Scaling Mt. Ambivalance

Ed at Gin and Tacos:

It is possible that I am projecting my own considerable ambivalence and malaise toward this election, although I’m fairly certain that it has some basis in reality. An incumbent with a 45% approval rating is being challenged by a Massachusetts Mormon with no definable position on any major issues. This feels like an election to be tolerated, endured, or trudged through. Even the most zealous partisans appear to be drawing their enthusiasm mostly from hatred of The Other Guy rather than genuine fondness for their own candidate.

There are many problems with the idea that Obama won in 2008 because of a surge of new young and/or minority voters, principally the fact that Obama won every single demographic except white males over 40. While participation among young, black, or Latino voters did rise, he succeeded because he convinced a lot of the people who always vote to vote for him. You don’t win Indiana as a Democrat simply by turning out a few more college kids. This is relevant because lower turnout won’t necessarily imply bad news for Obama. Instead his problem is that the white lower-class voters that he managed to win in 2008 appear to have gone Full Teabag since then and they’re unlikely to support him again.

Attempts at analysis aside, the most outstanding feature of this election so far seems to be how little attention we are paying to it as an electorate. My personal feelings are much closer to “Let’s just get this goddamn thing over with” than any genuine curiosity or excitement about the outcome. The faithful of the respective parties are already decided. Undecideds are few and uncertain to the extent that they dislike both candidates. Sprinkle this whole mess with millions (billions?) of SuperPac dollars that will be blown on annoying, sub-moronic advertising and you’ve got yourself a fine recipe for a campaign we will all be doing our damnedest to ignore while the candidates and media go through the motions.

‘Carrying our bags’

I don’t know if you’ve seen the report that Teddy Kennedy made his final decision to support Obama after Clinton told Kennedy that Obama was someone who “a couple of years ago, would have been carrying our bags.”

When I heard that, I knew right away what Clinton meant. Because every campaign is filled with, and every politician is surrounded by, bright, ambitious young men who will do anything to get ahead, including serving as gofers. Yes, they do indeed carry politicians’ bags. I know that type of person well.

And what makes the racial spin on the story even less credible is that it would have been completely counterproductive. You really believe Bill Clinton, trying to persuade Teddy Kennedy to endorse Hillary, was actually whining to the liberal lion of the Senate that Barack Obama should still be a Pullman porter? Nah, not buying it. Clinton is known for his gaffes, but not this kind of gaffe. Nope.

Clinton on debt: Republicans built that

Bill Clinton, a man who’s rarely met a Third Way policy he didn’t embrace, gave a speech to the Arkansas delegation last night in which he put the blame for the deficit at the feet of the Republicans. But his solution to the debt? The very popular Catfood Commission:

But perhaps the main point of Clinton’s speech was putting the blame for the national debt squarely at the GOP’s doorstep.

He pointed to the giant national debt clock that Republicans had at their convention, saying, “You see that debt clock?”

“They built it!” shouted a man in the audience.

“Yeah, they built it. They built it,” replied Clinton, to loud cheers and laughs from the audience.

Clinton also criticized Republicans for going after former President George H.W. Bush when he tried to reduce the national debt and told the crowd that President Obama is not responsible for most of the national debt:

When the first President Bush really sucked it up and decided to do something about it by signing a bill the Democratic Congress passed to pay for things as you go along, and to have spending cuts and very modest tax increases, they made him apologize for it at the Republican convention. You remember that? At the time I was happy, because it helped me get elected. But it was sad because he did the right thing, and they made him apologize for it.

Then, I served for eight years, and we kept bringing the deficit down. We had four surplus budgets in a row. Then what happened? We put them [Republicans] back in — or the Supreme Court did — and they got rid of pay as you go, they [passed] the tax cuts and spent lots of money. … We had a projected surplus of $5.7 trillion and turned it into a projected debt of $5.8 trillion over the next 10 years. We would have been out of debt by next year or the year after next. …

The rules that we followed then that we should normally follow, do not apply now. The reason President Obama did that stimulus is, when interest rates are zero, and there is no private activity, if the government does not step in to put people to work and to help people get through the day, they won’t make it.

So his contribution to that big ol’ debt clock that you saw is the $800 billion stimulus. All those other trillions and trillions of dollars? He had nothing to do with that.

The solution, said Clinton, was to pass the recommendations by the Simpson-Bowles debt commission and “pass a 10-year plan to reduce the debt, starting the year after growth has clearly returned.”

He added that it was impossible to balance a budget without the presence of economic growth, adequate revenues and spending controls — all of which do not currently exist.

Oh, come on, Charlie Brown

‘See? Here’s a signed document!’

This is both puzzling and upsetting. Does President Obama really believe this? The silver lining, I guess, is that the Republican leadership may refuse to pass the Catfood Commission plan just to spite him:

President Obama promises in a major new interview that Americans weary of partisan gridlock that Washington will be much more compromise-friendly if he wins a second term in the White House.

In an interview with the Associated Press published Saturday, Obama says Republicans hell-bent on shutting down his agenda will be more willing to play ball if he’s re-elected.

Dear sweet Jesus. What is wrong with this man? How many times does he have to try to kick the football before he understands what Lucy is doing?

He said two changes — the facts that “the American people will have voted,” and that Republicans will no longer need to be focused on beating him — could lead to better conditions for deal-making.If Republicans are willing, Obama said, “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises” that could even rankle his own party. But he did not get specific.

He doesn’t have to. We already know he wants to cut Medicare and Social Security.

Obama painted a picture of the GOP that’s very different from the party in control of the House today. On the campaign trail, Obama has made Republican intransigence a central theme,especially after House Budget Committee leader Paul Ryan joined Mitt Romney’s ticket.

The president does not cast his opponents as the type of Republicans who are willing to compromise. On issues from abortion to taxes, Obama told the AP Romney has taken “extreme positions” that voters must assume will be part of his legislative agenda. The interview was conducted Thursday, one day before Romney made a birth certificate joke on the campaign trail, a move Obama’s campaign said shows Romney has “embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them.”

Obama told the AP Romney owns the positions he’s espoused, even if he personally doesn’t agree with them.“I can’t speak to Gov. Romney’s motivations,” he said. “What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he’s talked about.”

There is major cognitive dissonance here. He sees Romney (and thus, the Republican party) as extreme — but not if he’s reelected. So he doesn’t think the Republicans will be posturing for the midterms? Oy. This is really disturbing stuff.

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