U.S. political consultant James Carville took to the stage Thursday afternoon to speak about the Arab Spring, but couldn't resist taking a potshot at the rain that's settled over the province for almost all of June."Spring? What the hell do you people know about spring?" he said, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd in the Avalon ballroom at the Delta Hotel in St. John's.
Carville was speaking at a luncheon wrapping up the third day of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association's annual convention.
Sprinkling his observations and anecdotes with a good deal of humour, Carville took shots at Republican presidential candidates, touched on the American and global economies, and mused about U.S. President Barack Obama's chances for re-election.
For Carville - the former Democratic strategist who famously coined the "It's the economy, stupid" phrase that became Bill Clinton's strategic focus in the 1992 presidential election - voters will always put more stock in their own economic situation than any temporarily popular accomplishments like killing Osama bin Laden, and laid out some historical examples.
"The Democrats, World War II. We won World War II. 1946, what happened? Democrats got wiped out," he said.
"Churchill - greatest hero of the 20th century. Won World War II. What happened to Churchill the first election after the war? Adios, Winston. Out. George H.W. Bush won the first Gulf War, got everybody else to pay for it. We won the war, didn't have to pay for it. How do you like that? What happened to him in '92?"
The highest unemployment rate when any president has been re-elected was 7.2 per cent, in 1984 when Ronald Reagan won a second term, said Carville, and it was clear that unemployment was going down. The unemployment rate in the U.S. last month was 9.1 per cent.
"There's not an economist in the country, or a person in the country, that thinks we're going to be approaching 7.2 per cent in November of 2012," he said.
Likewise, the current U.S. consumer confidence index is lower - and dropping - than its average level when a sitting president is turfed from office.
But Carville also had little time for the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls, and said Obama's approval ratings are better than expected considering the current sorry state of the U.S. economy.
Carville also warned much more work needs to be done before the wave of uprisings and political turmoil in the Middle East can be considered victories for democracy - but they do highlight the unexpected ways that change can be effected.
"We spend billions - no, hundreds of billions of dollars on democracy in the world. 'We're going to change this, we're going to use the state department, the army, the marine corps and everything,'" he said. "And one street vendor in a town in Tunisia, who nobody can name, with a can of lighter fluid and a match did more than all these diplomats and think tanks and recruits and institutes in the world combined."
After his lecture, Carville was asked if the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore oil industry could learn any lessons from last year's Gulf oil disaster. Carville opted for words of caution instead.
"You gotta be careful. My view on offshore drilling is the same as flying. I'm all for it, but I'm not for it done dangerously," he said, adding that things seem to be going well in Newfoundland.
Finally, Carville said who he'd like to see as the Republican candidate for president in 2012.
"(Sarah) Palin," he said. "Because she'll lose."
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