Some thoughts on where we are and the coming political campaign:
The United States
The U.S. is still in a slowdown. More layoffs are happening and the “softer” unemployment numbers (like retirees) are growing. This will continue to dampen spending and recovery.
The fight over the Keystone pipeline is a part of the continuing effort by the administration to increase the cost of energy. It is a drag on the economy.
The World Economy
The lack of a vibrant U.S. consumer economy continues to hurt the rest of the world. The Euro will probably change dramatically this year. The Germans will continue to resist anything that could cause the Euro to inflate while the countries with weaker economies will push for that inflation. I expect one or the other end of the argument to leave the Euro. I also expect increasing support for nationalist parties in European elections.
China’s leadership has offered economic growth as a replacement for political freedom. But growth is slowing and there are more protests against corruption in the government.
North Korea and Pakistan are nuclear powers in the midst of political turmoil or transition.
I expect the “Arab Spring” to turn into the same disaster as occurred when the Shah of Iran was deposed. A dictator who was at least not an enemy of the United States was replaced by a theocracy which considers us “The Great Satan”. I am not hopeful about Egypt or Libya. Turkey is also becoming more clearly Islamist.
The departure of U.S. troops from Iraq will give Iran a freer hand in the area. The Saudis, as well as the Israelis are increasingly concerned about their future.
What we need
The next Presidential term will pose a variety of serious problems. We need a President who has a firm set of principles and beliefs about the U.S. and its unique position, and responsibilities in the world.
Ronald Reagan said that Jimmy Carter was “a nice man in a job that needs more than that.” Mr. Obama’s likeability is not the issue. He is totally unsuited for the Presidency. I am tempted to send him a copy of Richard Neustadt’s Presidential Power. The President needs to do more than lay out goals. He has to work with the other branches of government to get something enacted. Mr. Obama is an academic theoretician.
I believe that once we understand the reality of the “Arab Spring” his foreign policy will be considered a disaster. He has tried to make friends of our enemies and harmed our friendships.
Some have argued that his foreign policies are from his father’s view of the world. But, his academic and social environment has always been one that not only questions “American Exceptionalism” but also whether America’s interventions have, on the whole, been for the good.
In the next term, the President will have to understand both the benefits, to us and the world, of American intervention, and its limits. I don’t see that Mr. Obama understands its benefits.
Ron Paul would be a total disaster for America and the world. Isolationism makes sense in a world of battleships, especially wooden ones. It makes no sense in a world with nuclear weapons and ICBMs.
Americans are too pragmatic to be completely Libertarian. Paul’s strength is a warning to everyone concerned about our government’s future. If a substantial number of people are angry enough at the government to vote for a man with these views, it is the validity of government itself that is being questioned.
Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum are the “Culture War” candidates. Bachmann’s problem is that America has just seen the results of electing someone with very little government experience. We are not going to do that this time.
John Huntsman and Mitt Romney
John Huntsman and Mitt Romney are both Mormons. It is amusing to hear people who would never vote Republican, let alone for a Republican with strong religious beliefs, tell evangelicals to “get over” the Mormonism of these candidates. My problem is not with what I know they believe (Mormonism) but rather with what I am not sure they believe.
This is not a time for the “mushy middle.” The next President will be pushed and pulled in a thousand ways. What anchors his beliefs in terms of Economics, Foreign Policy, etc. will determine his successes and failures.
Huntsman and Romney both seem to be talented men who are running because they believe they will be good administrators. But, other than that, why do they want the job?
What I am looking for is some kind of “fire in the belly.” If either of them had an “I am paying for this microphone!” moment, I would feel better about them. Absent that, what I fear most is that both of them could do a wonderful Thomas Dewey imitation. He lost.
The argument against Santorum’s electability is that he lost his last Senate race. Many states have a dominant political family. Santorum’s loss to a Casey in Pennsylvania is no worse than Romney’s loss to a Kennedy in Massachusetts.
His more immediate problem is that the culture wars are on a back burner this time. If he were the nominee, he would be constantly forced to support his culture war positions at a time when jobs and foreign policy are the driving concerns.
Rick Perry definitely understands the damage an overbearing Federal government can do to states and their budgets. His obvious problem has been in the debates. Also, he might be too focused on federal-state relationships and not enough on the other issues.
Newt Gingrich has clearly become the person no insider wants to see. I have previously compared Gingrich to Churchill and this is another part of it. Churchill and his views were never popular with the insiders in British government. But when push came to shove, Churchill had what was needed. The more accommodating members of the government would have been a disaster, and, as with Chamberlain, almost were.
I can lay out no path by which Gingrich wins, especially if he does poorly in Iowa. It is said that the U.S. usually gets the President it deserves, but sometimes we are lucky and get what we, and the world, need. I think Gingrich is needed now. If he doesn’t get it, the assumption is that Romney will. He might have what is needed. I hope so, for all our sakes.