Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What happens now depends on what happens

With two deeply flawed candidates -- political C players who have by now squandered whatever capacity they might once have possessed to affect events -- the outcome of the presidential race will depend on those events, most importantly in Europe. If the ECB and the Germans, in their infinite wisdom, allow the EU to plunge into depression, and if that, in turn, washes over our shores in noticeable ways, then Romney probably wins. If that doesn't happen, then Obama probably wins.

In a nutshell: 

Romney's brand is now set. He is the plutocrat who only cares about rich people, and he only wants to get elected to serve their interests. There is nothing he can now do to shake this branding -- and he doesn't even have the sechel to try.

Obama's set, too. He cannot be a credible economic crusader for the middle class, because he cannot be a credible crusader. In the past I have lamented his failure to emulate FDR's "I welcome their hatred." What was I thinking? This man cannot become a believable emotional presence -- cannot deploy his feelings as a political force. He can utter populist-sounding words, but the chance for his feelings to be believed by most people on any subject has passed. It's not just that he has betrayed most of the principles and policies Democrats hold dear -- which he has -- but that he has disappeared as an actor, in both senses of the word. He has hidden in plain sight for his whole life, and now on the big stage for the past four years. We no longer credit him with caring enough about anything to fight for it. When he tries, it doesn't take.

So... now we wait.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Yet again

Yet again, Paul Krugman is a light in the darkness. One could raise a tribute to him every day, and it wouldn't be too often. He tells the truth about important things.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gimme a break

Look, I yield to few in my conviction that Barack Obama lacks a center -- or, at least, lacks access to whatever center may be in there. But what's up with this ridiculous NY Times/CBS News poll? The findings themselves are entirely uninteresting -- what else could the outcome have been on this or any other controversial topic during a contentious campaign? The point was the question itself -- it's simply a meta-way of taking a shot at him. And it's the hypocrite calling the kettle black -- not only for the Times and CBS News, but for the poll's participants to criticize Obama for not having been a long-time supporter of gay rights. One can only assume some snark-monger decided this would be a good headline. Please.

Yes, one can only hope

As Krugman has continued to do for the past three years (more, if you count the 08 campaign), now Joe Nocera is making it clear what Obama should say -- saying it for him. Isn't that teleprompter enough?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


This is scary, if accurate. Scary re Europe, and scary re the US. I hope that the hermetic seal around our president has not repaired itself, and that he will recognize the direness of his straits. Politically speaking, he must seize the initiative, must start going hard after the banks and tying Romney and the whole GOP to them in any ways he can. Ross Douhat groks this, for chrissake.

Of course, even then, a collapse of the Euro within months may doom his presidency. And then, Gaia help us.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Some tempest

Some teapot. I hope the S.E.C. is planning to ask: What did Jamie Dimon know, and when did he know it.

Jamie Dimon? Now, why is that name familiar?

And yes, the correct outcome is clear. So glad you helped steer us away from Hillary Clinton, Bob.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Romney's assignment, if he chooses to accept it - updated

Here's how Romney wins the presidency: He runs against Tim Geithner and the too-big-to-fail banks. He attacks Obama's socialism for the rich, while portraying himself and the rest of the vulture capitalists as playing by the high-risk, high-reward rules of true capitalism: "We at Bain were never too big to fail. If we made bad bets, we were subject to the swift judgment of the market -- which is exactly how capitalism is supposed to work. But President Obama, Secretary Geithner and this Administration stepped in and distorted the market -- making the government of the United States a crony capitalist of historic proportions. I said at the time that the bailouts were wrong -- and we see now how right that was. The corruption of moral hazard continues to this day -- witness the latest outrage from JP Morgan Chase. This isn't what capitalism, or America, are supposed to be about. It's time to restore a true free-market economy, and get America back to work."

As Confidence Men and Frontline's "Money, Power and Wall St." make clear -- and as Krugman, Reich, Stiglitz et al. have noted for years -- Obama aided and abetted the looting of Main St. by Wall St. Romney can have his cake and eat it by singling out the big banks, while continuing to collect contributions from the rest of corporate America. Obama is genuinely vulnerable on this issue, and Romney would get a twofer -- appealing both to the Tea Party and to independents appalled when Citibank, Goldman Sachs and their brethren were made whole.

Will he do it? Probably not. It probably requires more political imagination -- and more acting skill (i.e., the capacity to project convincing outrage) than he possesses. So my guess is he won't accept this mission-eminently-possible. But I wish he would. Even if Obama did win, a debate framed in this way would create a lot of pressure to address financial reform in a more serious way in his second term.

Update: If Obama, Axelrod, Plouffe et al. have an ounce of political sechel, they will seize the opening created by the shaming of Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase. They will forget that they ever had a good word for Dimon and Blankfein; forget that they let Geithner slow-walk the break-up of Citi, as Suskind reveals; forget that they have sat idle while Dodd-Frank was being dismantled before our eyes. They will run hard against the banks, starting right now -- and cutting off Romney's potential winning play at the pass. They will whip the Senate to ensure that none of these eviscerations of Dodd-Frank make it into law. Obama will talk over and over again about the need for a strong Volker Rule, to accompany his Buffett Rule -- and put out the word through surrogates that Volker would become Treasury Secretary in his second administration.