Note to My Readers: I want to thank the many readers who e-mailed me over the weekend to thoughtfully inquire about my health after my Friday evening television appearance in which I was clearly having physical trouble. Many of you wondered whether I had a stroke. Blessedly, no. But over the weekend, I was diagnosed with a case of Bell's palsy -- a temporary weakening of facial muscles on the right side, which is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection of the seventh cranial nerve, usually from contact with a bug or bird. In my case, it may have been one of my peacocks, who scratched and pecked me as I was carrying him back to his aviary after he had escaped. The symptom of Bell's palsy is a drooping of the right side of the face -- eyelid and mouth, in particular. As a result, until the recovery is complete (from weeks to months), I will be talking out of one side of my mouth (and the left side, no less) -- which in this political season, may be better than talking out of both sides of my mouth.
If there is one assumption about this presidential election shared by both Republican and Democratic strategists, it is that the election campaign will be played out in the backdrop of an economy in recession. And that may yet be the case. But during the past week, evidence has begun to mount that suggests that amazingly there may be no recession this year.
Of course, as I discussed last week, the long-term prospects for our economy are dubious and will depend on how the next president, Congress and the Federal Reserve deal with the value of the dollar, inflation, international trade and tax, and regulatory and fiscal policies.
But in the short term, if happy days are not quite here again, at least the agony of a contracting economy may not be with us, either. The first indicator was the report from the Commerce Department last week that in the first quarter of 2008, just as in the last quarter of 2007, the gross domestic product did not contract as most Americans and economists expected. Rather it grew at an admittedly anemic 0.6 percent.
The second revealing statistic was job losses. Only 20,000 jobs were lost last month; most experts expected a drop of more than 70,000. The unemployment rate actually went down 0.1 percent to 5 percent, rather than the expected increase to 5.2 percent. In the first four months of 2008, job losses averaged only 65,000 per month (on a downward path), compared to the average 181,000 jobs lost per month during the 2001 recession. That is also good news.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.