The Republican national security debate made me feel young again. First, there was the audience at Constitution Hall, typically diverse -- old white guys, fat old white guys, really old white guys, prematurely aging middle-aged white guys, and a few understandably unhappy looking women. But more importantly, there was the conversation. It reeked of 2004. All of a sudden I was 48 again.
But moving past that harsh personal reality ... the Republican candidates apparently think that playing the "War on Terror" card is the way into voters' hearts. They promoted torture. They embraced racially profiling Muslims. They feared the spread of terrorists across the Americas. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, they were all about terror. The urgency seemed just as palpable and vaguely crazed as it was back in the day. Amazingly ... stunningly ... the message from most of the Republican candidates, led by front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, reflected the first-hints of nostalgia for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Perhaps that was because some of the most prominent old white men in the audience were actually behind the Bush administration's policies of invasion and violation of basic human rights. There was Paul Wolfowitz. There was David Addington. And then there was Ed Meese. Somewhere out there was John Birch.
Interestingly, in this context, the two standout performers in the debate were Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul. Both were willing to step away from the retro-masses of the Republican Party and talk about today's economic concerns and challenge the over-reach and failed policies of the past decade. Paul, of course, once again embracing an end to the war on drugs (about which he is also right, as it happens), is too far out there to win. But Huntsman had a bit of a breakthrough. He is being strategic. He is focused on New Hampshire as the joke on Saturday Night Live had it. And performances like tonight's could very well give him a shot there ... at least more of a chance than he has appeared to have thus far.
Of course, Mitt Romney ... and his deep, unwavering love for spending every possible penny on defense ... remains the most likely candidate. That said, as a very shrewd observer of these things emailed me during the debate, Romney is the Al Gore of the Republican Party. Seems good on paper ... and made of cardboard. Hard to love. Newt Gingrich may have done well, but he is a dog whistle only Republicans can hear. The press loves him because he abuses them and he seems like a more intelligent breed of bad candidate than Cain or Perry.
Big losers tonight were viewers who did not get to hear anyone really address the big issues of our time -- from the uprising in Tahrir Square that was strangely all but ignored to the crisis in the Eurozone to the rise of China and the BRICS. And CNN was also a loser for its hokey staging, game show style opening, and the flaccid if competent moderation that let the conversation remain moored in the past.
Strangely, the big winners were not actually in the room. Barack Obama was one. He won both because he looks so good next to these guys and because they showed him great deference in the degree to which they generally tip-toed around his real accomplishments. But even his triumph was transcended by the night's biggest winner: Bibi Netanyahu. Somehow, he managed to get two of the candidates -- Romney and Santorum -- to publicly state their first trip as president would be to Israel. And Gingrich offered to work with Israel on a conventional invasion of Iran. And these were just a couple of the highlights. Bibi and his diplomatic team have masterfully played the perceived ambivalence of the Obama administration into a competition among Republicans to demonstrate who loves Israel the most. Which was yet another thing that made me feel young again ... like back in the good old days when support for Israel was much more reflexive and, frankly, much easier.
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As it turns out, my mother was wrong. Or was it Madison Avenue? (I always get the two confused.) You can get too much of a good thing.
Case in point: the Republican presidential debates. Admittedly, there is something oddly compelling about them. It's kind of like watching the middle-aged country club dining room version of the food fight from "Animal House." (Romney=Neidermeyer, Perry=Blutarski, Bachman=Mandy Pepperidge) But they're on more frequently than most infomercials and they contain even less intellectual substance.
Every so often however, I give in to temptation and tune in for a fix of comic mayhem. Last night, I settled in to watch the exchange regarding foreign-policy. I can't quite decide whether it was more embarrassing or frightening. The panderdates were crawling all over one another to declare their fierce opposition to foreign aid and their love for defense spending. Even Ron Paul, who as best as I can tell is for shrinking the entire government down until it can be run out of an abandoned Fotomat booth in a parking lot somewhere near Galveston, Texas and who thinks foreign aid carries the ebola virus, found the tiptoeing around the Pentagon pocketbook to be intellectually dishonest.
Here are the facts: We spend less than 1 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid. We spend roughly $50 billion a year on the entire State Department and the foreign aid budget. We spend about 11 times that on the Defense Department plus another three or so times that on "overseas contingency operations" like fighting wars and firing drones into various compounds and convoys and that sort of thing. (Let's not count the Veterans Administration or the Department of Homeland Security or the intelligence community in these budgets though they certainly might be thought of as part of our broader national security establishment.) As it happens we spend a smaller percentage of our GDP on aid than almost any developed country and we spend roughly 10 times on defense what the next biggest spender, China, pays out to defend itself. (Go get a pencil and figure how that works out in terms of per capita defense spending. It won't take you long.)
Cutting foreign aid drastically diminishes our influence. It also sends the message, articulated last night by the most "reasonable" Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, that we have made the decision as a society that the richest nation on earth doesn't feel any responsibility to help other countries with their humanitarian needs. For a bunch of candidates who seem hell-bent on proving their essential Christian-ness, that's a heck of a message for the richest family in town to be sending to those that are in need ... especially when it is the one clear way to support those who support our interests and expand good will toward America while supporting the stabilization of troubled regions. Whatever happened to those "what would Jesus do" wristbands? I'm certainly no expert but I'll tell you one thing, Jesus would not be cutting U.S. foreign aid.
As for cutting defense spending, where do you think Jesus would come out on that one ... especially if they taught any arithmetic in the Nazareth public school system of the Galileean Unified School District. Might he suggest that spending say, only eight times more than our next biggest rival was sufficient to maintain the peace and that we could use the extra $140 or so billion that saved us per year ... $1.5 trillion over a decade, to meet the budget cutting goals of the Supercommittee in one fell swoop? Might he note that there is no way to make the big cuts we need by chopping away at comparatively small programs? Or that somehow cutting the programs that help the rest of the world versus those that are designed to blow it up might send the wrong message?
