While we’re feeling gloomy …

by John Quiggin on December 12, 2010

… let’s look ahead beyond 2012. Based solely on the likely rate of unemployment, the odds are against Obama being re-elected. As Jeff Madrick points out, the odds against a presidential re-election are long whenever the unemployment rate is above 7 per cent, and that’s a virtual certainty. There are other economic variables that reliably affect voting behavior, such as income growth, but they are just as negative. And it’s hard to see anything positive in the current political dynamic.

On the information we have at present, any Republican candidate other than Palin will have very good odds of winning. But there is also a fair chance that Palin will get the Republican nomination, despite her high negative ratings outside the Republican base. That would give Obama his best chance, but still no guarantee.

Starting with the worst case, how bad would a Palin Administration be ? In policy terms, it would obviously be terrible, but I’m more concerned about the prospect of Palin inheriting the monarchical powers amassed for the Presidency by the Bush and Obama Administrations. These include:

  • Powers conferred by legislation under the PATRIOT Act, Military Commissions Act and so on. These would surely be greatly strengthened by a Republican Congress under Palin
  • Powers claimed by Bush and Obama (for example, the power to direct the assassination of any person deemed to be a supporter of terrorism) with no specific legislative capacity
  • The power, with no legal basis, to pressure corporations into taking actions against real or putative enemies of the state (wiretapping, withdrawing services from Wikileaks)
  • The Bush-Obama precedent under which admittedly criminal actions taken by the President (such as ordering torture) do not give rise to any prosecution or right of redress

The main saving grace under Bush and Obama has been the fact that most of these powers have been used fairly sparingly, and never (AFAIK) against ‘mainstream’ political opponents of the Administration. I can’t see Palin accepting any such constraint. Given the starting position, four years of unfettered power for Palin would be enough to move the US a long way in the direction taken by Russia under Putin, with a compliant media, an oligarchical ruling class subject to rapid reprisals for any display of political independence, and dissidents are subject to all kinds of harassment up to and including assassination.

I can’t see anything that would be likely to stop this. A victory for Palin would imply a strong swing to the Republicans giving them at least a Senate majority. They would surely kill the filibuster rule if they needed to, so the closest thing to a constraint would be the Supreme Court, which did rule against some of the worst Bush excesses. The changes in the make-up of the Court since then make this fairly weak reed even weaker.

Perhaps I’m being too gloomy here – feel free to point out where I’m wrong.

Turning to other possibilities, any other Republican candidate would surely have to give some pretty big payoffs to Palin and the far right in general, and would have a better chance of winning. The movement towards authoritarianism might be less dramatic than under Palin, but it would surely continue apace.

So, about the best hope is that the Republicans will nominate Palin and that she will prove too much for the American electorate to swallow. Maybe this overreach might even cost them control of Congress. Or maybe some totally unexpected event will turn things around. And, while I’m at it, there’s a nice patch of grass at the back of the house where the pony can graze.

{ 84 comments }

1

Red 12.12.10 at 4:24 am

And then you didn’t even mention Palin and Iran, Pakistan, Russia, etc. (or Europe, for that matter). At least we have two years to get ready.

2

Alex K 12.12.10 at 4:50 am

I wonder how many prognosticators in 1992 accurately that the Republicans would win the midterms two years later in one of the biggest swings of all time. Or that the “Permanent Republican Majority” would dissolve scarcely 2 or 3 years after it was proclaimed. Right up until the 1998 midterms, Gingrich was crowing about how Clinton’s moral looseness would give the R’s an unbeatable majority. They lost seats for the second year in a row and Gingrich lost the speakership. In 1982, Reagan was in the same economic mess Obama is in now, and won 49 states two years later. And who could forget the 2008 presidential showdown between Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney?

I guess, “Don’t be scared-no one ever knows what the hell they’re talking about anyway when they make predictions.” isn’t the most comforting thought, but it’ll have to do.

3

shah8 12.12.10 at 4:51 am

1) In any real sense that matters, we don’t really have a democracy or a republican government. We were lucky to get off with Obama rather than Clegg. Any senatorial incumbent that gets primaried has a good chance of just getting in as an independent candidate as with Lieberman or Murkowski.

2) Sarah Palin is a grifter. There is a less than zero chance that oligarchical concerns will allow her the candidacy. Remember, the Presidency functions as a figurehead head of state as well as serve executive function. That means a person that people in general can feel confidence when the populace “sees” the presidency in action. A con-woman is not the sort of image that allows the parasitic elite to elide all the sticky questions of propriety and good governance for all.

3) I think it is unreasonable to expect a particularly quiet geopolitical space or internal space free of forment. The US populace is simply incapable of trucking along like the Japanese did in their “Bright Depression”. There’s no social net for that. Most people can’t depend on close by family. Thus the idea that we’re going to tolerate two more years of “stagnant” economic milieu without serious forment is bananas.

4) Even more so, I don’t think people have *such* a poor grasp of political realities that they wouldn’t have an understanding of just how reactionary Republicans are. In fact, I think that the Tea Party is a simple initial response, coded in the traditional conservative irrationalities. After all, it’s not as if those Protestants in Louisiana doesn’t understand how Republicans screw them over. They just care about other stuff because they’ve got money right now. When they don’t, and they *need* a clean Gulf Coast… A truly separate right wing polity is inevitable, with all the problems that will ensue. It’s not particularly unlikely that a Republican will not be able to field a unified conservative candidate. To the deep point…I think Obama is doing enough of a job of being visibly responsive to public demands, and the Republicans are doing a great job of being visibly against public welfare in the broad sense. I’m not sure that the Republican Party is going to have a Q score greater than a motel cockroach in 2012.

