Everyone is by now familiar with Nassim Taleb’s idea of low probability, high impact “black swan” events that come seemingly out of nowhere to disrupt the world as we know it. The events of the last 48 hours look like they might be Obama’s black swan, except that we can’t say “black swan” and “Obama” in the same sentence because that would be, you know. . . racist or something. So I’ll call it a “Chicago swan” instead, especially given the salience of the Chicago teachers’ strike. Wait, what’s that? I can’t say “Chicago” either?
Anyway, it is interesting that it was the “black swan” event of the collapse of Lehman Brothers at almost exactly this point in the 2008 campaign that upended the race and tilted the outcome to Obama’s favor. Up to that point, McCain-Palin were leading in most polls by 3- 5 points, and it was Obama who was jittery and making mistakes on the campaign trail. (Remember when he “inadvertently” called Palin a pig?)
So one has to wonder whether the events in the Middle East will do in Obama with the middle class in the Middle West (of the U.S. that is). Walter Russell Mead thinks the roof is falling in. But he also cautions rightly that Republicans need to respond carefully:
Yesterday’s events damage President Obama because they call into question the story the campaign wants to tell—that President Obama is a calm and laid-back, though ultimately decisive person who brings order to a dangerous world and can be trusted with the car keys. But if Republicans respond by looking wild eyed and excitable (remember John McCain’s response to the financial crisis in 2008?), bad times will actually rally people to stick with the devil they know.
Meanwhile, buried in Mead’s reflections today is a little detail that is being lost in the shuffle of today’s more dramatic news: the German Constitutional Court (their Supreme Court, as the name implies) ruled this morning that the Euro bailout scheme passed constitutional muster. This did not surprise me, but still the case was the Eurozone equivalent of the Obamacare case: had the German court ruled otherwise (as it quite plausibly could have), the Eurozone would be in a full blown financial panic this afternoon. As it is the day of reckoning has probably only been postponed, but not solved, by this decision. So that swan in Obama’s future is perhaps still turning b—- behind a screen somewhere.