Patterico's Pontifications

1/27/2012

Sockpuppet Friday (Moon Unit edition)

Filed under: General — Karl @ 6:46 am

[Posted by Karl]

As usual, you are positively encouraged to engage in sockpuppetry in this thread. The usual rules apply.

Please, be sure to switch back to your regular handle when commenting on other threads. I have made that mistake myself.

And remember: the worst sin you can commit on this thread is not being funny.

In the segment on space policy during last night’s CNN debate, Wolf Blitzer  observed that a lot of people have lost their jobs in Florida as a result of the decline of America’s space program.  It was left to the viewer to draw the inference that Newt Gingrich’s renewed emphasis on ideas like a permanent moonbase was perhaps not merely one of his recurring flights of futuristic fancy, but also an unsubtle pander to a bloc of voters in a key primary.  Left entirely unmentioned was the fact that space programs are among the very few Americans support cutting and the inferences that might be drawn about a politician who will pander away even low-hanging fruit.

–Karl

1/26/2012

Debate Open Thread

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:56 pm

Romney or Gingrich?

Gladiator Republicans

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 8:22 am

[Posted by Karl]

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?

In the current wave of generally conservative punditry on Newt Gingrich’s candidacy, a common subtext (and occasional text) is criticism not of Newt, but of his supporters:

[C]onservatives are simply out for a good time. They want to be entertained by a Gingrich-Obama slugfest in the general election debates, and they are willing to sacrifice everything — their credibility, their values and the White House — to sit in the Coliseum and watch a Christian get devoured by lions.

Blaming the electorate is rarely effective and this line of attack is no exception.  In the first instance, to the extent Gingrich’s campaign is feeding on populist discontent, his supporters are unlikely to be swayed by a parade of pundits perched at big media outlets telling them they are shallow rubes.  To the contrary, the implicit condescension probably fuels the underlying populist discontent.  If these pundits are hoping to persuade, they are likely failing.  If they are writing simply to vent their own frustration, how different are they from their stereotype of Newt’s supporters?

Moreover, on the campaign trail, Gingrich apparently comes off as far more substantive than Mitt Romney.  That would not surprise me.  Gingrich is nothing if not an an uncontrolled, gushing firehose of policy.  Some of his ideas may not be conservative.  Some of his conservative ideas may be irrelevant to the major issues facing the next president.  But the notion that support for Gingrich is simply the desire to be entertained ignores the facts on the ground, which again makes for bad punditry.

The problem for these pundits is not that Gingrich is Maximus, manipulating the mob to get ahead.  Their problem is that Romney is Commodus, the political heir of dubious legitimacy who tries but fails to co-opt the mob.  Ironically, their Circus Maximus of criticism is being staged at the very moment when Gingrich looks to be losing momentum.  It would be even more ironic if Gingrich could again turn the criticism of his supporters to his advantage.

Update: Via Twitter, I have learned that S.E. Cupp thinks it’s bad journalism on my part to not identify her as the author of the blockquote, although I did link to her article immediately beforehand.  I generally like her work, and thus was loath to single her out as having written something so condescending and counter-productive.  I forgot there’s no such thing as bad publicity.  My apologies.

–Karl

1/25/2012

Incredible Outrage: Tommy Christopher Not Really Tommy Christopher? So?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:23 pm

I have had a few people sending me the link to the big revelation that Tommy Christopher’s real name is not really Tommy Christopher.

Well.

First of all, I think it’s important to say: it’s very difficult to criticize someone who wants to use a pen name to protect their own safety and that of their family. There are evil people out there, and if your real name is known, you are a potential target. Those of us whose identities are known are aware of the dangers and we accept them. But I am hardly going to criticize anyone for using a pen name. I believe it’s actually a prudent move.

Second: if you’re going to use a pen name, you should own up to it. I don’t know whether Tommy has actively pretended that “Tommy Christopher” is his real name. If he has, then I disapprove of that. If he hasn’t, then I can’t see the problem at all.