5) I think it’s virtually certain that economic upheaval will be happening. Largely because for all that there are many corporations who are saving cash by the bucketloads and not investing in greater capacity, that are many corporation needing all that cash just to survive the decreased demand (growth). One or more giant international corporation dealing with real-world industry (other than the international housing industry, of course) is liable to collapse, leaving wreckage that isn’t paperable over with more cash. In a real and genuine emergency, I think it is very doubtful that people will feel comfortable changing saddles, so to speak, and I think it’s virtually certain that no-one will tolerate the idea of anyone expressly incompetent to be elected.

6) I’m not really worried about Obama. I’m more worried about this world. I mean, have you seen the latest global warming predictions? It’s pretty damned dire. Dire in the degree that I’m not going to see my 50th birthday dire. Civilizations don’t really survive relatively minute changes in climates–largely because they’re usually in one basin, but there is no goddamned way the human race in any meaningful sense would survive a 4 degrees Celsius rise in temperature. Most places in the US aren’t going to be able to deal with the sort of dry that would happen. Most places, really all places in the SouthEast US, given our lack of real lakes and streams and rivers, have zero capacity to deal with anything like regular monsoons. Even before the environment kills us, the general unwinding of debt instruments is likely to give us all far too much excitement.

4

OneEyedMan 12.12.10 at 5:26 am

Bush is more likable than Palin, had a great love of executive power, and a solid majority in both houses and small one on the supreme court. Even so, he wasn’t able to do a fraction of the damage you worry about her doing. He couldn’t even get private social security accounts. Palin will still have to plug herself into the massive Republican machine in order to staff her appointments, and that’s where most of the real work happens anyway. Given these constraints, it is hard to imagine her being substantially worse than Bush was .

5

John Quiggin 12.12.10 at 5:32 am

@4 But Bush faced the need to overturn a couple of centuries of precedent and faced vociferous and largely united Democratic opposition. Palin would be able to cite precedents from both Bush and Obama for everything I’ve mentioned above. And the Republicans are far more rightwing now than they were even eight years ago.

6

Glen Tomkins 12.12.10 at 5:33 am

Not too gloomy — just too Palin-centric

As your list makes clear, we pretty much already have passed our equivalent of the Enabling Act. Dubya, fortunately, did not prove to be our version of Hitler — but only because he lacked the talent and work ethic of the original. Obama may have these two traits to the needed degree, but he clearly lacks the will to power needed for the role.

Well, we’re not going remain forever fortunate in the deficiencies of those we elect to be president. Sooner or later someone will get in who will possess the necessary drive and talent to use the tools we have foolishly left to hand. Palin doesn’t appear to possess the necessary gifts, but perhaps she’s clever enough to hide her dark under a bushel. It would have been easy early on to dismiss Hitler as some buffoon the Junkers were using as a stalking horse — right up until von Papen turned up dead.

But there’s little point handicapping the odds on this or that candidate for Fuehrer. The problem here isn’t a supply side problem. There’s always going to be a supply of such people available. The problem is demand side. It’s been clear for over a century that the way to secure and lasting power in a democracy is to frighten the voters with the prospect of enemies foreign and domestic coming to murder them in their beds if they don’t rally around a Leader. Mostly leaders have lucked into the enemy that supplies them with the engine for this dynamic. But Hitler showed that you don’t have to wait around until you get lucky, you can start a self-sustaining cycle of foreign crises escalating into wars that in turn lead to more wars. Enemies can be arranged on order, you don’t have to wait for one to turn up.

To be sure, it ended badly for Hitler. But he had to work with an inferior instrument. Germany was a second-rate military power, surrounded and beset by other second-raters, and even one first rate power, the SU. They had a brillinat run of it, considering the weakness of the starting position for the Third Reich, but the escalating cycle of wars eventually exceeded the very limited capacity of Germany to wage a truly global war.

A US Fuehrer won’t have that limitation. He also won’t have as liberal a nation to work against as Hitler had with Germany. Our Hitler will not be brought down by the Red Army. Worse, there wouldn’t be any serious, if unsuccessful, attempt by internal forces to get rid of him or her with a briefcase bomb.

I can’t foresee how it would end. A 1984 scenario seems to be the entropic end-state, a sort of heat death of the political universe, that we’re headed towards.

7

shah8 12.12.10 at 5:40 am

It’s not quite Goodwin, but I call Goodwin.

8

Cryptic Ned 12.12.10 at 6:52 am

Indeed, Goodwin is formenting.

9

Jack Strocchi 12.12.10 at 7:19 am

Pr Q said:

Perhaps I’m being too gloomy here – feel free to point out where I’m wrong.

I don’t mind if I do. As usual, Pr Q is being too psephologically bearish  in the short-term (and too  ideologically bullish over the long-term).

Earlier this month he was predicting a series of pre-emptive capitulations by Obama in the face of the REP congressional onslaught, possibly before Christmas:

I imagine that would entail, at a minimum,

full extension of the Bush tax cuts,
effective repeal of the health care bill,
no more money for the unemployed,
Social Security ‘reform’ and
a bunch of spending cuts directed at the tribal demons of the Tea Party.

So far only Pr Q’s first prediction has been confirmed, and the tax-cut extension is only temporary. The third has been refuted and the rest have not yet gone through the formality of occurring. Of course its early days yet.

I was a bit more cautiously optimistic, predicting that the REPs would force a contractionary budget for 2010-11, which seems to have been refuted. My prediction that the REPS would blink when it came to forcing a government shutdown and Obama would hang tough on health care still looks to have legs.

The reality is that Obama’s budget deal is pretty much a glass half-full, with some gains, some pains but overall a positive. Certainly REP apologists are not too pleased with it. They see it as stimulus Mk II.

Overall, Obama is pretty much conforming to my 2008 original expectations as a Clintonian Centrist. The old stager was in the White House the other day, looking like he never left and pushing the President into the background, selling the sell-out, as Left-liberals would have it.

I guess that these CT doom-and-gloom scenarios serve a useful function in hosing down expectations and preparing for the worst. But Palin will never be President, I will wager heavily on that.

