There has not been a more convoluted story in politics than the David Petraeus affair in a long time. And, not surprisingly, a recent poll of the American public by ABC and the Washington Post has found that Petraeus’ approval ranking has gone down ten points since news of his scandal broke. However, nearly half of all Americans (45%) still see the former FBI director in a positive light, with just 32% holding an unfavorable opinion of Petraeus. The FBI itself, however, does not have as high of a favorability rating when it comes to the handling of the scandal. American split 40-39% on their opinion of the FBI’s performance in the case. This is the reason that David Petraeus is a (marginal) winner in politics this week, while the FBI takes home the first political loser of the week mention in this column.
Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky and son of libertarian icon Ron Paul, stated that he will not rule out a run for the presidency in 2016. He also opined that the party’s best chance to win in the next presidential cycle could be to run on platforms of immigration reform and cannabis decriminalization. For his willingness to take stands unpopular with the GOP base while simultaneously saying just the right things to position himself for a serious run at the Oval Office in four years, Rand Paul is our second political winner of the week. Nothing may develop from these moves, but there is also the chance that Rand may become a serious contender for the Republican nomination in 2016.
The biggest news on the political front was, of course, the upcoming “fiscal cliff,” a collection of tax increases and spending cuts due to go into effect on January 2, 2013, unless the president and Congress find a budget that will avoid it. One has to wonder why, if the President knew of the upcoming “fiscal cliff” during the election, he would choose to use the campaign slogan of “Forward.” Since any such deal is likely to involve tax increases for nearly all taxpayers, President Obama will need to take command of the debate early, selling it to the American public in such a way that they will not fall over to the Republican camp in 2014. Although it’s too early to call winners and losers yet in this debate, this is a dangerous place to be during a recession for any leader. Unions, including the NEA, have already started buying ads pressuring moderate Democrats not to favor spending cuts, but rather to rely on tax increases to avoid the crisis. As major contributors to the Democratic party, any Democrat who goes against union wishes could lose significant re-election funding. On the other side of the aisle, Paul Ryan now has the opportunity to take the helm of negotiations for the Republican side, and if he does so and performs the task admirably, he could come out of the negotiations a big winner.