Heck, it doesn't take being the Prince of Peace or a guy with a knack for stretching a budget (see the whole fishes and loaves thing) to recognize that this approach of eviscerating U.S. smart power while blindly protecting the brute sort is kind of dumb not to mention dangerous.
There is no path to American recovery that does not involve very significant defense spending cuts. Just like there is no path to recovery that does not involve rationalization of entitlement spending. And just as there is no way to where we need to be that doesn't require new sources of revenue. You've got to do all three. And while last night's food fight did indeed have all the low comic appeal of "Animal House" while bearing an uncanny resemblance, as "Morning Joe" noted, to a showdown among the Real Housewives of New York, it skirted reality like Lindsay Lohan dodging community service on her way to another night clubbing. But it did so by offering approaches that were grossly irresponsible and, on their face, should have disqualified each and every one espousing them from occupying any office with responsibility for America's economic or physical security.
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There is a myth that Mitt Romney is somehow a weak candidate, can't get his tone right, will fold under pressure from the rabid right and the posturing of cardboard panderers like Rick Perry. But watch his progress, his steady, measured campaign, his ability to raise money, and note that while the press spins up the buzz-worthy stories of the day, he soldiers on in a way that has essentially guaranteed that the Republican presidential contest will be "Mitt Romney vs. someone else."
That may have the far right licking its chops, but trust me, in the White House Romney's measured march forward is a source of unease. What they fear -- even taking fully into account Romney's sometimes robotic (but improving) delivery and his coolness (one wag I know framed the contest between him and Barack Obama as "the refrigerator versus the icebox") -- is his solid professionalism.
You could see that professionalism at work in Romney's address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. And since we spent a little time yesterday breaking down the remarks of Governor Perry, it is only fair that we perform the same public service with regard to the speech of Mitt Romney. The White House should be doing the same thing. Because Romney's speech was both a template for his campaign and a clear sign of what a formidable opponent he may be. He gets it. And pair him with a candidate who plugs him in to the right and a key state -- Marco Rubio, perhaps -- and this man could make 2012 much more difficult for Obama than all the hyperventilating Perry promoters might suggest.
Here are the words of Romney and what they really mean:
OK, so this is just scare tactics and pandering. It's contemptible and simple-minded, and the evocation of the communist threat is downright quaint. But the bad news for all of you out there in foreign-policy land is that scare tactics and pandering work.
The worse news for all of you out there in foreign-policy land is that foreign policy is going to have precious little to do with next year's election, barring some unforeseen development (which is certainly possible). That makes this second excerpt the money paragraph of the speech -- literally and figuratively. That the great national security issue of our time is the great economic security issue of our time is the central issue of this election. The economy is busted. He who seems most likely to be able to fix it wins. Romney describes the problem effectively here, and that half-million-dollar albatross he notes is hanging around every American household's metaphorical neck is a persuasively heavy number that's getting heavier all the time.
Where is Rick Perry when you need him? Just when I thought it was safe to embrace science, comes a news story in The Guardian entitled "Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilizations, say scientists." The subhead adds, "Rising greenhouse emissions could tip off aliens that we are a rapidly expanding threat."
Holy shit. I thought it was bad enough that the ice was melting off Antarctica so fast that golf resort developers are already drawing up blueprints and plans for holding the McMurdo Sound Open in 2020 or so.
Now, we now only have to fear rising sea-levels that will displace millions, submerge Wall Street (yet again), and wipe out most of Florida (ever cloud has its silver lining ... even if it is a cloud of ozone), but if the flood waters don't get us, E.T. will!
That's really too much.
Given the news, I hardly blame the president for spending a little time with his family on Martha's Vineyard. We need to be with our loved ones. And besides, Martha's Vineyard will be gone soon one way or another.
If only I had the absolutely disregard for science of a man like Rick Perry. After all, this is a presidential candidate who not only rejects the proven science that demonstrates the human contribution to global warming, he boasts that in Texas they teach both evolution and creationism. He is practically running on the same anti-science platform that was embraced by the Papacy around the time of Galileo. And if only I could bring myself to buy into his nonsense, then perhaps I wouldn't have to worry about both global warming and being obliterated by a little green man with a ray-gun.
According to the Guardian:
The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.
"A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions," the report states.
A pre-emptive strike? Gak! But wait! There is a bit of good news in this. While the Rick Perrys of this world don't believe in actual science based on millennia of data and sophisticated analysis in hundreds of laboratories worldwide, they do have a proven track record of accepting as gospel, so to speak, impossible to prove stories about invisible creatures in outer space. So while the data about climate change may not persuade them to work to change our destructive behavior, perhaps speculative scenarios about how greenhouse gases may trigger an alien Armageddon might just get them to take the problem seriously. Even if those scenarios were actually dreamed up by scientists...
The world is ending! We're back! The end is nigh! Hallelujah, we're saved! Pawlenty! Bachman! Perry! Oh my God, maybe the end really is nigh! No, Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow looked good and the heat wave in DC has broken, maybe a better autumn is ahead.
Suffice it to say, it's been a rough week. And amid the wreckage and rivers of bile, adrenaline, and tears that have flowed this week, a few stories have slipped through the cracks, a few perfectly bloggable topics have gone uncommented upon. And it's Friday and we can't let the week go by without offering a few quick takes on at least four of those bits and pieces:
While President Obama's comments on the debt ceiling standoff on Friday morning were pretty much a non-event, there was one thing he said that was so dead on target it is likely to live on. When -- and I don't think it's "if" -- the U.S. gets downgraded, it will not be because the United States does not have the ability to meet our obligations it will be because the U.S. does not have a AAA political system.
