Thursday, January 31, 2008
Live-blogging the Democratic debate
Because I feel compelled to do one of these.....
7:58 PM: Yep, even two minutes of Lou Dobbs Tonight is painful.
8:02 PM: Wow, Clinton dominated the walking-out-on-stage part of the debate!!
8:06 PM: Jesus, there have been seventeen debates?!!
8:07 PM: From the opening statements, a clear advantage that Clinton has over Obama in these formats is the latter's hesitancy in his voice -- which plays into the belief that he's inexperienced. Hillary, on the other hand, does not lack in confidence. This will impress the commentariat, at least.
8:12 PM: Clinton just gave the GOP one guaranteed YouTube clip to use if Obama wins the nomination -- about how their policies are really so similar. This is not a new thought, but to have Hillary say it right next to Obama will make for a great ad.
8:17 PM: I like Obama's reply on the mortgage crisis.... and he's definitely winning the "kiss John Edwards' ass" contest.
8:24 PM: Clinton's response on the political realities of health care makes her sound like George W. Bush: neither of them will negotiate with themselves.
8:27 PM: Obama's "broadcast health care dialogue on C-SPAN" seemed like a deft comparison to Clinton's 1994 health care fiasco... until Wolf Blitzer made it overt.
8:28 PM: K-Lo on the debate: "Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney makes you feel good about America. McCain vs. Hillary makes you stressed."
8:30 PM: Andrew Sullivan: "They are not disabusing me of the notion that discussing the details of healthcare policy is really boring."
8:34 PM: GEORGE!!!!! Jason Alexander is in the house!
8:36 PM: As a former employee, it's worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton's claim that the RAND Corporation is "far from liberal" is a bit rich. If memory serves, they're actually pretty liberal on health care .
8:40 PM: I don't know if it will win him any votes, but Obama's refusal to blame immigration on inner-city unemployment was the right answer
8:48 PM: Clinton gets a point for bringing up the fact that she was co-sponsoring immigration legislation in 2004
8:50 PM: Is there any issue Clinton does not feel personally?
8:53 PM: We're almost at the halfway point... and my
9:03 PM: A Bradley Whitford sighting... our long national nightmare is over.
9:06 PM: Wow, Hillary's wants to let me use my own crieria to evaluate my choice for president?!!! That's the most libertarian thing she's ever said.
9:11 PM: Pierce Brosnan in the house... is he an American citizen?
9:13 PM: And now I see Diane Keaton and Rob Reiner... thank God this audience is truly representative of America.
9:19 PM: One of the problems with watching too many of these debates is that many of these lines have been repeated seventeen times.
9:20 PM: America Ferrara and Alfre Woodard in attendance.... it's good to see Hollywood looking more like America.
9:23 PM: Hillary is proud to have Maxine Waters endorse her? Man, that's sad....
9:27 PM: Topher Grace looks intense.
9:32 PM: Official Blog Wife on Hillary's answer on her Iraq vote: "Is this her 'I did not inhale' moment?"
9:33 PM: Hillary claims that no one could forsee that President Bush was bound and determined to go to war in Iraq? Um, really? That was pretty obvious to the entire blogosphere in the fall of 2002. UPDATE: And Obama makes exactly this point.
9:39 PM: Lou Gossett Jr. sighting. The first Oscar winner. UPDATE: And Spielberg as well... Garry Shandling did not win an Oscar.
9:46 PM: Good Lord, Hillary Clinton has the worst, most annoying laugh ever.
9:52 PM: Maybe they're good actors, but there seemed to be genuine affection between the two of them at the end of the debate.
9:53 PM: From the Blog Wife -- she gives a thumbs up to the earth-tones of Hillary's brown suit with the turquoise jewelry, but Obama's tie exuded cool.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: I thought Clinton did marginally better on the nitty-gritty of policy, but Obama did better on everything else. More importantly, given his past debate performances, Obama did much better than expected.
Thumbs up to Doyle McManus as well... and thumbs down to Wolf Blitzer.
Hegemonic decline, revisited
Both Kevin and Matt like the fact that, "it's a useful article if only because it's so rare to see foreign policy pieces in the mainstream media that aren't almost completely America-centric." Fair enough. But if that's their interest, I would recommend "A World Without the West," by Naazneen Barma, Ely Ratner and Steve Weber in May/June 2007 issue of The National Interest -- which was followed up by a lively debate on TNI online.
