectual objection to fact checking’s limitations in a general sense, at least when it’s applied to the Obama campaign. In that case, fact checking is a legitmate exercise Obama should heed. But at the same time, the Romney campaign explicitly says it doesn’t see it as legitimate or constraining when it’s applied to him.

The only rule in electoral campaigns is What Works.

Yes, there are laws, but breaking these laws almost always lead merely to fines, rarely to jail sentences, and almost never to overturning the election results. Campaigns will break laws if it works, and will decline to break the law if they think it won’t work.

To repeat, the prime directive of elections—which can be restated as Do Anything to Win—matters more than the law.

Given that, and given that lying in campaign ads is both not illegal and often works, this isn’t even a tough call: If a candidate thinks lies will work better than the truth, then lies it is.

h/t: Brad DeLong





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: You can’t touch this

10 08 2012

Oh, that Mitt, such a sense of humor:

“[O]ur campaign would be — helped immensely if we had an agreement between both campaigns that we were only going to talk about issues and that attacks based upon — business or family or taxes or things of that nature.” [...]

“[W]e only talk about issues. And we can talk about the differences between our positions and our opponent’s position.” Romney said of his own campaign: “[O]ur ads haven’t gone after the president personally. … [W]e haven’t dredged up the old stuff that people talked about last time around. We haven’t gone after the personal things.”

“I’m running on my record as a businessman, so you can’t talk about my record as a businessman.”

Aaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaahaaahaaahaaahaaaahaaahaahaahaahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahhahhahahahahah!

You’re killin’ me, guv’ner!

(h/t: Igor Volsky, ThinkProgress)





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Lies lies lies lies

6 08 2012

I don’t care if Harry Reid lied.

And yes, I do believe he’s lying, if not about the conversation with a Bain adviser per se, then in propagating information which he likely knows isn’t true. Either way, I don’t care.

I should, though, shouldn’t I? Why let the political scientist in me rule over the citizen? After all, I don’t like lying in politics, and would prefer a clean and vigorous fight about policy and purpose over a cage match in which (metaphorically) gouging out one’s opponents eyes is considered the surest path to victory.

Also, I would like a pony.

Anyway, I let my analyst lead on a discussion at TNC’s place, repeating there what I have stated multiple times here: In electoral campaigns, all that matters is winning, and anything you do which helps you win is good, and anything you do which makes it more difficult to win is bad.

That’s it, that’s the full morality of electoral politics: Winning and everything associated with winning is good, losing and everything associated with losing is bad.

I and those who argued along similar lines got some pushback, with TNC saying he “didn’t really believe this” and others arguing that Democrats need to hold the line against demagoguery. One side held to the view that this is how electoral politics is (You run for President with the politics you have, not the politics you wish you had, as commenter WCBound put it) and the other that this is not how politics should be.

Along with the other amoralists, I took the hard line on this matter, defending lies and racism and swift-boating; in doing so we took the view of the analyst, or even of a campaign insider. Those who took the other side were standing on the ground of citizenship and, in terms of going after the lies, good journalism. Each side was right; neither side budged.

I as a citizen like to feel good about who I’m voting for, and thus am grateful that I have been able to pull the lever for two as-good-as-they-come politicians, Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold. These men held to their principles—ran on their principles—and won election and re-election. Their integrity was the core of their campaigns, and had Feingold* tried to slide away from it, it’s not at all clear such sliding would have helped him in his losing bid for a third senatorial term.

(*Wellstone, of course, was killed in a plane crash while campaigning, and the man who stepped in to fill his candidacy, former Vice President Walter Mondale, another decent chap, lost to Norm Coleman.)

All that said, I’ll vote for the SOB who advocates for what I see as good policies over the decent candidate with horrible policies every time. Every damned time.

It would be great if more campaigns were built around integrity. It would be great if more journalists would press candidates on their views and their tactics. It would be great if the electorate rewarded clean campaigns and punished those who, by any standards other than those of electoral campaigning, “fought dirty”.

It would also be great if I got a pony.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Logic and lies, redux

17 07 2012

So, a week or so ago I noted Romney’s odd adherence to rules in the Ultimate Fight otherwise known as the presidential campaign.

I considered this odd for two reasons: One, there are (almost) no rules in a presidential campaign, but, two, he nonetheless believes that others should follow rules that he sets but doesn’t (necessarily) follow himself.

Anyway.

The whole tax return-and-Bain shebang is blowing up and besides his testimony before a Massachusetts state panel and documents filed with the SEC listing him as sole shareholder in Bain Capital LLC and the $100K salary and statements made to the press at the time, his campaign (and various surrogates) argues that there is no evidence linking him to Bain after 1999.

He’s also insisting that there’s no reason for him to release his returns since Teresa Heinz Kerry didn’t release her returns in 2004—because, as one commenter noted, Romney is apparently running for First Lady.

