Posted by: cousindampier | 6 December 2011

Why Image Matters

Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992.  The mantra repeated from that year is “It’s the Economy, Stupid.”  This was for two reasons:

1) There was a recession.  These are bad.

2) Bush held a strong foreign policy background, and was coming off the First Gulf War, seen at the time as a success.  Clinton would have a hard time running against this.

The coming election is often compared to two from recent history.  Those who see Obama as ‘Carter II’ look at the next GOP candidate as Reagan, and the election as a replay of 1980.  The other comparison is that 1992 election – Obama having a strong four years dealing with events abroad, the idiotic murmurings of Romney aside.

The main focus of the next year will be jobs.  Specifically job creation, if you want to get technical.  Who is better prepared! Which party is more American! Who will defend the Middle Class? (answers: who knows, neither, and neither). But the focus is on the party – or candidate – who has the most sensible plan to deal with the American economy.  Complicating this is the news cycle.  Get ready for a year of non-stop election coverage, analysis, and rumors.   Given that unemployment is still 8.6%, all of this coverage will be on the economy.

**Aside: A record $52.4 billion was spent over Thanksgiving weekend, during a period which the unemployment rate is crazy high.  Given that nobody apparently has any money, we spent a hell of a lot.**

So all the focus will be on the economy.  Little to none on foreign affairs – and the current GOP crowd (Huntsman and Paul aside) seems to take pride in knowing nothing about the world beyond American offshore oil deposits.

1) The economy needs time.  There is no magic Staples button which fixes it.  (“Stimulus? Yeah, we got that.”)  Now, the best approach is to do nothing until something is understood.

2) Foreign policy skills will be key in fixing the American economy over the long-term.  Those products America is going to eventually produce need to be sold overseas.  Those educated and talented minds which America wants to attract have to come from overseas.  The stature to nudge a country in a certain direction requires some overseas knowledge.

And all of that depends on American image.  Sheer displays of power can accomplish some things, but having that image – the image of America pre-torture at least – is a golden meal ticket.  It is attractive.   And the GOP crowd, at the moment, seems intent on not caring how that image appears.

Jobs matter.  But a lot of jobs in the future are going to depend on how we deal with others.

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