Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Category: Politics (Page 2 of 2)

George W. Bush Won This Debate – The Daily Beast

Viewing the world through an out-dated prism. It’s even worse for some folks, for whom the movie “Red Dawn” is still a good distillation of what they fear will happen to the US.

Barack Obama didn’t win tonight’s foreign policy debate. Neither did Mitt Romney. George W. Bush did.Bush won it because the framework for understanding the world that he put in place after Sept. 11 still holds, even though it wildly distorts the world that the next president will actually face.

[. . .]

To be sure, Obama and Romney don’t want to approach those countries in the same way that Bush did in his first term. We no longer have the money or will to launch ground wars. Today, the preferred options are military training and aid (Afghanistan, Syria), drone strikes (Pakistan, Yemen) and perhaps a full-fledged air war (Iran). But the “war on terror” still largely defined which countries received attention. And as a result, the candidates spent an inordinate amount of time talking about weak, dysfunctional countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria and barely any time talking about fast-growing, increasingly powerful ones like India, Turkey, and Brazil. The only country in sub-Saharan Africa to receive a mention was one of its weakest and most remote, Mali, because they have some al Qaeda there.

George W. Bush’s core mistake was his belief that because al Qaeda had bloodied us, it was the 21st-century version of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It never was, because in the mid-20th century, what made Moscow and Berlin genuine competitors was their economic strength. The true successor to those once fearsome powers is not the mud-hut totalitarianism of al Qaeda, but China, and perhaps India and Brazil, countries that are becoming economic models for billions in the poor world.

via George W. Bush Won This Debate – The Daily Beast.

The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business | Front Porch Republic

The most important political conversation Americans need to have is about how the old conversations no longer matter. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party—called the one-and-a-half party system by former Republican Senate staffer Mike Lofgren—largely serve the same interests. The cheap drama of their respective conventions had well-trained actors reciting lines from a tired script. The Republican version claims that an overly regulatory, punitively taxing government never responsible for the slightest good is ready to install padlocks on every business door, detain every CEO, and erect shrines to Karl Marx on top the rubble of every decimated Chamber of Commerce. The Democrats counter this storybook narrative with one of their own: They champion a generous, arbiter of fairness, superhero government that will serve as America’s last line of defense against a vampiric, predatory corporate world of cannibals in Brooks Brothers suits.

Regardless of what millionaire cheerleaders on MSNBC and Fox News chant in synchronicity, the dichotomy between big business and big government is now a false one. The old story that the interests of big government and big business collide is antiquated and outdated—a product of a less sophisticated age when mainstream debate still had relevancy, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” had concrete definitions, and the people who wore those terms had real arguments about the substance of governance. Recent revelations and ongoing developments prove that, with few exceptions, there is no collision between big business and big government. There is collusion. Their interests often coalesce, and together they form a nexus of centralized power. A bureaucratized billionaire Goliath then swings his club against the David of human scale community—the David whose job at the slingshot factory was outsourced years ago, and whose rocks were confiscated by the State rock collecting agency.

via The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business | Front Porch Republic.

Thoughts on Statesmanship in a Season of Dearth | Front Porch Republic

One may notice in this election cycle a certain amount of talk about statesmanship – primarily because each of the candidates is thought to lack it. The latest issue of the Economist refers to “unstatesmanlike” remarks made by Romney. Cornel West says of his “dear brother” President Obama: “I thought that he was going to be a statesman like Lincoln and Roosevelt. It turns out he’s a politician like Bill Clinton.” I choose these examples not in deference to their acumen, but because in each case the judgment comes from a source one expects to be in fundamental sympathy with the candidate criticized.

via Thoughts on Statesmanship in a Season of Dearth | Front Porch Republic.

Matt Miller: The audacity of Romney – The Washington Post

You only needed to look at the faces of MSNBC’s pundits or Democratic officials in the spin room to know what everyone professionally involved in politics believes — Mitt Romney won big in this first debate. We’ll see how the public digests it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the polls draw close in the next week and that thereafter this race — as was always likely — goes down to the wire.

I’ll let others assess in detail Romney’s assertive presence and demeanor, and the obvious toll it took on the president, who, in split screen shots when he wasn’t speaking, often looked irked or working a bit to suppress frustration or anger.

What interests me most is Mitt’s audacity. Wednesday night at long last came the full-throated return of the Rockefeller Republican many suspect is Romney’s true political nature, if indeed he has one. With one fatal exception I’ll note in a moment, on taxes, health care, education, regulation and more, Romney came across as deeply informed, experienced and reasonable, and as a powerful and articulate critic of the economy’s weaknesses on Obama’s watch.

Romney’s macro theory of the race has always been that in a time of high unemployment and economic anxiety, being a credible alternative would suffice. Until tonight, the polls suggested that strategy was falling short. Now, it looks much more plausible, especially when combined with the iron political law that every presidential campaign eventually obeys: Do what you have to do to get the nomination, and then appeal to the center once its locked up. I expected Mitt to turn to the middle right after he became the de facto nominee, or at least at the convention, and not wait until now. If he wins, of course, Romney and his advisers will be hailed as geniuses for their timing, for bonding the party faithful to the ticket with the choice of Paul Ryan and a conservative-themed convention, and then dashing to the center for the home stretch.

via Matt Miller: The audacity of Romney – The Washington Post.

Real October Surprise Is Obama and Romney Agree – Bloomberg

One of this year’s more amusing “Ideological Battle of the Century!” poses was recently adopted by Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee.

“There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution,” he said. “I don’t.”

Romney supports Medicare and Medicaid, as well as food stamps, Social Security and welfare. As governor of Massachusetts, he passed a health-care-reform law that subsidized insurance coverage for his state’s poor.

