Almost all political commentators agree on one thing. The Republican presidential campaign is unlike any we have experienced. It is not a campaign of steady trends and continuities, but rather of emotional reversals and discontinuities. Perhaps this is so because the last 3 to 4 years have been a shocking time of discontinuities and reversals for America.
One of the nice things about human history is that no matter how much people or their leaders misjudge events and make a hash of things, within a few centuries, the debris is cleared away, and we can have another go at getting things right.
Sunday on "Meet the Press" Colin Powell blamed divisive, poisonous Washington politics on the media and the Tea Party. The essence of Powell's argument was: "Republicans and Democrats are focusing more and more on their extreme left and extreme right. And we have to come back toward the center in order to compromise. ... The media has to help us.
As we approach the festive season -- the elongated, enchanting month from Thanksgiving through Christmas to New Years -- my mind has been drifting through various memorable past holidays. Some have been personal -- the last one with my father before he died. But one that stands out for historic reasons was Christmas 1991.
A just released book, "Bowing to Beijing" by Brett M. Decker and William C. Triplett II, will change forever the way you think about China -- even if, like me, you already have the deepest worries about the Chinese threat. As I opened the book, I was expecting to find many useful examples of Chinese military and industrial efforts to get the better of the United States and the West.
Now is a particularly dangerous moment for American national security interests. Not just because threats are growing. Not just because the current administration is making a historic bungle from China to Iraq to Iran to Russia to Europe to Mexico to our historic allies in the Middle East -- both Jewish and Muslim. All that would be bad enough.
For the past few years, fear of China's predatory mercantilism has been steadily growing in America, both amongst the public and in elite business and political circles. But last week, for the first time, one could discern the genuine possibility that America might actually do something about it -- even if it means a trade war.
How dangerous is the European financial condition? On Monday, while stock markets from the DAX and FTSE to the New York Stock Exchange were up sharply on report of French and German cooperative murmurs regarding sovereign debt negotiations (and on temporary easing of U.S. double-dip recession fears), the financial and political European press were warning of a coming financial crisis of unmatched dimensions.
President Obama, like most American presidents, is lucky that the public pays little attention to foreign policy and rarely casts its votes on the basis of presidential foreign-policy performance. It required something as dramatic as the November 1979 Iranian seizing of our diplomats as hostages, followed the next month by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to turn Jimmy Carter's foreign policy mess into a major negative issue for him in his failed 1980 re-election bid.
In one of the least needed reassurances in modern political history, President Obama's top political man David Plouffe, "told Democrats late last week that the White House would not suffer from overconfidence. 'What I don't want to suggest is that we're sitting around and thinking everything is great,' he said."
Since the end of World War II, in both the United States and Western Europe, the best way to win a national election has been to be the incumbent political party. But that 3-generation-old predisposition of publics in Western democracies may be coming to an end.
President Obama's post-Labor Day "jobs" speech will be his last chance to launch an economic policy with any chance of manifesting its effect -- both economic and political -- before the November 2012 elections.
In the weeks during and since the debt-ceiling debate, the media, pushed by the Democratic Party, has peddled the propaganda that our government is broken -- because the Republicans in the House of Representatives negotiated a better deal than the liberals wanted.
Except according to the Lord's plans -- which are not known to man -- the "end of the world" is not nigh, although to listen to politicians and pundits, we should be packed and ready to go by next Thursday.
The debt deal, if it sticks, is a triumph for the bipartisan, status quo-clinging Washington establishment. Here is a prediction: Between now and January 2013, total actual spending cuts will be minimal. That will result from the following: (1) The $900 billion deficit reduction is almost all back-loaded to the years beyond 2012. (2) The select committee created by the budget deal will fail to pass a "second tranche" deficit-cut package of an additional $1.5 trillion. (3) The "trigger" will be pulled that will identify an additional $1.2 trillion. (4) The pulled trigger won't require any more deficit reductions to go into effect until 2013, when a new Congress and either a new president or a re-elected President Obama will be able to re-decide (or repeal) all these decisions. That president will also have to decide what to do with the expiring Bush tax cuts, which if extended would be scored to increase deficit by $3.5 trillion over ten years. (5) The debt ceiling will not need to be raised until 2013.
How have we arrived at this place where the fate of our federal budget -- our economy, indeed our capacity to have a functioning federal government -- seems to depend on what two men (the speaker of the House and the president) may or may not be secretly talking about in an interior room in the White House?