While the president meant this as a commentary on the current situation, the more disturbing element of the comment is that the flaws to which he was referring to are likely to endure and exacerbate the economic problems already burdening the nation. It would be a mistake to think that those flaws are simply a matter of the misguided views of one party or another or even the extremism of one wing or both.
The system is fundamentally structurally damaged. While we would benefit from having a third party, plans to introduce a third party candidate for president ignore the fact that our more urgent need for a third party is in the Congress. Further, adding parties won't address the money cancer that has corrupted the system and which is getting worse with each passing election's growing demands for more and more cash.
In addition, the structural problems are more deeply ingrained in the processes that drive the political system, such as having an upper house of Congress that requires supermajority votes to get almost anything done and yet also allows individual senators to hold up nominations for critical offices indefinitely without rationale. Budget problems are associated with Byzantine collection of appropriating and authorizing committees and made worse by the self-interested behavior of chairs and ranking members who see the gavel as an ATM card that enables them to fund campaigns and stay in power.
No, as President Obama rightly observes, when the downgrade comes it is likely to be less due to the size or cost of our government than it is its shape, structure and the personalities of those who are mismanaging it. But we shouldn't let ourselves off the hook so easily. Those personalities serve at the behest of the American people and to the extent those people do not demand productivity and reason from their representatives then ultimately the downgrade is a verdict about the judgment of the U.S. electorate.
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For political junkies, the mere thought of it gets us all to tingling. It's the equivalent of the day pitchers and catchers show up at spring training or the kick off of the Hall of Fame game for football fans. (For U.S. football fans, that is. For soccer fans, it's the equivalent of handing out the first bribes of the season to a FIFA official.) It's a new beginning.
It's the first real debate of the presidential campaign season and it was scheduled to take place last night in New Hampshire. Dutifully, I settled into the dent in my couch made the night before while gleefully watching the self-destruction of LeBron James, and I waited for the fireworks to begin.
Unfortunately, I must have had the channel wrong because what I saw on CNN was something that looked like an elimination round for the Stepford version of "America's Got Talent." A combination of the vaguely deranged and the semi-robotic moving their lips but apparently speaking in sounds only Republicans can hear.
I squinted and leaned closer to the screen looking for some semblance of presidential candidates but this group look like they were roughly up to competing for the job of Deputy U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
Here we have a country that is in the midst of a protracted economic calamity, precious little is going right, the current president may be the last holder of that office ever to be referred to as "the most powerful man in the world" and these seven non-entities were the best America's opposition party could come up with?
Pizza executive Herman Cain? A man who could barely string three words together and yet managed to reveal volumes about how little he knows or understands about domestic or foreign policy? Governor Tim Polenta ... a big, steaming plate of bland mush? Ron Paul? America's crazy uncle who looked like he wandered into the wrong bingo game? Mitt Romney? A man whose name is Mitt? The man most likely to become America's first animatronic president? Newt Gingrich? The unsightly piece of spinach on the big fake smile of Republican politics? Michele Bachmann? Who indicated proudly that she had had 23 foster children? 23 foster children? Was she auditioning to become the first human collector to have an episode of "Hoarders" devoted to her? And Rick Santorum? Mr. "Man on Dog?" Mr. "Intelligent Design?" The guy who tried to blame the Hurricane Katrina disaster on its victims?
Where do they stand? They're against big government ... except when it comes to women's reproductive rights in which case they feel the government should regulate what women do with their internal organs. They feel government is incompetent ... except apparently the military to whom all but Ron Paul would defer on most big issues ranging from how to handle Afghanistan to how to manage the basic civil rights of citizens who happen to be in the military. Muslims, for the most part, make them uncomfortable but they are not for deporting them immediately. Or was that immigrants? Well, basically they don't much like either group. They believe Obama has it wrong on the economy and that the way back to growth is through a lower deficit and lower taxes. The impossible math of that aside, apparently they think the main structural problem facing the U.S. economy is the structure of the U.S. government and that other competitive factors ... like, say, the comparative advantages of the rest of the world don't really figure in the equation.
Of course, I oversimplify. They had differences of views. And apparently the commentators were all very impressed that they didn't fall down like Shania Twain at the CMT Awards. But I have to admit, I came away pretty disappointed. At least when the Mavs-Heat game slowed down, I was able to switch to watch the Tony's. I mean try as these G.O.P. wannabes might to tap dance around substance, facts, or the substantial reasons why each of them would fare badly against President Obama, they really couldn't hold a candle to the amazing Norbert Leo Butz or spectacular Sutton Foster. The only thing the two telecasts had in common was that the acknowledged big winner of each was Mormon. But as you might have gathered, I'd only actually pay to see one of those. (Hint: It's the one where you actually get to see a live performance.)
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Crazy peaked too early. The fringe candidates pre-marginalized themselves. And that's why my money is on the longest of long-shots in American politics, not a candidate, but a process: A 2012 presidential campaign featuring a serious debate about the issues between thoughtful candidates.
In part, we can thank the first wave of Republican presidential "candidates" who arrived on the scene crowded into a clown car and proceeded to climb all over themselves to distinguish their particular form of high-functioning lunacy from that of the human punch line next to them.
Among the earliest of these was Sarah Palin, shooting from the hip and usually hitting herself in the foot or causing collateral damage to her family, English syntax or our national dignity. But given what followed her into the race, and how much more statesmanlike the Trumps of this world make her look, one conclusion we can't help but draw is that this is a woman who is best viewed in retrospect.
