John Edwards

Blog the Jubilee

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Glenn Reynolds explores the universe next door:

Would Kerry have won in 2004 if there had been no 9/11 attacks? Possibly. On the other hand, if there had been no 9/11 attacks, Kerry might never have gotten the nomination—his war record, remember, was supposed to immunize him on national security issues, and that was his biggest attraction to many Democrats.

I'm no Harry Turtledove, but in my alt-history version, I think John Edwards or Howard Dean would have been more likely to have gotten the nomination.

Reynolds isn't a Harry Turtledove—more of a Harry Knowles—but I'd really like to read this alternate history in which the Dean movement takes off without a war to rail against. I suppose Reynolds could be saying the Bush administration was so eager to invade Iraq, it would have done so whether or not we were attacked … but that doesn't sound like him.

NEXT: Blue Christmas

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  1. Any Democrat would have won if there had been no 9/11 attacks. Does anyone remember Bush’s numbers during the Summer of 01?

    We’d probably have either President Edwards or President Kerry.

  2. Bush’s numbers pre-911 were about the same as Clinton’s in 93. A lot can happen in three and a half years.

  3. Has Bush shown you anything to suggest that he could have turned things around? Clinton was one of the most talented politicians the country has ever seen, and strove to position himself in the broadest center of the electorate.

    Bush? A third rate talent eager to ram unpopular things through.

  4. Is this really all that different from a debate on whether Gandalf could kick Voldemort’s ass?

  5. Until 9/11 I seldom voted because I felt the 2 big parties were the same. When I did vote, it tended to be for 3d parties, and in retero spect I should have done more 3d party voting, like I do now.

    I never, ever joined a political party. I never even considered joining a political party. However, when the Dean candidacy got going, I went to a Dean rally. Maybe going to a political rally is no big thing to most people, but I never saw myself doing that. In other words, I was charmed by Dean and was solidly behind him, like I was never behind a major party candidate before.

    Now, Mr. Walker would apparently chalk that up to antiwar, but I don’t think Mr. Walker was ever a Deaniac, so he don’t know the motivations as well as I do. Since I know what my motivations were, let me clue you non-Deaniacs in:

    1. straight talk: this was by far Dean’s biggest attraction. He said things that had meaning, meaning you could follow.

    2. anti-war: yeah, this was an important factor in the mix, too. btw, Dean was correct about the war, and this ought to give any Deaniac pause as we slouch towards 2006. Its nice to be correct. Its much better to be correct and timely.

    3. Internet: That’s how I found Dean. that is how I latched ontio his personality. That was why he got funds through the Internet so well. I mean, hell, to have the creativity to reach out to a disenfranchised operson like myself. Maybe obvious now. When Dean committed himself to the concept though, it showed the kind of creativity I’d like to see in a POTUS.

    Now, since Dean lost the nomination, I don’t know if he has been as good. Don’t follow too closely. Fear a sell out. But, I think Mr. Walker underestimates Dean in this post.

  6. thoreau

    not much different, unless you look at the question in the broader frame of whether the US is turning more to the left or more to the right absent Iraq-terror-national security issues.

    I think a good argument could be made that we’re moving quite a bit left and that the Bush victory in 2004 was an aberration due to exigent circumstances (and the quality of his opponent).

    And my money is on Voldemort. Gandalf talked a good game, but he didn’t really seem to do anything.

  7. Clinton was one of the most talented politicians the country has ever seen, and strove to position himself in the broadest center of the electorate.

    Is this an example of damning with faint praise?

  8. Thoreau: No.

    Dave: Obviously Dean appealed for a lot of reasons (though in the non-9/11 universe, I suspect a lot of the “straight talk” voters would have gone over to McCain’s insurgent challenge to Bush). But his chief issue was the war, and the way he made himself stand out was by being the only Democratic candidate — other than folks like Kucinich and Sharpton — who opposed it. Lose the war and he loses his USP.

