Posts Tagged ‘Matt Bai’

USA | Barack Obama har tillkännagett att han stödjer homosexuella äktenskap. Men ännu vet ingen vad det  politiska utfallet kommer att bli.

Intervjun med Barack Obama skedde under viss förvirring. Tydligen hade Obama planerat att komma med tillkännagivandet senare, inför demokraternas konvent.

Men Vita huset tvingades tidigarelägga det när vicepresident Joe Biden, sin vana trogen, inte kunde hålla tyst utan meddelade sin egen inställning till frågan om äktenskap.

Men när det väl var gjort blev reaktionen mindre omfattande än väntat. Till och med Mitt Romney och republikanernas kommentarer blev återhållsamma.

Och reaktionerna på den liberala kanten har varit märkbart blandade.

Vad som för bara ett par år sedan skulle ha uppfattats som ett modigt steg av många på vänsterkanten uppfattas idag snarare som ett försök att återuppväcka glöden från förra valrörelsen.

Många liberaler är helt enkelt besvikna över vad Obama åstadkommit under sin tid i Vita huset.

Andrew Sullivan, själv homosexuell, skrev en i huvudsak positiv artikel i Newsweek. Men även han betonade de politiska beräkningar som måste ha legat bakom.

There was, of course, cold politics behind it. One in six of Obama’s fundraising bundlers is gay, and he needs their money. Wall Street has not backed him financially this year the way it did in 2008. A few Jewish donors have held back over Israel. And when Obama announced recently that he would not issue an executive order barring antigay discrimination for federal contractors, the gay donors all but threatened to leave him high and dry. The unity and intensity of the gay power brokers—absent in the defensive crouch of the Clinton years—proved that FDR’s maxim still applied: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

If money was one factor making the move necessary, the youth vote—essential to his demographic coalition and overwhelmingly pro–marriage equality—clinched the logic of it. The under-30s were looking worryingly apathetic, especially compared with 2008. This would fire them back up. And by taking a position directly counter to that of Mitt Romney, who favors a constitutional amendment to ban all rights for gay couples across the entire country, Obama advanced his key strategy to winning in the fall: to make this a choice election. If it is a choice election, he wins. If it is a referendum on the last four years of economic crisis, he could lose.

John Cook på Gawker skrev den betydligt surare kommentaren Barack Obama’s Bullshit Gay Marriage Announcement”.

[Obamas] announcement amounts to much less than meets the eye. He now believes that gay couples should be able to marry. He doesn’t believe they have a right to do so. This is like saying that black children and white children ought to attend the same schools, but if the people of Alabama reject that notion—what are you gonna do?


Well, before Roe v. Wade, abortion was a state-by-state issue, too. So was slavery. There are 44 states in which gay men and women are currently barred from marrying one another. Obama’s position is that, while he would have voted the other way, those 44 states are perfectly within their rights to arbitrarily restrict the access of certain individuals to marriage rights based solely on their sexual orientation.

Vad många antagligen misstänker är att Obama inte skulle ha kommit med tillkännagivandet om det inte hade varit för att republikanerna förnärvarande är så svaga politiskt.

Sannolikheten att Mitt Romney skulle kunna vinna presidentvalet ser inte ut att vara speciellt stora för närvarande. Han liknar snarare en republikansk variant av demokraternas John Kerry.

Läs mer: I artikeln “How President Obama, in Six Days, Decided to Come Out for Gay Marriage” beskriver Howard Kurtz alla turerna. Se även Matt Bais “Obama’s Stance Is Significant, if Not Bold Leadership”.

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ESSAY | Politiska nördar kände säkert till Newt Gingrich redan innan starten av republikanernas valkampanj. Samma kan nog inte sägas om Rick Santorum.

Så för alla som gillar att dyka ner i tidningsarkiven kommer här två långa personporträtt publicerade 2005 respektive 2009 i The New York Times Magazine.

Båda håller än idag för en genomläsning. Och när man läst dem får man en betydligt mer nyanserad bild av personerna än om man bara följer dagsnyheterna. (För att inte tala om man följer amerikansk politik via svenska medier.)

Michael Sokolove skrev 2005 i The New York Times Magazine:

Santorum has never entirely shed his image as someone not quite fit for polite political company — he is the senator as hyperactive political pugilist, quick to engage in combat, slow to yield the floor, a little too eager to crush opponents. His instinct runs more toward total victory than to meeting somewhere in the middle. He has become important, a man for the political times, partly because he understands the Senate’s courtly veneer as just that — a fiction. He likes to fight from the extremes and disdains political moderation as wishy-washiness. He respects Democrats like Representative Henry Waxman of California; Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin; and the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota — determined, passionate liberals. ”They’re out there because they really believe this,” he said. ”This is from their core. They’re true believers, God bless them. That’s what political discourse is all about. You bring in your moral code, or worldview, and I bring in mine.”


