JONATHAN CHAIT MARCH 24, 2011
[This is a guest post by Ezra Deutsch-Feldman and Michael Fitzgerald]
Last week, Dick Morris wrote a column for The Hill which was almost willfully illogical and wrong, even by the usual Dick Morris standards of lies and attacks. Luckily, he made a bold and falsifiable prediction—that Obama will not win a second term—so that if he turns out to be wrong, perhaps we can all look forward to seeing him sheepishly own up to his mistakes and pledge to be more careful. Although, he has a long history of this sort of hackery.
First, there are clear-cut factual errors that should immediately warn readers they’re dealing with an amateur prognosticator with ulterior motives. Morris says that “in January, euphoria set in. Obama compromised on the George W. Bush tax cuts.” But the tax-cut compromise was in December 2010, before the Republican-controlled 112th Congress convened. Japan’s economy represents 9 percent, not 12 percent of global GDP (and lost out to China for the #2 spot over a year ago). The Fed’s QE-2 was one of quantitative easing—not “qualitative” easing as Morris writes. Morris’s call for a “rollback of regulations that cripple small and community banks” grossly misrepresents last year’s financial regulatory overhaul, which focuses almost completely on oversight of large banks—those deemed “too big to fail.” If anything, the Dodd-Frank Bill leveled the playing field for small and community banks, which probably explains why it had the support of community banking trade groups like Independent Community Bankers of America.
Even on non-economic issues, the column reads like a last-minute homework assignment: He calls the recent disaster in Japan “the greatest tragedy since 9/11,” apparently forgetting the 200,000 people who were killed after the 2004 earthquake in Southeast Asia, and the more than 100,000 who were killed in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. And Hurricane Katrina probably holds the title for worst disaster since 9/11 in terms of long-term impact on the American presidency.
Then there are the various sleights of hand that Morris uses to press his flimsy case: He cites Rasmussen polls, but Rasmussen has a well known slant towards the GOP. Consumer confidence and gas prices, while linked to presidential popularity, are also the most fickle indicators you can use to judge a president’s standing. To say, as Morris does, that the numbers are as low now as they were in July 2009, when stocks bottomed out during the recession, doesn’t mean consumer confidence won’t turn around by the election, or even next month. The fact is, we had our strongest holiday season sales in years, stocks are rebounding faster than any period since the 1930s, exports are up, unemployment, while high, is not “persistent”—slowly but surely, we got below 9 percent last month—and our GDP is actually growing much faster than the 0.2 percent it grew in 2009. Expert opinion is split on where the economy is going long-term, but the Japan aftermath and other indicators Morris relies on are shamelessly reductive.
Lastly, there’s a simple political question: In order for Obama to lose, he’ll need someone to lose to. Morris offers no insight into who our next president will be, only that it will not be Obama. Could we have President Bachmann? President Trump? President Zombie Reagan? According to Morris’s theory, no matter who the GOP nominates, they’ll beat Obama. Rather than defend his party’s paltry selection of candidates—and when Tim Pawlenty is your strongest candidate, you have done something terribly wrong—Morris is reduced to willing an Obama loss through sheer imaginative power. Unfortunately for Morris, beating Obama will take more than that.