Furthermore, as an adjunct to Khanna's essay, it would be good to read Michael Lind's cover story in the February issue of Prospect magazine. Lind's argument:
America does, of course, have many problems, such as spiralling healthcare costs and a decline in social mobility. Yet the truth is that apart from the temporary frictions caused by current immigration from Latin America, the US is more integrated than ever. Racial and cultural diversity is in long-term decline, as a result of the success of the melting pot in merging groups through assimilation and intermarriage—and many of the country's infamous social pathologies, from violent crime to teenage drug use, are also seeing improvements. Americans are far more religious than Europeans, but the "religious right" is concentrated among white southern Protestants. And there is no genuine long-term entitlement problem in the US. The US suffers from healthcare cost inflation, a problem that will be solved one way or another in the near future, long before it cripples the economy as a whole. And the long-term costs of social security, America's public pension programme, could be met by moderate benefit cuts or a moderate growth in the US government share of GDP. With a linguistically united, increasingly racially mixed supermajority and a solvent system of middle-class entitlements, the US will remain first among equals for generations to come, even in a multipolar world with several great powers.Another, small cavilabout Matt's post. He writes:
[T]he big thing to keep in mind when considering any particular "declinist" thesis about American hegemony is that we've actually been on the decline for a good long while. In 1945-46 the U.S. economy completely dominated the world, contributing some absurdly high share of total output. Every other significant country on earth had been completely destroyed by war, and we had a monopoly on nuclear weapons. Over time, this dominant position unraveled and Robert Keohane's After Hegemony, a study of America's efforts to forge a diplomatic system to continue to get bye in this new world actually came out decades ago. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a kind of illusion of a return to hegemony since international politics had been organized as "USA or USSR" for so long, but all along throughout the postwar period other countries have been gaining in importance.Well, sort of. Yglesias is completely correct that the U.S. had nowhere to go but down after 1945 -- a year in which we had the nuclear monopoly and were responsible for 50% of global economic output. Nevertheless, the U.S. resurgence in the nineties was not an illusion. The simple fact is that all of the potential peer competitors to the United States -- Germany, Japan and the USSR -- either stagnated or broke apart. At the same time, U.S. GDP and productivity growth surged. The revival of U.S. relative power was not a mirage.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Behold the awesome power of undorsements!!!
In December I wrote: "[M]y two undorsements of candidates that could ostensibly win are.... John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani."
BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!
Many thanks to Minipundit for the shout-out.
I won't have Rudy Giuliani to kick around anymore
I know I've picked on Rudy Giuliani during his presidential campaign, and it seems a bit cruel to dogpile on him after he finished a distant third in his make-or-break state.
That said, after reading Michael Powell and Michael Cooper's dissection of the Giuliani campaign in the New York Times, I do have one final thought. Consider this passage:
Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was stumbling, even if it was not immediately evident. He leaned on friendly executives who would let him speak to employees in company cafeterias. Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain, by contrast, compiled lists of undecided Republican voters and invited them — sometimes weeks in advance — to town-hall-style meetings.From the way he organized his campaign, it seems like Giuliani would have been a complete failure at any kind of governance that would have required, you know, politics or legislation or wonky stuff like that.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Second World and my discontents
Over at Duck of Minerva, Daniel Nexon heaps praise (and gentle criticism) on Parag Khanna's The Second World, which was excerpted as the cover story for the New York Times Magazine: ("[T]he book is really excellent. I consider it one of the most important contributions to the debate over American grand strategy to make its way into the public sphere in quite some time.")
I will heap praise on Khanna's agent for getting the excerpt placed into the Magazine. There's less demand than there used to be for prose stylings that read like Benjamin Barber after a three-day coke bender in Macao.
As for the content of Khanna's ideas... well, here's a key excerpt:
The Big Three are the ultimate “Frenemies.” Twenty-first-century geopolitics will resemble nothing more than Orwell’s 1984, but instead of three world powers (Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia), we have three hemispheric pan-regions, longitudinal zones dominated by America, Europe and China. As the early 20th-century European scholars of geopolitics realized, because a vertically organized region contains all climatic zones year-round, each pan-region can be self-sufficient and build a power base from which to intrude in others’ terrain. But in a globalized and shrinking world, no geography is sacrosanct. So in various ways, both overtly and under the radar, China and Europe will meddle in America’s backyard, America and China will compete for African resources in Europe’s southern periphery and America and Europe will seek to profit from the rapid economic growth of countries within China’s growing sphere of influence. Globalization is the weapon of choice. The main battlefield is what I call “the second world.”Maybe I'm a stickler for conceptual boundaries, but I don't think you can claim that the central conceit in your book -- the second world -- is really, really important by temporarily sticking China in the category to inflate the numbers.
