Daily Archives: January 18, 2010

Taliban attacks Kabul. Dexter Filkins, NYT. Interesting that “Monday’s gun battle was notable for the absence of American soldiers: a small group of commandos from New Zealand were the only Western soldiers on the scene.”

Wake-up call for Obama. Robert Kuttner, Huffington Post. A liberal perspective on what went wrong. I agree with Kuttner that “Deferring to the House and Senate was fine up to a point, but this was an issue where the president needed to lead as only presidents can–in order to frame the debate and define the stakes.” The rest of Kuttner’s argument is more debatable, but interesting.

The Guantanamo “suicides”. Scott Horton, Harper’s (thanks, Browser)

At the laundromat. NR Kleinfield, NYT (ditto)

Moscow’s stray dogs. Susanne Sternthal, FT

Democrats are far too preoccupied with how to ignore a defeat in Massachusetts, if it turns out that they lose tomorrow. Do they try to delay Brown’s arrival in the Senate? Do they try to push health reform through with reconciliation? Does the House pass the unamended Senate bill, avoiding the need for another vote?

Good questions, no doubt, and not easy to answer. There are pros and cons in each case. But it would be a great error for Democrats to concentrate on these tactical matters as though the scare, let alone outright defeat, in Massachusetts did not raise bigger questions. Coakley might still win, of course. (Nate Silver says the race is too close to call.) But even if she ekes out a narrow victory, Democrats urgently need to stop and think–not about how to cram through health reform while they can, but about why everything is going so wrong.

On the face of it, what is happening in Massachusetts is not politics as usual. Maybe the Coakley embarrassment can be dismissed. Certainly, she has been a pitiful candidate. But at the very least this needs to be argued through, not taken as read. Democrats need to recover some sense of shock at what the polls in Massachusetts are saying.

They also need to ask what the electorate will make of a response that says, “We don’t care what the voters think. We know best.” I support healthcare reform; for all its flaws, I think the Senate bill is a big step forward. But supporters of the bill must take pause at its unpopularity, which the polls in Massachusetts underline. The plain fact is, the Democrats have failed to make their case. They need to ask why, and start trying to fix it. Finding cunning ways to carry on regardless sends a message of contempt to the electorate, and one thing we know is that the electorate always gets the last word.

Bromley illustration

Whenever you wonder if rage at Wall Street is getting a little out of hand, some titan of the industry speaks up and makes you think, “Let’s go down there and smash some windows.”

Top banking executives appeared last week before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, set up by Congress to look into the debacle. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase were far from contrite. Both said how well their companies were doing despite the crisis, which had been a nuisance, to be sure, but more an act of nature than something their industry brought about. “There are a number of things we could have done better,” Mr Dimon conceded graciously.

When you measure that complacency against the harm the slump has inflicted on millions of innocent bystanders, rage seems the only apt response. Revenge is called for. How about a fine, to punish the bandits and show them who’s boss?

The remainder of this article can be read here.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

Clive Crook’s blog: A guide

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