Cutting Edge

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Deciphering undecideds

Steve Kornacki at Salon thought President Barack Obama did better in Tuesday's debate than Mitt Romney and sees two possibilities ahead: "One is that the few swing voters there are have for most of this campaign been looking for an excuse to vote for Obama. They like him personally, understand the historically unique contours of the economic crisis he inherited, are open to giving him more time to produce a turnaround and are suspicious of the Republican Party. This might explain why Obama held on to a steady lead of several points over Romney for the entire campaign, and why that lead suddenly vanished in the aftermath of [the first presidential debate]. Obama's performance ... gave these voters for the first time serious pause about handing him four more years, so they switched their preference to Romney or started calling themselves undecided. ...

"There's another way of understanding Romney's gains, though. Maybe the reason he trailed all year isn't that swing voters were looking for an excuse to re-elect Obama; what if they were looking for an excuse to fire him -- and Romney was simply failing to give them one? ... The essential message of the Romney campaign has been: If you're economically frustrated, don't ask questions -- just vote the incumbent out. ... If 'good enough' is all Romney needs to win, then his performance [Tuesday] night might have been sufficient, even if Obama had the better night."

Beware the cliff

Via FixTheDebt, an organization founded by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles of the Simpson-Bowles commission: "In an open letter to the president and members of Congress, the Financial Services Forum [Thursday] urged lawmakers to negotiate a bipartisan plan to address both America's long-term debt and the rapidly approaching 'fiscal cliff.' The letter, signed by the presidents and CEOs of 16 major investment firms, notes:

" 'The consequences of inaction -- for stability in global financial markets, for economic growth, for millions of American still without work and for the financial circumstances of American businesses and households -- would be very grave. ... We urge you to negotiate a bipartisan agreement as quickly as possible to prevent us from going over the fiscal cliff so that we can avoid the damage to the economy and the markets that inaction will cause.' "

Talk about cliffs ...

Matthieu Aikins writes in Foreign Policy: "Afghanistan is awash in foreign aid. In 11 years of war, the United States and its allies have funneled hundreds of billions of dollars into the country. As a result, international spending is now the biggest part of the economy, making Afghanistan an 'extreme outlier' when it comes to aid dependency, according to the World Bank. In 2010, for example, it received about $15.7 billion in development funding alone. That's roughly equivalent to Afghanistan's entire gross domestic product. And with $9.4 billion in public spending versus $1.65 billion in revenues in 2010-2011, the country is heading off a fiscal cliff as the international community scales down its involvement ahead of transition in 2014.

"But what will be the political consequences of the money running dry? For the time being, international spending has forged a bought peace in Kabul, but many of the political settlements that keep violence at bay -- the agreements and expectations negotiated between elites -- could be upended by the transition."

Romney's binders

Amanda Hess in Slate: "I ... was amazed to watch the phrase 'binders full of women' leave Mitt Romney's mouth at [Tuesday's] debate and evolve into full-fledged Internet meme in a matter of minutes. And I was disappointed to see an important conversation about hiring and promoting women in the workforce tabled in favor of nonsensically Photoshopping [Canadian singer] Carly Rae Jepson into an empty three-ring.

"I agree that Romney's positions on health care, contraception and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will do nothing to help women in jobs across America. Binders stocked with intelligence on top-shelf female candidates, though? I'm cool with those.

"In a rush to discredit Romney's position entirely, commenters are strangely spinning his underlying point -- when female candidates don't apply for jobs, employers should find them, and hire them about half the time -- as somehow anti-feminist. ...

"Surprise: The men who run this country, most of its states and the majority of its congressional offices have mostly male networks. Seeking outside help to ensure your staff is diversified does not make you a monster with no female friends. Actually, it makes you something of a feminist."

opinion_commentary

Compiled by Greg Victor (gvictor@post-gazette.com).


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