There are other, bigger problems:
1) The second world is not nearly as nimble at playing the big powers off of each other as Khanna would have you believe. For example, despite all of Hugo Chavez's machinations, Venezuela still needs the U.S. market.I did like the frenemies line, though.
Monday, January 28, 2008
This year, pollsters know nothing
This has proved a tough season for statewide pollsters even by historical standards. Mrs. Clinton eked out a win in New Hampshire even though most pollsters expected her to be buried by Mr. Obama. A recent analysis of polls in that state by Survey USA found that pollsters were off by an average of 10 percentage points in the days leading up to the election. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, where Mr. Obama routed Mrs. Clinton on Saturday, Survey USA found that prognosticators did even worse, chalking up average error rates of 17 percentage points.What's odd about this is that the bulk of Cooper and Chozick's article is about how Hillary Clinton has a built-in advantage come Super Tuesday... because of statewide polls showing her in the lead.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Looking on the bright side of politics
Kevin Drum is grumpy about the post-South Carolina primary reaction:
I haven't been impressed with very much of the chatter about Barack Obama's primary victory last night. Hillary didn't give a concession speech? Give me a break. Who cares? Turnout was up? Yes, but it's been an exciting and money-filled campaign and turnout has been up everywhere. Obama won the black vote and lost the white vote? Nothing new there. Obama won young people and Hillary won among the elderly? Again, no surprise.I'll maintain that South Carolina is another notch in an argument I made in Newsweek ten days ago:
In a pleasant surprise, negative campaigning has not worked. Part of the explanation for Huckabee's rise in the polls has been the relentlessly upbeat quality of the campaign and the man. Mitt Romney, in contrast, has not gained much from attacking either Huckabee or McCain. Obama's optimism on the campaign trail worked well for him, until women thought Hillary was being unfairly attacked and rallied behind her. In South Carolina, however, Clinton will likely pay a price for statements made by her, her husband, and her surrogates impugning Obama in particular and, in some instances, the civil rights movement in general.I think this thesis still holds up. Romney did well n Michigan because he
If my hypothesis is correct, Romney wins Florida.
As Drum wryly observed in a previous post, "As long as negative campaigning works — and it's worked pretty effectively ever since Og defeated Ug 56-55 for the presidency of the Olduvai Gorge Mammoth Hunting Alliance — we'll keep seeing it." Drum is likely correct, but so far this year, negative campaigning has been a stinker of a campaign tactic.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Really, it sounds much cooler in German
Nine months ago a German think tank commissioned your humble blogger to sketch out the contours of U.S. foreign policy beginning in 2009.
The result is that I have an English-language article in the latest issue of Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft ("International Politics and Society") modestly entitled "The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy."
The article is a wee bit out of date (it was submitted in October), as it starts off with John McCain's tumble from frontrunner status. Nevertheless, I think the rest of it holds up reasonably well. The closing paragraph:
For Europe, American foreign policy in 2009 will clearly be an improvement on its current incarnation. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, there will likely be a reaching out to Europe as a means of demonstrating a decisive shift from the Bush administration’s diplomatic style. This does not mean, however, that the major irritants to the transatlantic relationship will disappear. On several issues, such as GMOs or the Boeing–Airbus dispute, the status quo will persist. On deeper questions, such as the use of force and the use of multilateralism, American foreign policy will shift, but not as far as Europeans would like. When George W. Bush leaves office, neo-conservatism will go with him. This does not mean, however, that Europeans will altogether agree with the foreign policy that replaces it.Go check it out.
Friday, January 25, 2008
How about some reciprocal gratitude?
A follow-upon my last post on sovereign wealth funds (SWFs).
I quoted the head of the Norway's fund saying, ""It seems you don't like us, but you need our money." It strikes me that one could flip that around. Not for norway, but for most of the countries now sprouting SWFs, the line should read: ""It seems you don't like us, but you need to invest your money with us."
