A busy, if inconclusive, week for this blogger's routine on Friday of picking a winner for the week. It began ominously for the Republicans with the under-reported South Carolina presidential debate. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney stumbled by calling for the U.S. to intervene in Iran to counter its nuclear program, if sanctions and covert action fail. This mattered little in context, but will loom large if one of them becomes the party's nominee or our nation's president. In the same debate, Rick Perry called for the elimination of all U.S. foreign aid — in an answer to a question that had nothing to do with the topic. The moderators, perhaps recognizing that anything less than a fainting spell would seem anti-climatic for Perry at this point, didn't bother to follow up. Perry's position is popular with many voters — not just Republicans — but it violates many years of bipartisan support for issues such as AIDS prevention and allies such as Israel. This was an opportunity for the press to play an ameliorating role to abate his ignorance, but they remained silent, assuming, I guess, Perry would soon, too.
Then there was Herman Cain and the missing 90 seconds of tape. But, hey, when this is over, Herman can cut a spot for Holiday Inn Express and the need to get a good night's sleep.
As the week ended, Newt was still enjoying his boomlet, and the media seemed a little non-plussed on how strenuously to search the archives for bad Newt stories, or how much effort to put into turning up new ones. We did learn Gingrich made a lot of money from Freddie Mac and health-care companies with speculation that this could hurt him with the Tea Party anti-Washington crowd. These stories seem tame by Gingrich standards of negative media. So far, he has shown a resiliency born of the same Republican dissatisfaction that has kept Cain and Perry from sinking into oblivion as normal laws of political gravity would dictate.
Romney got a warning this week from the Republican governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, who told him to ignore the first caucus state only at his peril. This threw into relief Romney's Iowa trap: The state sets up so poorly for him, but how badly will a poor showing damage him? (And what constitutes a poor showing? Third-place? ) And, if Romney cedes the spotlight coming out of Iowa to another winner, when does he recover? A win in New Hampshire is a forgone conclusion; he can only stumble there. South Carolina? Florida, surely, but it's a long time in presidential primary time from Des Moines to Miami.
And, finally, on the Republican side, Sarah Palin was back from what seemed like the anonymity of the witness protection program she's been in lately. She admonished the Congress from getting rich off Wall Street. See, she does follow the news, as long as it is on TV— she must have watched the 60 Minutes report on congressional "insider trading." Sarah made money the old-fashioned way: She blew off her job as governor and trades on her celebrity to get rich.
President Obama was traveling this week. Maybe he, too, was tired when he wandered into an unfortunate musing about the persistence of America in competing for new investment in our country, a habit this blogger thinks he should curtail, especially since one of his main jobs overseas is to sell our businesses and workers as great investments. He is returning to the impending failure of the supercommittee to reach an agreement, and all of its attendant collateral damage. The good news: The capital markets are closed for Thanksgiving, but Friday could be blacker than usual.