blog advertising is good for you

Monday, October 15, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Alex Massie has already offered an incisive takedown of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to award this year's peace prize to the European Union, but I can't resist the temptation to offer a few comments myself. First, who exactly gets the award? Do all the citizens of the EU get partial credit? Only full-time employees of the EU Commission? Will I be soon be reading resumes from EU applicants for admission to Harvard, each of them listing 'Winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize' among their accomplishments?  Second, who gets to accept the award and make the usual platitudinous speech? EU Council President Herman von Rompuy? Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton? What about EU Commission President Juan Manuel Barosso? All three? I'm sure Tony Blair is already working on his speech, in the hope that maybe he can somehow wrangle his way onto the podium. It would of course be the height of irony if the peace prize announcement raised tensions within the EU, either due to wrangling over who got the spotlight or irritation over what they said. Stay tuned. Third, this year's award is essentially aspirational, in the same way that the Committee's decision to award the 2009 prize to President Obama was really a hope for the future rather than a reward for past accomplishment. The EU has done more for peace than Obama had at the time he got the award (or since, to be honest), but that's not why it got the prize this year. Instead, the Committee sought to remind Europeans of the benefits of unity at a moment when the prolonged eurocrisis threatens the entire European project. The Committee was telling European leaders: 'Please don't make this award look stupid by letting the euro collapse and allowing nationalism to reassert itself in dangerous ways: You'll look really bad, and so will we.' A laudable goal, perhaps, but I rather doubt that this award is going to affect the calculations or behavior of the bankers and politicians who hold Europe's future in their hands." (Stephen Walt)

"Today, Hillary Clinton is the most popular member of Obama’s Cabinet, and her husband is not only his greatest but most tireless political ally. This past September 11, the Y-chromosome Clinton was in Miami, ripping Mitt Romney a new one over Medicare. Since then, Clinton has campaigned for Obama in New Hampshire and Nevada, raised money for him in Boston and with him in Los Angeles—and there is more to come. A TV ad with Clinton making the case for Obama’s reelection has run 16,000 times in swing states across the country. Another, featuring a clip of Clinton’s address at the Democratic convention, almost gives the impression that he is Obama’s running mate. Then there is that speech itself, which another top Obama adviser tells me flatly is “the most important moment of the campaign so far.' The Barack-and-Bill double act on display this fall marks a new and intriguing phase in a psychological entanglement so rich that if Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were alive, they would surely be squabbling over it instead of Sabina Spielrein’s hysteria. No one close to Obama or Clinton even bothers with the pretense that there is any real affection between them. But most concur with the assessment of a Democratic operative with tentacles deep in both worlds: that “the relationship today is totally transactional—and highly functional.' What Obama stands to gain from the transaction is plain enough to see. The support of the political figure with the highest approval rating, 69 percent, of any in America. The suasive services of a surrogate who can talk the owls down from the trees. The imprimatur of a former president associated with a period of broad and deep prosperity, imbued with unparalleled credibility on matters economic, and possessing special traction with the white working- and ­middle-class voters whom Obama has always had a hard time reaching. What Obama stands to gain, in other words, is a healthy boost in his quest for reelection—one all the more invaluable in the wake of his dismal performance in the first debate." (John Heilmann)

"Last Friday midday I drove up to Westchester to visit Larry Lederman and his wife Kitty Hawks at their country house. Larry has just published a book 'Magnificent Trees of the New York Botanical Garden' (Monacelli Press with The New York Botanical Garden). A literary publicist asked if I’d be interested in writing something about it. My first reaction was 'no.' Only because: what could I write about a book of photographs of trees? I love trees, and I look at trees from time to time, but I don’t know them, I can’t name the specimens, nor have I ever been curious enough to take the tine to learn. However, two things. I’d met Larry several times – although he may not remember – because I know his wife Kitty. And, I’d heard they had a great garden at their house. I’d once seen a photograph of the land around them in deep autumn and it was spectacular. So it occurred to me that mid-October might be a chance to see some of that sumptuous foliage that I grew up with in New England. Also a chance to get out of the city for a few hours. The Lederman-Hawks, it turned out live in a beautiful garden, of their own creation, in collaboration with that genius of peace and beauty, Mother Nature. Knowing that Larry had photographed the trees in the Botanical for years, I was curious to see what his trees were like, and how he photographed them." (NYSocialDiary)

"Let’s first imagine that, on January 20, Romney takes the oath of office. Of the many secret post-victory plans floating around in the inner circles of the campaigns, the least secret is Romney’s intention to implement Paul Ryan’s budget. The Ryan budget has come to be almost synonymous with the Republican Party agenda, and Romney has embraced it with only slight variations. It would repeal Obamacare, cut income-tax rates, turn Medicare for people under 55 years old into subsidized private insurance, increase defense spending, and cut domestic spending, with especially large cuts for Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs targeted to the very poor. Few voters understand just how rapidly Romney could achieve this, rewriting the American social compact in one swift stroke. Ryan’s plan has never attracted Democratic support, but it is not designed for bipartisanship. Ryan deliberately built it to circumvent a Senate filibuster, stocking the plan with budget legislation that is allowed, under Senate 'budget reconciliation' procedures, to pass with a simple majority. Republicans have been planning the mechanics of the vote for many months, and Republican insiders expect Romney to use reconciliation to pass the bill. Republicans would still need to control 50 votes in the Senate (Ryan, as vice-president, would cast the tiebreaking vote), but if Romney wins the presidency, he’ll likely precipitate a partywide tail wind that would extend to the GOP’s Senate slate. One might suppose that at least a handful of Republicans might blanch at the prospect of reshaping the entire face of government unilaterally. But Ryan’s careful organizing of the party agenda has all taken place with this vote as the end point, and with the clear goal of sidestepping any such objection. When Republicans won control of Congress during the 2010 elections, Ryan successfully lobbied the party to take a vote on his budget plan the following April. The plan stood no chance of passage (given Obama’s certain veto) and exposed dozens of vulnerable House members to withering attacks over its unpopular provisions. So why hold a vote carrying huge potential risk and no chance of immediate success? So Ryan could get the party on record supporting his plan, depriving quiet dissidents of any future excuse to defect should the real vote come in 2013." (Jonathan Chait)

No comments: