The Case for Bloomberg

Apparently, Michael Bloomberg is getting serious about his proposed bid for the presidency. He had a “double super secret strategy meeting” with Al From and others last month, and, though interested, asked, “How likely is a 5’7″-Jew-from-New-York billionaire who’s divorced and running as an independent to become president of the United States?” More likely than he’d think. None of the criteria put forth by Bloomberg are as consequential as he would have himself believe. First, there is a good chance that the Republican nominee for president will have been divorced. As Steve Benen mentioned in a great article in the Washington Monthly, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani all have at least one wife behind them; in each case, the candidate committed adultery. And John Kerry and Ronald Reagan didn’t suffer much due to their multiple marriages (there is no indication that either cheated on their first wife); Nancy and Teresa weren’t well-liked by many, but that wasn’t due to their “second-wife” status. Now, Bloomberg’s bachelorhood could be a problem, but divorce in and of itself doesn’t hurt his candidacy that much. Also, plutocrats aren’t exactly hated. Bloomberg’s got a few billion more brain cells left than Perot, and one in five Americans voted for the latter. And I think Bloomberg’s overstating the consequences of his Judaism as well. Only five percent of Americans openly say they couldn’t vote for a Jew; a sad number, to be sure, but a marginal one. A third-party candidacy is an uphill battle, of course. But I think Bloomberg will be a lot more like Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 than Perot in 1992. His political experience, moderation, money, and name recognition all work to his advantage, especially in a day and age when disillusionment with the Republican establishment isn’t translating into support for the Democrats.
I should make clear that I would unequivocally support Bloomberg in the general election if he runs. After reading his profile in Rolling Stone, I went from having the upmost apathy toward the man’s candidacy to having the most overwhelming enthusiasm. Part of the reason was his insistence on using cold, hard data to make policy decisions, a tendency that, as the article shows, has had profoundly positive consequences, and which I find extremely endearing. But mostly I liked his attitude toward terrorism. Read:

Nowhere is Bloomberg’s independent streak more evident than in the way he handles the dicey political territory of terrorism. Say the threat is dire, and you look like a fear-monger; say it’s overblown, and you look naive. Bloomberg, who has seen the intelligence reports and has dispatched NYPD officers to London, Afghanistan and the Middle East to investigate the jihadist threat, doesn’t hesitate. Americans, he tells me, are “too freaked out” about the threat of another attack. “There is a much greater risk from lifestyles that hurt you – smoking, walking across the street without looking both ways, not putting bars in the window if you’ve got kids and you live above the first floor, those kinds of things.”

There was a time when I thought a candidate who opposed the war on terror and supported gay marriage, while not being a lunatic, was too much to hope for. I guess not.

The Dominionist Ascendancy

I would normally respond to posts like this one from Alan Wolfe – which basically accuses Michelle Goldberg of hating Christians because she wrote a book exposing a fringe movement within fundamentalist Christianity that rejects not just the separation of church and state but the Constitution altogether – by noting that Goldberg is not talking about all Christians, or even the Christian Right as a whole, but about a small but powerful offshoot of the evangelical movement whose views have some influence on mainstream Christian conservative firebrands. But today I’ll just point Wolfe to what our president said yesterday:

President Bush said yesterday that he senses a “Third Awakening” of religious devotion in the United States that has coincided with the nation’s struggle with international terrorists, a war that he depicted as “a confrontation between good and evil.”
Bush told a group of conservative journalists that he notices more open expressions of faith among people he meets during his travels, and he suggested that might signal a broader revival similar to other religious movements in history. Bush noted that some of Abraham Lincoln’s strongest supporters were religious people “who saw life in terms of good and evil” and who believed that slavery was evil. Many of his own supporters, he said, see the current conflict in similar terms.
“A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me,” Bush said during a 1 1/2 -hour Oval Office conversation on cultural changes and a battle with terrorists that he sees lasting decades.

Via Steve. When the president talks about how his foreign policy is part of a Augustinian – even Manichean – Messianic quest to rid the world of evil, isn’t it a tad indefensible to dismiss those of us who worry about the intermingling of politics and religion?

Huntington Pwned. Again.

Samuel Huntington has a habit of getting bitchslapped by empirical data. Like when he published an article, and then a book about how civilizations have superseded nation-states as the primary actors in world affairs, and then it turned out that there was no real increase in inter-civilizational conflict during the period he claimed this was happening. Now it seems like his latest work – on the cultural necessity of keeping the Mexicans out of the good ol’ Protestant (?) US of A – is getting similar treatment. A key point of Huntington’s latest book is that increased Latino immigration will lead to America’s transformation into a bilingual state – which he argues is a bad thing because of the problems seen in bilingual countries like Belgium and Canada. And, indeed, there might well be strife if Spanish nears English in terms of speakers in the US – albeit strife caused by people, like Huntington, who are offended by the Spanish. But a new study by sociologists at Princeton and UC Irvine – humbly linked to by Foreign Policy, which published an excerpt from Huntington’s book as a cover story when it came out – demolishes this argument. It shows that next-to-no three generation Latino immigrants speak Spanish, meaning that the possibility of a Spanish-English dualism in America is extremely small. This isn’t all of Huntington’s argument, of course, but it’s a substantial chunk, and casts doubt on the rest of the book.

TV News

I’ve never watched network news or talks shows, and what cable news viewing I did ended when I watched Broadcast News – which, along with Annie Hall, is one of my two favorite films. And now it appears that I’m missing nothing. From Waveflux:

August 14: Katie Couric chats with Howard Kurtz.

Couric: It’s not going to be smiley-face happy news.

September 12: I chat with my wife M.

M: Katie Couric was doing a story about lifespans in different cities yesterday. She used a map that put smiley faces on the cities where lifespans were longer, and frowny faces on cities where lifespans were shorter.
Me: (pause) No, she didn’t.
M: (smiling) Yes. She did.

Now, to be fair, the life expectancy story is important, as Ezra notes. But still, this is too perfect. And it doesn’t seem like her successor at Today is much better:

Meredith Vieira: I’m going to be the broad in broadcasting.

Classy. Though, to be fair, Vieira’s new colleague, Matt Lauer, did an interview of Bush on torture (conveniently featured on Shakespeare’s Sister as well) that was surprisingly hardhitting. I almost never use this word when it comes to the news media, but I was impressed.

Primaries

Thoughts:

  • Call me crazy, but I love Lincoln Chafee. A while back I looked through various Democratic and moderate Republican voting records, as compiled by OnTheIssues.org, and judged Chafee’s and Ron Wyden’s to be those that agreed most with my values (this was before Obama was elected). Given that Wyden isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed (try watching his introduction at the New America Foundation without flinching with embarrassment), that made Chafee, until Obama was elected, my favorite Senator. Just look at his record. He’s pro-choice, pro-gay marriage (the only Republican in the Senator with that position, and one of only seven senators total with it), anti-ANWR drilling, voted against the 2001 and 2003 tax cut, and was the only Republican to vote against the Iraq War Resolution as well as the Levin withdrawal amendment. He voted against Bush’s reelection, for heaven’s sake. When it comes to everything but the caucusing vote, he’s a Democrat. And I am confident that we could convert him in the event of a Jeffords-esque 50-50 split (despite his curious explanation of what a Republican believes, which actually seems like an excellent summary of the Democratic platform). So I’m glad he was renominated, and I hope he gets reelected. The best case scenario would be Sheldon Whitehouse dropping his place on the Democratic line and allowing Linc to run on both party lines if he promises to caucus with the Democrats, but I don’t see Whitehouse or the state Democratic party doing that, unfortunately. So I’m left with supporting Linc, even if it means a vote for Mitch McConnell, which it probably won’t.
  • I’m glad Rep. Ben Cardin [D-MD] won. Regardless of the “mobilize the black vote” argument up at Taegan’s place, Cardin pollsbetter against Lt. Gov. Michael Steele [R-MD] than former Rep. and NAACP president Kweisi Mfume [D-MD], and Mfume has several skeletons in his closet.
  • We’ll be getting our first Muslim congressman. That’s pretty sweet.
    P.S. Steve reminds me that Chafee also flirted with supporting Feingold’s censure resolution, and has openly talked about switching parties. Consider my argument buttressed.

  • Interesting Developments for IR Theory

    Note: boring IR theory post. If you find the title an oxymoron, don’t read.


    Brad Plumer, in the middle of a characteristically good post on the costs of income inequality which you should all read, links to an astonishingly interesting paper by Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota and Benjamin Page of Northwestern – neither of whom are IR theorists – that shows that American foreign policy is primarily influenced by business interests, business-funded think tanks, and organized labor. This provides a big bucket full of evidence for Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s strategic perspective paradigm (curiously, BDM’s name does not appear once in the paper). By providing solid empirical evidence that the policy process of the world superpower is shaped by the interests most important to that country’s leaders’ political survival, Jacobs and Page might not have proven BDM right exactly, but he certainly owes them a big thank-you note.
    But those few human-nature realists still out there might find solace in a psychological study (via Will Saletan) showing men to be more inclined to support and instigate wars than women. This shouldn’t be too surprising; primate studies have had similar results. But it does confirm that evolutionary psychology is an underused tool in IR theory.

    Sympathy for the Devil

    Ezra’s right: not everything that the Nazis did was evil(the socialism part of “national socialism” was pretty good), and the argument that because the Nazi and/or Hitler supported something it’s necessarily wrong is a fallacy. This isn’t exactly a new observation; Leo Strauss called the fallacy reductio ad Hitlerum. But it’s worth repeating, as is this classic Ezra line:

    Unfortunately, [the Nazis] also set out to conquer Europe and exterminate the Jews. People shouldn’t do that.

    Indeed. In other evil-people-doing-good-things news, Ismail Haniyeh, Prime Minister of Palestine and political leader of Hamas, has agreed to implicitly recognize Israel as part of an agreement for a unity government between Fatah and Hamas. This is great news for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it may resulting in a lessening of the devastating pressure Israel has inflicted upon Hamas, which has mostly just hurt the Palestinian people, who overwhelmingly depend on state and Hamas-run welfare and government employment. Secondly, it marks an end to the internecine squabbling that has plagued Gaza and the West Bank for months. This both will reduce the violence that has killed several this year and improve Abbas’ clout in negotiating an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and, eventually, a Palestinian state. It’s hard to interpret this as anything else than a massive net positive.