Palin after all was only ignorant, badly educated, hopelessly inexperienced and wrong on the issues. The Trumps and Gingriches of this world see her those defects and raise her a few. Trump seemed to want to prove that in modern America all you needed was fame, no matter how it was achieved. Yet somehow running beauty pageants, casinos, and guest hosting reality television shows was enough to take this buffoon and launch him to front-runner status among Republican candidates. All this despite the fact that he seems intent on proving that there actually is something more ridiculous than his floppy, chemically enhanced comb-over ... that being what comes out of his mouth.
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The greater good is the bitch-goddess of foreign policy. It provides at once both the inspiration to elevate society and the temptation to debase it. I'm sure one of the reasons that the study of foreign policy draws in so many passive-aggressive poindexters is because they get a cheap thrill from entering a fraternity in which the only admissions requirement is checking your conscience at the door.
In the first international affairs class one attends or the first serious discussion of foreign policy in which one participates, sooner or later the focus turns to the tough choices that must be made in the name of the Shiva of Foggy Bottom.
It is easy to understand this impulse when one watches scenes as in Libya in which a corrupt despot seeks to maintain his illegitimate chokehold on a society through the slaughter of those who only seek the rights due all men and women. Using force and taking life to stop evil and to protect those who cannot defend themselves is certainly justifiable albeit fraught with moral complexities that we too often too easily set aside.
That said however, we have to acknowledge that the natural habitat of this particular bitch-goddess is the slipperiest of slopes. It is worth remembering that most of the world's greatest sins have been committed in the service of someone's definition of the greater good. It is a point the Obama administration ought to take to heart as recent headlines suggest that we are crossing to the wrong side of the world's most dangerous border, the one that divides "realism" from "evil."
Not surprisingly, no place illustrates this danger like the region we call AfPak. And as a consequence no place more emphatically shouts out the question: "Have we no decency? Are there no limits to what we are willing to accept in the pursuit of our allegedly high-minded goals?"
We accept Hamid Karzai and elements of the Pakistani government although we know them to be corrupt and very likely supporting or enabling our enemies. We do this despite the lesson being chanted in public squares across the Middle East -- not to mention most of the history of modern U.S. foreign policy -- is that this approach inevitably comes back to bite us in the most sensitive parts of our national interests. We are seen as the co-authors of the wrongs our chosen despots commit or tolerate because ... well, because we are. That we are doing this in Afghanistan even as we are seemingly preparing to embrace a bigger role for the Taliban in the government only compounds the wrong -- the only justification for supporting Karzai is that he is better than the alternative but we don't seem to think that's necessarily the case anymore. Whatever your view of the issue, you have to admit it's a treacherously morally ambiguous place to venture to reclaim the national standing the Obama team correctly feels the United States lost during the Bush years.
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When I read the Washington Post's story "Palestinians Seek Recognition through South America" this morning, all I could think of was Sarah Palin. Now, some might think that is a kind of a disorder that calls for therapy more than it does another blog post. But I suspect you are probably jumping to the wrong conclusion about what I think about either issue.
In defense of my mental health (which needs all the defending it can get), one reason I thought of Palin was that as I was reading the article, she appeared on the television. She was being asked what she thought about birther claims that President Obama was not born in the United States. Without the hesitation or weasel words that have made recent statements on this subject by Michele Bachmann and John Boehner such indictments of their ability to lead, Palin said that it wasn't an issue for her and that we ought to be talking about how to fix the economy. In this instance, she got it precisely right.
But the Palin comment and the birther debate also resonated with the story of the eight Latin American governments that in December and January recognized Palestinian statehood. representatives of the Netanyahu government including the prime minister himself apparently vigorously tried to persuade the region's leaders not to join the almost 100 nations that have also acknowledged the legitimacy of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people.
Once again, the issue seems like a distraction to me. The response of Israel ought to be like the response of Palin, "Of course, the Palestinian people have a right to a state." In fact, it's only a bit of an over-simplification to say, the right response ought to be literally what Palin's was: That it's not an issue for them and we ought to be talking about how to fix the economy -- that is we ought to be focused on how you go from the indisputable right of the Palestinians to have their own state to working together to create one that is self-sustaining and can do a better job creating opportunities for the Palestinian people than neighboring states (other than Israel) have done for their citizens. That's the critical challenge for both Israelis and Palestinians together.
That of course, also requires that the Palestinian leadership actually get serious about both negotiating a deal and providing fundamental services to the Palestinian people. An honest debate about this subject, stripped of the distractions upon which both sides have depended on as cover for so long, would turn more to such practical issues.
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The problem with experience is that it doesn't prepare you for what you have never seen before. This is also a challenge for experts, for whom their knowledge of the past is usually an advantage, but sometimes can be their worst limitation.
This has certainly been the case in the past several weeks with the events in Tunisia and Egypt. Old Middle East hands approached the matter with great caution, fearing instability, because if it followed past patterns, it would most likely end in unhappiness. The most likely outcomes they could foresee were either: the further cementing of the status quo or an invitation to something much worse.
History taught them that popular uprisings in the region typically led either to replacing one despot with another or perhaps to trading the evils of autocracy for the evils of theocracy.
And we would do well to consider the fact that even now, as Egypt is awash in euphoria, that the experts may be right. And they would do well to consider that perhaps what has happened in Egypt is something entirely new.
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WikiLeaks provides few revelations but many resonant reminders. The reminders put into language stark enough to reawaken the senses information that we long ago knew but had repressed. For example, take today's multiple reminders that so-called "friendly" governments in the Persian Gulf remain cash machines for the worst people on earth, terrorist groups dedicated to the slaughter of innocents.
"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," declared a document that went out a year ago under Hillary Clinton's signature, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."
Other cables describe how the group responsible for the Mumbai bombings, Lashkar-e-Taiba, raise cash through Saudi front businesses, and how the Taliban and their allies work through networks in the United Arab Emirates. They report fitful progress in reducing these cash flows, the use of religious pilgrimages as cover for illicit cash transfers from the Gulf to militants and the quiet if pointed methods the United States uses to press our so-called friends for assistance.