Countries are developing sovereign wealth funds for a number of reasons:
1) They're accruing massive current account surpluses because of commodity booms or misaligned currenciesThere is no question that, right now, western financial markets could use the money. However, it's also worth pointing out that there are not a lot of non-OECD markets receptive to large-scale SWF investments. Indeed, the very countries ginning up sovereign wealth funds at the moment are the most protectionist when it comes to foreign direct investment. A Russian SWF is not going to find a receptive audience in China -- and vice versa.
Am I missing anything?
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Summers on sovereign wealth funds
Like the rest of the known universe, I've been reading up on sovereign wealth funds as of late. And, to be blunt, I have yet to find much to get exercised about in terms of economic vulnerability to the United States or the west more generally. Basically, in order for a sovereign wealth fund to play politics, they have to shoot themselves in the foot financially.
Reporting from Davos, however, Daniel Gross relays Larry Summers' areas of concern. Summers is pretty smart, so let's review his objections:
1. Corporate governance. SWFs may protect the management of poorly run companies: "SWFs are some people's model investors, and other people's version of 1-800-ENTRENCH. What could be better for not entirely secure management than a long-term, nonvoting shareholder?"Concern #1 is interesting, but strikes me as ephemeral. If a sovereign wealth fund is interested in maximizing its value, then it's not going to want to keep around incompetent management.
Concern #2 is a possibility, but the more pernicious possibilities seem like straight anti-trust issues rather than problems unique to sovereign wealth funds.
Concern #3 is a massive rationalization. It boils down to, "we're not saying sovereign wealth funds are evil, but other, less cosmopolitan folks are saying that, and they have pitchforks."
There are some foreign policy reasons to be concerned about some sovereign wealth funds -- but I don't see any economic motivation to get all riled up about them. This holds with particular force at the present moment. As the head of Norway's fund put it at the panel: "It seems you don't like us, but you need our money."
Question to readers -- can anyone add an additional reason to believe sovereign wealth funds are bad for the U.S. economy?
UPDATE: For those curious about the official U.S.position on sovereign wealth funds, go read Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt's Foreign Affairs essay:
Everybody hates someone
Let's see if we can briefly summarize who irrationally dislikes who:
1) According to the New York Times' Michael Luo, all the other Republicans personally dislike Romney;This was just off the top of my head.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Your political quiz of the day
Who wrote the following?
The Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened. But we knew that, didn't we?It's a multiple choice:
A) Jonah GoldbergFor the answer, cick here.
A small memo to the Center for Public Integrity
Dear CPI staffer,
So I hear you have this brand-new website that, "documents 935 false statements by top administration officials to justify Iraq War." This is a great public good, and you have reason to feel happy about it.
On the other hand:
1) Sending me approximately 935 e-mail notifications about the new website will not put you in my good graces [C'mon, it was really close to 935?--ed. OK, it was closer to five, but I can confirm that these e-mails actually existed, and they clearly have the capability to send me 931 more. I had to act preemptively.]Warm regards,
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The Fed ain't f&%$ing around.... and neither are the markets
The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to lower its target for the federal funds rate 75 basis points to 3-1/2 percent.The question is whether this move will forestall further panic in global and domestic markets or merely exacerbate them.
An assignment to the mediasphere and blogosphere
Well, that South Carolina debate sure was pleasant, wasn't it?I'm intrigued by Obama deciding to bring up the "Bill issue," as it were:
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign this week in South Carolina is essentially running Mr. Clinton against Mr. Obama. The two have been engaged in a war of words, with Mr. Clinton accusing the Obama campaign of voter coercion in the Nevada caucuses, and Mr. Obama saying on Monday that Mr. Clinton had made comments that were “not factually accurate” and that his advocacy for his wife had grown “pretty troubling.”....Pundits are also chatting up Bill Clinton's advocacy.
Which leads to my question to readers and reporters: it would seem that the obvious comparison to Bill Clinton's conduct in the 2008 campaign is George H.W. Bush's conduct during the 2000 campaign. To what extent has President Clinton's advocacy for his wife exceeded Bush's advocacy for his son?
Combing through Google news archives during the primary phase of the campaign, it's tough to find much at all on Bush pere. There are a few mentions of Bush's father campaigning for his son, but frankly, there was less than I expected. I could not find anything about Bush attacking McCain, Forbes, or other primary candidates (which does not mean anything can't be found). Even more surprisingly, I can't find a story this month that has made this comparison (again, that does not mean anything can't be found).
Question to readers: has Bill Clinton crossed the line in campaigning for his wife? Is there a line to cross?
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Hoisted from the archives: The students strike back!!
