Tag Archives: Democratic National Convention

Obama’s not-so-secret weapon

Bill Clinton is fully in his element as the star of the show:

If there has been one enduring lesson from his career, it is that the Big Dog is resilient. He can be disgraced, impeached, defeated — but he comes back. The full spectacle of this has been on riveting, if raspy, display in the closing days of the presidential campaign.

Mr. Clinton, 66, has jumped into a hopscotch of battleground states in what — depending on his wife’s future plans — may or may not be his last campaign tour as a Super Surrogate. He is scheduled to appear, if not be heard, at four stops across Pennsylvania on Monday.

He also includes a fair amount in his speeches about Bill Clinton: his enthusiasm (higher than four years ago), his legacy (“I am the only living former president that ever gave you a budget surplus”) and, yes, his wife, the mention of whom brings big applause and the occasional “We love you, Hillary!” cry from the crowd.

Whoever wins Tuesday, the 2012 campaign has solidified (or restored) Mr. Clinton’s status as the hardest-working man in a game he loves and plays like no one else. “The master, Bill Clinton,” Mr. Obama called him on Saturday, hailing his predecessor as “a great president and a great friend.”

Unsaid, at least here, is that Mr. Clinton has also been a salvation to Mr. Obama. He gave what was widely considered the best speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., rocking a strong endorsement of the president while arguably conveying the re-election rationale better than Mr. Obama or his campaign has.

And the debate post-mortem continues

The New Yorker‘s excellent editor, David Remnick, interviewed Obama’s old friends and mentors about his debate performance:

“The reason I hate campaigns,” Edley continued, “is that being right on the substance isn’t good enough. That’s why I’m an academic. Of course, Obama knows that, but it’s also a question of what he cares about. I admire him for caring more about the substance than the tactics even if it makes me grimace when I watch him. Why does he do it? Look, we all do things in the short term that are not consistent with a long-term goal, whether it’s failing to save for retirement or watching TV instead of doing your homework. It’s called being human rather than being the ideal client of your handlers. It makes it harder to achieve his goal, which is to get reëlected. But if you wanted authenticity you got it [on Wednesday] night. And, really, you got it in an unsurprising way. We know that Obama skews cerebral and that he has never liked debates as a way to engage issues. He has said that many times.”

I’m partially uncomfortable with this reading of the first presidential debate. Yes, Obama “skews cerebral” (whatever that means). And yes, it may be true that he dislikes debates. But part of the job of being President, or at least of running for reelection, is to confidently, assertively, and (if need be) aggressively point out the blatant lies and deceptions of your opponent — especially if that opponent swerved to the center just in time for the first debate after spending a year and a half saying something completely different.

Obama’s lack of the fighter instinct is worrying, and the implications extend beyond these presidential debates. We saw it in the healthcare fight in 2010, when he allowed Republicans to manhandle him and destroy his message because he simply didn’t have the will or the desire to hit back. We glimpsed it as well at the Democratic National Convention this year, when Bill Clinton provided an abler defense of the Obama administration than the president himself ever has. And we saw it in last Wednesday’s inaugural debate, when Mitt Romney lied and deceived his way to a startling victory — one free of facts and consistency, to be sure, but no less convincing as a piece of political theater. If Obama really intends to spend another four years in the White House, he may want to start by making sure he doesn’t let Romney run all over him with falsities and grand — but vague and mathematically impossible — budget plans.

Bill Clinton’s worrisome economics

Note from Jay Pinho: Below is the second guest post (as well as the second guest contributor) on The First Casualty.

Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention nearly three weeks ago was hailed as one of the great speeches of our time. Chris Matthews was in rare form describing Mr Clinton’s speech as “one of the greatest in convention history.” Indeed, Mr. Matthews was so impressed by the former President’s rhetoric that he not only felt confident asserting 42’s ability to reproduce on Mars, but reproducing with actual Martians. (Unfortunately, it is not yet clear whether a speech evoking the possibility of Clintonian-Martian reproduction tops a speech resulting in thrills up one’s leg.)

Jon Stewart, arguably the most powerful man in American news, lauded the President for his “amazing display of actually saying stuff.”

And it was to Stewart’s Daily Show that Mr. Clinton–a frequent guest–returned on Thursday night, doubling down on the economic principles he had espoused in Charlotte. Paramount among his economic principles is the belief that government and business should partner and work together in determining economic policy.

Mr. Clinton’s argument, of course, is nothing new. In fact, it was on the same show just last year that he provided a concrete example of a good partnership between government and business, namely Germany’s government support for the solar energy industry. Mr. Clinton proudly asserted that a country where the sun hardly ever shines–on that he’s right!–was a global leader in the production of solar energy.

Yet it should come as no surprise that Mr. Clinton no longer uses that example when advocating for partnerships between the public and private sectors. Why? Since Mr. Clinton was on the Daily Show in November 2011, four German solar companies have filed for bankruptcy–in spite of government subsidies in the industry in excess of €100 billion.

In pursuing industrial policy, governments support particular goals they deem worthwhile. But therein lies the problem. For when domestic producers cannot compete with foreign competition–as is the case with Germany’s solar industry–or when there is too little demand for products from subsidized industries, the socialization of monetary losses is finalized.

Even when support for particular industries does not fail in the ordinary sense, however, government support for particular industries distorts the market. (The nature of the market, unfortunately, is too often poorly understood, as evidenced by Mr. Stewart’s mocking of the non-existent “market fairy.” The market does not have an independent mind or will in the way a fairy might; rather, the market is merely an aggregation of individuals’ valuations about goods in society. To attack the market is to attack individuals’ valuations.)

Following, government subsidies are meant to change consumer behavior by pretending to lower the cost of goods which are not valued highly enough by individuals to be self-sustaining. (They do not lower actual costs, however, as subsidies must be paid for through tax revenues.) Or subsidies are put in place to protect national industry from competition from abroad. It goes without saying that this alleged protection also “protects” consumers from cheaper imports.

Now, steadfast opposition to market interventions–i.e. to influencing prices–does not imply that government does not have a role in creating the market framework. In fact, a capitalist economy can only function with a proper economic constitution. On the one hand, this may imply government provision of public goods, i.e. goods wherein one’s consumption neither reduces another’s consumption, nor where it is possible to exclude individuals from consuming goods. On the other hand, this also includes a functioning legal system, antitrust laws, and even state regulation. As ordoliberals like to point out: government should set up the rules for the game, it should not actively play the game.

If this were what Mr. Clinton was talking about when he advocated on behalf of a partnership between the public and private sectors, all would be well. Unfortunately, his view of public-private partnership implies government actively playing the game of the market. Indeed, America would do well to reject 42’s economic philosophy.

Mark McAdam is a football guru. When he’s not writing about the Bundesliga, he advocates on behalf of free societies. He has a Master’s degree in “Politics, Economics & Philosophy” and studied at the University of Hamburg’s Institute for Economic Systems, the History of Economic Thought and the History of Ideas.