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Wednesday, 11 January 2012
Postmortem: Newt Gingrich
Topic: Decline of the West

 

For months, the former Speaker of the House was thought to have no credible shot at the GOP presidential nomination. Then he broke out of the pack as the latest not-Romney candidate. Up, up and away like a beautiful balloon went Newt. There followed a flurry of positive polling, a blizzard of attack ads from Romney and others, and a prompt return to earth. He finished nowhere in Iowa. He finished nowhere in New Hampshire after launching a series of scathing attacks on Romney—from the left! In the end he looks like a sore loser, more intent on damaging Mitt Romney than he is on beating Barack Obama in November.

 

Oddly, Gingrich prospered when people thought he had no chance. In the early Republican debates he frequently supplied the voice of reason and maturity, castigating the bias of the mainstream media and reminding his rivals that their real foe was Barack Obama. But success went to his head. And when he became the focus of his rivals’ attacks, Gingrich reverted to the eccentric behavior that wise observers had insisted all along would be his undoing.

 

There was a moment when I thought that Newt Gingrich, mellowed by age and experience, might actually be the conservative alternative to Romney. Alas, I was wrong. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t break too much china before he’s escorted out of the shop.


Posted by tmg110 at 10:13 AM EST
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It's Mitt
Topic: Decline of the West

 

After winning the New Hampshire primary with nearly 40% of the vote, Mitt Romney seems all but certain to be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

 

Here we have yet another demonstration of the perils of punditry. I was just plain wrong when I opined that Romney’s Massachusetts health care insurance reform would sink his candidacy. In retrospect it’s clear that it could have sunk him—but only in a scenario where he was faced with a credible conservative challenger. And no such challenger emerged. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich—they all got their shot at the title and all, for various reasons, failed to make the grade. Perhaps Rick Santorum could have filled the bill, but he be emerged from the rear ranks at too late a stage to derail Romney.

 

So barring the political equivalent of a comet strike, it’s Mitt. What this means for the GOP, President Obama and the nation remains to be seen. But never fear! Despite my recent stumble, I’ll be in there  punching and punditizing. And yeah, yeah: I know that’s not really a word…


Posted by tmg110 at 8:40 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2012 9:57 AM EST
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Tuesday, 10 January 2012
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs?
Topic: Decline of the West

 

The December 2011 jobs report, showing that the economy added some 200,000 jobs while unemployment dropped by a tenth of a percentage point, was greeted by many Democrats and progressives with cheers and applause. Finally, they cried in glad accents, the Obama Administration’s economic policies are beating fruit! The recovery is gathering steam! Let the good times roll!

 

Who can blame them for their giddiness? Up to this point, Obama's management of the economy—if a president can be said to "manage the economy," a dubious proposition—has been something less than stellar. In fact it’s been dismal. Trillions have been blown on fancy schemes like “green jobs” to little discernable effect. Things got so bad that Democratic Party grandees were reduced to arguing that extending unemployment benefits would create jobs—600,000 according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. They were desperate for good news, and now it looks like they’ve gotten it.

 

But not so fast. Though 200,000 jobs sounds like a big number, it’s actually no big deal. As Jay Cost explains in this article for the Weekly Standard, overall job growth in 2011 failed to keep pace with the growth of the labor force. In round numbers, the economy must generate 140,000 jobs per month to cover labor force growth. At best, as the year ended, the job market was bumping along the bottom of the deep chasm into which it plummeted in 2008.  In 2011, the average monthly job growth figure was 137,000. As for the December number, it includes anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 temporary holiday jobs. Some of these will convert to full-time employment, but most will not. In other words, the economy isn’t creating enough jobs to lower the unemployment rate.

 

But wait—the unemployment rate did drop in December! Well, yes it did, but this was due largely to the fact that the workforce—the percentage of adults either employed or actively seeking unemployment—has hit a 30-year low. Since Obama took office, it’s declined from 65.7% to 64%. Why? Because people are giving up looking for work and dropping out of the labor force altogether. The unemployment rate doesn’t count these people. It’s based solely on workforce participation: those employed versus those unemployed but still in the labor force. Those who’ve dropped out become unpersons so far as the unemployment rate is concerned. And perversely, the more dropouts, the better the unofficial unemployment rate looks. But if they were counted—by calculating unemployment based on the 2009 workforce participation number—the unemployment rate would be 11%.

 

Finally, as Cost points out, the prospects for 2012 are not very bright. Most economists expect growth to remain anemic: in the vicinity of 2%. that’s nowhere near enough to generate real job growth, boost incomes, etc. Moreover, there are significant threats to the US economy out there, particularly the prospect of a deep recession in the Eurozone.

 

Of course, the spin doctors of the Democratic Party will do what they can with every particle of seemingly good news. But there’s nothing they can do, really, to spin away the millions of Americans who feel so pessimistic about the economy that they’ve dropped out of the jobs market. Indeed, too much giddiness about tenth-of-a-percent declines in the unemployment rate could even be counterproductive. People who’ve been unemployed or under-employed for years may not appreciate being told that prosperity is just around the corner.


Posted by tmg110 at 12:24 PM EST
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Monday, 9 January 2012
Bill Bails on Barry
Topic: Decline of the West

 

Hmmm. After less than a year on the job, White House Chief of Staff William J. Daley (brother of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley) has decided to call it quits after less than a year on the job. He gave President Obama his notice after returning to Washington from Christmas vacation. According to the Los Angeles Times, Obama was “taken by surprise” and asked Daley to take a day to think it over. The Chief of Staff did so and confirmed his resignation to the President the next day.

