George W. Bush
In modern U.S. history, there has never been a vice-presidential nominee like Paul Ryan. That is to say, Republicans have never before nominated someone for V.P. in hopes that he, and not the would-be President, would define the critical domestic policies of the entire federal government. The great majority of vice-presidents have been famously insignificant—unless, of course, their boss dies or resigns, and they get to move into the Oval Office. They usually landed on the ticket because they filled some need for demographic, regional, or ideological balance.
The Square and the Flair
August 02, 2012
BEFORE HE EARNED his reputation as one of the best ad men in politics, before he wrote for several major television shows, and long before he became Mitt Romney’s top campaign strategist, Stuart Stevens found himself in Cameroon, face to face with a machine-gun-wielding soldier looking to shake him down. It was 1988, and a few weeks earlier, Stevens had deposited himself in the nearby Central African Republic to pick up a friend’s Land Rover and drive it back to France. But the trip was a disaster from the get-go. Local officials confiscated the car and refused to release it.
The emerging conventional wisdom among many Democrats takes the form of two equations: 2012 = 2004, and Bain = Swift Boats. There’s also a supporting narrative: The negative campaign against John Kerry fatally weakened his candidacy, securing the victory of an incumbent who could not have won based on his own record. And so, the idea goes, a president whose performance the public doesn’t much like can power his way to a narrow, less than pretty win by eviscerating his challenger. But the evidence in favor of all of these propositions is remarkably thin.
This Is Your Campaign On Drugs
July 18, 2012
In December 2007, I was in New Hampshire covering the presidential primary, and drove over to Dover, in the Seacoast region, to check in with Billy Shaheen, the Democratic power broker married to the state's former governor and current senator, Jeanne Shaheen. I knew Billy Shaheen from my days working at the Concord Monitor and wanted to take his temperature on the state of the Democratic presidential race, in which he had a personal stake: he was the chairman of Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign.
President Obama’s team perhaps once hoped to reenact Ronald Reagan’s triumphant 1984 march to reelection. But it’s now clear that they’re condemned to repeat George W. Bush’s much less inspiring campaign in 2004. The playbook is clear: A barrage of negative advertising to define your opponent before he can define himself; a stream of issues and events to mobilize your base; and a meticulous ground game to squeeze every last vote out of the base come November.
Conservatives are getting all worked up about the “food stamp president” again. But now they're not just talking about President Obama. They're also talking about former President Bush. Hard to believe? It shouldn't be. It's just one more sign of how extreme mainstream conservatives and their Republican allies have become. The argument comes as congressional Republicans are on a crusade to slash funding for food stamps, which is now known as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
Eleven years ago, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work on education. The liberal think tank that hired me focused on state issues, so I had nothing to do with the project that was consuming D.C. wonks at the time: a once-a-decade reauthorization of the mammoth federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would become the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The Austere Land
June 22, 2012
THE LAST FOUR YEARS have created what economists call a “natural experiment” in economic policy. As a consequence of deregulation and globalization, Britain and the United States experienced the financial crisis of 2008 in much the same way. Large parts of the banking system collapsed and had to be rescued; the real economy went into a nosedive and had to be stimulated. But after 2010, the United States continued to stimulate its economy, while Britain chose the stonier path of austerity. The British are no more wedded to the idea of fiscal austerity than are the Americans.
The Republican Recession
June 14, 2012
Yesterday I explained why the Fed's new report on family finances from 2007-2010 shouldn't prompt us to stop thinking about income distribution and start thinking about wealth distribution. Today I'm going to focus on something the Fed report has got me thinking about: the Republican-ness of the 2007-2009 recession and the weak recovery that's followed. By this I do not mean that Republican politicians are to blame for the recession. As it happens, they are--the recession began on President George W.
Another Signpost on the Road to the Right
June 08, 2012
The latest sign of rightward drift in American politics, or at least the Republican Party, came this week when Politico reported that Mitt Romney had asked Michael Leavitt to begin preparing for the transition, in case Romney wins. Leavitt is a former Republican governor of Utah and former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. In normal times, those credentials would be more than enough to satisfy most conservatives.