UPDATE: This contest was posted two weeks ago.... and frankly, I've been disappointed with the student response. My crack intelligence network at Fletcher tell me that some of the student body was rankled by my "Bad Student Writing contest" from last month -- yet I see no attempt by the Fletcher student body to step up to the plate.
So, I'm reposting this comment, and triple-dog-daring the students of the American academy to "Post, in the comments, the most confusing, badly-written or long-winded sentence a professor of yours has written in a published article."
Just to make things interesting, I add two additional qualifiers:
1) Judith Butler entries will not be accepted. Booooring. And it's been done to death.Get to it, students -- or the professors of the world will be able to claim that students can't even procrastinate as efficiently as the professoriate!
The Bad Student Writing Contest was a great success -- but it came at the expense of students. Already, commenters are concluding that this is emblematic of the sorry state of American education, which suffers from a wee bit of the ol' selection bias.
So, students, your time for revenge has come. Why procrastinate during the spring semester when you can procrastinate today? Here is your opportunity to (anonymously) thumb your nose at the guardians of your grades.
I give you.... The Bad Professor Writing Contest:
Post, in the comments, the most confusing, badly-written or long-winded sentence a professor of yours has written in a published article.Bonus points if you can provide an active hyperlink to the article.
Winners will receive a prize of unspecified but clearly inestimable value.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Managing the bureaucracy....
Henry Farrell summarizes an interesting blog exchange between Timothy Burke and Brad DeLong on the proper relationship between leaders and bureaucracies.
[O]ne of the interesting bits of information to come out of the Iraq War so far has to do with why US intelligence was so off about Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. People who want to argue that intelligence was purely concocted for political purposes are too simplistic, people who want to reduce it all to the will of Dick Cheney or a few neocons are too simplistic, people who want to make it a sincere mistake are too simplistic. Some of what strikes me as actually involved includes:Now DeLong:
Tim Burke is both right and wrong. He is right: courts are the natural habitats of deceitful courtiers who tell the princes exactly what the princes want to hear, the people on the spot who control implementation matter in ways that the people around polished walnut tables in rooms with green silk walls do not, and the movement of information through bureaucracies does resemble a game of telephone with distortions amplified at every link.And now Henry:
I’m with Brad on this, but I want to go one step further. The very fact of ambiguous motivations and uncertainty about what the people at the top really want can be a crucial source of strategic power for those people. By combining ambiguous information about the motivations of those in power with implicit incentives to please them, powerful people can strategically shape the things that underlings do and do not do, without ever specifically demanding that they do anything....My take: there are cross-cutting effects in the relationship between bureaucracies and "courts" as Brad puts it. No doubt, bureaucrats will want to please their superiors, and that can affect the kinds of information that they receive.
On the other hand, there is an large and robust literature in political science on the fact that bureaucracies can also resist, evade, or sabotage the policy preferences of their political superiors. Indeed, this came up earlier this week in the Nevada debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (NOTE: if anyone can find a shorter YouTube clip that only encompasses the first 7 minutes, post it in the comments):Hillary Clinton's concern with bureaucratic evasion mirrors the Bush administration's utter and complete conviction, when they came to power in 2001, that they faced a hostile and ideologically biased bureaucracy. Being embedded in said bureaucracy at the time, I think the Bushies were about 15% correct and 85% incorrect, and this led to some horrible policymaking processes. An interesting question going forward is whether Clinton would display the same kind of organizational pathologies.
To be clear, Brad and Henry are correct to say that leaders should be wary of eager-to-please courtiers, and should be willing to pulse the system in order to get alternative sources of information. The irony of the Bush administration, however, is that in the case of intelligence gathering, Cheney and Rumsfeld did precisely this very thing. In their case, however, it was because they thought the intelligence apparatus' inherent risk aversion was preventing them from drawing the conclusions that they had already drawn about Saddam Hussein. And, as Hillary Clinton's statements suggest, this is hardly a GOP phenomenon.
One last quick thought: I don't really buy Farrell's strategic ambiguity argument -- or, at least, it was at best a minor key in this administration. George W. Bush is a lot of things, but "ambiguous" ain't one of them. And it's Bush's decisions that, in the end, set the tone for the administration. One of the biggest problems with liberal critiques of the Bush administration has been the assumption that Bush has been from the nose by Cheney, Rumsfeld, neocons, etc. Bull s**t. The president has been the decider.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Old-time prediction markets
In my latest Marketplace commentary, I pointed out that the accuracy of prediction markets would improve as they went more mainstream. Essentially, as markets widen and deepen, their informational efficiency should improve.