Now Tommy is someone with whom I have had a rocky relationship. I believe he is capable of some pretty extreme asshattery. As one example — and it’s a rather timely reminder with this year’s CPAC coming up — I just happened to watch (again) Tommy’s confrontation at a past CPAC with my friend Andrew Breitbart:

Sheesh. That video is unfair and ridiculous. And it’s hardly the only hackery I have seen Tommy engage in. He is also at times thin-skinned, flies into a rage at slight provocation, and lashes out often when it’s not warranted.

But you know? Nobody’s perfect. He has also been a stand-up guy at times. A real, honest-to-goodness stand-up guy. And as someone who tries not to hold grudges — and, importantly, as someone who realizes that I am far from perfect myself, and that we are all sinners in the eyes of the Lord — I would like to think of Tommy as a friend. A friend with whom I have had some fights. But a friend.

Tommy may not think of me that way, but he doesn’t get the only say, you know.

And as Tommy’s friend, I say: as long as he’s honest about it, let him use a phony name. It’s a layer of protection against the jackasses. And make no mistake: the jackasses are out there.

They know who they are.

They don’t have the ability to silence good people. And they won’t. Count on it. But they are out there. Don’t forget it.

Newt Gingrich: The Party’s Over?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 10:53 am

[Posted by Karl]

Jazz Shaw notes that Andrew Sullivan and Dr. James Joyner are getting a bit overwrought over the possibility that Newt Gingrich might become the GOP presidential nominee.  First, Sullivan:

This now is the party of Palin and Gingrich, animated primarily by hatred of elites, angry at the new shape and color of America, befuddled by a suddenly more complicated world, and dedicated primarily to emotion rather than reason. That party is simply not one that can rally behind a Mitt Romney.

Then Joyner:

If Newt Gingrich wins the Republican nomination–a notion that seemed absurd to anyone not named Newt Gingrich two weeks ago–the trend will have reached its logical conclusion. And the GOP will be where the Democratic Party was during the period from 1968 to 1988, a niche party out of touch with America and unable to win the presidency in anything but the most exceptional circumstances. Obama-Gingrich would likely be a landslide akin to 1984 and 1988.

Jazz does a nice job of explaining why the fight over the direction of a political party never really ends.  However, what struck me was how superficial the complaints are in the first instance.

Granted, Sullivan’s intellect has been decaying for a long time.  Even so, one would think it might have occurred to him that his basic indictment of the GOP sounds pretty much like every Democratic hack’s indictment of the GOP in every election cycle since the Sixties.  Perhaps Sullivan would argue that every Democratic hack has been correct about the GOP since the Sixties, but even that lazy assumption would be problematic.  In the immediate term, it destroys his argument that the prominence of figures like Palin or Gingrich represent something new for the GOP.  More broadly, the notion that the right has some monopoly on populist anger is absurd, given the portion of the newshole given over to the Occupy movement over the past several months.  Similarly, the notion that liberals are immune from magical thinking is more magical thinking from Sullivan.  Indeed, the notion that Andrew Sullivan, one of the most high-profile and hysterical conspiracy cranks on the Internet, has the gall to throw stones in this context is a laugher.

Joyner, generally a more sane voice than Sullivan, unfortunately lapses into some flawed history.  The Democrats were far from a niche party from 1968-88, having controlled the House of Representatives for that entire period, and the Senate for most of the period.  Granted, the presidency is the big national office.  However, even accepting that premise, I would again note that the GOP during this period was the subject of the same types of critiques being leveled today.  The GOP’s populist streak arguably started with Nixon’s campaign against judicial activism and his reliance on the “silent majority,” which was historically much less silent than the typical academic would have us believe.  And for all of that, the American people — as opposed to political activists — are not as polarized as Joyner fears.

Moreover, it is quite unlikely that nominating Gingrich would result in a loss anywhere near the Dukakis loss in 1988, let alone the Mondale loss in 1984.  Although campaigns and candidate certainly matter, post-WWII elections suggest that the incumbent party will generally lose when the economy is bad and win when it is good.  The performances of the Dems in ’84 and ’88 are easily explained by economic factors.  Currently, the economic climate does not favor Obama’s reelection.  Accordingly, even if you think Gingrich would be a losing candidate, the odds of a blowout seem rather low. 