Here we are coming up on a decade since 9/11, two years since Mumbai, bogged down in horrifyingly costly conflicts against these terrorists and the stark, perverse reality remains that the countries of the Gulf are getting rich selling us oil and then passing part of the proceeds on to bands of murderers who have sworn to attack us and our allies. They are worse than drug dealers who kill only through the deadly addiction they promote. These terror bankers and their fat, arrogant, callous royal protectors have for years placed us in double jeopardy by both promoting a different kind of dangerous addiction and then using the proceeds from that to fund efforts to kill us.
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A U.S. government report indicates one in five Americans is mentally ill. This only partially explains the results of the last election.
The Davenport family of St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday became the first people in the country to begin waiting in line for next Friday's post-Thanksgiving Day sales. See prior point.
Heavily armed battle tanks arrive in Afghanistan for the first time in a nearly decade long war at roughly the same time President Obama arrives in Lisbon to persuade allies and the world that things are finally going our way in that benighted country. Who are you going to believe, the president or a battle tank?
Satellite imagery confirms that the North Koreans are building a new nuclear reactor. They would do more to send a message of progress to the world if the satellites sent back a snapshot of the opening of a Best Buy in Pyongyang (and you can be sure the Davenport family would be camped out in front for the grand opening.)
Protests over Haiti's cholera outbreak have turned violent. Meanwhile, UN Haiti recovery champion Bill Clinton wraps up shooting for his cameo in "The Hangover II" in Thailand.
EU leaders pressure the Irish to raise their too-low corporate tax arguing that the country has gone bust trying to make itself attractive to foreign investors. Are you paying attention, Washington?
In an effort to win the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Michigan Republican Fred Upton has promised to reconsider his support for phasing out incandescent light bulbs. This comes in response to right wing attacks on what they characterize as "socialist" support for more efficient "squiggly" bulbs. (Note: Bloggers everywhere appreciate the recent proliferation of such self-ridiculing stories. A real time-saver.)
The Nobel Committee announces that China's "unprecedented" campaign to shut down the peace prize ceremonies for Liu Xiaobo by keeping his family away and pressuring countries not to attend may succeed. Beijing could not have thought of a better way to validate Liu or to bring more attention to his award.
In related news, China sentences a woman to a year in a labor camp for retweeting a satirical message and thus "disrupting the social order." Yes, that's the same China that George Soros says is better run than the U.S. (but then perhaps he feels the same way I do about Twitter.)
Aung San Suu Kyi is finally freed in what the press characterizes as a "Mandela moment" but she notes that in many ways South Africa had it easier. She and Liu remind us that the real progress hasn't a thing to do with technology, economic growth or the shape of our lightbulbs.
P.S. Due to the tremendous response to this week's Snookiism post, I wanted to more clearly define what I mean by the term. To me Snookiism is any movement that depends on the stupidity of its main actors or its supporters for its success. In instances of extreme Snookiism, it relies on both.
DMITRY ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty Images
It is conventional wisdom that U.S. elections seldom turn on foreign-policy issues. Armies travel on their stomachs and so do American voters. It's all about the pocketbook. But every so often the pocketbook has a foreign-policy component, which is the case this year -- and it has led to a rather extraordinary shift.
This is the first election in U.S. history in which the most important foreign-policy issue is China. It won't be the last.
Two years ago we had one of those rare elections in which foreign policy mattered. But back then, even in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the foreign-policy focus was on the Iraq War, which served as a referendum on the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror. In 2004 and 2006, the war on terror was the dominant foreign-policy issue. In 2000 foreign policy was not central, but to the extent it played a role, it was it was all about the vision for U.S. leadership in the post-Cold War era. The 1996 vote had a similar theme, plus some focus on the ongoing small wars, notably the upsets in the former Yugoslavia. The 1992 election was influenced by the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War. During the Reagan Era Cold War issues drove the agenda. Jimmy Carter was bounced from office largely due to his impotence in the face of the Iranian hostage crisis. Prior to that Vietnam and the Cold War were central from 1964-1972.
But during this election cycle the subject of the United States' two wars hardly came up. It is in fact, a tribute to the Obama administration's handling of those wars that, despite their potential to create the formation of political fault lines, they have not. On the contrary, they are one of the few areas in which there is a seeming confluence of views between the parties.
But if you look at campaign ads and listen to campaign rhetoric, China repeatedly arose. China was cited as our top economic rival and as an unfair competitor because of its currency policy, its potential to overtake the U.S. as a global economic leader, and especially its impact on U.S. workers. The giant sucking sound is coming from across the Pacific these days. But unlike that sound in the days of wacky Ross Perot, this time the giant sucking sound is accompanied by the ominous rumblings of a rising superpower -- that many politicians running this year had no problem framing as the United States' natural enemy in the 21st Century.
Much of it was demagoguery. But there was no other foreign policy issue that competed with it for prominence … with the exception of immigration in the border states; a coincidence that reflects a broader theme of turning inward, protectionism and isolationism that threatens to alter the fundamental nature of U.S. international engagement in the long run.
Call it what you will, but this election won't be the last in which China plays such a central role. This administration is also the first, as has been noted here in the past, for which the relationship with China was paramount among all those the United States has worldwide. It was also the first during which China played a central role in an issue outside its region -- as in the case of its important role in the Iranian nuclear issue. It was also the first during which Chinese views began to play a central role driving important international discussions -- from climate, to currency, to coordinating the global economic recovery.
It looks like President Obama's first major visitor of the new year will be Chinese President Hu Jintao. That is no coincidence either.
There are big shifts afoot this election day. And despite what you may read in tomorrow's papers, they have precious little to do with how many House seats the Republicans pick up in these midterm elections.