10

Jack Strocchi 12.12.10 at 7:48 am

Pr Q said:

I’m more concerned about the prospect of Palin inheriting the monarchical powers amassed for the Presidency by the Bush and Obama Administrations. These include:

The power, with no legal basis, to pressure corporations into taking actions against real or putative enemies of the state (wiretapping, withdrawing services from Wikileaks)

What is amazing about the wikileaks is the hollowness of the shrill cries from civil libertarians, complaining about infringed liberties since 911. It was irate feminists, not Special Branch, who put Assange in the clanger.

The crack-down on wikileaks has been a big anti-climax, for all the hoo-ha about the state’s supposedly “monarchical powers” accumulated under the despotism of Bush, Blair and Howard.

For the past 10 years we have had the bleeding heart liberal brigade jumping up and down about Bush and Howard’s supposedly repressive legislation. Here we have a clear case of a person compromising state security* yet the state apparati can do nothing (legally) about it.^ The Department of Homeland Security, MI5 and ASIO are exposed as paper tigers!

The dark night of fascism somehow fails to go through the formality of descending on our fair shores. I think we can safely consign Pr Q’s darker fantasies to “the boy who cried wolf” bin.

But one should certainly take the thought police powers of Swedish feminists seriously, at least if one contemplates being a “love rat” amongst the groupies. These gals play for keeps, particularly given that the Swedish state has come down with an acute case of politically correct psychosis.

Hell hath no furies like two feminists scorned.

* FWIW I think Assange has performed a public service. He is blowing the whistle because the state broke the social contract when unlawfully invading Iraq.

^ “Extraordinary rendition” and “enhanced interrogation techniques” were a result of an expansive definition of existing executive powers, not new legislative authority.

11

Blel 12.12.10 at 7:53 am

You are being overly pessimistic. If it’s Palin (which it won’t be) for Obama to lose unemployment would have to be above 15%. Or he would have to be engulfed in scandal. Not a fake Fox News scandal, but a “he-left-his-wife-and-adorable-daughters-for-Snooki” magnitude scandal. Instead, think happy thoughts about the Republican primary circular firing squad of next summer and fall. Huckabee! Ron Paul campaigns everywhere in a gold suit like Elvis! Bristol starts dating again! Mitt Romney undergoes an Eternal Sunshine-type memory procedure to remove all traces of Massachusetts from his brain! Newt Gingrich, scanning a crowd in New Hampshire, is frozen in mid-speech by the sight of his fourth wife! At least one conservative House member no one has ever heard of, who turns out to be (spoiler alert) a total nutball! Pawlenty tries to simultaneously increase his foreign policy experience and out-hunt Palin by joining the crew of a Japanese whaler! And if we were very, very good boys and girls this year, Santa may bring us Alan Keyes for another round!

12

Ken Lovell 12.12.10 at 8:55 am

Jack it might be a little premature to conclude that ‘ the state apparati can do nothing (legally) about’ the WikiLeaks operation. Bureaucracies are not noted for instantaneous responses to external threats, but they usually get there eventually. One should not try to evaluate the response of the state to the internet over a period of a few months, but over decades.

It seems to me that a necessary precondition for controlling private communications in cyberspace is the ability to monitor them lawfully, against the wishes of individual citizens. The USA is well on the way to achieving this, if it isn’t there already. Now all that is necessary is a series of laws proscribing communications of a kind that the state finds offensive. Many commentators have noted that Australian prime minister Gillard and the US conservatives have struggled to explain exactly what laws WikiLeaks has broken. Expect steps to clarify that in the near future, all in the name of keeping us safe of course.

The wheels of government regulation grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.

13

Jack Strocchi 12.12.10 at 10:06 am

Pr Q said:

Based solely on the likely rate of unemployment, the odds are against Obama being re-elected. As Jeff Madrick points out, the odds against a presidential re-election are long whenever the unemployment rate is above 7 per cent, and that’s a virtual certainty. There are other economic variables that reliably affect voting behavior, such as income growth, but they are just as negative.

I am long on Obama. Although he must find some way to cover his Right-flank, in order to shore up the crumbling white vote for the DEMs. Some ostentatious efforts at curbing illegal immigration and encouraging jobs for regular native-born Americans would not go astray. Or is that “racist” now?

If Madrick is right abour 7% unemployment then Roosevelt and Reagan would never have been re-elected.

Ray Fair and Doug Hibbs (Bread & Peace) models indicate that the electoral pendulum responds to the relative phase, not absolute level, of the business cycle. Hibbs model was pretty accurate in the Congressional mid-term so I would take it seriously If Obama can engineer strong growth in income/employment in FY2012-13 then he should have that covered. Its not beyond his capability.

The other factor that is important is progress in military conflict. Obama is obviously trying hard to configure an exit strategy out of Afghanistan. I am guessing he will make some progress here, so long as the drones come through for him.

So yeah, I will take a total of $100 on Obama in 2012, at even odds. Any takers?

14

Jack Strocchi 12.12.10 at 10:18 am

Ken Lovell @ #12 said:

Many commentators have noted that Australian prime minister Gillard and the US conservatives have struggled to explain exactly what laws WikiLeaks has broken.

Exactly my point. Civil libertarians flap their jaws non-stop about these repressive new laws in principle. But in practice it turns out the laws turn out to be useless to “silence dissent”.

Swedish feminists, on the other hand, are a whole different ball game. All they had to do was compare notes and before you know it Assange was an international fugitive from justice.

Roissy has an amusing take on this farce, but I will not link to it as NSFW.

15

Tim Worstall 12.12.10 at 10:58 am

“Given the starting position, four years of unfettered power for Palin would be enough to move the US a long way in the direction taken by Russia under Putin, with a compliant media, an oligarchical ruling class subject to rapid reprisals for any display of political independence, and dissidents are subject to all kinds of harassment up to and including assassination.”

The prime requirements here would be that Palin is intelligent, efficient and effective. Nothing I’ve seen so far indicates that she is all or even any of those three.

