Paul Kedrosky sees the bright side of the U.S. financial crisis: Direct-mail offers for mortgages and home equity fell by 30 percent in 2007, while credit-card mailings have dropped 19 percent since October of last year. He quips:
Imagine how peaceful it would be if we ever had an outright depression. You could go back to checking your mailbox again.
I guess that's one way to look at it.
The Olympic torch relay organizers have now resorted to switching their route at the last minute to avoid protests:
The first runner held the torch aloft and began the route, flanked by tall, blue-clad Chinese security officials. But the group then promptly disappeared into a large waterfront warehouse for a last-minute change of route by authorities to head off trouble. What Chinese Olympic organizers have called a "Journey of Harmony," quickly became the mystery of the missing flame.
Note to China and the IOC: At the point where you're actually hiding the torch from onlookers, it may be time to cut your losses and grab the next plane to Beijing.
This week’s Tuesday map comes to us from a billboard controversy south of the border.
Created by advertising agency Teran/TBWA and launched a few weeks ago in Mexico, the Absolut billboard ad depicted pre-1848
The campaign was obviously intended for a Mexican audience, as Favio Ucedo, creative director of a top Latino advertising firm, explained:
Many (Americans) aren’t going to understand it. Americans in the East and the North or in the center of the county -- I don’t know if they know much about the history… Probably Americans in Texas and California understand perfectly, and I don’t know how they’d take it.”
But Absolut quickly learned just how some Americans would take it: not well. Although the ad never appeared in the U.S., it was picked up by American media outlets, causing a flurry of complaint from
As of Friday, Absolut’s maker Vin & Spirits had decided to withdraw the apparently offensive advertisement even though it "was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility... [and was] in no way was meant to offend or disparage, nor...advocate an altering of borders..."
What do Russians think about the U.S. electoral campaign? I spoke with two distinguished Russian scholars last night here at the Salzburg seminar I'm attending this week.
The first scholar told me that the hardliners and the security establishment are eager to see John McCain in power. He's more or less a known quantity, and his recent statements about ejecting Russia from the G8 will make it easier for them to make the case that the United States seeks to humiliate and corner Russia. A McCain election would be seen as evidence that Americans want to continue George W. Bush's policies, which are generally unpopular in Russia.
On the other hand, the scholar said, Republican presidents from Nixon to Ford to Reagan have a much better track record in making overtures to Russia, perhaps because they don't fear being painted as weak.
Both scholars, who come from the liberal end of the political spectrum in Russia, seemed intrigued by Barack Obama as someone who could offer a "fresh start" in U.S.-Russia relations. They weren't so comfortable, however, when I told them that Michael McFaul is Obama's main Russia advisor. McFaul, a past FP contributor, is well known in Russian foreign-policy circles for his harsh criticism of Putin's democratic credentials.
Clinton would be more predictable, given that her main Russia advisor is Stephen Sestanovich. His 2006 report for the Council on Foreign Relations was read closely in Russian political circles. But Richard Holbrooke, another Clinton advisor and a potential secretary of state, is seen as hostile to Russian interests for his role in the Balkans during the 1990s. When I told them that it's not inconceviable that Holbrooke would get a top job even under Obama, they weren't too psyched.
Blake Hounshell is Web Editor of ForeignPolicy.com. He has been blogging this week from the Salzburg Global Seminar session on Russia: The 2020 Perspective.
The Department of Homeland Security has quietly eased restrictions on U.S. companies looking to hire looking to hire non-immigrant science and technology students. It's probably a step in the right direction for immigration policy, since there's always more demand for these visas than supply. But it's unfortunate that that DHS had to use administrative procedures that are normally reserved for emergencies in order to get around Congress.
Harry's Bar, the famous Venice restaurant where writer Ernest Hemingway used to hang out and sip martinis, is now offering a discount to "poor" American tourists who must contend with a weakened dollar, one that has resulted in horror stories about $40 ice creams and $10 bottles of water. A sign at Harry's reads:
Harry's Bar of Venice in an effort to make the American victims of subprime loans happier, has decided to give them a special 20% discount on all the items of the menu during the short term of their recovery.
Harry's owner, Arrigo Cipriani, says the number of American customers has fallen between 5 and 10 percent since January. His concern highlights similar worries that European tourism operators have about the weakened dollar.