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In Washington parlance an "October surprise" is one of those events cooked up by political skullduggerists to do in an opponent. Usually they involve subterfuge and sometimes deals with evil foreigners.
Of course, "October surprise" has become something of an oxymoron -- given the sorry state of political affairs in the United States there is hardly any attack that can be imagined that hasn't already been tried. Still, the latest attack on President Barack Obama … who is not even running this year … is an especially low blow.
First, there is the source of the attack: the New York Times. The Times, what with its fuzzyheaded, eastern liberal reputation and all that, should be the paper most in league with Obamanauts -- who read it as they wake up each morning to their breakfast of green tea, steel cut oatmeal with blueberries and egg white, and asparagus frittatas. (Admittedly, one of the reasons they read the Times is because almost every other newspaper in the United States is either failing or is owned by Rupert Murdoch.) That said, I knew the relationship had deteriorated, what with the Obama White House surprisingly early in their term adopting the Ron Ziegler approach to press relations (paranoia wrapped in resentment cloaked in abuse), and the Times actually covering the news -- even when it was not flattering to the president. But I never expected what I saw today.
There it was, and given the headline, you knew it couldn't be good: "In Writings of Obama, a Philosophy Is Unearthed." It was ominous on many levels. No good can come of reviewing the scribblings of someone's past. (People grow, but the words of a less experienced version of one's self, a version that no longer exists, linger despite.) But worse, there was that word "philosophy." They might as well have said they'd discovered Obama's birth certificate and it revealed he was French.
The article, seemingly innocuously, told the story of Harvard professor James T. Kloppenberg's retracing of the intellectual journey that brought the president to where he is today. But within the piece you could see the handiwork of the devil (how has Roger Ailes extended his reach into the inner workings of the Times? It is impossible to fathom. But I guess that's what makes the devil the devil. He's that good.) The article featured a series of blows so deft, so sharp, and so damaging that they called to mind one of those cartoon scenes in which a character is sliced to pieces so quickly that he doesn't know what has hit him, appears unscathed for a second, and then falls to the ground in bits.
The first slice: Near the top of the story Kloppenberg is said to have reached the conclusion that Obama "is a true intellectual." Couldn't they have said he lied about his military service? Couldn't they have said that he forced a woman on her knees to worship the water god in a fraternity prank? Couldn't they have said that one of his aides called an opponent "a whore"? (Connect the slur to a current race and win a free subscription to this free web site.)
What could be more brutally damaging in the United States than calling someone an intellectual? Surely it will cost him -- and by extension Democrats across the country -- more votes than having admitted to previously being a witch will cost certain loser Christine O'Donnell. Or to put it in finer focus, certainly being called an intellectual -- or worse, being one -- is going to cost Barack Obama more votes than being stupid is likely to have cost… or will cost… Sarah Palin.
But it gets worse. Times reporter Patricia Cohen (undoubtedly on the take from the Koch family) writes, "Mr. Kloppenberg explained that he sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president." Ouch. Go scan the best-seller lists for a philosopher. Or for that matter compare weekly book sales to say, weekly sales of a Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift album. This is Charlie Sheen's America folks, Kanye West's America, Sharron Angle's America. Calling Obama a philosopher is more damaging than anything the birthers could possibly have fabricated (perhaps because in this case it is true).
Worse still, Kloppenberg concluded that Obama is a pragmatist. Now that may not sound so bad on the face of it. It might even sound like what you want in a country rife with problems and torn apart by ideologues. But in philosophy-speak the term refers to a discipline of thinking born in the 19th Century in the Untied States which the Times describes by saying that its proponents believed that, "… chance rather than providence guided human affairs, and that dogged certainty led to violence." Pragmatists "are constantly devising and updating ideas to navigate the world in which they live." Kloppenberg turns the knife further by writing, "It is a philosophy for skeptics, not true believers." Criminy, why don't they just say he hates Jesus and the flag? This is a country that cares more that people believe in something than it cares what it is they actually believe in. Introspection and reasoned analysis is so weak and Eurosocialist.
Compounding these assaults, the article also quotes another professor as saying "Obama's academic background seems so similar to ours" (swoosh goes the razor sharp blade) and that Obama was a product of a turbulent period in the intellectual history of U.S. legal thinkers (ding, ding, ding… double inverted oxymoron) that resulted in his embracing something known as "deliberative democracy." Deliberative democracy? Democracy is not about deliberation. It's about putting your foot on the head of left-wing protestors who dare protest at a right wing rally. It's about us against them. It's about reflexive thought-free belief. Worse, this school of legal thinking suggests the founders cared more about "how to advance the common good" than they "did about ensuring freedom." What? That's gotta be un-American. After all everybody knows the main thing the founders cared about was guaranteeing that everyone had guns, that corporations could decide the outcomes of elections with their money and that Christianity be taught in our schools instead of say, science.
Tracing Obama's heritage, Tea Party spy Kloppenberg associates Obama with Nietzsche (a favorite of the Nazis), Thoreau (a favorite of Gary Trudeau), and Langston Hughes (a commie). Oh sure, they were all intellectual giants. But let's keep things in perspective. Kloppenberg cleverly tries to make it look like his studies have actually revealed much that he admires about Obama -- comparing him to a handful of great presidents and saying "He has a profound love of America." But by then the damage has been done. Skillfully, devastatingly, by demonstrating that we have a thoughtful, intelligent, well-educated, skeptical, intellectually-curious president, Professor Kloppenberg makes the best case to date why so many Americans feel out of touch with him.
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As I was leaving Paris on Tuesday morning, the city was hunkering down preparing for another national strike. Transport workers were going to be expressing their dissatisfaction with adjustments in their pension schemes through making commutes to the city and travel across France very difficult. But it was only the latest in a series of such protests. The country that gave the world the word aplomb responded with plenty of it, some workers staying home, others finding others means of transportation, and one seasoned Parisian explaining to me that "we have to get used to this, there will be many more to come before all this is over."
