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The Collective
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via ABC: Senate Passes ‘Sweetened’ Economic Bailout Bill in Hopes of House Support

The vote was 74-25 and the ball is now squarely in the House’s court.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Tonight Tomorrow1 is, of course, the veep debate and there is much anticipation about how Governor Palin will do. Reactions to her performance will be fascinating. I think that a lot of people have already made up their minds. The hardcore supporters think that either its all the media’s fault, or the McCain campaign’s for not “letting Sarah be Sarah,” while the opposition to Palin has decided she was a disastrous pick. The test is primarily how undecided voters respond, but the canary in the mineshaft will be how harshly conservative commentators criticize her performance. If there are any more Kathleen Parkers after tonight, one will know it was a loss.

Still, as the Couric interview continues to dribble out, one does wonder how well see will do, even with the low expectations that are in place.

Here’s a clip on what Palin’s news sources have been in terms of shaping her worldview prior to being tapped for McCain’s ticket.

Partial transcript (via Think Progress):

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —

COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.

PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

COURIC: Can you name any of them?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.

That’s quite the nonanswer to a reasonable, if not softball, question. And from there she gets a bit defensive about Alaska, which didn’t seem warranted. The bottom line of the question is what sources she relied upon to get news and information that she used to think about foreign and domestic policy. That shouldn’t have been too hard. Of course, the problem may be that she hasn’t actually done much news gathering and therefore not much thinking about the issues.

This is not to suggest, by the way, that I think that she isn’t smart. However, it does underscore her lack of general preparation for the job to which she aspires and therefore he lack of readiness for what might be before here in that job.

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  1. Correction: I was leaping forward in time for some reason []
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By Dr. Steven Taylor

In watching the debacle of a vote1 (and, indeed, the whole interaction between the White House and the Congress) it occurred to me that the Bush administration is reaping what it was sewn in terms of dealing with the Congress. This administration has never wanted to work with the Congress, has often eschewed negotiation with the Congress and, as a result, appears never to have learned how to effectively deal with the Congress.

Really, the original process, i.e., Paulson presented a three-page bill that basically said “allow Henry Paulson the right to disperse $700 billion as he sees fits sans any congressional of judicial oversight or else the economy will implode” has got to go down in annals of legislative maneuvers as one of the most ham-fisted of all time. Where was the groundwork? Where was the communication? Where was the needed information to convince legislators to come onboard? The answer is: there were none of those things. It was a not surprising, yet very telling, chapter in the story of this White House. It never really learned how to govern.

Indeed, the entire approach to the problem underscore the administration’s lack of expertise in seeking policy solution beyond using scare tactics. If one considers the post-9/11 legislative agenda, much of it has been achieved not through debate and leadership, but through fear (I am thinking here of USA PATRIOT, the Authorization to use Military Force and even the federal re-organization to create the Department of Homeland Security). The early major legislation2 such as the first round of tax cuts and No Child Left Behind were done under a Republican-controlled Congress ((Albeit, only marginally) and NCLB was a bipartisan bill in any event. The only non-fear driven post-9/11 piece of major legislation that I can think of off the top of my head was the Medicare prescription plan.

I do understand the Congress is held by the opposition party at the moment, but at times of crisis, one has to be able to work with the other party (which has been done, I will grant, but again, in a process that started poorly and that has been driven primarily by fear). However, it isn’t as if the President and the White House have worked well with the Republicans in Congress during this crisis, or that they did a good job of working with them when they were in the majority, for that matter.

Granted, these are just impressions, as I certainly have not done any systematic study of the Bush administration’s legislative interaction structure, nor its actual operation. Still, one need go no further than Bush’s usage of signing statements to see that he is not a great respecter of the Congress or of the legislative process. This White House’s general response to requests for information by the Congress (e.g., the USA situation) undergirds that impression.

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  1. Whether one loves, hates or is neutral on the matter, there is no denying that as a legislative act, the vote in the House on Monday was a disaster in terms of a leadership failing to make sure it had the votes before going to the floor with a measure. And that failure falls squarely on the heads of House leadership, both the majority and the minority. Beyond that, it demonstrates a failure on the part of the WH to adequately lobby for its position. []
  2. ”Major” here meaning simply “important” and likely involving serious and likely expensive, policy. “Major” does not indicate a normative preference for the legislation in question. Indeed, a lot of “major” legislation ends up being crap (to use the technical, political-sciency, term. []
Filed under: 2008 Campaign, The Economy, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (3) | | Show Comments here
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Is it just me, or does it seem as if the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, is doing his gosh-darnedest of late to set himself as a major contender for the GOP nomination in 2012? He seems to be all of the place of late, and primarily as an opponent to the bailout package. He is attacking the Bush administration, and Paulson in particular, with more vigor than Obama and seems to be carving out political space for a run in four years.

Granted, he is also plugging a book, but he seems a lot more interested in making himself the chief voice of opposition to the bailout than he is in hawking the book.

Thoughts?

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Filed under: 2012, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (7) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT: Bloomberg Called Ready to Announce Third-Term Bid

Right now, Mr. Bloomberg is barred by law from seeking re-election. But he will propose trying to revise the city’s 15-year-old term limits law, which would otherwise force him and dozens of other elected leaders out of office in 2009, the three people said.

In his announcement, Mr. Bloomberg, a former Wall Street trader and founder of a billion-dollar financial data firm, is expected to argue that the financial crisis unfolding in New York City demands his steady hand and proven business acumen.