Of course, this could be the year in which the typical post-WWII model breaks.  Given that the 2008 meltdown was in some ways the worst since the Great Depression, perhaps voters will be more forgiving of Obama’s failed economic policies.  But once we start “This Time Is Different” arguments, they can be invoked on Newt’s behalf as well.

The point here is not to praise Newt or bury him.  Rather, it is to note that if he should somehow become the GOP nominee it would not signal certain disaster in the general election or mark a fundamental shift in the nature of the party. Indeed, it might say nothing more than Republican voters looking at the political environment of 2012 and deciding — rightly or wrongly — that “abrasive loose cannon” is a marginally better brand than “animatronic plutocrat.”

–Karl

L.A. Times: Obama Finally Promises to Milk Rich Guys Like Romney

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:52 am

People sometimes ask me why I don’t blog much about the L.A. TImes any more. Is it because I’m too busy? Or has the paper gotten better?

Let me show you today’s front page and ask you if it gives you any clue:

It’s the same rag it always has been.

I just barely bother reading it any more.

1/24/2012

SOTU 2012

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 4:50 pm

[Posted by Karl]

As Brendan Nyhan put it last year: “It’s the most overcovered event in politics relative to the amount of the news that’s made.”  It will have no lasting effect on the Obama presidency.  However, as it’s an election year, Obama will use this State of the Union address to preview his election themes:

Building off of the themes of the Kansas speech, the State of the Union will lay out a “Blueprint for an America built to last.” The Blueprint will be supported by four pillars: 1) American Manufacturing; 2) American Energy; 3) Skills for American Workers and 4) American Values.

As you may recall, the Kansas speech was about the joys of crony capitalism and regulatory capture.

So what about American Manufacturing?

It is certainly true that employment in manufacturing has fallen in recent decades. The council’s report observes that in 1980, manufacturing accounted for about 20 percent of American jobs, whereas the comparable figure today is about 9 percent. At the same time, manufacturing’s share of total production has remained roughly stable and, in fact, the United States and China are the only countries to have gained significant world share in manufacturing in recent years. The line that connects and explains these two dots of strong manufacturing and manufacturing job loss is the rapid increase in labor productivity, the result of innovation, and global competitive pressures.

Heritage’s J.D. Foster seemed to be at a loss to explain the administration’s emphasis here, but this will be Obama’s pander to Big Labor and swing states in the Rust Belt.

As for American Energy, Obama will (again) propose “an economy fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources that will be designed and produced by American workers.”  Of course, it must be “homegrown” and “alternative” lest someone point out the  jobs Obama is killing in the energy sector.  Instead, we should continue to pour tax money down the rathole of renewable energy in an orgy of crony capitalism, to prevent people from noticing the Luddites backing the Democrats.  If the American Manufacturing plank is meant to placate Big Labor and the Rust Belt, the American Energy plank is intended to placate Greens, upper tier New Class crony capitalists and mushy upscale voters in the Mountain West.  Give Obama this much: It takes cojones to pull this after praising scandal-ridden Solydra during the 2010 SOTU.

When it comes to Skills for American Workers, the White House promises “new ideas for how we’ll make sure our students and workers get the education and training they need so that we have a workforce ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow.”  Anyone believe that?  The Occupy movement is largely a function of the fact that jobs are drying up for the social workers, virtuecrats, and the regulatory class.  The higher education bubble is the product of decades of progressive education policy.  If anyone out there thinks a president beholden to teachers’ unions and tenured leftists is going to propose a radical overhaul of our dysfunctional education system, Obama may have some infrastructure to sell you.  Among the president’s living props tonight will be Sara Ferguson, who teaches in the Chester Upland School District – which stands accused by the Pennsylvania Department of Education of financial mismanagement.

If you had any doubt that Obama’s rhetoric on American Values will be a heaping helping of class warfare, fear not: the First Lady has invited Warren Buffett’s secretary to serve as another human prop.  BTW, I see Twitter chatter asking why it’s okay to call her a “secretary,” when the obvious answer is bacause it’s a liberal doing it.  Expect a lot of gab about “shared responsibility,” when Obama is not blaming others for the failures of Big Government.

