The EFM Feature

I’m not much on New Year predictions — especially given the ability of wholly unexpected events to drive the day’s, week’s, or even decade’s agenda — but in surveying the political landscape, I do have a few questions. Among them:
(1) Are Obama’s economic policies more powerful than the business cycle? Look, we all know that our economy is not wholly (or even mostly) directed and controlled by Washington. It’s the biggest economic engine in the world, driven by the choices not just of politicians but also of more than 300 million people. This monster has a cycle . . . it goes up and it goes down, and no one in the history of economics has ever figured a way out of that cycle. After a prolonged downturn, one would think we’d be ready to rise again.
But here’s my question: Are Obama’s policies so bad that they’ll delay or blunt the economy’s natural rise? If not, then he may be poised for a Reagain-like re-election triumph. Remember, during the recession of 1981-82, the Dems were writing Reagan’s political obituary, but his policies not only facilitated growth, they stimulated it, and the economy roared to life. If Obama can’t catch a similar wave, then he’s Carter, the Sequel.
(2) How much longer before Mike Huckabee goes after Sarah Palin with both barrels? Right now Huckabee is reeling, but a politician doesn’t go to the pages of the Washington Post to defend his horrific clemency record when he intends to go gently into that good night. I will give one prediction: Mike Huckabee will attempt a political comeback. But Sarah Palin will stand in his way. Her poll numbers are strengthening, she’s an Evangelical Christian, and she has one huge advantage over Huckabee (and no, it’s not her looks): She’s actually conservative.
If there’s one thing we learned about Mike Huckabee, it’s that the (former) pastor has a thin skin and some sharp claws. In time he’ll learn he can’t beat Mitt Romney unless he first beats Sarah Palin. Good luck with that, Governor.
(3) Could Obama’s path to victory come through war? Here is one of the great ironies of 2009: Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winning, peace movement candidate, is — with the exception of his Gitmo policies — turning into a tough warfighter (though with the requisite amount of public angst and dithering). The Iraq withdrawal is occurring according to Bush administration timelines, he’s massively reinforcing Afghanistan, he’s intensified cross-border strikes into Pakistan, and now he’s taking the fight into Yemen (and giving the peace movement a fit). If a Republican president were doing this, there’d be rioting in the streets. But Obama’s getting away with it, and I expect we’ll start to see results on the ground in Afghanistan. It will take some time, but I think we’ll see results.
And when we do . . . Obama will get the credit. And not the kind of grudging, half-hearted acknowledgments we saw when Bush’s surge worked, but the kind of “shout to the mountaintops” credit the media gives Barack Obama whenever he demonstrates even the tiniest slivers of achievement. Could it be? Could it be that the media will create a presidential war hero?
Time will tell.


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