  9. I suppose this little exercise is useful because it makes us consider this question:

    If war/terrorism were not the BIG ISSUE which dominates the national political scene, what would the BIG ISSUE be? And who would speak to it sufficiently well to win elections?

  10. Wasn’t McCain a straight talker in 2000? I thought he was straighter than the other major party candidates, but Dean’s straight talk sounded as straight as the talk of a (non-Ross) third party candidate. There is a big difference of degree of straight-talkingness here.

  11. In other words, when I heard Dean’s words, I often found myself thinking:

    he didn’t just say that, did he? you go, boy!

    McCain just doesn’t do that.

  12. thoreau,
    Not at all. This is like debating whether Sauron could kick Dumbldore’s ass

  13. It depends on whether Gandalf gets to come back as “the White” after Voldemort casts avadra kedarva on him…

  14. JMoore, surely you jest. Gandalf isn’t some powerful guy, he’s like a demigod. See thoreau? We can debate anything in this forum.

    You know, I don’t have much respect for Bush, but without 9/11, I think he still would’ve been a two-termer. Let’s think about it. No 9/11, no extended recession. That alone would probably be enough. Another thing was that he was following the Clinton playbook pretty closely–play the middle against the fringe–at the beginning. Without 9/11, he probably would’ve stayed there. Also, without the attacks, Bush could’ve worked on other things besides the war, Homeland Security, etc. And, of course, the $150 billion question is whether we would’ve invaded Iraq. I think probably not. Returning to reality, Bush could’ve done okay by not having to do much (acting as a kind of a Lesser Clinton), but the fact that he’s mishandled a great challenge seals his legacy. Even if the Middle East stabilizes, too much got screwed up domestically under his watch to make anyone happy.

    joe, Clinton was good at electioneering, not at politics per se. His “great” contribution while in office was not being able to do anything to screw up the boom economy (which I credit us for, not the government under any administration). In eight years, probably his greatest accomplishment was NAFTA, which was a great feat for any Republican president 🙂 Still, I agree with you that he is a very smart man and has a definite genius for understanding what the people want. . .and tailoring his principles accordingly.

  15. A secondary question to consider, minus 9/11 hit to the economy and the subsequent war funding, what would the status of the economy been heading into Nov 2004?

  16. Has Bush shown you anything to suggest that he could have turned things around?

    A significant chunk of Bush’s bad poll numbers had to do with the deteriorating state of the economy, didn’t they? So absent a 9/11 they should have improved with the job and GDP numbers. And its hard to say, but mightn’t the economy have improved a bit faster absent the uncertainties of Afghanistan and Iraq? And who knows what else might have happened in a world where there was no 9/11 that he might have taken advantage of?

    Anyway, Clinton did not dig out of his hole all on his own. In ’95 IIRC Clinton had a couple of things handed to him: Oklahoma City and the attendant smackdown of anti-government rhetoric that came with it, plus Gingrich’s overreach on the government shutdown. Like Bush, he took advantage of these things in spades. Also like Bush, he was often fortunate in the quality of his opposition.

    Counter-factual speculation is always interesting, but we have to recognize that once you get past the first change, the new results become less predictable in a geometric fashion.

    It’s Gandalf, BTW. He was always holding himself back. No telling what he was capable of it he’d let it rip. Just ask the Balrog.

  17. Would Kerry have been the nominee if there had been no 9/11 attacks?

    This is a little too “butterfly effect” for me…

  18. how about we line up Gandalf, Dumbldore, et al, throw them down the stairs.

    points are tabulated by number of hip fractures.

  19. more of a Harry Knowles

    lol — nicely turned, mr walker. one wonders what junkets have turned mr reynolds away from reason and thought over hte last few years into the raving loon-shill he is today.

  20. The “economic hit of 9/11” is highly overrated. Note that last year’s hurricane season had as large, if not larger, economic effect. And I won’t even touch this year’s hurricane season.

