June 28, 2011
I'm beginning this ongoing series of posts called 'Where Things Stand' as a way of allowing myself to put down the general 'lay of the land' in terms of politics, economics, foreign policy, social policy--whatever comes to me. It's my personal version of the NYT's 'Week in Review'. I'm not sure how often I'll do it, but here goes.
The big story for a week now has been the emergence of Michele Bachmann as a candidate for President. The debate in New Hampshire gave her a huge boost, as she came across as an articulate, intelligent Tea Party conservative. I can't imagine that she'll get very far in terms of really winning the nomination, but the cat fight between her and Sarah Palin could become interesting, if Palin ever seriously enters the race.
Jon Huntsman entered the Presidency race last week and barely made a splash. I get the feeling he's getting things in order behind the scenes, which at this point is where they need to happen. So it still seems like he could have a good fall and winter into the electoral process, what with the debates in which he will participate and the primaries in January. He does seem to have high-level elite support from the likes of Henry Kissinger, for example, who seems to like having a true (and experienced) foreign policy 'expert' in the Republican field. But will that help or hurt Huntsman is anyone's guess. We'll just have to wait and see how things develop. Romney is clearly the leader now, but I think he has a tendency to shoot himself in the foot whenever he's in a debate or campaigning. At some point, I think Huntsman will begin to challenge him for the lead among the Republican 'moderates', whatever that means.
President Obama has been dragged into the negotiations on the Debt Ceiling, something he had been avoiding before, which is his tendency. How that will turn out is anyone's guess. I don't have a strong feeling either way. I suppose the odds are that they'll come to a last minute agreement and avoid a formal default. But even so, something else will most likely come out of the blue--something we don't see now--and clobber the American economy, rile the financial markets, and throw us into an even more severe economic crisis. And THAT could bring both rioting in the streets AND a most interesting election campaign. And who knows, perhaps even the declaration of martial law, if it got bad enough.
June has been a horrible month in terms of economic reports, with weakening across the board. It appears that the 'new normal' in our economic state has truly occurred, as I feared, with stagnancy and decline dominating. The superrich are still doing fine, while the middle class and those below in increasingly tough shape. How long can this go on in what seems to be a steady, grinding kind of spiral downward?
'Same-sex marriage' has been approved by state legislation in New York, and the gay/lesbian movement is ecstatic. Frankly, I'm not sure where I stand on the issue, but I do know that whenever something like this happens, it sets up a counter-reaction, leading to more strength for social conservatives in the electoral process (think abortion and Roe v. Wade). And that is almost never a good thing, in that it tends to be a distraction from the really important economic and foreign policy issues that confront us (not that this signal cultural issue isn't important; it's just that I don't think it should be at the center of our political agenda).
President Obama has announced the beginning of a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it will still leave almost double the number that were there when he took office through 2014. Here's my take: he (and the foreign policy Establishment) want permanent military bases there, and he's working toward making that possible. Everything else is just an excuse or obfuscation.
At the same time, the war in Libya seems to have entered a very strange state of stalemate, and it could be doing politically for the anti-war movement what nothing else has been able to do: expose the insanity of our current foreign policy.
My favorite recent movie was 'Rabbit Hole', and second, 'The Company Men'.
Finally, here's my favorite blog post: Our War President.