Perhaps it’s not that comforting to think that while she might desire to do these things (although I’m most certainly not convinced of that) I doubt that she would be capable of doing those things.

16

chris y 12.12.10 at 11:27 am

The prime requirements here would be that Palin is intelligent, efficient and effective. Nothing I’ve seen so far indicates that she is all or even any of those three.

But she knows people who are. Those aren’t the adjectives that spring to mind in respect of GWB either (although I wouldn’t be so unkind as to suggest he was as much of a cypher as Palin would be), but from the point of view of the interests represented by, e.g. Cheney, the Bush presidency did a pretty good job.

17

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.12.10 at 11:40 am

I don’t think this has much to do with Palin’s personal qualities. Rather, perhaps, it’s the tension between republicanism and what appears to be a more and more traditional imperial nature of the state, with its troops engaged in these endless pacification/anti-insurgency operations around the world. It didn’t play out well in the 1960s/70s, did it. Running a proper empire requires dedication, commitment, discipline; internal dissent is an unacceptable weakness.

18

Alex 12.12.10 at 11:59 am

right up until von Papen turned up dead

He didn’t; he turned up ambassador to Austria and then Turkey, and lived to a ripe old age in his castle in Bavaria. He even ran for election during the 1950s, which is possibly the greatest example of chutzpah in world history.

19

bjk 12.12.10 at 12:56 pm

The reason Sullivan can take Palin seriously is that he’s a foreigner and doesn’t have a good sense of the American electorate. I don’t imagine any of his relatives are from Iowa. The same goes for JQ.

20

Chris Hanretty 12.12.10 at 1:00 pm

It’s worth pointing out that the key independent variable in most pocketbook-voting models is real income growth, not absolute levels of unemployment. In the presence of real income growth rates, inflation and changes in unemployment appeared to have little or no electoral importance. I have no idea what’s going to happen to real income growth, however.

21

Brett Bellmore 12.12.10 at 1:12 pm

OneEyedMan, Bush, (Either of them.) didn’t WANT to do the ‘damage’ you fear. “Compassionate” conservative, remember? Expansion of Medicaide? Launched the BATF on another jihad against gun owners, leading to Ruby Ridge and Waco? Wanted another amnesty for illegal immigrants? The list goes on and on.

If you folks hadn’t been so pissed off about Florida, Bush would have gladly cooperated with a Democratic majority in Congress, and screwed conservatives over royally on any number of issues. We were sweating the whole 8 years that you’d get over your snit and work with the guy.

I’m not worried about Palin getting the nomination. Look, you don’t understand the position Palin has for conservatives: We’re aware she has major failings. She’s a QUITTER, for one thing, we know you can bring enough pressure to bear to make her crumble. That by itself is a fatal weakness.

We just enjoy watching you work yourselves up into a frenzy every time she shows her face. Like Rush says of himself, “She lives in your heads.” She knows that, too, and is making a nice livelihood off it.

But Presidential material? Nope. She just shows up high in the ratings because she’s got name recognition. I’m expecting the 2012 nomination to go to somebody like Bobby Jindal.

Even this assumes, of course, that the Republican establishment don’t strike back, (There are signs of it already.) spend the next two years wallowing in pork, and the conservative base finally gives up on the GOP as a lost cause, and goes off to found a real third party. In which case you’re in like Flynn two years from now, though things might get dicy two years after that.

22

Another Roger 12.12.10 at 1:24 pm

This analysis also misses out the fundamental dysfunctionality of the American political system.

The very faults of the system that make it so difficult to pass truly progressive legislation (according to Andrew Weiner the other day no fewer than 217 bills have been passed by the House and quashed by the Senate in this session) and which have so quickly destroyed the promise offered by Obama’s administration would also constrain a Palin.

Now a truly charismatic and brilliant far rightist in a sufficiently catastrophic situation might conceivably gather the mass and elite support required to override the countless archaic checks and balances that are embedded in the constitution – but Palin is neither a Hitler, nor a Mussolini or even a Putin – Hell she’s barely even a Dan Quayle.

The people who really should be terrified are those living outside of the US as thanks to Bush and Obama she will have vastly increased power to bomb, invade, imprison, torture and assassinate foreigners.

23

Grimgrin 12.12.10 at 1:29 pm

Well as a foreigner I take Sarah Palin seriously for two reasons:

1) There’s a lower bar to the primaries. 18 millionor so total votes cast in the last two contested Republican presidential primaries. So all Sarah Palin needs is 9 million or so committed supporters by 2012. The bosses might be able to stop her if they turned all the rhetorical fire on her during the primary campaign. But if they do that they risk splitting the party.

2) There’s a fairly weak field at this point. Huckabee has his murderer problem, Gingrich and Romney are both professional pols running against the mad hatrix of the Tea Party. Gingrich’s personal life and Romney’s history and term as governor of Massachusetts are both particularly vulnerable.

None of this is to say I think Palin is particularly inevitable. I just don’t see any huge obstacles in her way.

I can also see Obama administration badly bungling the general election against Palin. They seem to take it as an article of faith that the left will fall in line and vote for him, and so are free to tack as far to the right as they need to to pursue independent votes. Maybe. Again, I don’t see any of it as inevitable, but I see a way for Obama to loose in 2012, between what’s likely to be a bad economy and an enervated and divided base.

24

deliasmith 12.12.10 at 2:52 pm

Bill Clinton has often pointed out that a US presidential election is a choice between two individuals, not a referendum. Barack Obama just has to beat a man or woman who is selected by the Republican Party. He could do this today, and his chances of doing it in two years’ time are even better.

25

bigcitylib 12.12.10 at 3:04 pm

Take a chill pill. Same thing was being said in 1995, and this year’s shift wasn’t nearly as significant. 18 months of half-decent economic growth and he’s a sure thing.

26

Cranky Observer 12.12.10 at 3:22 pm

> The main saving grace under Bush and Obama has been the fact that
> most of these powers have been used fairly sparingly, and never
> (AFAIK) against ‘mainstream’ political opponents of the Administration.