    The weakness in our economy when Bush took over had to do with a bust caused by the boom caused by Greenspan’s relentless expansion of the monetary supply. Guess what? That weakness is still there – Greenspan was just able to defer reckoning day by REALLY cranking up the presses. And if anything, Bernanke is even more of a crank than Greenspan.

    One pretty good empirical rule about economic crashes in the last century – they usually start hitting their stride at about 3 years after the credit cycle hit rock bottom. Which means that by this time next year, we’ll be seeing some pretty nasty economic news.

  21. The weakness in our economy when Bush took over had to do with a bust caused by the boom caused by Greenspan’s relentless expansion of the monetary supply. Guess what? That weakness is still there – Greenspan was just able to defer reckoning day by REALLY cranking up the presses. And if anything, Bernanke is even more of a crank than Greenspan.

    exactly, mr quasibill. greenspan made a bad debt problem of intimidating proportions one of truly nation-wrecking — perhaps even globalization-wrecking — proportions.

    but it’s hardly just his fault. his belief is just an hubristic extension stemmed from a larger and older keynesian belief that market outcomes could be mitigated. greenspan’s extension — that outcomes can be not merely mitigated but managed — is going to be proved terribly false over the next decade.

  22. We’d probably have Edwards. I agree with Reynolds that the lump of stone that is Kerry would never have gotten nominated with no war. Dean would not be in the picture at all.

  23. quasibill, I must take exception to your characterization of 9/11 economics. I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but down here in Florida, we took a HUGE hit. I was at a developers’ meeting a few weeks ago, and they were showing (in hard numbers and graphs) the trends over recent years. In every presentation, there was a major dip starting somewhere around September of 2001 and not really getting back to “normal” until last year. They covered tourism, air travel, real estate development, new business development (Tampa is at or close to the top in start ups), tax revenues, etc., etc.

    I suppose that all this could be a coincidence or just limited to Florida, but I also recall that our data in the banking industry showed that we were seeing signs of a strong recovery in the summer of 2001.

    Because we get so many politically motivated “facts” here, let me add that I’m not saying that I know it was all because of 9/11, and I’m certainly not defending Bush, who I think is a bad president. By the way, 9/11 may have been 80% of the reason we had an extended recession, but let’s not forget all of the corporate scandals. While I think they were blown out of proportion (not that they weren’t very bad, but these things have happened before without the hysteria), they certainly hit the market hard.

  24. This is even more of a circle jerk than usual.

    Pro Libertate,

    Given that the war has ultimately been the biggest drag on his numbers, no-9/11 might indeed turn out to have been a good thing for him (especially if the economy recovered as it did in 2003-2004).

  25. ” his belief is just an hubristic extension stemmed from a larger and older keynesian belief that market outcomes could be mitigated.”

    I’d say it’s even more basic than that – it comes from a belief that there is a macro-economic theory that is valid and therefore can be used to manage an economy. Keynes surely is the currently most prominent messiah of this movement, but he was not the first.

    All macro-economic theories must rely on an assumption that people act objectively rational in all situations. Anyone who is not holed up in some government institution knows how dangerously wrong this assumption is.

  26. Jason Ligon,

    What else would Kerry have had to say besides “I”m John Kerry and I fought in Viet Nam?”

  27. I agree with JMoore on the Gandalf vs Voldemort bout, except young Mr. Potter seems able to take on Voldemort, repeatedly…

  28. it comes from a belief that there is a macro-economic theory that is valid and therefore can be used to manage an economy.

    a lot of people in postmodernism seem to believe — almost wishfully — that chaos and complexity can be managed through science and technology. i suppose it’s part and parcel to technique being one of the two dominant religions of our day (the other being the nation).

    i agree with you — dangerous notion, that.

  29. Danged straight, quasibill. I achieved total consciousness during one of my macroeconomics classes when I realized that people have much more complex motivations than economists can or want to deal with. Of course, economists are trying to simplify the world in order to predict behavior, so I don’t blame them entirely for doing this. Not that they don’t seem a little too willing to throw science out the window for their preconceptions, but they’re not alone (ask the psychologists about that).