What is "all this?" He was speaking of French political battles, but he could just as easily be addressing the current wave of coming to grip with fiscal realities that is buffeting Europe, causing protests from Greece to Britain. Indeed, as Europe seeks to address the underlying causes of the crisis that nearly sent world markets into an even deeper tailspin months ago, it is clear that so much belt-tightening needs to be done and so many programs that have been taken for granted will need to be cut, that for all Europe there will indeed be many more strikes and protests to come.
In Britain, which I visited before my stop in Paris, the news was dominated by headlines from the Conservative Party Conference and the backlash to the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne that child benefits for wealthier families would have to be cut back. Notably, and with considerable courage, equanimity, and grace, Prime Minister Cameron did not sidestep the issue and indeed pushed in his keynote address for more resolve to undertake even the painful reforms that would be necessary to restore British fiscal health. "I'm not saying this is going to be easy, as we've seen with child benefit this week. But it's fair that those with broadest shoulders should bear a greater load."
At the core of his deservedly well-received speech was the message that in order to cut a deficit of 155 billion pounds, sacrifices were required, regardless of their political costs. Furthermore, and importantly, he suggested this was a national challenge, not just one for the government, "The point I want to make is this, the state of the nation is not just determined by government and those who run it. It is determined by millions of individual actions, by what each of us do, and what we choose not to do."
In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus, has an excellent piece entitled "The True Conservatives: Britain's Realists vs. America's Wishful Thinkers" in which she wishes that she could summon up Christine O'Donnell-like witchcraft to transform American conservatives into British Tories. She makes a powerful point. But she does not go far enough. Because if we are conjuring here, let's transform the Democrats too, please.
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The Washington Post, like many Beltway watchers, took President Obama's statement that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would make a "great mayor of Chicago" as an acknowledgement that Emanuel is as good as gone from his administration -- and that the typical midterm game of musical chairs that enlivens the West Wing has begun.
I take the statement as something different. I take it as a personal request from the President to me to let him know what changes he needs to make after the November elections.
So, let's begin with replacing Rahm. Rumor has it that Emanuel himself has been mentioning Valerie Jarrett, among the president's closest confidantes, for the job. While being as simpatico with the president as Jarrett clearly is would be a big plus, the chief of staff job has a massively tough management component to it that would undercut Jarrett's ability to remain the vital sounding board for the President she has become. Better suited to the job would be two of the other names mentioned: Ron Klain, the vice president's chief of staff, and Tom Donilon, the deputy national security advisor. Both are excellent, smart and proven administrative masters. Tom Daschle, former Democratic majority leader in the Senate, has also been mentioned. He played a vital role in the president's campaign and would add an important capacity for Hill outreach to the mix.
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Reading this weekend's New York Times's article on the deftness and ease with which the rich in Pakistan avoid paying taxes, an idea struck me. Well, actually to be perfectly honest, it struck my father -- who passed it along to me. The fact that he is currently lying in a hospital being pumped full of mind-altering drugs doesn't in any way undermine the quality of the idea. In fact, it just makes me want some of those drugs.
Because it is an idea of striking clarity and manifold levels of appeal.
In short, it may well be that two of the biggest threats facing the United States America -- the decay of nuclear Pakistan and the rise of the Tea Party movement here at home -- suggest a grand solution fraught with opportunity (and delicious ironies).
We need to keep an eye on Pakistan, but can't officially send troops there. Further, we can't afford to keep the ones we have in Afghanistan (who are actually there to keep an eye on Pakistan ... shhhh ... don't tell anyone) there indefinitely. And beyond that, we don't want to put our valued troops needlessly at risk.
At the same time, at home we are confronted by a new political movement whose leaders drape themselves in the flag and then proceed to espouse a worldview that is alternatively un-American (anti-immigration in a nation of immigrants, anti-personal freedoms like choice, pro-infusion of politics with religion) and ante-diluvian (anti-science, pro-vigilantism, pro-solving problems at the point of a gun). They are out of place here and lord knows -- given our history of success without them -- they are expendable.
The tea-baggers want a country? Let's give them one: send them to Pakistan.
It's a marriage made in heaven. Admittedly, there may be some disagreement as to which heaven, but let's leave that to them to work it out.
Think of the ways the Tea-bagger worldview makes Pakistan a much more natural place for them to live than America:
Here is a country with a large population committed to policies rooted in the values and outlook of centuries ago and a large group of Americans with a similar nostalgia for hangings, gunfights, superstition, racial and religious conflict and witch hunts. So theoretically, despite Pakistan's historically documented, deeply rooted strain of anti-Americanism, this may well be the one group of Americans with whom they have the most in common and thus, the ones with the best chance of building the bridge we need between our two cultures. And if we had to learn to live with less of the mean-spirited, misguided shrillness of the bagger rhetoric, I think we could handle it. And if it all ended badly for all involved, well, we could probably live with that, too.
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I can't wait for Barack Obama's second term.
Oh I know, 2013 is a long time from now and it would be nice to have decisive leadership to help deal with the odd double dip recession, Iranian nuclear threat, massive fiscal imbalance, remaking of the world order, that sort of thing.
But honestly, I just don't expect it. It is clear from events of the past few weeks that while it's July in most of America, it's already November in Washington. Every decision is cast in the context of the mid-term elections. No risk is too small to sidestep. No decision is too trivial to triangulate.
Getting reports of growing unemployment rolls? Compounding them with signs of sluggish growth and appalling developments in the housing market? A time for action? You might think so. But instead this president and this Congress hem and haw and propose effectively nothing. It's not just the Republicans blocking with appalling callousness the extension of unemployment benefits (while also fighting hard to ensure that big banks don't have too much of a tax burden). It's that the Democratic leadership is content to let the Republicans beat back the bill figuring they can use it against them in the election.