But how will Harry's tell who's American? Cipriani told Reuters:
We will judge by the accent and if we make a mistake, we will give a 20 percent discount to the English as well.
Now may be a good time to learn to fake an American accent!
For this week's Seven Questions, "Waiting for a Cyber Pearl Harbor," FP asked Richard A. Clarke, former U.S. counterterrorism chief and former special advisor to the president on cybersecurity, about what offensive capabilities the new U.S. Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER) should have. He succinctly replied: "Highly classified ones."
Though Clarke isn't interested in mentioning specifics, someone else is. Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder of the U.S. 8th Air Force, under which AFCYBER will be housed once it's officially launched this fall, has revealed how the United States plans to "hit back" in cyberspace.
In an interview with ZDNet.co.uk, he said offensive capabilities that AFCYBER is working on include denial of service, confidential data loss, data manipulation, and system integrity loss. These "cyberpunches" will be paired with kinetic (physical) attacks. Elder said:
Offensive cyberattacks in network warfare make kinetic attacks more effective, [for example] if we take out an adversary's integrated defence systems or weapons systems. This is exploiting cyber to achieve our objectives.
Now that the U.S. military has put on its cyber boxing gloves, it looks like it'll be no holds barred in the online world.
Roman Abramovich, the Russian dropout turned oil tycoon, recently invested $160 million in the 19-meter-wide drill, outdoing the previous recordholder by a good four meters.
Not only has Abramovich set the record, but his colossal purchase just happens to coincide with rumors that President Vladimir Putin will propose the construction of a physical link between
Abramovich has denied that his purchase has any connection to Putin's plans. But seriously, but what else is he going to do with a drill that can bore a hole wide enough for a four-lane highway?
Rumors of the tunnel come at a precarious time in U.S.-Russian relations, currently strained by the Kosovo decision, the proposed U.S. missile shield, and George W. Bush's renewed NATO membership push for former Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine.
Hopefully, all this Cold War nostalgia won't stand in the way of a great bicontinental highway. Just imagine the road trip possiblities -- you could park your RV in Red Square.
A couple weeks back, we pointed out that John McCain likes to refer to America as "She," a habit that I assume builds some linguistic distance between himself and Hillary Clinton. Hillary could never refer to America as "She," so McCain subtly infers that a president Clinton could never protect the country in the same way that a masculine figure could.
David Corn over at Mother Jones took the analysis a step further:
Could the implication be that Barack Obama is not quite American and that he is not interested in protecting our country, which the ad describes with the feminine pronoun. In other words, the half-black dude with a funny name--who might be a secret Muslim--can't protect her. Has Lee Atwater been resurrected? This smacks of the George H.W. Bush smear-tossing campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988--but also of Hillary Clinton's claims that Obama is not yet ready to be commander in chief.
Here's McCain's latest ad with the gender-specific language. Is this subtle racism, sexism, or just traditional political language? You be the judge.
Stanley Fish is making sense:
The demand that Barack Obama denounce and renounce his pastor, who delivered himself of sentiments a million miles from anything Obama has ever said, is only the latest and most publicized example. In previous little dust-ups Obama has had to distance himself from Louis Farrakhan (after Hillary Clinton demanded that he both denounce and renounce) and from his own middle name. Clinton, in her turn, has been called on the journalistic carpet because of remarks made by Robert Johnson, Geraldine Ferraro, a campaign manager and her husband. John McCain has had to repudiate a talk show host who introduced him and a minister who embraced him. And it’s only March. What do we have to look forward to? Denunciations of grade-school friends who grew up to become neo-Nazis or sub-prime lenders?
Fish then goes on to lament that such key issues as "war, the economy, health care, the environment" aren't being fully debated because of this denunciation circus. "We should collectively denounce and renounce denouncing and renouncing," he concludes.
Allow me to suggest an explanation. Most people don't have well-developed views on the truly important issues of the day, because such topics are complicated and folks are busy living their own lives. It doesn't take any special expertise or research to react to an incendiary speech by Jeremiah Wright, so that's a lot easier (and frankly, more entertaining) for everyone to chatter about than the collapse of Bear Stearns. One major contributing factor is political journalists, who tend to know an awful lot about delegate-counting methodology and very little about, say, collateralized debt obligations. In a way, this relentless focus on trivia is a sign of trust in the system: Most folks would rather talk endlessly about nothing while elites sort out the nation's real problems. At least, that's the hope.