    Back to this alternative reality business, one thing that always strikes me when talking about presidents is how radically we inflate their importance. Reagan gave us this, Clinton gave us that. That’s 99.995% hooey. The government as a whole certainly has an influence on the economy and controls a great deal of foreign relations, but presidents don’t really contribute that much to the equation (war is one of the exceptions to that, I must acknowledge). I think part of this is the media’s fault–wrap up an institution into one guy (or gal) to present a consistent narrative of the institution. Presidents and CEOs usually are not the most important people in their organizations, but you wouldn’t know that watching TV or reading the paper. Or even Hit & Run.

  30. Gandalf would just open up a big can of whoopass on Voldemort. He had a Ring of Power, and he’s basically an angel anyway. That mortal Voldemort wouldn’t stand a chance.

    If Gandalf used his powers only rarely, it’s because he knew that wisdom is the greatest power of all.

  31. And as long as we’re doing alternative history here, why not just call it what it really is: Political fanfic.

    So, if we’re going to create these political fanfics, I want some shippage, dammit! 🙂

  32. Pro Libertate,

    Back to this alternative reality business, one thing that always strikes me when talking about presidents is how radically we inflate their importance.

    Its easier on media resources.

  33. And as long as we’re doing alternative history here, why not just call it what it really is: Political fanfic.

    So, if we’re going to create these political fanfics, I want some shippage, dammit! 🙂

  34. And as long as we’re doing alternative history here, why not just call it what it really is: Political fanfic.

    So, if we’re going to create these political fanfics, I want some shippage, dammit! 🙂

  35. Ah, thoreau, even you could not resist. It’s like carrying around the Ring, isn’t it?

    Let’s not forget that Gandalf was also operating under a mild non-interference directive–don’t directly challenge Sauron, let the kids do it. Gotta love the Istari (incidentally, how come all of the background of The Lord of the Rings is in my head after 25 years, but I can’t remember the laws governing bank holding companies that I read yesterday?).

  36. Pro Libertate,

    Back to this alternative reality business, one thing that always strikes me when talking about presidents is how radically we inflate their importance.

    Its easier on media resources.

  37. “I suppose Reynolds could be saying the Bush administration was so eager to invade Iraq, it would have done so whether or not we were attacked … but that doesn’t sound like him.”

    You are right. Reynolds would say that Bush was so correct about invading Iraq that he would have done it whether or not we were attacked by someone else.

  38. Sorry about the multiple posts. I posted, waited a few minutes, then tried posting again.

    Somebody feed the hamsters powering the server, OK?

  39. where are you getting all this econ, there, quasi?

    there are lots of platitudes being spewn, but there’s no substance. please explain or lose the econobabble.

    you’re sounding like our global-warming-transportation types 🙂

  40. This is a little too “butterfly effect” for me…

    Me too. For all we know, the 9/11 attacks killed the very butterfly whose flapping wings were set to propel Admiral Stockdale’s cousin to the White House.

    There are no footholds here.

  41. “there are lots of platitudes being spewn, but there’s no substance. please explain or lose the econobabble”

    Actually, I purposely avoided econo-babble in my posts, so you’ll have to ask a more pointed question for me to answer. For instance, I didn’t start trotting out M3 and M2 measurements and try to plug them into some quadratic equation. That’s econo-babble.

    What I have stated, I thought rather clearly, is that none of the macro-economic theories I have ever seen, and especially Keynesian macro-economic theories, are based upon solid micro-economic principles. It’s another one of those underpants gnomes moments – there’s no step 2 linking reality to desire.

    I also realize that you have a far more advanced formal economic education than I do, so I could never hope to actually communicate with you in econo-babble. So if you ask a pointed question, or at least disagree with my observation, have away. I can probably learn something from the exchange!

  42. my last post assumes VM is indeed Viking Moose. And of course, that is a dangerous assumption. So forgive me if I have made and ass out of myself with it 🙂

  43. “By the way, 9/11 may have been 80% of the reason we had an extended recession, but let’s not forget all of the corporate scandals.”