I had assumed that we would need to wait for the future for this to happen. However, Paul Rhode and Koleman Strumpf provide some fascinating evidence from the past in thieir paper, "Historical Presidential Betting Markets." The highlights:
This paper analyzes the large and often well organized markets for betting on presidential elections that operated between 1868 and 1940. Over $165 million (in 2002 dollars) was wagered in one election, and betting activity at times dominated transactions in the stock exchanges on Wall Street.Hat tip: The Monkey Cage's John Sides.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Reason #342 why Election is the greatest movie ever made about American politics... ever
Thank you, Slate.
Radio, print, web -- it's a media whoredom triple play!!
My latest commentary for Marketplace is now available online. It's about the fallibility of political prediction markets.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Let's see, today we've already blogged about the "erection theory of British foreign policy."
As an antidote, here's a link to my latest Newsweek column, which suggests that, "the competitiveness of the 2008 presidential election itself might already be augmenting America's soft power."
Here's how it closes:
[N]ot all dimensions of the 2008 campaign have been good for America's image abroad. With the exception of McCain, the Republican field has been obsessed with who sounds tougher on immigration issues. The Democrats have been less exercised over this issue, but when the topic turns to trade, it has been a race among the candidates to see who can bash China first.I'd previously blogged about this question here.
A snow day bloggingheads
My latest bloggingheads diavlog -- with Henry Farrell -- is now online at the brand-spanking new bloggingheads site. We talk a lot about the 2008 campaign in all its facets.
Go check it out!
Feminists, prepare for your field day
Gideon Rachman's most recent Financial Times column opens with a query about Hillary Clinton's lust for power. And then we get to this section:
I got an insight into the thrill of power recently, when I had lunch with a friend who had helped to handle a national emergency in Britain, working from the emergency bunker known as Cobra – which sits beneath the Cabinet Office near Downing Street.Discuss.
UPDATE: You have to love a comment thread that contains the phrase: "Look, I'm as pro-erection as the next guy, but...."
Monday, January 14, 2008
Let's save everyone the trouble of reading Paul Krugman for the rest of 2008
We’re heading into a recession (ignore what I've said before -- this time I'm sure).Repeat twice a week until about, I'd say, mid-August.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Does the 2008 election augment America's soft power?
There's been a lot of talk over
In the Washington Post, however, Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan implicitly raise an intriguing possibility -- the topsy-turvy nature of the election campaign itself could improve America's image abroad:
John Mbugua, 56, a taxi driver in Mombasa, Kenya, woke himself at 3 a.m. the day of the Iowa caucuses and flipped on CNN. He said he watched for hours, not understanding precisely what or where Iowa was but thrilled about the victory of Barack Obama, the first U.S. presidential contender with Kenyan roots.I have mixed feelings about the global attention to our little campaign. On the one hand, the campaign rhetoric since the new year has been so banal that I can see it being offputting.
The Cliff Notes version of the past two weeks of the campaign for the Democrats has been as follows: "Hope, change, real change, experience, change, likeability, false hope, change, fairy tale, change, even more change."
For the Republicans: "Merry Christmas, Reagan, Reagan, Reagan, Happy New Year, Reagan, tax cuts, Reagan, Reagan, Reagan, Reagan, Reagan!"
We're not talkng the Lincoln-Douglas debates here.
On the other hand, there are ways in which the race has highlighted some positive qualities of the American system. Consider:
1) This might be the most competitive presidential election in modern history. No incumbent president or vice president is running. On the Democratic side, there are/were three candidates with viable shots at the nomination; On the GOP side, there are/were four.Question to readers: will the campaign itself improve America's standing abroad?
Friday, January 11, 2008
Your dumb-ass quote of the day
"Experience is not defined by years spent in Washington but by instinct and judgment and wisdom,” Mr Kerry told a crowd of about 2,000 at a college in Charleston, South Carolina.I can sort of see judgment and wisdom emanating from experience... but instinct? Isn't that pretty much the opposite of experience?
Doesn't that almost sound like Stephen Colbert said it? I was wondering what his writers were doing during the strike.
UPDATE: Marc Ambinder has more.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Great, I should vote for the nutjob
It turns out that half the country will be voting in a primary where the outcome is not preordained. This is a good thing -- but which candidate deserves your vote?
