Hey, America. Are you ready for a political "advice" column that has the sentence, "There were enough deaths at Stalingrad to make the entire tea party collectively orgasm" in its fifth paragraph? Or that makes the basic suggestion that President Barack Obama should "panic"? Because that's what former Clinton aide-de-camp James Carville is advising over at CNN's opinion page.
Actually, those are probably the key moments when the hot cobra venom hits Carville's adrenal glands. The rest of the column, frankly, makes some nominal sense if you've been paying attention to what's going on in America, and parts of it -- parts! -- will probably be heard pretty sympathetically by people who still wish success for the Obama administration. Though that whole "panicking" part, does that ever work in a re-election year? Carville thinks so, and his first prescription for Obama is to fire a bunch of people:
Bill Clinton fired many people in 1994 and took a lot of heat for it. Reagan fired most of his campaign staff in 1980. Republicans historically fired their own speaker, Newt Gingrich. Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. For God's sake, why are we still looking at the same political and economic advisers that got us into this mess? It's not working.
Hey now. Everyone understands that Bush didn't "fire" Rumsfeld until after his party received an off-year election beatdown in 2006, right? And so it's pretty dumb to include that as an example to support your premise that firing a bunch of people leads to electoral success. And we're clear that one of the things that attracted people to Obama in the first place was that he remained pretty composed and level-headed back in 2008, when John McCain was suggesting he'd fire SEC Chairman Christopher Cox? So, do you think a frantic purge of Obama administration officials would earn a bunch of positive press, or would it instead lead to a bunch of stories about how the Obama administration is flailing under the pressure?
By the way, some of the people who might replace the folks Obama might fire at Carville's suggestion (Eric Holder is specifically cited; Tim Geithner is strongly implied) would require Senate confirmation. I imagine that the Republicans in the Senate would be perfectly amenable to a swift confirmation process, and would not at all gum up the works with filibusters and procedural delays at all.
But, okay, moving on to Carville's next suggestion, which is basically: Charge everyone involved in the 2008 financial crisis with crimes already:
There are certain people in American finance who haven't been held responsible for utterly ruining the economic fabric of our country. Demand from the attorney general a clear status of the state of investigation concerning these extraordinary injustices imposed upon the American people. I know Attorney General Eric Holder is a close friend of yours, but if his explanations aren't good, fire him too. Demand answers to why no one has been indicted.
Now this I can get behind! Holding someone responsible for the financial crisis would help Obama tap in to some of that populist discontent that's still surging through the electorate, and that the GOP is successfully redirecting at public sector employees and schoolteachers in a down-to-the-last-scrap war between the have-nots and the other have-nots. (In fact, this is a good reason to hold people accountable right away.)
Of course, I'm pretty sure that the reason this sort of accountability hasn't happened has very little to do with Eric Holder and his "explanations." I have a good feeling that the reason it hasn't happened is that Democrats from Obama on down are kinda-sorta hoping that some of the "certain people in American finance who haven't been held responsible for utterly ruining the economic fabric of our country" will help fund their re-election bids, in order to keep up with their opponents, who will be funded by the rest of the "certain people in American finance who haven't been held responsible for utterly ruining the economic fabric of our country." This is sort of a party-wide problem. (And if we're being honest, being beholden to Wall Street interests was a feature of the administration for which Carville toiled.)
Carville also wants Obama to "make the case like a Democrat." He says, "While we are going along with the Republican austerity garbage, who is making the case against it? It's not the Democrats!" Again, however, this sounds like a Democratic Party-wide problem, as many, many Democratic lawmakers have very willingly gone along with turning tricks for the austerity pimps. What is Obama supposed to do about that, if he was inclined to put a stop to it (which he isn't, it seems)? Fire them, somehow? Indict them, for some reason? Per Carville, apparently this all has something to do with a guy at the Congressional Budget Office who has a last name that Carville thinks is silly:
We are allowing the over-educated, over-explanatory bureaucrat by the name of (Congresssional Budget Office director Douglas) Elmendorf do all the talking. Do not let him make your case.
Okay, so someone should fire and/or indict Douglas Elmendorf on the grounds that he has an education and a job in which he's tasked with explaining things? Which battleground state does this move lock up?
Again, like a lot of others, I'd love to see some people go to jail -- iron bars and bread crusts and orange jumpsuit jail! -- for the 2008 financial crisis. (I also sort of think that people who destroy an entire coastline with oil and negligence should not be walking around as free men, either!) And I would love for the Obama economic team to get a lot less Geithner-y and become a lot more Volcker-y/Stiglitz-y. Again, I am utterly confused by this beef with Douglas Elmendorf (though the CBO is basically the fair-weather friend of every partisan hack in Washington), but I can understand why a guy like Carville is so motivated: "As I watch the Republican debates, I realize that we are on the brink of a crazy person running our nation."
Nevertheless, I remain convinced that panic and frenzy and sudden purges just don't work as a means to overcome election-year opponents (if it did, perhaps John McCain would be president right now). And if the shoe were on the other foot, I think James Carville would offer Cajun-style denunciations of politically-motivated indictments. But the salient point is this: In this particular election, the economic fundamentals are bad, and that's the primary headwind that Obama is facing in terms of his re-election hopes. While it might be good and right and just to fire someone or to send someone to jail, these aren't things that are going to bring about a sudden economic recovery that alters these fundamentals.
Beyond that, I'm pretty sure that "The Complete History Of Unambiguously Effective Presidential Manic Panic Freakouts" is a zero-page book that takes zero minutes to write. In fact, I just wrote it! Buy it today, wherever books are not sold, for no dollars. Instead of succumbing to the madness of the hour, I'd recommend brushing up on one's Kipling!
READ THE WHOLE THING:
What should the White House do? Panic! [CNN]