    My best guess is that absent 9/11, the corporate scandals would have been the “big issue”, and we might have ended up with a battle to look more populist than thou. Bush could certainly have tried this, and might have even won; his base is highly credulous when it comes to ignoring his background.

  44. M1EK, Americans are highly credulous when it comes to all of the politicians we elect. What’s the incumbency attrition rate now, -10%? Supposed libertarians support Bush, NOW supported Clinton though he used his power to sex up an employee, etc., etc., ad infinitum. We can rationalize away anything so long as it’s “our” guy we’re concerned about. And, of course, the converse is true: if it’s bad news about the opposition, it’s got to be true. Thus, Clinton murdered fifty people, and Bush piloted the second jet into the World Trade Center.

  45. I agree with M1EK: The scandals would have been even bigger stories.

  46. You guys at “Reason” really have a hard-on for Reynolds, don’t you?

  47. The number of takeoffs on Reynolds have more to do with the quantity of his posts rather than their brilliance.

    9/11 was an act of f**k you back anger flowing from decades of American interventionism, and even though it resulted in massive retaliation, does anyone here really believe terrorism as a strategy can be ended that way?

  48. *An* employee???!!!??? Lol, PL, but thanks for repeating the meme that Clinton scandal was not about sex, it is about sexual harrassment standards that had gotten out of control because they so poorly matched what happens in real life offices. That scandal shut up a lot of hypocrites. Although I dislike gov’t spending, that money may have been well spent because it did something real, even though it did not change the law, it did change the mores in a good way for once.

  49. Absent 9/11 China would have been the big issue. Remember how the neocons were trying to drum up a yellow peril scare back in ’01? Remember the Hainan incident? Remember the Weekly Standard neocons calling that a “national humiliation” and demanding that we repeal Normal Trade Relations with China and start arming Taiwan? Who knows where that stupidity might have led, 9/11 may have actually saved the neocons from worse follies.

  50. Sadly, Vanya may be right.

  51. Pro Libertate,

    You hit the nail on the head.

  52. I can’t wait for Stevo Darkly to make some erotic political fanfic posts and put a reference to himself into the theme of the post.

  53. Vanya, That was my thought when I read this thread, but I was too chick’n to say it.

  54. Yeah, but would Legolas beat Han Solo?

  55. And as long as we’re doing alternative history here, why not just call it what it really is: Political fanfic.

    At least it’s not political slashfic.

    I’m kind of skeptical about Edwards going from just under one-term in the Senate to the presidency; has the U.S. had a president who has done that?

  56. Maybe JFK?

  57. crimethink,

    Only if Legolas did not shoot first.

  58. Bush is a doofus and if it weren’t for the post 9-11 ‘fear mongering’ this would have been readily apparent. He and his henchmen would have attempted to trump up a reason to attack Iraq regardless and scandals and bumbling would have eaten him alive.

  59. quasi:

    yes it was V Moose in that bitchy, out-of-line question. and I am the only one who is the ass here.

    i STRONGLY apologize for the tone of my posting. I re read it and i cannot APOLOGIZE strongly enough for how it read. i am embarassed for that tone, and it is not something that i will soon forget – this lesson in civil behavior.

    that was a terrible job on my part, and I cannot thank you enough for the civil tone you gave me, even though a smack over the head (have just done so with an econobabble book) was also in order.

    you answered my ramblings with the tone of a gentleman, even though my behavior called for me to be turned into a newt and not get better for quite a while, and i wish to recognize that. Thank you!

    and in doing so, you even answered my question about keynes…

    Might I recommend some readings into Austrian economics, then? I’m only just beginning doing it, but it appears as though your question is getting addressed in that field.

    once again, I apologize for behaving so badly. Thank you kindly for being strong enough and gentlemanly enough to forgive me.

    Respectfully,
    V Moose.