On Sunday, what has been described as a "game-changing" evolution in trans-Atlantic travel regulations will take place, when the open-skies agreement takes effect. Current regulations force carriers to base flights out of their own countries only, and place restrictions on which airlines can use which airports. The new agreement means that any airline can fly from any city to any airport. The move will undoubtedly increase competition between airlines, resulting in shorter flying times and greatly reduced fares. (A new European airline is already in the works that promises to send passengers from Liverpool to Baltimore for a mere 16 bucks.)
This is great news... if you live in Europe. New fares may apply to folks on both sides of the drink, but Europeans are finding great opportunities to spend their euros in the United States, while American tourists find that a dwindling few countries even accept dollars at tourist attractions anymore.
The effect of the dollar's fall on American tourists has been much discussed, and this European travel season for American tourists is shaping up to be the most painful in a five-year-slump. Stories about $40 ice cream or $10 bottles of water are scaring American tourists away from European summer jaunts, and make lower airline prices sort of look like the free food and drinks at Caesar's Palace.
Non-stop flights from European cities will no doubt open up new American markets to European travelers. And therein lies perhaps the one consolation for the dejected American Europhile: "I may have lost Paris, but they're only gaining Detroit." I mean, where would you rather vacation?
|Photos: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News; JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images|
It reminds me of a joke well-known by Manhattanites: Q: "Why are New Yorkers so depressed?" A: "Because New Jersey's the light at the end of the tunnel."
Europe, welcome to New Jersey.
The U.S. Air Force mistakenly sent Taiwan electrical fuses involved with triggering nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missles, the Pentagon just announced.
Seven months ago, the Air Force accidentally flew nuclear-armed cruise missiles across the United States.
As Britney Spears would put it: Oops, they did it again.
When you don't have a plan, call for an expert panel:
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton called on President Bush on Monday to appoint ''an emergency working group on foreclosures'' to recommend new ways to confront the nation's housing finance troubles.
The New York senator said the panel should be led by financial experts such as Robert Rubin, who was treasury secretary in her husband's administration, and former Federal Reserve chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker.
Volcker is a good choice, and he has had some smart things to say of late. Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin are undoubtedly brilliant, accomplished men who know a great deal about the financial markets and are generally well-respected in Washington. But with all due respect to Senator Clinton, they're not the right people to lead such a mission. Greenspan, after all, was the one whose slashing of interest rates helped spark the housing bubble. And Robert Rubin has been on the board of Citigroup, making him neither the most disinterested observer nor a particularly prescient one. Citigroup was up to its ears in subprime mortgages.
Greenspan and Rubin still might have some good ideas for getting us out of the current mess, even if they helped to cause it. But think of it like this: If your doctor missed tell-tale signs that you had cancer until it was nearly too late, wouldn't you start looking for advice elsewhere?
Worshipers re-enact the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday in the French Quarter, March 21, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
They want to end the Iraq War, and make the American government more reluctant to use military force in the future. But ... the idea that yelling at a couple of Marine recruiters week after week might have some actual impact on the speed with which we leave Iraq is so absurd one wonders whether even the participants believe it.... But that's not why they're there. They're there because it makes them feel good. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. That's why all of us do most of what we do.... But it becomes a problem when you hurt the cause you're trying to help, particularly when there are actual opportunities for effective action."
One of these days, a smart sociologist is going to sit down and write a book that explains just how, despite overwhelmingly anti-war public opinion, Americans allowed Iraq and Afghanistan to become the longest wars the country has fought in the last 100 years (with the exception of Vietnam). In other words, why did a viable anti-war movement fail to materialize despite the fact that two thirds of Americans believe the war is not worth fighting?
The answer might have something to do with the fact that most of the public debate about the Iraq war has been about the way it was sold and waged, not about ideology. "More competence" doesn't exactly make for the best rallying cry. What's more, many Americans don't see the fight against militant Islam as a transcendent struggle akin to the Cold War. A majority now do not fear becoming a victim of the terrorists' rage. And most aren't particularly motivated to tangle with those who do. Some time back, Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. senator, 9/11 commissioner, and Medal of Honor recipient for his service in Vietnam quite rightly put it to me this way, harkening back to Vietnam:
[I]n the Vietnam War, you had a number of other fault line debates going on, civil rights being the largest, that tended to divide very much like the Vietnam War did—pro civil rights people tending to be anti-Vietnam War and so forth. They were exceptions to that. But it tended to break out that way. It was a great left-right debate going on. And by left-right, I mean communism versus liberal democracies, and it wasn't an artificial debate. It was a real debate.... I have a much different sense of this debate than the Vietnam debate. This one is: We shouldn't have gone there because there wasn't weapons of mass destruction, that the administration lied to us—those are the sorts of things that you hear in the debate. And it's just not as likely to galvanize a large audience the way the Vietnam War did."
