Three events this week tie together nicely - Paul Krugman's blather about Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future, Ryan's polite and forceful response, and another Obama fundraising speech about the Republicans' (if elected) returning to the failed policies of George Bush - who got us into this mess, in case you hadn't heard.
First, Krugman. For the past two years he has used his position as lead op-ed writer for the New York Times to champion the position that deficits don't matter, a quantum increase in stimulus spending is what is needed, and Obama needs more courage to move to the Left in his economic and social policies. For the liberals on the left, the Nobel-winning Krugman is "the man." One doesn't know the communication paths, but he certainly is an early recipient (or sender?) of the Pelosi/Reid/Obama talking points. So, when Krugman calls Ryan a charletan, flim flam artist, and a fraud who "adds nothing to the discussion of fiscal responsibility", there is an unusual urgency in his purpose.
Krugman's problem is that Paul Ryan and his "Roadmap" offer a comprehensive set of proposals to get out of our fiscal quagmaire. To a conservative it is marvelous to have a clear thinking spokesman with a plan; to a liberal, it is anathema.
As an aside, it is worth noting that the prior week's Washington Post wrote a prominent, generally positive article on the Roadmap, which focused on Ryan's proposal to cut Social Security and allow partial private accounts - neglecting to say that older citizens would not be included (they want to keep what they have) and younger citizens would be the focus (they generally accept the need to address the shortfall.) Obviously, an innocent omission for the "fair and balanced" newspaper.
So, what's with Obama's comments about a Republican congressional victory meaning a return to Bush's policies with no legitimate new thoughts in the GOP? (In a January discussion with Ryan, Obama called the Roadmap a set of "entirely legitimate proposals.") With the Congress' approval at 21% and Obama's at 45% - and both sinking rapidly - there are two campaign themes. Republicans are racists and they have no ideas other than to return to Bush's failed policies. The first is wearing out from over use. The second is pretty hollow if Ryan and others are allowed to be heard. Thus Krugman's attempted put-down and Obama's change of course.
There is a big strategy question about how specific to be before an election where things are going your way. In 2008 Obama was vague "Hope and Change". In 1994, the Republicans were Gingerich's specific "Contract with America." Both worked. In 2010 there are a number of Republicans working toward a set of promises to be revealed in September - wanting to move beyond the "Party of No" criticism. But it will be difficult to improve on Ryan's economics-focused Roadmap - and the Democratic leadership understands that. Let it be heard throughout the land.
This week's You Tube is a clear statement of intent by Maxine Waters about a government takeover of the oil industry - well before the BP disaster and her House trial for corruption. If anybody is wondering what California liberals really think, here it is.
As a result of last week's posting, the always thoughtful Dick Spotswood has asked for my recommendations on Afghanistan. Here they are:
1. Look at Afghanistan as a question of how to protect the Pakistani nukes. e.g. do not push the Taliban into Pakistan and escalate violence there. Work with the Pakistani government.
2. Reverse Obama's escalation and return to Bush's policy of "benign neglect."
3. Let the CIA and Special Forces work with friendly tribes to take out the Al Queda remnants.
4. As an added feature because of what we have done, relocate people who have befriended us from hostile to friendly territory.
5. Don't worry about poppies and schools for girls. These are good things, but we cannot do everything for everybody.
bill bowen - 8/13/10