Some of Santorum’s supporters, however, say they believe that his faith leads him into terrain that has been abandoned by other social conservatives. David Kuo, the former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says he has come to believe that, on social issues, the hard right of the Republican party is concerned too much with behavior, primarily abortion and homosexuality, and too little with poverty. He considered Santorum the exception. ”He was a singular voice in Republican leadership fighting for antipoverty legislation,” Kuo said. ”He kept pushing it. I was in meetings when people would start rolling their eyes when he started talking about it. It is very much at odds with the public perception of him. He fought behind the scenes where nobody could see it. His compassion is genuine.”

Om Newt Gingrich skrev Matt Bai i The New York Times (2009) följande:

“He’s a total idea factory,” [Paul] Ryan said. “The man will have 10 ideas in an hour. Six of them will be brilliant, two of them are in the stratosphere and two of them I’ll just flat-out disagree with. And then you’ll get 10 more ideas in the next hour.”

A lot of these e-mail messages are deeply wonkish, written in single-sentence paragraphs without punctuation or capital letters. It’s almost as if you can see Gingrich twittering away at a Starbucks while doing calculations on a wrinkled napkin.


Gingrich is a historian and a futurist; he’s comfortable looking backward or ahead, but he doesn’t actually do all that well with the present. Possessed of a chaotic mind that moves from one obsession to the next, Gingrich flailed from objective to objective, while his missteps came to dominate the news.


This has long been the chief criticism of Gingrich among those who share his ideological convictions — that there is a randomness to his brilliance, a lack of prioritization or discipline. Gingrich may be an “idea factory,” as Paul Ryan puts it, but it sometimes seems like a factory working on triple shifts without a floor manager or anyone keeping the books. Even Gingrich’s modestly bulging waistline, which expands and contracts on some kind of lunar schedule to which only fellow Republicans seem especially attuned, is mentioned as evidence that Gingrich can’t focus on any one objective for very long.

Läs mer: Artiklarna och tidskriftsomslagen är från The New York Times Magazine den 22 maj 2005 respektive den 1 mars 2009.

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PR | Newt Gingrich har lanserat en ny slogan: “Unleash the American people, rebuild the America we love”. Otympligare än så kan det knappast bli.

Matt Bai skrev ett roligt inlägg på bloggen The Caucus med anledning av detta:

First off, there’s the odd use of the word “unleash,” which might make sense if we were talking about unleashing untapped energy or potential, but which in this case makes the citizenry sound like a big, slobbering Doberman that’s been seething in the rain.

And then there’s the sheer wordiness of the slogan, which had to be so severely shrunk in order to fit on the campaign placards that, even on a 55-inch TV, it looked like the second-to-last row on an eye doctor’s reading chart. Bumper stickers don’t usually have clauses. There’s a reason Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” wasn’t: “Unleash the sunrise, remake the home fries we love.”

One can imagine what Mr. Gingrich might do as a corporate branding consultant. Taco Bell’s “Think Outside the Bun” might become: “Eschew the hamburger, think beyond the roll that houses it.” Instead of “Just Do It,” Nike might end its commercials with: “Just undertake whatever it is you were intending to do, before you got distracted or depressed.”


Mitt Romney’s current argument-in-a-phrase, plastered on his own signs and banners in South Carolina, seems to be: “Believe in America.” I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, except that it’s calculated to be utterly unobjectionable and comes off as synthetic and conventional. In that sense, it’s also a pretty good reflection of Mr. Romney’s candidacy to date.

Läs mer:12 Lessons Learned: A Critique of the 2012 Presidential Campaign SlogansGOP Campaigner.com.

Bild: En ”editorial cartoon” av Mike Thompson. Se fler på GoComics.

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KAMPANJ | När det såg som mörkast ut för Gingrichs kampanj räddades han av Elefanten Ellis – huvudpersonen i fruns barnbok Sweet Land of Liberty.

Denna lustiga detalj kan man läsa i Matt Bais intressanta personporträtt i The New York Times.

“One of the things that actually saved us,” Gingrich told me, “in addition to Callista’s stubbornness, was Ellis the elephant.”

I checked to make sure I heard this right. […] In what way had a fictional elephant salvaged his presidential campaign?

“Happy, positive,” Gingrich replied, searching for the right words. “Interesting. Creative. It gave you an oasis psychologically. Literally, Ellis was sort of a ray of light.”

Men Newt Gingrichs topposition bland de republikanska presidentkandidaterna beror nog mer på hans starka insatser under de många tv-debatterna.

Han har gjort en dygd av att vara den intellektuella kandidaten som inte bryr sig om sådana världsliga ting som kampanjfinansiering och organisering.

Gingrich says now, in what may be a characteristic bit of revisionist history, that it was clear early on that he needed to break free of his highly paid and conventional consultants, and that he and his wife, Callista, actually took their much-maligned Greek vacation last June — a pleasure trip in the middle of what was supposed to be his ramp-up as a candidate — in order to provoke a confrontation with the campaign’s leadership. (Gingrich later added that he really needed to see the Greek fiscal crisis up close.) If so, it worked, because the entire senior team quit en masse when he got back. Thus cast out into the campaign wilderness, Gingrich persevered through the summer and early fall, despite the mockery of those who considered it a sad final act. A few times, he now admits, he considered quitting.