We here at danieldrezner.com will not be endorsing anyone -- despite claims to the contrary. However, as a useful exercise, some political scientists have put together a 36-question issues survey to see where you fit on the political landscape. It's called Electoral Compass. (One obvious downside to the survey: there's no effort to weight issues to your intensity of preference).
Taking the survey, I discovered -- yet again -- that I'm a social liberal and on the economic right. The only candidate even close to my orbit is Ron Paul. Among the Democrats, the closest candidate to my ideal point is Barack Obama. Among "contending" Republicans, it's Rudy Giuliani.
This, by the way, is why things like pesonality and leadership style are relevant to voting decisions (and are tough to capture in suveys). A candidate's policy positions are not the only thing that matter. The way in which the candidate will try to implement these policies matters too. I wouldn't vote for a candidate who shared my precise policy positions but decided to implement them by constitutionally questionable methods, for example. Process matters just as much as substance.
Mostly, the survey confirms that it's lonely out there for both libertarians and populists. The Democrats are tightly bunched in the socially liberal/economic left category, the Republicans are (somewhat less) tightly bunched in the socially conservative/economically right category. This is why, by the way, efforts to forge bipartisanship can lead to wildly divergent outcomes.
Take the survey yourself and report back where you land.
UPDATE: James Joyner has further criticisms of the survey methodology.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Your cultural question of the winter
As the writer's strike continues to not end, let's consider a key cultural question that's been nagging me in recent weeks.
I don't care for Alec Baldwin's politics, and I suspect he's not really a terribly nice person. That said, the man can chew through scenery with the best of them, and he's the best thing on the best comedy on television, 30 Rock.
So, here's your question: which is the signature Alec Baldwin performance? The gold standard, of course, is his very not-safe-for-work monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross:However, maybe, just maybe, Baldwin's psychiatric role-playing tour-de-force in an October episode of 30 Rock tops his previous acting apex. Watch for yourself and help me decide:
Going medieval on a bad paper
The editors of Foreign Policy asked me to review an article for them for their "Global Newsstand" section of the January/February 2008 issue.
The result: "Dismal Political Science":
Are economists increasingly in charge of politics? Do economists make better leaders? These are the questions that Anil Hira, a political scientist at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, is ostensibly trying to answer in his essay, “Should Economists Rule the World?” in the June 2007 issue of the International Political Science Review. In the article, he claims that “there has been a notable rising importance of economics as a background for leaders in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.” But he concludes that, even if economics is appearing on more political resumes, this training does not appear to help these leaders achieve better economic outcomes. (Hira cites Peru’s Alejandro Toledo, Indonesia’s Suharto, and U.S. President George W. Bush as examples of leaders who may have disappointed their economics instructors.) These are fascinating results. Alas, they’re fascinating in ways that lead one to seriously question the refereeing process at the International Political Science Review.I'm afraid the rest is firewalled, but here's the nut paragraph:
Simply put, the paper provides no actual evidence to support his conclusion that economists are ineffective leaders of national economies. To do that, he would have had to compare the periods when a technocrat was the national leader with the periods when there was a different kind of leader. Or he could have compared countries that had economists in charge with those countries that did not. Or he could have done both. But Hira did none of the above. Rather, he points to three trends over time: an increase in economically literate leaders, a slowdown of economic growth, and an increase in inequality. Then he simply asserts that the first trend must have caused the latter two trends. That’s Olympics-caliber hand-waving.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Hey, I'm just the publisher, don't look at me!
The New Republic's Jaime Kirchick looks at the newsletters Ron Paul used to send out to subscribers back in the day. The results are not pretty:
[W]hoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.Read the whole thing -- it's pretty devastating. Ron Paul's response is here, and includes this passage:
When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.Note to self: reconsider outsourcing blog to nice man from Nigeria who promises to transfer 1 million pounds to my bank account.
UPDATE: At one point, Kirchick writes that Paul's supporters are "are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine." Does this mean there are no libertines at Catoand no urbane libertarians at Reason?
Of course, Kirchick also forgot the final clause in his sentence: "or the complete geeks at the Institute for Humane Studies."