Another commenter [at the Update at the bottom of the James Fallows's post] wondered if he’s not playing his own version of the long game, trying to draw out his critics only to smite them as they stand—but how would this work, exactly? How is the tactic of saying “this shouldn’t matter” going to make it all not matter?

No, more convincing were the rebuttals to Romney-as-ninja suggestion:

Like many Captains of the Universe, Romney has an absolutely huge sense of entitlement. He is just dripping with condescension when he answers questions about this stuff.  He has always been brittle when his record has been questioned, even when it was done with kid gloves by fellow republicans….

I know the “campaign” is probably in full pushback mode, but I wonder if Mitt, personally, really even understands how important this is.  He behaves in every way like it is something he can dismiss with a wave of the hand… At the end of the day, Romney is the one deciding on the direction of this campaign.  And right now I think we see that he just doesn’t think is anyone’s business.

I didn’t get into the psychology of Romney’s refusal to deal, but Entitled Prick makes more sense than Strategic Sensei.

In any case, I still don’t know how much any of this is going to matter come November, but this has all  been so poorly handled that I have gone beyond mere schadenfreude into delighted amazement: Did he really think he could run on his business record and not have that record questioned?

Odd. Very, very odd.

h/t Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish; James Fallows

~~~~

Note to transition2balance: I tried writing a post on the plagues and pestilences which befall poor maidens who turn libber—but it wasn’t funny, wasn’t funny at all.

I guess what they say about feminists and humor is true. . . .





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Logic and lies

6 07 2012

Mitt Romney is an odd man.

Okay, yeah, not a fresh observation, but I’m not talking about his odd sense of humor (pretending a waitress played grab-ass with you? really?) or his awkwardness carrying on back-and-forth conversations with the ordinary folk, or even his gosh-gee-gollyisms. (As someone with a fondness for retroisms, I kinda like this, especially because I think it’s completely sincere.)

No, I’m talking about the split in his personality between the logical man and the one with his pants on fire.

Sullivan and ThinkProgress have done bang-up jobs tracing Mitt’s every last doubling-back on his own words and records, as well as the campaign’s enthusiastic uninterest in the truth—unexceptional tactics in the winning-is-the-only-thing presidential campaign—but I haven’t seen as much about Romney’s rigidity regarding rules.

Did you watch any of the GOPper primary debates? Neither did I, but I did watch chunky excerpts of them, and it was clear that Mitt could be thrown off his game by someone else breaking what he saw as the rules. There were the peevish “I’m talking/I didn’t interrupt you, don’t interrupt me” moments, and the attempt to counter the more outrageous charges thrown his way by insisting “that’s just not true!”

Terribly effective, that.

Or consider his response to the disbelief that he would strap a beloved family pet to the roof of a car for a long trip to Canada: he noted there was no room in the car and hey, he built a windshield, so what was the problem? Perfectly logical, he did nothing wrong, so there was no more need for any further discussion of the terror inflicted on poor Seamus.

More substantively, consider his responses to queries about his taxes and his grudging tardiness in releasing the tax form. Some of that grudging may be for a good reason—he’s made very good use of his tax attorneys, and I’d guess that someone in his campaign must be aware of the optics—but he seems genuinely put out that anyone would question him about the way he worked over the tax code. I pay every dollar I owe and not one penny more, he’s said, which, while likely technically true, is rather beside the point. In Romney’s eyes, however, submitting to the rules, even rules which one’s accountants have stretched to the screaming point, is all that matters, and anyone who’d suggest otherwise is simply small-minded or out to get him.

Similarly, it is perfectly legal to open overseas bank accounts, provided, again, one follows the rules on these matters—and I would be very surprised if Mitt Romney didn’t follow the rules. But, dude, you’ve been running for president of The Goddamningnest Best Country in the History of the Universe for the past five or six years, and it didn’t occur to you in the meantime to bring all of your dollars back to The Goddamningnest Best Country in the History of the Universe, lest it appear that your patriotism stops at the bottom line?

I mean, shit, I’m not much for nationalism nor am I bothered in general by foreign bank accounts, but even I think the president shouldn’t be dividing his monies among nations. This reaction may not be logical, but I’d bet it’s not rare.

Sure, one could say that because Romney is such a stand-up guy, he thinks following rules ought to be enough, but given his penchant for lying about Obama, I think we can safely forego the “stand-up-guy” bit.

Still, it appears that he does believe that when he follows the rules, that ought to be enough—and when it is not, he does not know how to act.

It’s unclear how much campaigns matter—events beyond the candidates’ control nonetheless tend to control presidential elections—but assuming they matter at least a little, Mitt’s adherence to the rules could get him in trouble with an opponent who writes his own rules.








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