Romney, in other words, fully believes in redistribution. He just prefers a bit less of it than President Barack Obama. Saying otherwise might sound “severely conservative,” but it’s not actually true.

via Real October Surprise Is Obama and Romney Agree – Bloomberg.

Baathism: An Obituary / The End Of An Ideology | The New Republic

IT IS CHEERING to reflect that, when Bashar Al Assad’s government finally collapses in Syria, the governing ideology known as Baathism will likewise undergo a massive setback—though whether Baathism will fade away without a trace is something we can doubt. Baathism is one of the last of the grandiose revolutionary ideologies of the mid-twentieth century—an ideology like communism and fascism in Europe (both of which exercised a large influence on Baathist thinking), except in an Arab version suitable for the age of decolonization. Its champions came to power not only in Syria but in Iraq, in both cases in the 1960s; and the consequences were not of the sort that leave people unchanged.

via Baathism: An Obituary / The End Of An Ideology | The New Republic.

Hat tip to: @socialtrinity for directing me to this.

BBC News – Romney wins debate, but watch the polls

The three men on the red carpet – the two candidates at their pulpits, and the moderator Jim Lehrer sitting at his over-large desk – all seemed to have a different conception of what the debate should be like, as if they were each playing a different sport on the same field. Romney was playing American football, Obama cricket and Lehrer tiddlywinks.

Those who bemoan the lack of substance in modern politics can’t complain about this debate.

Figures flew past at a dizzying speed. But the details are complex, and to follow the argument you would not only have to have an extremely good grasp of the various subjects, from taxation to bank regulation, but an excellent memory as well. It might have been ennobling but I am not sure how enlightening it will have been to the average voter.

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Republicans certainly feel that they have used the debate to shift the perception of their candidate”

But as theatre, a battle of image and confidence, Mitt Romney was the clear winner. He had obviously practised so hard and so long that he was nearly hoarse. But not quite. Instead his voice was a touch deeper. No bad thing.

He looked Mr Obama in the eyes as he interrupted with animation, overriding the moderator, insisting on a comeback. He didn’t seem rude. He did seem in command and to be enjoying the scrap.

President Obama on the other hand looked as though he’d much rather be out celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife. He started out looking very nervous, swallowing hard, not the confident performer we are used to seeing.

via BBC News – Romney wins debate, but watch the polls.

Debate ‘Cold’ Reaction: Yes, Romney Can Debate – James Fallows – The Atlantic

I argued in my story last month that Mitt Romney was better at debating than he was at any other aspect of campaigning, and that Barack Obama, famed and redoubtable orator, was worse.

Anyone feel like disagreeing with that, after the past 90 minutes?

I am not talking about whether I agree with the two candidates’ positions. Obviously I agree more with Obama, and I believe that more of his facts and assertions are “true.” I am talking about crispness in presenting positions within the constraints of this particular format, and the air of overall ease in the encounter.

If you had the sound turned off, Romney looked calm and affable through more of the debate than Obama did, and the incumbent president more often looked peeved. Romney’s default expression, whether genuine or forced, was a kind of smile; Obama’s, a kind of scowl. I can understand why Obama would feel exasperated by these claims and arguments. Every president is exasperated by what he considers facile claims about what he knows to be impossibly knotty problems. But he let it show.

It’s a good thing for Barack Obama that there are a couple more sessions.

via Debate ‘Cold’ Reaction: Yes, Romney Can Debate – James Fallows – The Atlantic.

Porky Populism | The American Conservative

Several years ago, I stood in my sister’s kitchen watching her unpack groceries and talking about food. Ruthie knew that my wife and I had a thing for farmer’s markets, grass-fed meat, and organic milk, and it ticked her off. “Well,” she said, “it’s fine if you have the money to shop that way, but we don’t.” Message: only snoots care as much as you do about food.

As we talked, she put away several bags of chips and cookies, the kind of thing my wife and I almost never buy at the supermarket. True, we probably did spend more on food than Ruthie’s family did, because eating well—in terms of taste and health—is a priority for us. Cooking is our hobby, and preparing dinner for friends is our primary form of recreation. Some people buy tickets to the baseball game; we buy grass-fed brisket and good beer.

But it is also true that we allocate our grocery budget differently, so we can afford higher-quality meat, dairy, and produce. A clever home cook knows that if you cut out junk food, you have more cash for good stuff. If you don’t eat meat every day, you can eat better meat when you do. Whole Foods is expensive, but I learned how to make meals for pennies by shopping the bulk bins for beans, rice, and grains.

The interesting thing about this conversation, though, was the intense class resentment my sister had around food. This is surprisingly common. Since I began writing about food some years back, I have had countless conversations with conservative friends, fellow food geeks who have had serious disputes within their families about food. These arguments aren’t really about food itself, but food serves as a proxy for the politics of class and culture.

via Porky Populism | The American Conservative.

Is the GOP Still a National Party? | The American Conservative

If it seems needlessly complicated to suggest that two effects — grassroots muscle and general party branding — have to be invoked to explain the GOP’s unsuccessful presidential branding, consider this: if the only effect in play were the strength of grassroots right-wing constituencies, you wouldn’t expect the party to consistently nominate moderates like both Bushes, Dole, McCain, and Romney. None of those nominees had impeccable conservative credentials — far from it. But once they got the nomination, they didn’t run as the moderates they were; most of them sold themselves as being at least as right as Reagan, even in the general election. At least since 2004, this is because the party has pursued a base strategy: an attempt to eke out a narrow win by getting more Republicans to the polls than Democrats, with independents — a small and difficult-to-market-to demographic — basically ignored. The party tries to leverage its regional identity and regional organization into presidential victory. It has failed four times out of five.

via Is the GOP Still a National Party? | The American Conservative.

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