Based on both observation and two slips of the tongue by John Bolton, I am reasonably certain that Cheney’s gang did in fact use the national security apparatus against its political opponents (Republicans/conservatives as well as Democrats and anyone else who opposed them). And of course we don’t know if any of the terrorism statutes or disappearance/torture processes were used against anyone for political reasons since as Patrick Fitzgerald has been more than willing to demonstrate even engaging a lawyer to defend someone who has been disappeared – much less talking about it to the press – is a crime that can result in life sentence with no communication to the outside world.

Cranky

27

JP Stormcrow 12.12.10 at 3:26 pm

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of someone misspelling “Godwin” approaches 1.

I also believe that the Palin fear is rather overstated. She is almost certainly destined to live out her days as a wealthy media star and (per Brett) yet another Limbaughesque goad to “liberals”.

28

Cranky Observer 12.12.10 at 3:28 pm

> 2) Sarah Palin is a grifter. There is a less than zero chance
> that oligarchical concerns will allow her the candidacy.

You have to factor in the possibility that those who control the Republican Party may not be in control of the primary process in 2012. When one plays with primal fears one takes the risk of creating a response one does not control; that hasn’t happened to the big-time Republicans _yet_ but that doesn’t mean it can’t and won’t happen. The otherwise close-to-sane Repubs I know who drive around with “Sarah 2012” stickers on their Hummers won’t take well to big-dollar directed bigfooting if “Sarah” does actually run.

Unless Palin is satisfied with the money she will have collected by early 2012 and is really ready to return to Alaska and live quietly, then IMHO she will be forced into running to maintain her presence on the stage. And once she starts running she won’t be able to control what happens among her radical and now fired-up supporters either.

Cranky

29

JP Stormcrow 12.12.10 at 4:02 pm

she will be forced into running to maintain her presence on the stage

Yes, I do think there is a good chance that will happen (or at a minimum she’ll hold out the possibility for as long as possible). I suspect she will most likely withdraw somewhere in the process cloaked in an establishment and “lamestream” media victimization narrative. The challenge for the Republican establishment is to finesse the stabbed in the back by her own party aspects of it. Some rather naked buy-offs will be involved–I’d look for her to give the opening day keynote at the Republican convention that year, for instance.

30

Gene O'Grady 12.12.10 at 4:11 pm

Not only did von Papen not turn up dead, he was a South German Catholic (from the same part of the world as my family who emigrated to get out of fighting for Bismarck), which was hardly going to put him in with the Junkers or the Prussian military elite.

I am old enough to remember when certain anti-Communist Catholic elements in this country wanted to view him as a grand old man. As far as I can see few greater sleazebags ever fouled this earth.

31

JP Stormcrow 12.12.10 at 4:17 pm

Alex and Gene are ignoring the possibility that Glen Tomkins meant it would have been easy to dismiss Hitler as some buffoon the Junkers were using as a stalking horse until May of 1969.

32

Substance McGravitas 12.12.10 at 5:27 pm

This visit to Haiti by Palin struck me as evidence she was running. Where’s the profit she so reliably pursues? On the other hand:

Samaritan’s Purse has been accused during other humanitarian crises of putting its evangelical mission ahead of more tangible assistance to those in need. The organisation raises large sums of money from US Christians but the proceeds are not always visible on the ground.

During the 1994 Rwandan refugee crisis, Samaritan’s Purse was criticised by other aid organisations for spending large amounts on luxury accommodation for its staff and providing only minimal assistance as tens of thousands of people died of cholera. That assistance principally consisted of sending stretcher bearers to carry the sick for treatment as a third person ran alongside the victim reading passages from the Bible.

33

Substance McGravitas 12.12.10 at 5:28 pm

Last paragraph in blockquotes too.

34

Tom T. 12.12.10 at 5:58 pm

The organisation raises large sums of money from US Christians but the proceeds are not always visible on the ground.

As opposed to the aid to Haiti that is visible on the ground? :-/

35

bianca steele 12.12.10 at 6:23 pm

John:
Thanks for breaking out “pressuring corporations” from the PATRIOT Act. I don’t understand why people like Glenn Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler (and also many commenters at CT) put so much emphasis on the latter while totally neglecting the former.

It’s a little difficult for me to understand the appeal of Sarah Palin even as a personality. I suspect she is less attractive to conservative women in the Northeast than in the South and maybe Hollywood, though she may be attractive to independent and libertarian women in the Northeast. She may also be attractive to the Ann Coulter types who simply know what they don’t like and know what they don’t like is liberals.

36

Davis X. Machina 12.12.10 at 7:15 pm

100% name recognition, and unfavorables over 50%, two years out, is a mountain to climb. A united party infrastructure might — might — be able to pull it off, in hard times, with a Man on Horseback. There’s no united GOP leadership, no Man, and no horse.

Palin’s toast.

37

piglet 12.12.10 at 8:06 pm

“the odds against a presidential re-election are long whenever the unemployment rate is above 7 per cent, and that’s a virtual certainty”

Krugman recently made the point, and I think he’s right, that what is important is not how bad the situation is but whether things are perceived as improving. If the economy tanks again in 2011, and why wouldn’t it, Obama should have good chances.

38

mrearl 12.12.10 at 8:13 pm

The unemployment rate throughout 1984 was well over 7%, averaging about 7.6%. Madrick could have learned that in two clicks:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:s44v1Lh2lVQJ:research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/UNRATE.txt+unemployment+rate+1984&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

Stay the course.

39

Red 12.12.10 at 10:18 pm

Cranky @28 sounds about right to me: Palin must run, and since at this point the GOP has lost control over its own electorate, and recent maneuvers in Congress to “compromise” with Obama will even strengthen Palin’s hand over the party establishment, she’ll sail to the nomination. Whether she’s electable or not will depend on the economy, sure, but also on what the lamestream media will do. I predict they’ll join Fox News.

