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.

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Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Jackass edition

12 09 2012

I am not shocked-SHOCKED that Romney would criticize the president over the killings in Libya, nor do I think that criticism in principle was out of bounds.

After all, I’ve long thought that the line that “partisanship stops at the water’s edge” was self-serving BS, and believe that the protection of embassy personnel and the defense of free speech are legitimate subjects of political debate.

But this is just a jackass move:

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

This was in response to the statement by the US Embassy in Cairo, released after the breach of the security at its embassy and prior to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other employees at the consulate in Benghazi:

The Ambassador and staff of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemn the burning a copy of the Koran that occurred several days ago in the state of Florida by a small group of individuals who represent no one but themselves.  Since the founding of our nation, the United States has upheld the principles of tolerance and respect for religious freedom.  Millions of Muslim-Americans practice their faith freely throughout the United States and enjoy the full rights guaranteed to them by our laws and constitution.  Public condemnation of this event has come from a variety of organizations representing the diverse religious traditions that flourish in the United States.

The Obama administration distanced itself from that statement, and Secretary Clinton released a long statement on Stevens’s death, observing that

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear – there is no justification for this, none.

The president also spoke:

I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

Had the guv waited for Clinton’s and Obama’s official responses to the killing, he might have offered a more measured criticism of the administration; instead, he jumped to defend himself, issuing a longer statement, and holding a quick press conference:

I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.

And to the question that he spoke too soon:

QUESTION: How specifically, Governor Romney, would President Romney have handled this situation differently than President Obama? You (ph) spoke out before midnight when all the facts were known. How would you have handled this differently than the president did?

ROMNEY: I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake. And I believe that when a mistake is made of that significance, you speak out.

And thus, a jackass move: Pundits are rewarded (grrr) for their itchy fingers, pouncing on proclamations prior to the presentation of the particularities, but presidential candidates—who desire to become, y’know, the president—ought perhaps to pause and ponder rather than preen and pander.

In non-alliterative terms: treating the murder of an ambassador and three embassy employees merely as political fodder—that is, intentionally blurring the line between the Cairo embassy’s statement about its own situation with that of the death of Stevens in Benghazi—and leaping in front of the White House and State Department’s official responses is a shitty, shitty move.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Angry hamsters spinning in a cage

12 09 2012

Sad sad sad.

No, not that the Romney campaign can’t tell its ass from its elbow—good news, from the perspective of this Obama supporter—but that the Republican party refuses to recognize that there is, indeed, a difference between an ass an an elbow.

Which is to say, I’m of two minds regarding the GOPpers gobsmacking incompetence. . . well, wait, three.

Mind one: AHHHAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAA!

Mind two: That one of the two major parties has gone around the bend so far that it doesn’t realize the teeth sunk its buttocks are its own.

Hm, perhaps that’s not the best metaphor. Rabid ferrets? Tasmanian devil feeding frenzy?

(Okay, I don’t really know how the taz metaphor would work: Are they fighting over the carcass that is the GOP? their souls? the spoils of power? Or maybe the hypothesis that all of that snapping at one another has led to the spread of a cancer which is endangering the species is applicable. . . ?)

Where was I?

Oh yeah, trying not to concern troll the GOP. I honestly and truly believe that the major parties in a democracy must also be responsible parties, and, at the federal level, at least, the Republicans are less major- than bush-league. While good, in the short term, for the Dems, this is not good if it persists over the . . . . oh, fuck it, never mind.

Yes, there is a serious point to be made about pluralism and reason and evidence but I’m about ten minutes away from slipping into my pjs and after I’ve posted a vid of howling Tasmanian devils, I can’t really hoist myself to the high ground to reach that point.

So, on to the third mind: Mssrs. Romney & Ryan have had a bad week (heee!). Bummer for them, but a bad week in September may just be a bad week in September. However much I might enjoy their for-medical-marijuana/nope-against-it, for-parts-of-Obamacare/nope-against-it-all, for-military-budget-cuts/nope-against-’em, acknowledgment-of-troops-fighting-in-Afghanistan-is-just-so-many-words acrobatics—and yes, I really do enjoy these contortions—they may not, come November, matter all that much.

Oh well. At least I got to post a vid of Tasmanian devils.