Gassed Up

William Conway, co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, the world’s third largest private equity firm, does not seem particularly perturbed that fellow private equiteer Mitt Romney, founder of rival Bain Capital, failed to unseat President Barack Obama.

Last week he provoked torrents of enraged froth from readers of the Wall Street Journal, especially those quixotically convinced Obama draws inspiration from Karl Marx. His sin was a column explaining why Carlyle had committed to invest $4.4 billion in US equity in the first three quarters of this year versus $4.2 billion in the rest of the world.

It is time, says Conway, to stop being “mesmerized” by the rhetorical excesses of the election season and “paralyzed” by the partisan theatre of the “fiscal cliff” federal budget fight, and look, instead,  at facts. “Nowhere on the globe can my firm invest with as much confidence as we do in the US.”
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No Rice

President  Barack Obama has vigorously defended the honour of his UN ambassador, Susan Rice. Will he now nominate her as his Secretary of State when Hillary Clinton steps down?

In his first post-election press conference last Wednesday, Obama said it was “outrageous” to “besmirch her reputation” by suggesting she deliberately misled voters about the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans, including the ambassador, dead.

Rice was chosen to deliver the administration’s talking points on the Sunday morning television talk shows following the attack. The script had her say that the attack at that point appeared primarily to have been a spontaneous reaction to the US refusal to suppress a movie  offensive to Islam.

This, it is now clear, did not fully reflect what the White House was hearing either from its intelligence services or from the Libyan authorities, both of whom had concluded the attack was premeditated by suspected Al Qaeda affiliates.
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An iron rule grows rusty

Congressman Paul Ryan, who would have been a heartbeat from the presidency had things gone differently last week, was once quite sensible regarding the 50-year-old US embargo on Cuba. “It doesn’t work”, he told the Milwaukee Journal in 2002. He has voted some 20 times to ease or end it.

As Mitt Romney’s running mate, he had to be re-educated. It has been an iron rule of American presidential politics that you cannot win in Florida without pandering to the maximalist Cuban exiles in Miami’s Little Havana for whom nothing short of root and branch regime change will suffice. One of their number, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, took Ryan in hand.

He can now safely return to his original conviction. Indeed, it would probably be in his best interest to do so should he aspire to the White House in his own right four years from now. The iron rule is getting rusty. Continue reading “An iron rule grows rusty”

Election Day

The outcome of today’s US election cannot accurately be called a “toss-up”. The odds in favour of President Obama’s re-election are far better than 50-50. For Republican challenger Mitt Romney to assemble the required 270 electoral votes, there would have to have been a highly improbable “black swan” event between this writing, on Sunday, and today. Either that, or opinion polls in the key swing states where the election will be decided are statistically skewed.

Black swans do, of course, occur, as when Wall Street’s risk models were confounded in the sub-prime mortgage debacle.  As for polling error, it is true that pollsters are finding it increasingly hard to be sure if their samples are truly representative. But as Nate Silver, the New York Times’ resident political statistician, wrote at the weekend, “we’ve about reached the point where if Mr Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him.”

To the extent that unforeseen events have played a part, tropical storm Sandy was surely a dea  ex machina in favour of Obama even though the states she hit hardest, New York and New Jersey, were already firmly in his camp. The Romney campaign was drowned out nationwide for several days. Natural disasters give presidents an opportunity to show they care and are in command. Obama seized on Sandy, reminding everyone by his actions how dismally his Republican predecessor behaved when Katrina whacked New Orleans in 2005.
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