Commenters: Why not?
As FP recently explored in the Military Index, the U.S. Army last year had a shortage of 3,000 captains and majors, a number expected to double by 2010. Behind these statistics are folks like 26-year-old Army Capt. Kirkner Bailey of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Mosul, who says:
I have served my time; I've done two tours in Iraq. For the past three years of my life I have either been in Iraq or training to go to Iraq. I just know that there is more to life than this war, and my girlfriend, Shannon, and I are interested in finding out what that is. I can't speak to trends. But 8 of my 10 friends who are captains are leaving the Army."
When people talk about how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hollowing out of the military, this is what they mean. The trend is particularly scary when you consider that officers like Captain Bailey have tremendous amounts of combat experience and the Army is counting on them to be the next generation of leaders.
There have been many good one-liners and a few memorable speeches during this campaign, but Barack Obama's speech this morning in Philadelphia is in a class of its own. Whatever you think of his candidacy, it is one of the most frank, nuanced speeches on race we've heard in a long time:
Trinity [Obama's church] embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger.... The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.... The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.
And it's remarkable to hear a black politician speak so frankly and with such understanding about white anger, acknowledging that blacks and whites may harbor "resentments [that] aren't always expressed in polite company":
Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they’re concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
In the latest issue of Harp, a magazine for music fans, Dave Grohl announces his independent run for the presidency.
Here's the Foo Fighters frontman offering some refreshing candor on drugs:
I'm just going to come clean, I have inhaled bags of 'shrooms. I haven't done drugs for the past 20 years, to be really honest. I've smoked, [expletive], like six hits off a joint in the last 20 years. I have never done cocaine, ever in my life. I have never done heroin, I have never done speed. I have had my share of acid and mushrooms and I have smoked fields of marijuana, but by the age of 20 I realized, if I don't stop now, I'll never have the chance to be the President of the United States of America. This dream is a long time in the making, it's been almost 20 years of preparing to run silently. Gathering my ideas and support. I haven't done drugs in a long time. Because they are against the law.
On getting out of Iraq:
When I'm elected President, my cabinet and I would come up with an exit strategy that would involve no killing, no bloodshed, a safe return home and some sort of compensation...
On his policy team:
Krist Novoselic really excels in the political arena. When I need to a shoulder a cry on, when I need real advice all I have to do is call Krist and he reminds me what it is to be that kid with big dreams from Springfield, Va. The kid who worked at a furniture warehouse, mowed the lawn, and didn't have enough money to be a member of the neighborhood swimming pool.
On family values:
You know what it takes? It takes a barbecue. I think that what the country needs now is a good, smoky barbecue—family style, at least once a week, winter months included. Every Sunday.
(Hat tip: Peter Carlson)
UPDATE: For what it's worth, Dave Grohl appears to have destroyed Harp magazine.
Pennsylvania's back-slapping, gaffe-prone governor, Ed Rendell, was the guest of honor on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me this past Saturday. The first episode of NPR's always-funny quiz show since the Eliot Spitzer story broke, it was as entertaining as you might expect.
Host Peter Sagal glossed an earlier Rendell comment on Spitzer's fall from grace as, "Out of the 50 governors [likely to be caught frequenting prostitutes], he'd be fiftieth" -- referring to Spitzer's well-known penchant for sanctimony. Rendell noted that there are actually 10 women governors, so Spitzer would actually have to be fortieth. Sagal then asked Rendell, "Where would you put yourself on the list?"
"In terms of the style of the person, I'd put myself in the middle of the pack," the Pennsylvania governor responded. Good to know.
The rest of the segment, in which Rendell weighs the merits of such Madonna film classics as Shanghai Surprise, is pretty funny too.
FT Alphaville quotes Jim Reid, a credit strategist at Deutsche Bank, in a letter to clients:
The Fed has now stepped up a gear and ultimately we probably need the US Government to do so too. Even though we believe in free markets and believe that pain should be felt after such an unruly credit binge, we also think we are close to a financial system meltdown. At this stage moral hazard arguments need to be put in a wider perspective."
