Matthew Yglesias asks his readership about a host of issues not being covered in the campaign. They’re not being covered either because the campaigns have settled their messages into their final form, or because the political press doesn’t cover issues for fear of alienating low-information voters before they get to the ads.

So, as if anyone gives two shits what I think, I’ll address them one by one.

  • Budget deficits: Are Clinton or Obama committed to reducing them, or are they open to expanding them in order to establish new programs that they think are especially important? And what programs might qualify?

As I understand it, large govt. deficits are bad because they crowd out other forms of investment, although this isn’t the problem investors have right now. Instead, they’re suffering from a lack of investment supply. So, in the short term, I’d say that deficit spending on the kinds of infrastructure improvement America is begging for (more than 40 states have more than 2,000 such projects ready to go to contract in 90 days or less, or so I’ve heard) would be a good idea. By “good idea,” I mean necessary, advantageous (no, they aren’t the same thing), and popular.


  • Federal Reserve: Are Clinton or Obama happy with the past 25 or so years of conservative Republican leadership at the Fed or would they like to take things in a new direction?

If the guys over on angrybear are correct, conservatives at the Fed have a habit of making things harder during Democratic administrations. If this is statistically demonstrable (I’m not sure that it is), then it’s time to make this an issue.

  • Judiciary: Assuming a Democratic Senate allows for relatively easy confirmations, do Clinton or Obama intend to continue appointing 1990s-style moderates, or would we see a return to the liberal jurisprudence of a Thurgood Marshall?

This is a bad time to launch into this issue. Despite the fact that the most conservative members of SCOTUS vote more often to overturn laws passed by Congress, the public has been taught to believe the exact opposite. I’m not interested in ‘moderates,’ nor do I think the mid-20th century is very relevant right now. I’d like to see scholars on the bench, as in legal scholars with a very serious (!) historical foundation. Having Scalia cite random 18th century state laws as “proof” that the Constitution doesn’t mean what we think it means is getting old. Like the US Senate, this is a good place to start recruiting and laying out a long term plan for grinding the bastards down.

But it’s not time to go public. You have to educate before you can polemicize.


  • Unilateral preventive war as a non-proliferation policy: Should we disavow this aspect of the Bush National Security Strategy or are we going to stick with it and hope that more conciliatory rhetoric can make it work?

I think this is a stupid question, but I think Matt (can I call you “Matt”?) had something more coherent in mind when he wrote it, so I’ll answer what I think he meant. Uh, I don’t see how anyone can say that unilateral preventive war is always a no-no. But it is time to start talking honestly about how Iraq and Vietnam began as hoaxes against the American people. That’s the only way to un-cry “wolf.” Anything else is beneath the dignity of the American people, which is why I don’t expect to get it from a Republican administration.


  • Israel: Any number of things come to mind, but in the most general sense do Clinton or Obama see this as an important issue it’s worth focusing on in 2009, or is it a headache the intend to ignore until a crisis breaks out or they’re lame ducks?

Another loser right now. I’ve long wondered just what the hell the US is supposed to get out of its relationship with Israel, other than a flimsy excuse for corporate welfare to our arms industry. Short of that, Israel strikes me as a liability. Israel’s enemies are even more revolting, but who cares? Why is this any more important that what is happening in Sri Lanka?

And don’t tell me it’s because we need an ally in that oil-rich part of the country. Again: Israel is a liability in our relations with that region. Israel is a nuclear power. She can take care of herself.


  • Root causes: Does reducing the appeal of al-Qaeda really require the transformation of the Muslim world into a series of democracies, or are there aspects of US foreign policy that drive radicalism?

Secularism begins at home. If the US can purge its violent, irrational fundamentalists (say, from the Air Force Academy), we’ll have a lot more credibility standing up for secularism. Framing the encounter with the radical Islamic world as West -vs- East or Christian -vs- Islamic is a loser from the word “go.” The problem in the Middle East, the problem in Europe, and the corrosive problem in our Republic is the rollback of secularism. Partially, this is due to cynical political elites, exploiting freakazoids in order to stay in power. But fundamentalism takes on a life of its own. The success of the last half-millennium in the West has been due in large part to our ability to tell people who think that the magic word “God” will excuse them from accountability to sit down and shut up.

Secularism means rationalism. Fundamentalism means whatever some asshole says it does this week. Here, there, it doesn’t matter. Embrace secularism or be the problem.


  • War on terror: If, as both candidates affirm, we’re in a “war on terror” when might that war end? What, if any, special war powers do Clinton and Obama think the state of war justifies? Or is this a pure metaphor that, like the “war on poverty,” is simply supposed to signify a high level of commitment?

Another bad idea right now. No need to play into the Republicans’ frame. Of course, the “War on Terror” was fabricated in order to pretend that 9/11 was the beginning of something new. It wasn’t. 9/11 was simply the result of incompetence. The terrorist threat is older than disco, so just deal already. So long as we don’t have another Bush administration handing counter-terrorism over to a do-nothing veep group that never meets, we’re OK.

But the “War on Terror” was also designed to re-legitimize the corporate socialist orgy of the Cold War, as Cheney’s rhetoric has made abundantly clear. It was intended to help certain elites to go back to ripping us all off as part of a silly protection racket.

“War on Terror” must die a slow death. The powers they need to protect us already exist and they existed on the morning of September 11, 2001. The enormity of what happened that day was not the measure of some new enemy, it was the measure of the impotence of that idiot in the White House.

As with so many of these problems, remove the contaminant, remove the problem.