Also among the presidential guests tonight: Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.  Maybe Obama will recall the time that the Apple co-founder complained to him about over-regulation driving factories overseas and teachers’ unions crippling our schools.  The story would tie in to at least two of Obama’s themes tonight.

–Karl

Is Newt Gingrich suddenly the more electable candidate?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 6:57 am

[Posted by Karl]

Yesterday, I ended up in part of a conversation with Ace and Lori Ziganto (among others) about electability.  Ace was soliciting comment on why people who did not take Newt Gingrich’s campaign seriously for so long suddenly find him electable.  Playing devil’s advocate, I hypothesized that maybe the campaign has not made Newt seem more electable, but has made Mitt seem less so.  But is that really what’s happening?  And how electable (or unelectable) is Newt?

If I understood Ace’s argument, part of it is that conservatives looking for a viable NotRomney are saying Gingrich is (more) electable now simply because he must be if Romney is to be defeated.  The Gallup tracking poll arguably contains some support for that theory.  From Jan 15-22, Romney lost 12% among conservatives, while Gingrich gained the same amount to tie at 28%.  Among liberal and moderate GOPers/leaners, Romney held steady at 33%, while Gingrich gained 6% to 15%.  From that angle, one can argue that Newt’s conservative surge does look like the Not Romney vote trying to gather, although his gains among moderates and liberals suggests a slightly broader shift is also at play.  Moreover, this is only one angle from which to view the poll, e.g., Newt’s surge is heavily explained by a shift in older voters from Romney to Gingrich (although this is likely correlated to the conservative shift, as the campaign was not focused on entitlements last week).

Of course, the Gallup tracker is limited to GOPers and leaners.  Broader polling may tell us a bit more about the current state of electability.  Although trial heats are not predictive this far from November, it’s notable that the RCP averages for Obama/Romney and Obama/Gingrich still show Romney as the more competitive candidate, even as his standing falls within the GOP race.  Indeed, Romney was also the more competitive candidate during Newt’s previous surge.  Does this tell us Mitt is the more electable candidate… or only that people know less about him?  We really cannot be sure.

During yesterday’s discussion, others raised Newt’s currently high unfavorable ratings as an indicator of unelectability.  Newt’s average from those recent polls is 55% unfavorable, which is certainly higher than Romney’s average of 42%.  Then again, Obama’s average unfavorable rating is 47% — and he’s not in the middle of a nasty primary scrum.  Thus, it’s at least possible that Newt’s unfavorables are high now because some on the Right (e.g., Mitt’s fans, or those who found Newt’s attacks on Mitt unfair) are unhappy, while Obama’s unfavorables have yet to be driven up by unified opposition.  As with the trial heats, it is also possible that Romney’s lower unfavorables are partially the product of people knowing less about him than they know about Gingrich.  Again, there is not solid data on this.  It would not be uncommon to have both party nominees carrying high unfavorables, but having one with unfavorables over 50% would be uncommon and possibly fatal.

The latest PPP poll from Florida — showing Newt up by 5% — has some interesting data bearing on these points.  On one hand, Newt’s favorability increased while Romney’s declined, suggesting that favorability can be a fluid thing (although likely less so in the general election pool).  On the other hand, 15% of primary voters say they would not vote for Gingrich in the general election, while only 9% say that about Romney, suggesting Mitt would be the stronger candidate against Obama (although we should be careful about assuming such attitudes hold after a nominee is selected; there were polls in 2008 suggesting Hillary Clinton supporters would not vote for Obama, but the level of defections was ultimately no different from any other election).

My conclusion from the data is that Romney currently remains the more competitive candidate.  His fumbling and stumbling over money issues — his tax returns, Bain Capital, gaffes real or imagined – has wounded him within the GOP electorate, but not outside it…yet.  If Romney does not get his act together quickly, he risks losing the mantle of electability among the broader electorate.

