The Afghanistan War is on shakier ground with each passing day. The Obama administration has been eying the conflict warily for some time, and the massacre of Afghani citizens by an errant soldier has forced the White House and its NATO allies to re-evaluate the conflict and its potential end date. According to reports, the Obama administration is weighing if it should speed up the withdrawal of the troops before the 2014 exit date. The 33,000 sent over as part of the surge in 2010 are scheduled to depart next summer, but that will leave 68,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is still considering whether to heed the advice of military leaders to leave the troops in place or to pack up and admit that the fight has become an impossible quagmire.
Picture this scene: A recently elected president announces that he will decline to place his hand on a Bible when taking the oath of office. When people object, he replies that he doesn't believe in God, so it wouldn't make much sense for him to go through the motions of a religious ritual when he does not share that religion's beliefs.
During the February 22 Republican primary debate in Arizona, moderator John King of CNN set up a question about global instability and the president’s ability to affect gas prices by noting that “the American people often don't pay much attention to what's going on in the world until they have to.” The next day, Politico media blogger Dylan Byers flagged the question, describing it “as a comment that warranted explanation” even though it was “not necessarily wrong.” Later that day, King sent Byers a statement defending his question, claiming that he “did not ‘suggest’ and
In a long and detailed post, Nate Silver argues that “fundamentals”-based models—which rely on information about the economy and foreign affairs—are mostly inaccurate when it comes to forecasting elections. It’s hard to excerpt the post, which you should read, but here is a key passage:
A crowd of protesters outside the Supreme Court on the first day of ACA hearings (Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
The Supreme Court opened hearings today on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—PPACA if we're going to be technical—but more commonly known as Obamacare. The six hours slotted for oral arguments are spread out across three days, and while the constitutionality of the individual mandate is the main issue at stake, there will be a host of other topics discussed, ranging from severability (whether the rest of the law can stand if the mandate is struck down) to whether Congress was within its bounds when it redefined Medicaid eligibility to include swaths of new people currently uninsured.
It often happens that when campaign negativity reaches a fever pitch, a candidate will take a small step back from the vitriol and say something like, "My opponent is a nice guy—he's just wrong about everything." What they almost never do, however, is say, "My opponent is wrong about a lot of things, and if he gets elected, things won't be good. I'm not saying it'll be a disaster, but it'd be better if you elected me." The imperatives of campaigning lead candidates to spin out the most disastrous scenarios and apocalyptic warnings. And there's no doubt that some people believe them; you wouldn't have to interview too many Republican voters to find a few who sincerely believe that if Barack Obama is re-elected, within a few months freedom will disappear, Christianity will be outlawed, everyone's guns will be confiscated, and so on. But usually, presidential candidates—who know they must appeal to people who retain a grip on reality—try to keep these arguments within limits.
But not all of them. Ladies and gentlemen, Rick Santorum:
Last week I participated in a roundtable that on these issues, along with other GW faculty from public health and law—Sara Rosenbaum, Peter Smith, and Katherine Hayes—as well as former U.S. Senate Finance Committee staffer Mark Hayes and former House Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee Counsel Andy Schneider. You can find a synopsis here and the video here.
Rick Santorum won the Louisiana primary on Saturday by a huge margin. Despite the breathless media coverage, it doesn't mean much for the Republican nomination contest. What was true last week is still true now: Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee, and all that's left is for him to accumulate the delegates he needs to make that official.
As we go through the remaining primaries, there are a few things you should look for. The first, and most obvious, is what party leaders have to say about the candidates. With Romney the unofficial winner, party leaders will want to begin to move to the general election, but that won't be possible if Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul are still contesting the eventual Romney nomination. As such, you should expect influential Republicans to try to push the remaining candidates out of the race. Already, Tea Party leader Jim DeMint has encouraged the other candidates to re-evaluate their decision to stay in:
As the Republican party has moved farther and farther to the right in recent years, I've often felt that practical discussions of the effects of policy have gotten less and less important. The true believers who now dominate the GOP—and the politicians who feel the need to pretend they're true believers—are much more comfortable talking about the role of government than they are talking about how you solve actual problems, so they make practical arguments almost half-heartedly. Listen to a Republican talk about how they'd solve the problem of over 50 million Americans without health insurance, for instance, and you'll hear something like, "Well, we need free market solutions that don't infringe on freedom, because Obamacare represents the most profound expansion of government since Joe Stalin, and big government kills freedom…" Ask them why the free market will work better than government when in this case the opposite has proven true again and again, and they'll quickly move back to the level of philosophy, because as on so many issues, it's much more about values than about the actual effects of policies. I'm sure Republicans aren't actively pleased about the fact that so many of our people have no coverage, but they don't care deeply enough about that practical problem to accept a solution that in any way violates their philosophical principles (or helps their political opponents, of course).
Liberals talk in philosophical terms far less often, in part because our philosophy tends to be less inclined toward rhetorically easy black-and-white constructions. That's why I was pleased to see this, from the Obama campaign:
Even with his own sense of grandiosity, I doubt even Newt Gingrich truly believes a brokered convention is on the horizon. Mitt Romney, while still a weak candidate for the general election, is working his way steadily up to the required delegate count, and the leaders of the Republican Party—such as possible White Knight Jeb Bush—are throwing their lot behind Romney.
But Gingrich isn't quite ready to drop the line, and his reasoning for why a brokered convention would help his party has become specious to a hilarious degree. Yesterday he suggested that it'd help Republicans because a brokered convention would just be so much darn fun to watch. Via GOP12, here's what Gingrich said on CNN:
Like Greg Sargent, I think Mitt Romney’s Etch A Sketch gambit will work in the general election (though not so much if he’s elected president). Yes, his rhetoric is identical in substance to that of his opponents, but through tone and demeanor, Romney has managed to keep his moderate credentials, and few people within the mainstream media have bothered to challenge them.
Yesterday, I wrote a post sticking up for Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom on the whole Etch A Sketch thing. But in the 24 hours since, it has only gotten bigger. It isn't, we should be clear, "taking on a life of its own," because saying that is a way of excusing the individual decisions involved in the growth and spread of a meme like this one. The fact is that actual people—Romney's primary opponents, Democrats, and reporters—are making the choice to drop the Etch A Sketch comment, and what it is supposed to represent, into discussions, speeches, news stories, and ads. And at this point it's looking more and more like this is a metaphor that's going to stick around. Why? Let me offer some suggestions.
Karl Rove might end up with the bulk of that money (Flickr/Sachyn)
The Wall Street Journal caught up with Harold Simmons for a profile yesterday. Simmons—the Contran Corp. owner worth an estimated $10 billion—is primed to be one of the more influential figures of the 2012 campaign. He's not running for public office nor is he working for any particular campaign. Instead he'll be among the small batch of elite billionaires pouring vast sums into Republican races. Simmons told the Journal that he intends to spend $36 million before the end of the year. He's already spent $18 million on super PACs so far, easily making him the highest dollar donor of the current campaign.