Monday, January 7, 2008
Two snippets of video regarding Hillary Clinton have/will dominate the current news cycle. The first one happened at the weekend debate in New Hampshire, and is currently #1 at YouTube:The second one happened today -- as Newsweek put it, "Hillary Tears Up." Take a look: Here's the New York Times' coverage of the same incident
If Hillary does worse than expected, pundits will point to the first snippet of video as an example of her "heated response" turning off voters. If Hillary does better than expected, pundits will point to the second snippet of video as the moment when Hillary "humanized" herself to the voters of New Hampshire, and made the political personal.
Me, I saw the exact same Hillary in both pieces of footage. In both instances, Hillary's words and intonation made two things abundantly clear:
1) Hillary Clinton genuinely thinks the country needs change, and that she has the capacity, as president, to make the country a better place;On foreign policy matters -- and that's the primary issue area I care about in this election -- there are ways in which I trust Clinton's experience more than Obama's. That second point, however, scares the ever-living crap out of me. That kind of belief bears a strong resemblance to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvaia Avenue.
Screw the politics of fear and, frankly, screw the politics of hope. I want the politics of doubt. I want a president who, in these complex times, has the capacity to admit error before all is lost.
I get absolutely no whiff of that from Hillary Rodham Clinton.
UPDATE: I'm fascinated by the comment thread to this post. To clarify a few matters:
1) I'm fully aware that "the politics of doubt" is not a winning platform, and that all candidates must project confidence and reassurance in their campaigns. I have no illusions that my preference matches those of others (interestingly, I feel the same way about doctors visits. Doctors tend to project authority because patients feel better if they are completely sure of their diagnosis/course of action. Growing up with a doctor, I much prefer having my physician give a more probabilistic assessment of whatever is ailing me).
I'm not saying this definitively, but I'm pretty sure that in a past life, Mark Penn killed a man
Your humble blogger has returned from his overseas travels in better physical shape but still jet-lagged.
I'm not so jet-lagged, however, to not appreciate this supreme bit of karmic payback that Hillary Clinton pollster Mark Penn might be facing this Tueday.
I received the following in an e-mail from Clinton's press office on Saturday (likely authored by Penn) entitled "WHERE IS THE BOUNCE?":
Two polls that had the race within a few points before the Iowa caucuses have the race tied in New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses.According to Reuters, the fiercely independent New Hampshire voters are beginning to make their decision:
Democrat Barack Obama rocketed to a 10-point lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire one day before their showdown in the state's presidential primary, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Monday.To be fair to Penn, not all of the tracking polls are showing this big a lead.
Still, there's something about the initial press release that suggests that karmic payback is coming.
Friday, January 4, 2008
My one thought on the Iowa caucus
The Obama who gets panned in Paul Krugman columns and sundry blog posts -- the one who just wants to make nice with Republicans and doesn't care about progressive values -- doesn't seem to be on the podium tonight.Now, I have no doubt that this is what Matt saw when he heard the speech -- but compelling political speeches are often like Rohshach tests -- you see what you want to see. The speech I heard was one where Obama certainly touched on a lot of progressive themes, but one in which he also took pains to speak in very nonpartisan terms:
You have done what America can do in this New Year, 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches; in small towns and big cities; you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.Now I'm not saying Matt is wrong and I'm right. What I'm saying is that a politician who can make different people hear what they want to hear -- or just be compelled to actively listen -- is not someone who is going to be brought low easily.
Or maybe it's me. Watch for yourself and post your reaction:
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Worst student sentences...revealed!!!
Last month, I asked professors to "post, in the comments, the single-worst sentence you have read in a student paper."
And lo, academics from around the land heard of this contest, and proffered their best quotes. And, lo, the results are in.....
And the result is..... a three-way tie!!!
Reading through the entries, it quickly became apparent that there were three different kind of bad sentences, each deserving of their own award.
The first kind relies on a really bad malapropism. The winner in this category is... from David Sousa:
Given politicians' efforts to maninpulate coverage, citizens cannot easily distinguish between fact and fornication.The second kind relies on really, really bad writing. And the winner in this category is BN, who submitted the following sentence:
The Civil War lasted no more than four years, but the red and blue blood that was spilt will last a life time.In the final and most difficult category, the writer must demonstrate a near-complete lack of factual or analytical control over the subject matter. And the hands-down winner in this category is Diodotus, with the following grad student sentence:
In order to make an intelligent argument, I determined that I first had to have a genuine understanding of the conflict. I sought this information in several books because I felt that they would be the most unbiased and factual.Thanks to one and all for participating -- and students should not fear, as their opportunity to strike back will be coming tomorrow.