Mitt Romney missed a golden opportunity during last night's debate. "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back," Barack Obama said. The perfect comeback would have been: "Oh yeah? Well, the ocean called, and they're running outta ships!" True, Romney delivered a version of this zinger, but much later. His timing was all wrong.
Oh well, maybe Romney can arrange another meeting with the president and get it right this time. We understand Obama will be in Ohio.
Obama went on to tell Romney: "You seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s." So he's Reagan, Eisenhower and Coolidge all rolled into one? Sounds way too good to be true, but one can only hope. (A New York Sun editorial makes the same point, though with a caveat about racial segregation in the 1950s, which we prefer to think of as the decade of Brown v. Board of Education and the first federal civil rights law since Reconstruction.)
Warmonger! No, Peacenik!
Ike and Coolidge aside, the president's dismissive attitude toward Reagan's foreign policy is telling. It underscores why, despite having "won" again by showing up, Obama failed last night. Before the debate, the left was confident that Romney would scare the hell out of voters by coming across as, in the words of New York Times editorialist David Firestone, a "strutting warmonger." After the debate, they started mocking him as "Peacenik Mitt," as in this post from the Washington Post's Greg Sargent.
Just like in the first debate, the left is calling Romney a LIAR!!!! because he did not conform to their stick-figure caricature of him. "By reversing his views on war and peace, Romney has raised a character issue about his ability to be trusted as a steadfast defender of U.S.," tweeted Bloomberg's Jonathan Alter. The New York Times's Bill Keller writes that :"I expect he sent the neocon wing of his campaign running for the smelling salts," evidently having misunderstood neoconservatism to be a doctrine of constant armed conflict.
Back in the '80s, they called Reagan a warmonger too--and nowhere more so than in elite universities such as those where a young Barack Obama was indoctrinated. History does not record the name of the person who noticed that you can rearrange the letters of "Ronald Wilson Reagan" to spell "insane Anglo warlord," but that unknown anagramist provided that decade's leftists with many a self-satisfied chuckle.
But what wars exactly did Ronald Reagan mong? The 1983 liberation of tiny Grenada was not exactly Normandy, and the 1986 bombing of Libya was small potatoes compared with last year's French-led, Obama-followed intervention in that country that finally toppled Muammar Gadhafi.
Today Reagan is generally credited with having won the Cold War while firing nary a shot. But to the left at the time, his byword of "peace through strength" just didn't compute. A more submissive America, they imagined, would placate prospective adversaries. It never dawned on them that a confident attitude can be disarming. Romney seems to have figured that out.
Two Articles in One!
The Butterfield Fallacy Meets the Gender Gap The "gender gap" is bigger than ever, reports Nate Silver of the New York Times:
Silver acknowledges that "a couple" of polls "seemed to show Mitt Romney eliminating the president's advantage with women voters," which, if true, might mean he's closing the "gender gap." Then again, maybe not. The gap refers to the sexes' disparate voting patterns. If Romney outpolls Obama narrowly among women and widely among men (or vice versa), the gap is still there. It is pervasive antimale bias that leads commentators to focus only on the female side of the equation.
"The gender gap has been growing over time," Silver observes. "It was nearly absent . . . in 1972 and 1976, the first two years that the exit polls tested it." Then "reproductive rights"--a euphemism for abortion--"became a greater focus in presidential elections." Silver thinks that was the origin of the gap, but we doubt it. Opinion polls consistently show little difference between men and women in their opinions on abortion (though in our anecdotal experience, women on both sides of the question tend to express their opinions more passionately than men do).
So whence the gap? "The large gender gap comes despite the fact that men and women's economic roles are becoming more equal," Silver notes before concluding that it must be about social issues. The spirit of Fox Butterfield lives on at the Times. We'd say it's much likelier that the gap opened up and is widening because men's and women's economic roles became "more equal."
In the prefeminist era, the typical life script for a young woman was to marry young, have children, and leave the paid workforce to care for them. Today's young woman is expected to have a career and often to delay marriage and childbearing to accommodate its demands. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, the female workforce participation rate rose most dramatically in the 1970s and '80s, peaking in 1999 and declining only slowly since. The timing here is consistent with the hypothesis that the sexes' "more equal" economic status is a cause of the political gender gap.
Why would a seeming economic convergence lead to a political divergence? Because under the prefeminist regime, men's and women's economic roles were complementary and cooperative. The basic social unit was the married couple, and generally speaking, what was good for each spouse was also good for the other.
In the postfeminist world, men and women are in competition with each other. Competition has beneficial economic effects, but political competition between groups is a zero-sum game: If the government is taking action to make the sexes "more equal," it is helping one sex (usually women) at the expense of the other.
A further bit of evidence consistent with this hypothesis is that there are gaps within the "genders." In particular, married women are much more apt to vote Republican than single women are. No doubt there are multiple reasons for this, and here social conservatism very well may play a role (under the assumption that social conservatives are apt to spend more of their lives in wedlock than social liberals are). But part of it surely also is that marriage, for all the changes it has undergone over the past half century, still entails an economic alliance between a woman and a man.
Out on a Limb
Clothes Make the Man
'Marry a Rich Widow' "John Kerry Gives Advice to Reporters"--headline, Politico.com, Oct. 22
Generalissimo Francisco Franco Is Still Dead
The War Machine Springs to Life "North Korea Threatens South Over Propaganda Balloons"--headline, Reuters, Oct. 19
Subscribe Now "If Smart Is the Norm, Stupidity Gets More Interesting"--headline, New York Times, Oct. 23
So Much for the War on Drugs "Spaced Out: Majority of Gen X Can't Identify Home Galaxy"--headline, LiveScience.com, Oct. 23
Big Deal, We Were Raised by Hairless Great Apes "Marina Chapman, British Housewife, Claims She Was Raised by Monkeys in Colombia"--headline, Puffington Host, Oct. 22
And You Thought Americans Loved Guns "France to Test Launch 'Shooting Galleries' for Drug Users"--headline, Agence France-Presse, Oct. 22
Hey, Kids! What Time Is It? "Time to Blow Up the Yankees"--headline, ESPN website, Oct. 20
Questions Nobody Is Asking
It's Always in the Last Place You Look "New Obama Ad: Dude, I Found My Second-Term Agenda!"--headline, HotAir.com, Oct. 23
Someone Set Up Us the Bomb "Why Zynga Should Have Seen Draw Something's Fall Coming"--headline, AllThingsD.com, Oct. 22