  60. We can rationalize away anything so long as it’s “our” guy we’re concerned about.

    There are studies about this effect. “In-group vs. out-group behavior” its called. In short, anything bad about a member of your in-group is an unfortunate exception; anything bad about a member of an out-group is something all members of the out-group share. As a theory, I think it has some impressive explanatory power.

  61. “political fanfic”

    Ech. I’m never going to be able to read a reference to “Kerry/Edwards” or “Bush/Cheney” quite the same way again.

  62. 9/11 may have actually saved the neocons from worse follies.

    a sobering thought.

  63. Julian-

    How about some Clinton/Rice shippage?

    Hillary Clinton, that is?

    🙂

  64. As long as none of the fanfic involves Nancy Pelosi or Arlen Specter, I’m good…

  65. Remember how the neocons were trying to drum up a yellow peril scare back in ’01? Remember the Hainan incident? Remember the Weekly Standard neocons calling that a “national humiliation” and demanding that we repeal Normal Trade Relations with China and start arming Taiwan?

    On the other hand, the administration actually managed a reasonably graceful diplomatic solution to that. I really don’t see much administration-side interest in China, period.

  66. I can’t wait for Stevo Darkly to make some erotic political fanfic posts and put a reference to himself into the theme of the post.

    I think I’ll start with a political fanfic titled “Government Issue” (as in “progeny”) about me getting it on with the Bush twins.

  67. As for who would have won 2004…By most sources, Bush had the fabled single-digit misery index in 2004. Without 9/11’s effect on the economy (and assuming no 9/11 meant no excuse for Iraq), his standing would have been higher and the Democrats wouldn’t have had the anti-war vote.

    I think it would have been Bush’s election.

  68. Moose –

    No apologies necessary. I am more than aware of how easy it is to a) come across more hostile than intended or b) get a little too worked up and respond in a manner, that, upon reflection, you are not proud of. I’m sure many here can easily point to instances where I have done both.

    As far as Austrian economics – that SHOULD have been my answer to your question. That is exactly where I’m coming from. I started out (well, once I became interested in the subject) as a Keynesian, migrated to Chicago (my scientific background made it a natural) before discovering the Austrians. I now fall firmly in the Austrian camp – albeit only with a very interested amateur’s knowledge of the subject.

    I can’t recommend their stuff highly enough, and you’ll frequently find me referring to Hayek (not truly an Austrian, maybe, but awfully close) or Rothbard.

  69. I appreciate that, Quasi.

    I have no excuse, still, for my inappropriate tone, words, message. (there. i just bonked myself on the head again wiht Walter Enders’s “Applied Econometric Time Series Analysis” – i’ll go find a book on post modern textuality, if i ever need to up the intensity the bonk-on-head, marginal deterrance, you know).

    May I recommend Jason Briggeman’s excellent site,
    “http://www.productivityshock.com/”

    He began the program with me, but transfered to GMU. He is a wealth of sources and knowledge on Austrian Economics. He also has forgotten more from our first macro course than i ever learned. 🙂

    Thank you once again for being so understanding and forgiving.

    Respectfully,
    V.M.

  70. Stevo, that sounds like a fine start. You never fail to satisfy your fans.

    BTW, I had never heard the term “shippage”. I had to look it up. It seems to be a term in the same sub-culture that types things like “hawt bois”.

    Also, there was another strange word like “scamfic” or something that a poster used in a thread. I had to search up its meaning too. It seemed to mean basically homosexualy fanfic. Nothing too shocking. I don’t see that post anymore. What happened?

  71. slashfic

    That might be the word. And I think Hakluyt may have been the poster.

  72. AHA. I see that is was Herman that made the “slashfic” post.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought that either:

    A) The server was so bad that it deleted the post.
    B) The term “slashfic” was so terrible that related posts were removed.

    I was uh … checking the specs on the
    inline for the rotary … girder… I’m Retarded.

  73. You guys at “Reason” really have a hard-on for Reynolds, don’t you?

    Media victims really have a thing for “quotes”, don’t they?

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