Conversely, Gingrich’s exposure of Romney’s weakness has not made Newt a stronger candidate outside the GOP electorate… yet.   Conservatives may like Gingrich’s fighting spirit, but Newt will need more support and an improved image outside that group to become the more competitive candidate.  Moreover, it is not clear he can achieve that simply by a Romney collapse.  In South Carolina, Gingrich appealed more to those in the GOP pool hurt most by our economic malaise; he needs to show he has the same appeal outside the base.

–Karl

1/23/2012

Mitt Sixpack

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 8:44 am

[Posted by Karl]

That doesn’t sound quite right, does it?  As Erick Erickson noted:

In South Carolina exit polls, Romney wins only the “moderate or liberal”, those with incomes in excess of $200,000.00, those with postgraduate education, those who oppose the tea party movement, and those who think religion does not matter at all.

A number of those have been consistent through Iowa and New Hampshire too.

Fairly or not, Romney seems to have have a wealth problem, exploitable by his rivals now and Team Obama if Mitt gets the nomination.  Oddly, I find myself in agreement with both Erickson and John Heilemann that Romney needs to: (a) “refine his message, not sharpen his knives”; and (b) get comfortable, and quick, in talking about his money issues.  In particular, I would advise Romney to go beyond defending the free market in response to the Bain Capital issue.  That approach appeals to the right, but the abstract principle may not move the casual voter, particularly the blue-collar casual voter.  Romney’s plan to compare Bain’s work to the GM bailout if he becomes the nominee still puts him in the role of “bailout guy,” which is probably not the best frame this year. 

Perhaps Romney should compare his role at Bain to being a doctor.  Sometimes, doctors get to deliver babies or cure sick children who go on to live full and productive lives.  In those cases, the doctor gets to feel great. So it is with some companies, like Staples or Domino’s Pizza. In other cases, the patient is so injured or so sick that they have to lose or limb, or even die.  The doctors try as hard as they can, but sometimes all the lifesaving measures known to mankind are not enough and the doctors feel terrible about it.  So it is when companies get rightsized or go bankrupt.

Some may think doctors are overpaid, but no one would want to live in a society without them.  Mitt Romney is never going to seem like Mitt Sixpack, but he may be able to come across as caring more about more blue-collar families.

–Karl

1/22/2012

Video: Gabby Giffords Resigns

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:30 pm

The story comes from the Arizona Daily Star via Aaron Worthing:

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will step down from Congress this week to focus on her recovery, her staff announced Sunday.

“I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” Giffords said in a video message.

Giffords, a third-generation Arizonan who served five years in the state Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006, will not seek re-election this fall.

Giffords vowed to return public service.

So out of touch was I, that I had not even seen Rep. Giffords speak since she was shot. Here is the video in which she announces she is stepping down:

The transcript from the YouTube page:

Arizona is my home, always will be. A lot has happened over the past year. We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for we can change things for the better. Jobs, border security, veterans. We can do so much more by working together. I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery so to do what is best for Arizona I will step down this week. I’m getting better. Every day, my spirit is high. I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country. Thank you very much.

I still remember watching the video when Giffords read the First Amendment on the House floor:

That happened shortly before she was shot. Ever since then, people have tried to exploit the actions of her crazed would-be assassin to smear Sarah Palin and others, and portray conservatives as people who incite mentally disturbed people to commit acts of violence. Many of these critics are, in classic Alinsky fashion, making these accusations because they themselves have embarked on a campaign of inciting people based on phony accusations and dishonest rhetoric. These people know who they are and they know exactly what they are doing. They are trying to silence conservatives and make us ashamed to express our views in a forceful fashion.

So on this sad day, when Rep. Giffords announces her intent to resign, it is well to remember that she is a symbol, not of the dangers of free speech, but of the dangers of trying to stamp it out. Those who seek to exploit Giffords’s tragedy are guilty of an assault on the very Constitutional protection Rep. Giffords was so proud to read on the House floor.

I know that we all wish Rep. Giffords well, and are pleased to see her speaking and smiling. I hope she is correct that she will return to fight for Arizona and for our Constitution.

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