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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Debating Foreign Relations–and the Economy

It’s richly ironic that in the midst of a national obsession about the condition of the U.S. economy, we’re about to have a presidential candidates’ debate limited to foreign relations issues.
You’d have to figure that Team Obama is trying to develop ways for their candidate to insert pithy references to the financial meltdown in a discussion otherwise dominated by Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and Georgia, Pakistan and al Qaeda, and so forth. But so long as the moderators cooperate, Obama may have a more direct opportunity to keep economic worries on the front-burner: by talking about the signal failure of Republicans to help Americans manage the transition to a truly global economy.
After all, as Bill Galston pointedly observed in his recent open letter to Obama published here at TDS, the “core issue” on the economy is “a Republican approach to the economy, shared by Bush and McCain, that shafts ordinary Americans and does nothing to help them deal with the challenges of global competition.”
Obama should take every opportunity to argue that the financial meltdown is simply exhibit Z in the long pattern of GOP mismangement of globalization. They’ve given us massive public and private debt, job losses, income losses, and benefits erosion, all supposedly essential to keep the macroeconomic fundamentals sound. And now those fundamentals have been destroyed, giving policymakers the wonderful choice of either risking a Great-Depression-level economic collapse, or providing upwards of a trillion dollar in corporate subsidies.
It’s really not that hard a case to make, and it can be presented in a tone of cold anger at the idea that Republican policies should be given still another chance to work. McCain’s implicit argument that cracking down on budget “earmarks,” or fighting lobbyists (those not already on his campaign payroll), or enacting still more tax cuts, or still more trade agreements, will take care of our economic problems is now obviously and absurdly inadequate to the challenges we now face. His erratic, almost panic-stricken reaction to the financial meltdown itself isn’t very reassuring, either, given his heavy dependence on an aura of principled leadership. Indeed, in a remarkable column yesterday, conservative pundit George Will all but suggested that McCain’s behavior on this issue disqualified him to serve as commander-iin-chief.
So: Obama need not appear to change the subject of the debate on Friday to remind voters of the political implications of the current economic mess. The GOP’s inability or refusal to manage globalization in the national interest is without question one of the preeminent foreign policy issues of the campaign. Let McCain brag that he’s brought us to the brink of “victory” in Iraq, or rattle sabers at the Iranians or the Russians. What’s happened to America’s economy in the last eight years has been a huge strategic disaster for U.S. leadership and security, crystallized in the current reality that we’re probably about to (explicitly or implicitly) raise taxes in no small part to keep our foreign creditors from plunging us into a long depression.
Let’s hope Obama sees this opportunity to present a meta-message on the global economy on Friday, and seizes it.

2 comments on “Debating Foreign Relations–and the Economy

  1. ThinkingGuy on

    If the debate happens. It appears the wire has revealed McCain wants to postpone it, in light of the national crisis on Wall Street…

  2. bacaangel on

    (Yet, it Took 10 Years to Raise MinWage $1.00)
    “Rule one: Rush the decision. Time the game to fall in the week before Congress is set to adjourn and just 6 weeks before an historic election so your opponents will be preoccupied, pressured, distracted, and in a hurry.
    Rule two: Disarm the public through fear. Warn that the entire global financial system will collapse and the world will fall into another Great Depression. Control the media enough to ensure that the public will not notice this. Bailout will indebt them for generations, taking from them trillions of dollars they earned and deserve to keep.
    Rule three: Control the playing field and set the rules. Hide from the public and most of the Congress just who is arranging this deal. Communicate with the public through leaks to media insiders. Limit any open congressional hearings. Communicate with Congress via private teleconferencing calls. Heighten political anxiety by contacting each political party separately. Treat Members of Congress condescendingly, telling them that the matter is so complex that they must rely on those few insiders who really do know what’s going on!”
    (FYI: Republicans have blocked voting on bills by Dems for more oversight and regulation.)


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