October 9

By Mark Curtis

The big, national political headline of the week was that Senate Republicans paved a path forward with Democrats to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. There was a temporary, short-term compromise. The old line that the U.S. currency, “backs the full faith and credit of the United States,” still holds true. The bigger question is, “Does anyone care, or does this matter?” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Deferring Debt Default” – Look, this has happened what seems like a million times before. The nation comes to the brink of the abyss, ready to default on its debt (no matter if Republicans or Democrats are in charge), and then suddenly there is a bipartisan band-aid applied to stop the bleeding when sometimes a tourniquet is needed. Thursday night the Senate upped the borrowing limit by $480 billion dollars until December 3, when we will revisit this again. Sorry, are your eyes glazing over yet?

“Why This is a Non-Issue” – Folks, I realize this will have some potentially stabilizing effects on jittery financial markets, but that’s about it. If they fail to pass something, then that’s a real headline. But the bottom-line churns on, albeit deeper in debt. But as the old saying goes, “Wall Street likes certainty!” Investors and funds will go forth and will address accordingly.

“Why This Falls Flat Politically” – Images are critical in politics. They convey the human joy of fixing our problems, or the pain of suffering from not fixing problems. Oh, I can already see the Republican campaign ads next year showing the troubled evacuation of Afghanistan, and the chaotic immigration policies at the U.S. Southern Border. Democrats in turn will likely show crowds of people in face masks and death counts they believe date back to the Trump administration. They’ll show the January 6 Capitol riots, too. Images can be very powerful to both sides, assuming you have the imagery. Can someone paint me a photo or record a video of a “debt ceiling?” I know it’s an important issue, but it’s vacant of pictures. It dies with a thud!

“The Short-Term Problem (and Maybe the Long-Term, too!)” – President Biden’s approval ratings are taking a sudden turn south, something you don’t want 13 months before the midterm elections. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll has 47 percent approving of Biden’s job performance, while 48 percent disapprove. Today that doesn’t seem like much, but everything has turned on the White House around October 1st. On September 27, a The Hill/HarrisX poll had Biden’s approval rating at 48 positive, 43 percent negative. It is now trending in the wrong direction. Is there time to right the ship? Of course, there is, but the Afghanistan and Southern Border images have left him deeply wounded and politically vulnerable.

“Are Candidates Really Desperate?” – I’ve written for weeks about the sad and pathetic begging for cash by political candidates on both sides of the aisle. Are they really this needy? Here’s the opening salvo from Sen. Marco Rubio (R) Florida, who is running for a third term. “I don’t know how else I can put this. My team is desperate. We have a MASSIVE financial deadline coming up and we are not on pace to hit our goal.” Really? This is THE marquee Senate race in 2022 with Rubio likely facing Rep. Val Demings (D) Florida in the general election. Both sides are raising buckets of cash, but for Rubio to declare he is “desperate?” Wow! (Hyperbole, I know!).

“On the Other Hand!” – Look, as bizarre as that Republican appeal is, Democrats are hardly standing on the moral higher ground. Here is a regular bot-email I get from them. First, the headline states, “UPDATE: CNN’s Senate Race Rankings.” That’s deceitful, as you have the immediate impression the email is coming from CNN, when in fact it is not. Then there is the shameless, but fair, pitch for money. “Chip in $5 or more RIGHT NOW so Senate Democrats can expand our majority and keep power out of Mitch McConnell’s hands. We’re still $14,146 short of today’s fundraising goal.” Both sides are openly begging and it’s kind of pathetic.

‘Take an Image Inventory” – When I was not working as a journalist, I helped run two successful political campaigns – one for a Democrat, and one for a Republican. Here’s my advice to both sides: images matter. One of my candidates was a retired fire chief who was wearing a suit for his TV pitch. I said, “Did they give you the white fire chief’s helmet when you retired?” When he said yes, I told him to go get it and tuck it under his arm in the commercial. He never mentioned it, but the symbolism was gold. In my other race, a town planning commissioner wanted to win a town council seat. I said, “Roll out a sheet of construction blueprints, and we’ll videotape as you review them.” Again, the images (without any dialogue), gave the impression of expertise and authority. Both my clients won!

Now that we have the debt ceiling solved (temporarily), which infrastructure bill do you favor? The “traditional infrastructure” bill that focuses on roads, bridges, highways, broadband and mass transit? Or, do you favor the “social infrastructure” bill that includes all the above, but also has childcare, home health care for the elderly, pre-kindergarten funding, and clean-energy components of the Green New Deal. Just click the comment button to weigh in!