Random blog post
September 16, 2012, 5:35 pm
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Comments too long for tweets but too half-baked to be blog posts of their own:

Been suddenly hearing the phrase ‘Lehman moment’ a lot recently. As in, ‘four years ago we had the Lehman moment’, or, ‘was this Romney’s Lehman moment?’ Maybe I was asleep when everyone voted this phrase into our lexicon but I have literally never heard it before and have no idea what it’s supposed to mean. Absent other info I have to assume it means the straightforward thing, which is that a Lehman Moment is what happens when you had stupidly bailed someone else (e.g. Bear Stearns) out a while back, thus for some reason convincing all the Smart People that you were required to bail everyone out forevermore no matter what, leading to moral hazard and lazy behavior, and then when another bailout candidate/temptation/PR campaign comes along (e.g. Lehman), you (wisely, for once – in fact almost inexplicably) decide not to, and so all the Smart People freak out that it’s going to be the end of the world because of the commercial-paper market going illiquid and as a result CP traders don’t know how to mark their book or what to tell their desk-heads about their P&L (i.e. the end of the world, like I said). Granted that all seems a little overly specific and strange to have turned into a useful phrase so if that’s not what Lehman Moment means feel free to let me know, but the problem is that no matter how I parse it, it just doesn’t really work for me as connoting anything besides that. Meanwhile, haven’t figured out what the connection to Romney is supposed to be (Lehman = his dog?) but I’ll work on it.

Another trope being bandied about is the “3 a.m. phone call”. As in, Romney has shown he’s not ready for the “3 a.m. phone call” because he made Obama-critical comments following the embassy attacks. I have no problem generically with this phrase as a talking-point in a Prez campaign, the interesting thing to me is how it’s being used here. First it treats words/’comments’ as a form of action in their own right, which is telling. It’s not as if Romney sent fighter jets anywhere; he made some press comments. It’s not as if those comments had any tangible effects on anything or killed or harmed anyone – other than (apparently) some reporters’ delicate and fragile sensibilities regarding their beloved, Biracial-Angel President. But the other telling thing is that President Obama, as far as anyone can explain, has done diddly-squat in the wake of the embassy attacks, and made no meaningful decisions whatsoever – and yet I gather we’re all supposed to be totally comfortable with his “3 a.m. phone call” readiness as a result! Yup, that President Obama, he took that 3 a.m. phone call, and then went back to sleep, and then he went to Vegas. That should give us all comfort. The guy’s a rock! He did nothing! That just shows how much America can trust him with the 3 a.m. phone call! But Romney, he made negative COMMENTS to REPORTERS about OBAMA – that’s supposed to be totally scary to us all, an illustration of how irresponsible and erratic he is. It’s all very odd, though here I will damn with faint praise by saying it’s refreshing to see the left inadvertently backed into being a cheerleader for the government doing nothing, for once.

Sharp-eyed RWCG-watchers will no doubt have observed and filled up threads on all the RWCG discussion boards marveling that I haven’t been joining in the chorus over whether the Obama administration received ‘warnings’ about the embassy attack and what they did about them. I think this is mostly because equivalent complaints about the Bush administration & 9/11 are still fresh in my memory, as is how dumb they (and the resulting conversations) always were. This is not to say that if there were specific warnings that an attack would happen on such-and-such day, and someone from Obama’s staff said ‘let’s put in additional security over there’, and Obama said ‘naw, let’s not and say we did’ and the guy said ‘but sir!’ and Obama said ‘I said NO, I don’t want that place protected, now one more peep and you’re fired!’, I wouldn’t be upset or view it as an irresponsible decision. But one immediate problem is that even if that is how it went down, we are likely to never hear about it. A bigger conceptual problem though is that (unless you’re some hack internet commentator, which I try to be no more than my quota of 98% of the time) it’s just very hard to judge (a) how specific/’actionable’ any of these ‘warnings’ are, (b) how often they get such ‘warnings’ – weekly? daily? and thus how often they don’t amount to anything, and (c) what if anything they were supposed to do about it. In the Bush-9/11 case this is especially vivid because the ‘warnings’ basically amounted to: Bad Guys Are Gonna Do Something Bad, and unless Bush was supposed to just say “Ok then let’s lock down the entire country indefinitely, including all airlines and airports”, to complain that 9/11 still ended up happening just never made any coherent sense. I don’t know for sure whether the ‘warnings’ in this case were any more meaningful and so until I hear they were (which is possible, of course) I’m withholding judgment.