Gingrich’s strategy is clear enough. He wants to be the last guy standing against Romney after the first few contests — something that could be achieved just by finishing strongly enough in the early states to garner some attention while, one by one, his rivals run out of reasons to stay in the race. Gingrich knows he isn’t any social conservative’s dream, and maybe the Tea Party types are put off by his personal life or his ties to big business. But he’s betting that they like Romney even less and will rally behind him in a two-man race. “This is the classic fight between the moderate Republicans who try to get to the middle by compromise and the conservative Republicans who try to create a new middle by driving the left away,” he said.

This seemed as plausible as any other theory of the moment, although the last few days in Iowa had left me somewhat dubious. Several of the voters I met at Gingrich’s events seemed to be reluctantly getting their heads around voting for Romney. It wasn’t that they appreciated his less-confrontational brand of Republicanism any more than they did six months ago. It was that they had heard out all the other candidates, and they were starting to think that Romney was the only guy who could actually get himself elected.

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VARFÖR LYCKAS vissa politiker medan andra misslyckas?

De republikanska presidentkandidaterna kan lära de svenska partierna en hel del. Inte minst de partier som nu skall välja partiledare.

Tim Pawlentys försök att bli republikanernas presidentkandidat misslyckades. Han ägnade mer än ett år åt att bygga upp sin kampanj i Iowa och New Hampshire. Till ingen nytta visade det sig.

Rick Perry, som helt nyligen gav sig in i leken, har däremot redan seglat upp och blivit en av huvudfavoriterna vid sidan om Mitt Romney och Michele Bachmann.

Matt Bai på bloggen The Caucus har försökt sig på en förklaring till Pawlentys misslyckande. Det är lärdomar som man även i Sverige skulle kunna ta till sig.

[The] more salient lesson here, it seems to me, has little to do with Mr. Pawlenty’s résumé or his strategy. If you want to run for president, especially as a little-known establishment candidate, it usually helps if you have something to say.


I’m talking about a compelling argument for why your party should choose you and not somebody else who might have more money, or
more rousing speeches, or better hair.


Whatever his other flaws as a candidate, Mitt Romney has begun, in recent weeks, to articulate a simple and elegant rationale for why he makes more sense than any of his rivals for the nomination. Mr. Obama didn’t create our economic mess, Mr. Romney says, but the president doesn’t know enough about private enterprise to clean it up. Mr. Romney, a former private equity investor, presents himself as the only candidate who does.

What was Mr. Pawlenty’s essential argument? That he had been a commendable governor? That he was just as conservative as anyone else in the race? That he had a really gravelly voice?


Every now and then, a candidate can secure the nomination this way, simply by relying on the ineptitude of his rivals. (John Kerry in 2004 comes to mind.) More often, though, the case you argue is a lot more important than which consultants you hire or how many local activists you manage to sign up.

Och här finns en lärdom även för dagens partiledarkandidater inom Centerpartiet och Vänsterpartiet.

Knappast någon – vare sig medlemmar eller icke-medlemmar – har någon tydligare uppfattning om vad som ideologiskt eller politiskt skiljer partiledarkandidaterna åt inom respektive parti.

Detta gör att många får sin bild av politikerna från medias bristfälliga rapportering. Och medias okunnighet om skillnaderna mellan kandidaterna beror många gånger på att svenska politiker är fixerade vid att ge sken av samsyn snarare än att markera skillnader.

Oavsett schablonbilden i svenska medier är de ideologiska och politiska skillnaderna mellan exempelvis de republikanska presidentkandidaterna betydligt större än vad skillnaderna är mellan nuvarande partiledarkandidater inom Centerpartiet respektive Vänsterpartiet.

Centerpartiet ger sig själva beröm för att deras partiledarval är en ”öppen process”. Problemet är naturligtvis att en öppen process utan några större skillnader mellan kandidaterna knappast är mycket till hjälp för någon.

Därmed försitter de svenska partierna chansen att visa upp sig som folkliga, breda och dynamiska organisationer.

Inte konstigt att de tappar medlemmar.

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IMAGE: President Barack Obama uppfattas inte vara speciellt intresserad av det interna partiarbetet. Många demokrater oroar sig att ointresset kommer att få negativa konsekvenser för partiet i kommande val.

Matt Bai, The New York Times Magazine, skriver om spänningarna mellan Vita huset och partiet.

Obama’s advisers have spoken of his brand, which is a stand-in for the party identity that defined other presidencies. Obama’s brand is about inclusivity, transcendence, a generational break from stale dogmas.[…]

If the president isn’t going to be his party’s chief strategist or its most prolific fund-raiser, then aides say there are two things he will do for his party that are, ultimately, more important — and that are, not coincidentally, in keeping with the brand. The first is to remind voters that Democrats didn’t create the current economic morass. […]

The second thing Obama can do for Democrats, in the view of the White House, is to change the way they run their campaigns.

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