While the Bear Stearns debacle is certainly alarming and the broader financial system is blinking red, we should be careful in accepting such statements at face value. Banks that have made bad bets have an interest in seeing U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for their mistakes. Nouriel Roubini, who wrote the cover story for the latest issue of FP, blogged some sharp thoughts on the moral hazard problem Friday:
Unless public money is used on a very temporary basis to achieve an orderly wind-down or merger of Bear Stearns this is another case where profits are privatized and losses are socialized. By having thrown down the drain the decades old doctrine and rule that the Fed should not lend or bail out non-bank financial institutions the Fed has created an extremely dangerous precedent that seriously aggravates the moral hazard of its lender of last resort support role. If the Fed starts on the slippery slope of providing massive liquidity support to non-bank financial institutions that have recklessly managed their risks it enters into uncharted territory that radically changes its mandate and formal role. Breaking decades-old rules and practices is a radical action that seriously requires a clear public explanation and justification.
Just so we don't have to go through this whole resignation thing again," one ballsy reporter asked, "Have you ever patronized a prostitute?"
Paterson thought for a minute. "Only the lobbyists," he said.
One of the biggest gambles of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was putting Bill on the stump. Although the former leader of the free world is a master retail politician and has enjoyed near rock-star status in his post-presidency, there was always the risk that America's collective memory might harken back to not-so-heady days -- think sex scandals, impeachment trials, and dead lawyers. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll suggests that may now be happening. It shows a dramatic swing in Bill's approval rating over the last year. In March 2007, 48 percent of Americans had a positive view of the former prez, while 35 percent had a negative view. Now 45 percent of Americans hold a negative view and 42 percent hold a positive view of the 42nd president. Even stars sometimes fall from the sky.
(Hat tip: Top of the Ticket)
The Obama campaign came out swinging Tuesday with a memo by former State Department Policy Planning chief Greg Craig -- who is most noted for defending Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial -- detailing the holes in Hillary Clinton's claims that she has amassed vast amounts of foreign-policy experience over the last 15 years. Since Clinton is making these claims, I guess they deserve a closer look. But in general, all this talk of a foreign-policy threshold for presidents is profoundly overdone.
Pop quiz: Name the presidents since World War II who might have passed this so-called threshold? Certainly not Clinton's own husband, who arguably came to office with the least-developed foreign policy mind of any 20th-century president. Ike, LBJ, Richard Nixon, and George H.W. Bush are four who might pass "the threshold." Maybe Gerald Ford, who served more than two decades in the House, then was Nixon's veep. But the truth is, most presidents would not qualify, including JFK, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and, yes, Ronald Reagan, whom many credit with winning the Cold War.
I care deeply about foreign policy, so I'd like to think my choice in candidates is based in part upon their understanding and experience in the conduct of international affairs. But let's be honest: Experience is hardly a guarantee that a president's policies will be sound. Consider Nixon, who served two terms as vice president under General Eisenhower, then went on to no great glory in Vietnam. George H.W. Bush's victory in the first Gulf War looks good in hindsight, but many trash-talked him at the time for not taking out Saddam. Need I mention Dick Cheney? The idea that foreign-policy experience is a silly litmus test for presidents was pointed out with some eloquence by the New York Times' Helene Cooper in a piece which, unfortunately, ran last August while everyone was at the beach. It's worth going back to:
But does time spent as United Nations ambassador, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or first lady really cut much ice when you become commander in chief? A surprising number of experts on American presidencies said 'no.'"
It shouldn't be that surprising. There's just very little evidence that foreign-policy experience leads to good foreign policies in office.
Great business minds can agree on one thing these turbulent days: The United States is in danger of losing its competetive edge. Bill Gates has complained about it. Tom Friedman is worried America has fallen behind in the green technology race. Intel Chairman Craig Barrett wrote about the United States' research and development void for FP a couple of years ago.
So when Fast Company published its list of The 50 Most Innovative Companies in the world, I expected it to be loaded with Bangalore and Shenzhen-based startups. But to my surprise, 38 of the 50 most innovative companies in the world are still in the United States. Only three hail from India or China, and only four from all of Europe.