40

John Quiggin 12.12.10 at 10:53 pm

@38 Mr earl. I thought I linked to Madrick. If you had read him, you would see that he talked about Reagan 84, and argued, consistent with piglet@37 that the direction of change is also important. If unemployment is falling rapidly by 2012, Obama will have a much better chance, but I don’t see this happening.

@Bianca Greenwald’s first book was called IIRC ‘How would a Patriot Act’ so I think his more recent neglect of the topic may be more a matter of ‘too many outrages, too few columns’ than anything else.

41

Phil 12.12.10 at 11:01 pm

Well, that was weird.

42

aboulian 12.12.10 at 11:51 pm

i do wonder about this century.

43

bob mcmanus 12.13.10 at 12:06 am

Gloomy is the prospect of Obama switching parties before 2012. I am starting to consider this a real possibility. I can barely imagine how it would all shake out.

Now that’s historic.

44

bob mcmanus 12.13.10 at 12:12 am

If you can’t imagine Obama getting the Republican nomination, you don’t know those people. All he has to do is adopt the rhetoric, hate on Democrats, liberals, and socialists loudly and viciously enough, and the Tea Party would adore him. They would go orgasmic for a black Democrat selling the Light.

Democrats brains would explode, and that in itself would be enough for the Teanaggers.

45

bob mcmanus 12.13.10 at 12:29 am

“My new friends, for years and years Democrats have told you are raicists.
(Jeers from convention crowd)
Well, I’ve known Republicans my entire life, and meeting news ones every day and I stand here to tell America Republicans are not racists!
(Cheers)
Republicans are about Freedom! Responsibility! Character!
(Cheers)
And you what, I’m am the same person, and my policies are still about freeing up the average person to use his own money to create jobs and help his neighbors.
(Cheers)
And since I haven’t changed, we’ll find out in November who the real racists are in this country.
(Crowd grows wild)

46

Red 12.13.10 at 12:39 am

We got to a Goodwin in 6 comments, a mcmanus in 40. That’s what Palin will do to you.

47

piglet 12.13.10 at 12:45 am

It’s a little difficult for me to understand the appeal of Sarah Palin even as a personality. I suspect she is less attractive to conservative women in the Northeast than in the South and maybe Hollywood, though she may be attractive to independent and libertarian women in the Northeast.

Palin isn’t attractive to women. Only to men, to some extent.

48

bob mcmanus 12.13.10 at 1:41 am

45: Look, there are plenty of evidence for a coming party switch.

1) Because of Obama’s policies and bipartisanship politics, we are very likely looking at two years of a Republican working majority in both houses of Congress, followed by four years of an actual majority. Does Obama want to spend six years blocking Republican bills?

2) Obama has always been a tax and budget cutter, and is a better fit in the other party. Admits he is a Blue Dog. His security and foreign policy positions fit better, also. If he plans on another war, Iran or Pakistan, Democrats aren’t going to be much help.

3) He has always always attacked to his left. He hates, hates, boomers and DFH’s and says so almost daily.

4) He has publicly stated recently he can’t work with the ineffective Democrats in Congress anymore, and preferred to negotiate with McConnell and Boehner on the tax bill. Congressional Democrats weren’t invited. He dissed Pelosi and the House for passing the tax bill he claimed he wanted.

5) He really really wants to attack Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He really wants to enact most of the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. Democrats will only be in his way.

6) But Obama only cares about two things: ego and making his rich friends richer. A Republican nomination would make him mega-historic.

7) Will he face a primary challenge in 2012 from the left? Maybe more than one. Does he need that hassle?

8) I can’t read the electoral map yer, but I do believe, especially if Bloomberg takes New York from the Democrats, that Obama would have an easier route as a Republican. Jindal can get the VP slot, or even Palin.

49

Davis X. Machina 12.13.10 at 3:16 am

a mcmanus in 40

There’s no such thing as ‘a mcmanus’. The noun has no singular forms.

50

Glen Tomkins 12.13.10 at 3:35 am

For some reason, I confused von Papen and von Schleicher, the Catholic conservative string-puller and the Prussian conservative string-puller, the two Chancellors who preceded Hitler. At any rate, it was still possible to believe that the more conventional and mainstream conservatives were really running the show behind the scenes, and that Hitler was just a populist buffoon that they were exploiting as a figurehead, right up until the murder of von Schleicher and his wife as part of the Night of the Long Knives. Von Papen himself was not touched, because of his close association with Hindenburg, and they chose to kill von Schleicher to make the point — but it was no longer possible to believe that von Papen and his ilk were in control of events.

51

Brucer 12.13.10 at 4:42 am

Just wanted to say comment #31 was the winner of the annual award for Comment I Wish I’d Written for 2010.

52

cyn 12.13.10 at 5:55 am

As Brett points out, Palin is easily beatable in the primary. She’s a quitter, and if she looks like any kind of threat she is going to get hammered over that, and the hammering will be highly effective. Not to mention all the nasty personal stuff that can get dragged in. Folks, Republicans play hardball, and Palin’s got the biggest glass chin this side of your grandmother. I refuse to believe that the other Republican candidates will be so lacking in ambition as to let her get the nomination. The attacks are just too easy.

53

cyn 12.13.10 at 6:09 am

Additionally, her long history of quitting indicates that the most likely outcome is that she enters the race, gets knocked around a bit, and drops out before the first primary, probably blaming press intrusions on her personal life. And if you view her as basically a grifter (as I do) then that’s probably the smart play for her anyhow.

It’s actually going to be a lot of fun for everyone: non-insane republicans can laugh at liberals for freaking out so much over her stupidity, insane republicans can be happily offended by her treatment by the media, liberals can cackle at the intra-republican warfare she brings about, fatalists can see all their preconceptions about American Decline confirmed.

Think about it … is there anyone in the country who could honestly say they were unhappy about her running? At this point, it’s really the least she could do for all of us.

