Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Opinionator

August 16, 2007, 6:55 pm
The Transmogrification of Mr. Cheney
By Chris Suellentrop
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How did Dick Cheney go from being a steady-but-boring vice-presidential nominee to an insane-but-fascinating vice president? Ross Douthat wonders:

The odd thing, of course, is that Cheney entered this Administration with a reputation for being anti-charismatic but deeply responsible, but if anything the reverse has proven true: When he’s ventured out of the undisclosed location, he’s actually been a much more compelling spokesman for the Administration than the President, even as he’s been associated with many of its more reckless and tone-deaf policy decisions.
The New Republic’s Jason Zengerle thinks Hillary Clinton’s “divisiveness is, sometimes, a problem of her own making.”

Didn’t Rich Hall call these “sniglets”? Reason contributing editor Julian Sanchez invents the word “outsight” at his blog, Notes From the Lounge:

A group of people are standing around discussing some topic where either expertise or native intelligence make them all pretty conversant on the subject. Suddenly, one person pipes up with what he clearly thinks is a profound insight, an important observation. The others smile awkwardly, perhaps exchanging quick meaningful looks, and attempt to steer the conversation elsewhere. In the most embarrassing cases, the person who offered the observation is convinced that the full import of his insight can’t have been understood, and insists upon pressing it again and again. What’s actually happened, though, is that the person has outed himself as desperately behind the curve by offering the very opposite of an insight: some utterly elementary point that everyone else had taken for granted as a premise of the conversation, and indeed, one too obvious to be worth stating among (so they had thought) other reasonably bright and informed people. It’s an odd case of making oneself look bad, not by saying something wrong or false, but by saying something too clearly true.
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August 16, 2007, 2:39 pm
Will the G.O.P Pay for Economic Woes?
By Chris Suellentrop
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A Republican recession? If the mortgage crisis leads to a recession, it could be “the whammy of political death” for the eventual Republican nominee for president, suggests James Pethokoukis, the assistant managing editor for the Money & Business section at U.S. News & World Report, at his Capital Commerce blog. Pethokoukis writes:

It’s terrible luck for Republican candidates in 2008 that just as the Iraq war seems to be ever so slightly turning for the better, the economy seems to be taking a turn for the worse, thanks to the spreading mortgage credit crisis. The former might not be decisive enough to save the party in 2008, while the latter might be just damaging enough to do it in for sure.

The nearly six-year Bush boom — “the greatest story never told,” according to economist and CNBC host Larry Kudlow­ has been a tangible accomplishment that the G.O.P. candidates, including the party’s eventual White House hopeful, could have trumpeted next year. It has a nice, understandable narrative, too. Faced with an imploding Internet stock bubble and corporate scandals, Bush slashed taxes in 2001 and 2003 and helped restart America’s amazing growth machine.

But a recession between now and Election Day 2008 ­along with accompanying job and income losses, falling home values, and a dodgy stock market­ could be the whammy of political death. As it is, the online betting market Intrade gives the Democrats a 57 percent chance of winning the White House. (It also gives a 31 percent chance of a recession next year.)
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August 16, 2007, 9:42 am
Debate Fatigue
By Chris Suellentrop
Tags: , ,

Steven Stark, the presidential campaign columnist for The Boston Phoenix, thinks the grueling debate schedule is “slowly destroying the candidacies of John Edwards and Barack Obama — much to the delight of Hillary Clinton supporters.” Stark adds:

The very fact that more debates are on the calendar will likely skew the results of the race. If there had been this kind of debate schedule in 1976 or 1972, Jimmy Carter and George McGovern —­ two anti-establishment candidates who eschewed sound bites —­ would never have won their party’s nominations. (On second thought, perhaps that’s the point.)

Obviously, debates benefit well-spoken, presentable candidates who can express themselves well in a minute or less — ­ one reason Mitt Romney and Hillary have done well so far. (Obama’s tendency to generalize and philosophize is charming on the trail, not so much in a debate setting.)

Less obvious is the fact that exposure in these forums institutionalizes the leads of front-runners in the polls. That is one reason why, in this era of frequent primary debates, early front-runners tend to do better than they did from 1960 through 1988.
Stark’s conclusion: “Obama and Edwards would be well served to drop out of the debates now and take their case to the people. Otherwise, come January, they may find that the things that once made them distinctive no longer exist.”

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