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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3 responses

13 09 2012
dmf

after the Cheney reign of terror I’m scared to see what Nixon crew shade they might raise up next from the netherworld to prop up his foreign/military credentials.

13 09 2012
13 09 2012

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