And aside from the fairness/dumbness issue itself, the other problem with getting bogged down in a ‘were they warned?’ debate is that it almost forces the Administration’s hand: they now find themselves needing to double down on ‘we actually had no idea!’ and ‘it was all spontaneous anyway!’ line, in order to save face. This has two bad effects, one is that it makes us look like idiots (especially if the perpetrators are watching this, and know they planned it in advance). The other is that it forestalls and crowds out any chance of what might be an actual constructive debate, namely: what to do about it right now, and going forward. If the administration is now wedded to the ‘we didn’t know’/’spontaneous’ position, that binds them only to strategically-pointless acts like cracking down on weirdos who post things to Youtube. And so here we are.

Speaking of the great Youtube crackdown, I am also withholding my outrage about the First Amendment violations involved and so forth, pending clarification as to whether the guy in question somehow isn’t as much of a creep and a criminal as he seems to be. If the administration’s excuse for trashing the Constitution and grabbing this guy in the night is ‘well, he has an outstanding warrant’ or ‘violated his parole’, I know this won’t win me any Constitutional-purity points but I have to admit it does kind of blunt my outrage a little if those statements are entirely plausible.

12 Comments so far
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Lehman moment refers to the point at which a presidential candidate goes from having a chance to win to having no chance to win. The reference is to Lehman’s collapse signifying the end of any realistic chance McCain had to win over Obama. It’s not a very good term though, because Lehman was something that happened to McCain (or more accurately the Republican party), whereas Romney’s comments are something he had a hand in.

Comment by Matt

BTW, the only time I’d heard the Lehman moment thing was from former conservative Daniel Larison over at the formerly conservative TAC. Who else is saying it?

Comment by Matt

Per Google, nobody in 2008, 371 people in 2009, 1,450 people in 2010, 4,100 people in 2011, and 18,200 people in 2012. Romney may have had the first consensus “Lehman moment” in history.

Is it just me or does it seem like the “journolist” must be up and running?

Comment by josh

Nice catch, I like that you did the legwork for me to validate my ignorance. I didn’t know about this term because no one was really using it.

Per above comments, more likely than a Journolist-inspired meme seems to be just one guy (Larison) trying to popularize a meme he just made up. And I have inadvertently helped…

Comment by Sonic Charmer

It may have been just Larison, not sure (the input distribution to my reactionary-subbrain seems to have become a bit warped since I started paying attention to twitter)

Comment by Sonic Charmer

Perhaps the fact that the Consulate was in a country full of rebel tribes in a lawless state should have been warning enough. The real question is, why wasn’t there a large security force present in the compound with heavy weapons?

Comment by Dave

True, perhaps. But this is a complaint one can lodge at any time, independent of whether attacks occur.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

Another point:
Dept. Of State and DoD are natural enemies. State probably doesn’t like diplomatic facilities to appear like military fortresses, even if prudence requires it.

Comment by Dave

This makes a lot of sense to me. So does the blame ultimately fall on SoS Clinton & does Obama throw her under the bus?

Comment by Sonic Charmer

No one takes blame on this. Anonymous bureaucrats acted according to the process. That means it’s no one’s fault. The risk was accepted by appropriate groups of government employees, and so forth.

If for some amazing reason the press makes a big deal about these specific details, the most that you will see is that some politician will call for more process. This is a loser issue that won’t help anyone’s political career.

Furthermore, I find it likely that Ambassador Stevens himself was the one who ultimately approved the security at this compound. Also, since security was provided by the locals, that’s outside DoD’s jurisdiction.

Comment by Dave

I’ll buy that. (at least unless/until some more specific info to contrary damaging comes out..which I don’t see as likely, even if there is some…or perhaps especially if…)

Comment by Sonic Charmer

[…] Let’s just back up for a second. Some kind of installation of the U.S. was assaulted and our ambassador was assassinated. Objectively, that’s a bad thing. But it does happen. As you’ll recall, I certainly wasn’t inclined to blame the administration for it or anything. I mean, bad stuff happens, and in anything like this there is a fog-of-warry problem. I understand that and reacted accordingly, even somewhat soberly (especially for me!) – see paragraphs near the end here. […]

Pingback by The noxious effect of the nonexistent ‘impeachment’ threat « Rhymes With Cars & Girls

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