Whenever politicians start deciding that they are indispensable and are willing to seek changes to the rules under which they were elected so as to remain in power, that is precisely the time that they should be ousted. The linkage of a one man (or woman) to a specific job as if they are the only person capable of competent governance in the time of emergency is a slap in the face of democracy as well as a display of naked egoism on the part of the politician who seeks a chance at an additional bite at the apple.

Yes, I understand that an election would be held, and that the voters could oust the individual in question. However, it is worth noting that incumbency has huge advantages that would skew any such contest. Further, beyond the questions of the the virtues of such an election, there is the very real issue of whether rules should be changed in mid-stream like this, as well as the desirability of treating a specific politician as so important that no one else could do his/her job. And make no mistake: while any given election two (or more) candidates try to make the argument that they are the best for the job. That is different, however, than a sitting politicians who is term-limited out of office to say that he should be given the chance to retain power by a direct manipulation of rules because circumstances are such that only he can deal with the challenges of the day.

Indeed, if Bloomberg wishes to help out in the financial crisis, one suspects that there are a variety of ways he could do so once he leaves office.

In terms of the political viability of the move, the NYT piece notes:

Mr. Bloomberg’s gambit carries significant political risk. The city’s term limits law was passed twice by voters, in 1993 and 1996, and several polls show widespread popular support for keeping it in place. Under the plan Mr. Bloomberg has outlined to associates, those voters will have no say in the matter, raising the possibility of a backlash.

But, the will of the voters appears not to be the paramount issue here:

The chances of passing legislation in the City Council are strong, according to interviews. In August, a New York Times survey of council members — two-thirds of whom are scheduled to be forced out of office in 2009 — found that a majority were willing to amend the term limits law.

The route Bloomberg appears to be taking is via the City Council, not a referendum. That move is telling in and of itself, as if he really thought there was a clamor for four more years, you’d think he’d take the issue to the voters.

Note: the “LatAm” reference in the title is to the fact that a number of Latin American presidents have overseen rules changes to allow additional terms. Off the top of my head: Carlos Menem did in Argentina, as did Alberto Fujimori in Peru and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Alvaro Uribe managed the feat once, and is being coy on whether he supports a chance at a third term.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

I have largely ignored blogging the “horse race” to this point, and this post hardly constitutes a full-blown look at all the numbers. Still, I have been watching, and note in particular that the Gallup Daily tracking poll has Obama with a 6-point lead, after two days of 8-point leads. Given the poll’s 2% margin of error, these are important leads for Obama at the moment. The poll is of registered voters, not likely voters, and therefore should be interpreted in that light.

The last three days in particular strikes me as a noteworthy period of time, as it encompasses response to the debates, response to the financial crisis and response to McCain’s suspension/unsuspension of his campaign. At a minimum, the numbers tend to indicate that a) McCain was not able to gain from the debate, b) that Obama has the edge in regards to the financial crisis, and c) that McCain’s suspension maneuver did not work. Granted, one cannot say any of those things with great authority based on the numbers, as one set of numbers does not provide specific responses to specific events. Still, in general, it is a reasonable set of observations to make, especially given that the two candidates were tied in the poll right before the debates and the suspension.

Going beyond Gallup, the RCP average has Obama at +5.1% nationally, with only the Battleground track poll giving him a number lower than +5% (Battleground has it at 2%).

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Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (1) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP; Gorbachev to form new Russian party

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will join forces with Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev to launch a new political party independent of the Kremlin, the billionaire businessman said on Tuesday.

[...]

The party will press for legal and economic reform and promote the growth of independent media, said Lebedev, who does not plan to bankroll the party himself but said it should be financed only from “non-state sources.”

He said the party favored “less state capitalism,” the development of independent media, itreform of the justice system and a stronger role for parliament, adding that it would take part in elections.

The party is likely to be called the “Independent Democratic Party” (the story notes that the name is “provisional”).

Certainly Russia is in need of strong, independent voices who are interested in promoting democratic development. One has to wonder, of course, as to whether the present political climate will allow such groups to function properly. The state’s treatment of Kasparov’s opposition party, for example, does not encourage one in this regard.

I would also note that it is interesting, if not ironic, for a former General Secretary of the CPSU to be allying with with a billionaire. Times do change…1

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  1. Indeed, to my students, Gorbachev, let alone the USSR, are an artifact of the distant past. []
Filed under: World Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (2) | | Show Comments here
Monday, September 29, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

The news is currently breaking that the House failed to pass the bailouot plan.

CNN reports:

What was supposed to be a 15-minute vote stretched past the half-hour mark as leadership scrambled for support. Investors who had been counting on the rescue plan sent the Dow Jones industrial average down as much as 700 points while watching the measure come up short of the necessary support, before rebounding slightly. The key stock reading was down more than 500 points.

The vote:

The measure needs 218 votes for passage. Democrats voted 141 to 94 in favor of the plan, while Republicans voted 65 to 133 against. That left the measure with 206 votes for and 227 against.

As I understood the news this morning, this is an unexpected result.

More later.

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Filed under: The Economy, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (4) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Last Monday the bailout plan was 3 pages in length. Today is it 110.

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Filed under: The Economy, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (3) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC: Ecuadoreans back new constitution

Ecuadorean voters have convincingly approved a new constitution that increases presidential powers, according to preliminary results.

Some 65% of voters backed the charter, an outcome President Rafael Correa hailed as a “historic win”.

[...]

The 444-article constitution will be the Andean nation’s 20th.

The BBC notes the following as “key points” in the new charter:

*Tightening controls of vital industries and reducing monopolies
*Declaring some foreign loans illegitimate
*Expropriating and redistributing idle farm land
*Allowing the president to stand for a second four-year term in office
*Giving free health care for older citizens
*Allowing civil marriage for gay partners

Boz has some comments.

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