54

Martin Bento 12.13.10 at 6:54 am

The reason Assange has not been offed is not that Obama can’t do it, clearly he can, nor that he morally won’t, there’s no particular reason to believe that, but because it would be an incredibly stupid move. Go ahead, make the man a martyr. What he has done many others could do; it is not even clear his death would end wikileaks, and it would surely lead to many progeny.

55

Alex 12.13.10 at 9:54 am

Also, both Sweden and the UK have an integrated air defence system and it makes it kinda hard to operate drones without anyone noticing. The reason why those drones are so important in FATA is that amazingly, the Taliban still don’t have man-portable SAMs after all these years.

56

Richard J 12.13.10 at 10:49 am

Also, both Sweden and the UK have an integrated air defence system

Did you see one of the releases from the cabinet papers i.r.o. 1979? (I think you linked to it.) At the height of the cold war, the UK had 100 SAMs in the country. Total. Not sites, but actual missiles. I’d imagine it’s only weaker now.

57

Martin bento 12.13.10 at 11:36 am

Oh, and I think those who say Palin is dumber than Bush are mistaking a lack of interest in political substance for stupidity and may therefore underestimate her. Palin speaks like a typical person of her background and education. Bush grew up among the elite, with a father who was President, and was, in a formal sense, highly educated. He would produce howlers on the level of “refudiate” on a weekly basis. For Palin, politics is all about conservative identity. She doesn’t read anything, and doesn’t know anything about the world, because she doesn’t care. Bush cared – he had actual opinions about foreign policy like”Saddam – bad man”- and still didn’t know. Remember “My God! There are black people in Brazil!” Palin might say something just as stupid, but Palin didn’t grow up knowing the Saudi elite, didn’t graduate Yale, and doesn’t actually care. I’m not saying the woman is actually intelligent, but she has cunning.

58

Cranky Observer 12.13.10 at 11:41 am

> And if you view her as basically a grifter

I confess to being a bit puzzled by this line of argument as it appears in this thread. Since when has being a grifter been an impediment to winning the Republican Presidential nomination? If anything, Republican primary voters seem to have a strong preference for grifters and hucksters.

Cranky

Remember that we are discussing a primary here, not the general election.

59

CharleyCarp 12.13.10 at 2:26 pm

I bet Rep. Castle isn’t one of those who underestimates Ms. Palin, or her rabid following. And I don’t see that the big corporate money has anything to fear from her.

60

Barry 12.13.10 at 2:33 pm

Alex, re using drones in Sweden: “Also, both Sweden and the UK have an integrated air defence system “

Richard J: “Did you see one of the releases from the cabinet papers i.r.o. 1979? (I think you linked to it.) At the height of the cold war, the UK had 100 SAMs in the country. Total. Not sites, but actual missiles. I’d imagine it’s only weaker now.”

(a) Don’t use drones, use a person (hired for the job, and highly deniable; if needed, Mossad would probably do the job). IMHO, what we’re seeing is a compromise operation run by the Swedes in service to the US, which is much better – it destroys his reputation, and will probably lead to Assange being extradited to the USA for torture and indefinite imprisonment.

(b) If they were going to use drones or air strikes for some spectacularly bad reason, the US would just order the UK/Swedish air defence systems to see nothing.

61

bianca steele 12.13.10 at 3:02 pm

It did occur to me last night that the idea of a Palin candidacy is pretty well summed up by “Don’t Cry for Me, Wasilla, Alaska.” I mean, doesn’t every woman feel she has just a little bit of star quality? Doesn’t every woman want to be Madonna Ciccone?

62

Daragh McDowell 12.13.10 at 3:06 pm

@Alex – on the Taliban not having MANPAD capabilities: has someone not been reading their war logs?

63

Substance McGravitas 12.13.10 at 3:11 pm

Oh, and I think those who say Palin is dumber than Bush are mistaking a lack of interest in political substance for stupidity and may therefore underestimate her.

Palin on booksmarts:

Palin also talked about how frustrated she was with the continuing interest in that 2008 [Katie Couric] interview. “Because of that one episode, that one episode, that would turn an issue into what it has become over the last two years. I think that’s ridiculous,” she said. “That’s one of those things, where that issue … that I don’t read, or that I’m not informed, it’s one of those questions where I like to turn that around and ask the reporters, ‘Why would it be that there is that perception that I don’t read?’”

Also she is rubber and you are glue and whatever you say bounces off her and sticks to you.

64

Alex 12.13.10 at 3:20 pm

61: one hit in, dear gods, nine whole years?

Richard J: Yes, they’d basically decided around the time of the decision not to go ahead with Bluestreak that there was relatively little point in having the Bloodhound SAMs. They wouldn’t intercept ballistic missiles and probably wouldn’t survive the first strike. As a result, the sites that were kept were mostly to protect fighter and V-force bases. After the V-force handed the deterrent mission over to the Navy, that requirement got less critical and they basically stopped procuring more rounds to replace the ones used in training or that failed their maintenance tests.

Starting in the late 70s, the thinking on both sides changed and both the Army and the RAF Regiment started to stockpile mobile Rapier missile systems. Bloodhound would have been at the bitter end by ’79.

65

Daragh McDowell 12.13.10 at 3:26 pm

Alex 63 – One hit that we know of, with indications that NATO has not been entirely honest on the Taliban’s missile capabilities. In any case the success of the Taliban in using MANPADs wasn’t the point as much as their is clear evidence that they do have them (which also kind of answers the question as to what happened to all the Stinger missiles they received in the 80’s.)

66

JanieM 12.13.10 at 3:42 pm

I mean, doesn’t every woman feel she has just a little bit of star quality? Doesn’t every woman want to be Madonna Ciccone?

No and no.

67

Marc 12.13.10 at 5:12 pm

About the Palin grifter charge: it’s actually pretty simple and compelling. Running for president will get in the way of getting extremely rich. You have to ask people for money, run around in the snow in Iowa, and you can’t be focusing on personal enrichment because you need to grease the wheels for campaigning. The ideal role for her is kingmaker: bless the candidates that you like, snipe at the people you don’t, and fleece the rubes with hefty speaking fees, books, and the like.

You run for president if you want power. You’re a media personality if you want money.

68

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.13.10 at 6:26 pm

Name one president who isn’t/wasn’t a grifter.

69

Substance McGravitas 12.13.10 at 8:26 pm

Is your version of “grifter” synonymous with “swindler”? Because most presidents don’t fit in that category even if they’re liars. There are easier ways to rip people off than running the country.

70

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.13.10 at 8:37 pm

Seriously? I imagine, running, say, a used car dealership is much more stressful and difficult than being president, and you get peanuts.

71

Substance McGravitas 12.13.10 at 8:39 pm

I imagine, running, say, a used car dealership

You can’t be haggling over which president is a grifter with your sights this low.

72

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.13.10 at 8:58 pm

Okay, so, what easier ways to rip people off did you have in mind? Televangelism?

73

Diogenes 12.13.10 at 9:19 pm

# 10:

For the past 10 years we have had the bleeding heart liberal brigade jumping up and down about Bush and Howard’s supposedly repressive legislation. Here we have a clear case of a person compromising state security* yet the state apparati can do nothing (legally) about it. The Department of Homeland Security, MI5 and ASIO are exposed as paper tigers!

Exactly. That silly Homeland Security dept. What can they do? Besides pressure Paypal, Mastercard and Visa to stop processing donations to Wikileaks. And pressure Amazon to remove them from their server. Or compel a small software company to remove graphs that Wikileaks links to.
And start using border searches targeted against supporters of Bradley Manning to circumvent the constitutional requirements for reasonable searches.

Stupid liberals! When will they acknowledge the benign powerlessness of our security state!

74

Martin Bento 12.13.10 at 9:28 pm

Substance, Palin’s response to that question is bereft of logic, but she’s pitching to an audience that is not paying close critical attention. To them, it will sound like she successfully turned the question back on the media, which in a sense she did, though not a logical sense. After all, the end of it is Palin’s asking the media to provide a basis for its claim. The basis is clear, but Palin makes the charge that it is media trumped up anyway. Successfully. You’ll notice the article you linked takes Palin’s claim to be a voracious reader at face value and puts the no-reading charge in the context of other claims that have been false, such as that she was getting divorced or that Trig was her daughter’s baby. That’s from ABC, and I would call it a Palin win.

If Bush had been caught not reading, here’s how he would have responded:

“Well, reading, you know there are book people, but I’m more a gut person. I mean I like books, love them, but your gut, that’s the truthmaker. Even Saddam could read, I think. “

75

Cranky Observer 12.13.10 at 11:49 pm

> There are easier ways to rip people off than running the country.

One Richard “Dick” Cheney (or more precisely, his backers) might disagree with that.

Cranky

76

Cranky Observer 12.13.10 at 11:59 pm

> Substance, Palin’s response to that question is bereft of logic, but she’s
> pitching to an audience that is not paying close critical attention. To them,
> it will sound like she successfully turned the question back on the media,
> which in a sense she did, though not a logical sense.

This exactly, and it captures the problem with the theory that other Republican candidates or the media will probe and vet Palin should she be a primary candidate. The only person who managed that was Couric, and that only the very first time. Since then Palin has _very successfully_ replied to queries with word salad or simple refusal to answer, and has come out looking stronger in her supporters’ estimation. Her supporters may be a small faction of total voters, but they are going to be a large and vocal faction in the primary.

Cranky

77

Substance McGravitas 12.14.10 at 12:01 am

Substance, Palin’s response to that question is bereft of logic, but she’s pitching to an audience that is not paying close critical attention. To them, it will sound like she successfully turned the question back on the media, which in a sense she did, though not a logical sense.

That’s not an argument for intelligence. The better argument for intelligence is the successful quest for financial gain.

78

Substance McGravitas 12.14.10 at 12:05 am

One Richard “Dick” Cheney (or more precisely, his backers) might disagree with that.

Any of those guys in banking?

79

Martin Bento 12.14.10 at 1:14 am

I didn’t say Palin was intelligent. In fact, I said she was not actually intelligent, merely cunning. I just said she was not dumber than Bush, a very low bar. And I said one has to judge her, and Bush, relative to their backgrounds. As for successful quest for money, she doing quite well isn’t she?

80

Substance McGravitas 12.14.10 at 1:19 am

I didn’t say Palin was intelligent. In fact, I said she was not actually intelligent, merely cunning.

Fair enough.

81

blondie 12.14.10 at 5:54 pm

Don’t you wish just one reporter would honestly reply to Palin, “Why is there a perception that you do not read? Because you appear to be remarkably ill-informed and have great difficulty forming meaningful sentences. … Also, you told Barbara Walters that one of the things you read is Newsmax. Too.”

She’s unserious. I hope her desire for money outweighs her desire for power.

82

Martin Bento 12.14.10 at 6:00 pm

Substance, thank you, that was gracious.

Cranky, I think it’s worse than that. The people lacking the critical skills and attention to recognize Palin’s response as a non sequitur go far beyond Palin’s base. A lot of moderates are people who aren’t critical either, but are reassured by a “reasonable” tone. If the media doesn’t call out the BS, and you’ll notice this story did not, many will accept it.

83

Barry 12.14.10 at 9:51 pm

Daragh McDowell:
” Alex 63 – One hit that we know of, with indications that NATO has not been entirely honest on the Taliban’s missile capabilities. “

One hit which has leaked out, with (guessing) an average of 50K NATO troops rotating in and out each year, and using helicopters a lot.

84

Lee A. Arnold 12.15.10 at 4:48 pm

My prediction: Obama will be re-elected handily.

On Palin: we’re already hearing top Republicans speak out against her, and this will continue. She is a useful diversion, but they don’t want her anywhere near the reins of power.

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