But it's not all good news for the buy-America crowd. Not a single U.S. car company makes the cut (the only two listed are Toyota and Tata motors). There's not a single U.S. airline, telecom, oil, or chemical company. Of course the list tends to favor young companies and Internet darlings, but that's no excuse for the stagnation that has kept once-great giants like General Motors, Ford, and AT&T off this list.
Here are the top 10 from Fast Company's list of 50. For the rest, be sure to visit the Web site.
Of course, anytime someone publishes a list, it's our duty to debate what was left off. Here are three innovative, non-U.S. companies that immediately come to mind: Virgin Atlantic, Honda, and Canon. Whom am I missing?
So, by now you've probably heard that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has appeared to acknowledge his alleged involvement in an international prostitution ring. As he put it in today's press conference, "I have acted in a way that violates the obligations of my family," but did not directly say he would step down, only that he would use this opportunity to rebuild trust with his family and the public. "I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals," he said, "It is about ideas," suggesting that he may not be ready to call it quits just yet. "I will report back to you in short order," he said as he left the podium without taking questions. In the post-Clinton era, pehaps he thinks he can fight this one out.
I'm sure we're going to learn much, much more about this in the hours ahead, but if it's true -- as the Times alleges -- that Spitzer is "Client 9" of the Emperors Club, a prostitution ring with branches in Washington, London, and Paris in addition to New York, I have to wonder: Who are clients 1 through 8? Is the ordering by importance, chronological, or random? How international was the clientele?
Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman, tried to connect some dots this morning that have been bugging me since last week. If, as Clinton likes to suggest, Barack Obama has not met the "national security threshold," why is her campaign hinting that he would make such a good vice president -- someone who might someday have to step in as commander in chief?
Senator Clinton will not choose any candidate who has not at the time of choosing passed the national security threshold. But we have a long way to go until Denver, and [choosing Obama is] not something she's prepared to rule out at this point."
Come again? Wolfson must think it's possible to accumulate foreign-policy know-how in dog years. Politically speaking, I suppose a lot can happen between now and August 25. But this formulation will be lost on anyone who thinks seriously about international affairs. How exactly are Obama's qualifications to be commander in chief going to change radically over the next 24 weeks? By campaigning in Puerto Rico?
DEARBORN, MI - MARCH 5: Foods stock the Middle Eastern foods aisle at a new multilingual Wal-Mart that will stock the largest selection of Middle Eastern food of any Wal-Mart in the nation. The store has signage in English, Arabic, and Spanish, and employees who are multilingual are identified by special name tags that they wear.
I've always heard about John McCain's legendary temper, but never really seen it in action. Here's how the Arizona senator responded to a question about a conversation he had about being John Kerry's running mate in 2004:
(Hat tip: The Caucus)
The sprawling media-information company that Mayor Mike Bloomberg left behind is bracing for the worst in terms of a fiscal downturn.
"The new top brass here are betting on a recession," said one insider...
Bloomberg LP recently imposed a salary freeze for anyone making a base salary of over $200,000 a year, said the insider.
"Freezes on headcount are soon to come," added the source.
But who needs these under-the-radar indicators? The U.S. economy lost 63,000 jobs in February and 22,000 in January. It's pretty clear, as Warren Buffett said earlier this week, that "by any common-sense definition, we [the United States] are in a recession." Buffett is the world's richest man, and he'll weather the storm just fine. I just worry about the rest of us.
That's how Randy Scheunemann, who is overseeing foreign policy issues for John McCain's campaign, just summed up the obvious in a Council on Foreign Relations event here in Washington. After Mara Rudman, who is advising Hillary Clinton, very briefly addressed the issue of Clinton's foreign policy experience, Scheunemann chimed in with:
Please keep running those 3:00 A.M. ads about who you want to answer the phone, because we like those."
In other words, the more Clinton and Obama keep talking about how inexperienced the other is, the more it sticks for both.
Interestingly, Rudman highlighted Clinton's "travel and experiences on the ground" as first lady as proof that she's ready to answer that phone. If that's the "commander in chief threshold" that Clinton keeps talking about, it sounds pretty thin to me. At least as thin as Obama's argument that he lived for a while in Indonesia, and that somehow qualifies him to handle the complexities of the Middle East peace process, serve as commander in chief, and execute the other national security responsibilities of the Oval Office. In a dogfight with John McCain, Clinton and Obama had better have more bullets in the gun than that.
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