 

There are two possible reasons for Daley’s resignation: (1) Obama was dissatisfied with his performance; (2) Bill thinks that Barry’s a goner and doesn’t want his name associated with a 2012 electoral debacle. Take your pick.


Posted by tmg110 at 3:34 PM EST
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Saturday, 7 January 2012
One Short Step for Progressives
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Upon reflection,  I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised by the cruelty of Eugene Robinson toward Rick Santorum and his family. When SAarah Palin was the GOP vice presidential candidate, progressives lined up (with an unhinged Andrew Sullivan at the head of the queue)  to mock her and her Down's Syndrome baby. So, hey, why not mock a dead one?


Posted by tmg110 at 10:43 AM EST
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Friday, 6 January 2012
A Typical Obama Supporter Speaks
Topic: Liberal Fascism

 

Nauseating. Disgusting. Repugnent. Ugly. Cruel. And typical. These words (except the last) seem inadequate to characterize the behavior of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson for his comments about Senator Rick Santorum’s stillborn child.

 

In case you didn’t know, Santorum and his wife lost their son Gabriel just hours after his birth. He was a premature baby and died two hours after his birth. Robinson saw fit to mock how the Senator and his family chose to deal with this tragedy: “He's not a little weird, he's really weird. And some of his positions that he has taken are just so weird that I think that some Republicans are off-put. Not everybody is not going to be down, for example, with the story of how he and his wife handled the stillborn child. It was a body that they took home to kind of sleep with it, introduce it to the rest of the family. It's a very weird story.”

 

I guess Eugene thinks that they should have just composted the unfortunate tyke.

 

As a matter of fact, there was nothing at all “weird” about this.  As Peter Werner notes in this post on the Commentary “Contentions” blog, the American Pregnancy Association recommends that parents and other children spend time with a deceased infant. Yet the odious Robinson saw nothing wrong with seizing on this terrible incident to smear the candidate. And there was nothing at all unusual about his behavior. Slandering and mocking their opponents in the crudest and most vicious terms is what contemporary progressivism is all about. Just ask Clarence Thomas.

 

In the unlikely event that I am ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize, I won’t accept it. What decent human being wants to be on the same list with a piece of work like Eugene Robinson?


Posted by tmg110 at 8:25 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 6 January 2012 11:46 AM EST
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Thursday, 5 January 2012
Postmortem: Rick Perry
Topic: Decline of the West

 

So why did he crash and burn? This one’s pretty straightforward: The Governor of Texas, who jumped into the Republican presidential primary accompanied by fireworks, trumpet fanfares and the cheers of conservatives, expired politically in Iowa on Tuesday of self-inflicted wounds. A series of horrifically poor performances in the GOP debate series crippled his presidential bid in its infancy. And though he did better in the last couple of debates, first impressions are the ones that count most. Experiencing a brain freeze on national TV is not the way to convince voters that you’re the man to rescue the country from Barack Obama.

 

Speaking personally, I was disturbed by Perry’s debate gaffes. Though it’s a mistake to equate glibness with high intelligence or wisdom, one does expect a president to show presence of mind in speeches, debates and other public venues. Beyond that, I thought that Perry’s lack of knowledge of foreign policy was a liability—and, what was worse, he seemed at times to revel in his ignorance. Not good.

 

Perry has vowed to continue his campaign, but I have a feeling that he’s looking around for the exit sign. You go, Governor.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:53 AM EST
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Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Postmortem: Michele Bachmann
Topic: Decline of the West

 

She just ended her presidential campaign after a poor showing in Iowa, so let’s begin with Michele Bachmann. Why did she crater?

 

In my opinion, her failure to make an impression comes down to one thing: lack of presidential profile. Though she has the conservative credentials that so many Republican primary voters are looking for, Bachmann came across as something of a lightweight. The more people watched her, the less they could imagine her as president. Maybe that’s unfair to the candidate. But there it is.

 

For me personally, the deal breaker was her attack on Governor Rick Perry’s Texas vaccine initiative. As a polio survivor, I loathe and revile the whole Bobby Kennedy Jr./Jenny McCarthy anti-vaccination cult, which I regard as an authentic case of mass child abuse. When Bachmann tried to damage Perry by appealing to these irrational fears of vaccination, she lost me. It was such an Obama-like thing to do.


Posted by tmg110 at 2:42 PM EST
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The Morning After Iowa
Topic: Decline of the West

Thought I'd take a bit of a post-2011 break to digest the political lessons of the year and await the outcome of the Iowa caucus. First impression: the Republican nomination fight is far from over. Mitt Romney's narrow victory and Rick Santorum's strong second-place finish indicate that GOP primary voters are not resigned to a Romney candidacy. At this point Mitt still has a better chance than anyone of winning the nomination, but it's no sure thing.

Romney's problem: GOP conservatives just don't consider him a member of the club. They're still looking for that elusive, conservative non-Romney. Today it's Rick Santorum and we'll see if he has staying power. Iowa hasn't settled the GOP nomination fight.

Iowa has, however, performed the useful function of knocking off a couple of marginal candidates. I expect that Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry will soon elect to hang up their skates. The former finished fifth despite spending oodles of cash on TV advertising; the latter finished sixth with a dismal 5% of the vote. Ron Paul, who finished third, and Newt Gingrich, who finished fourth, will probably stick around for the time being, but their chances of winning the nomination are slight to nonexistent.

Individual postmortems and campaign forecasts to follow.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:08 AM EST
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Sunday, 1 January 2012
Welcome to 2012!
Topic: Decline of the West

New Year's resolution: If it's Obama v. Trump on Election Day, I'm writing in my own name.


Posted by tmg110 at 12:50 AM EST
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