Lost in all this? Oh, right, the 9.5 percent of Americans who are "officially" unemployed not to mention the almost equally large number who don't make it into government statistics.
Is the reason for this fear of the exploding budget deficit? While one can debate the merits of government intervention vs. battling that deficit, we know the president and his team are not letting the economically disenfranchised suffer purely for reasons of economic orthodoxy. We know because there are no moves to do anything about the deficit either, other than some not terribly believable statements at the recent G20 Summit by the president that he'd hold the rest of the world to their word that they address deficit problems. In fact, credible rumors have it that Peter Orszag left in part because he did not get a warm fuzzy feeling from the president that he was going to do anything about deficit reduction any time soon.
On energy, we had a White House meeting with congressional leaders this week that featured the passionate leader of the Senate on these issue, John Kerry, offering to compound past compromises with future ones and observations by participants that despite the president's statements regarding wanting a price for carbon there was no real belief he was going to go to bat for anything on this front prior to the election.
On Afghanistan, following the musical chairs at HQ, we returned to the doubletalk about deadlines that aren't deadlines and exits that aren't exits and commitments that aren't really sustainable commitments?
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You've got to love the 21st Century. So many interesting and unexpected twists and turns ...
Here are just a few from the past few days:
1.) From the Mother of Parliaments, Labour Pains and Something Newish
From the country that gave us Marmite and the Austin Healy comes further proof of British innovation via a watershed election that produces the ultimate in 21st Century outcomes. After much chatter about the parts of the election that were copied from the broken U.S. political system, comes the unexpected twist of a result that American voters could only dream of: an election in which all the candidates lose. What better way to express public discontent with politicians? And really, isn't it much better than the Lib Dem victory so many people hoped for? That would have just been splitting the difference between two parties that weren't very different in the first place. The hung parliament expresses and institutionalize public disgust in ways only possible in the United States by voting professional wrestlers and stand up comics into office.
2.) And Yet, The British Vote Is the Second Most Important Election in Europe This Week
Gordon Brown squanders 13 years of Labour rule, the Lib Dems challenge the status quo and the Tories get by some measures their best result in almost 80 years and the whole thing is trumped by regional elections in Germany. Why? Because if those elections are seen suggesting a growing sentiment among Germans to further distance themselves from their EU obligations then they raise the likelihood of further unraveling in the Eurozone. Indeed, it may be seen by some as the latest evidence that the EU experiment is failing. And who can blame the Germans for not wanting to pay for extended vacations for Greek government officials with plush compensation packages after all those years the Greeks have soaked the Germans when they came to visit on their own vacations?
3.) Which Would Mean...
There is a wonderful irony hidden in Germany's reluctance to bail out its EU cousins. Could it be that the biggest problem Europe faces in the 21st Century is Germany's inclination to mind its own business? That the greatest German threat is that they actually focus their attentions within their own borders? All of a sudden the 20th Century seems so much longer than just 10 years ago. And although the German parliament voted for the bailout, German politicians will spend weeks interpreting the results of the local elections to see whether they indicate a growing resistance to such initiatives in the future.
4.) But One Continent's Crisis is Another's Boon, Part I
Of course, if we were to play out the current European crisis, we see not just problems for Europe but potential benefits for others -- benefits that is if you overlook the giant threats to the entire world economy. For example, if Greece is just Bear Sterns and Spain is Lehman Brothers and the U.K. is A.I.G...well, you get my point. Greece is floored by the Ouzo Crisis and the rest of Europe wakes up with a hang-over ... or much worse. Markets are jittery. The Eurozone is unwilling or unable to defend itself against those doubts. And the Euro itself continues to weaken for months and months to come. That's a passel of bad news in the increasingly irrelevant coulda-been capital of Europe, Brussels, and its resident bureaucrats and its lousy for European markets and economic performance but, come on, Europe, don't just think about yourselves. For example, think about the happy Chinese. The Euro going down means the RMB goes up ... and all of a sudden the Chinese currency is automatically "adjusted" for a big chunk of the world economy and the United States loses an ally in its pressuring Beijing. After all, why pressure the Chinese now when they will need their investment flows more than ever.
5.) But One Continent's Crisis Is Another's Boon, Part II
While the United States may not like that particular benefit for the Chinese, don't despair, America. There's plenty of good news here for everyone. Oh sure, a falling Euro means a rising dollar and that may be bad for our trade balances ... but we've learned to live quite happily with trade deficits for decades now. Let's keep our eye on the silver linings. The Euro falls and the dollar rises. Investors, like the Chinese, can no longer so easily make rumblings about a new reserve currency. When it comes to the dollar, the old Thatcher-era Acronym get's dusted off. TINA: There Is No Alternative. As Europe struggles...even if the U.S. does somewhat as well ... the dollar will be seen as the only true safe haven (other than Gold which continues to rise). Investor interest in U.S. securities markets ... even U.S. Treasuries ... and U.S. real estate markets goes up. And given the correlation between the price of the dollar and the price of oil ... and faltering demand in Europe ... the price of oil goes down, thus partially blunting the upside pressure on our trade deficit while also taking the air out of inflation's tires.
Imagine just 12 months ago if someone had told you that the dollar might be heading up right now ... and that it might be doing so for quite some time? Imagine if someone had told you that the United States could do everything "wrong" -- build huge fiscal deficits, build huge health care related deficits, spend fecklessly, endure a massive financial crisis to corruption, greed and regulatory incompetence, respond with massive deficit-building stimuli, bailout companies left and right-and that at the end of it all markets would "reward" them.
You don't get to be the head of a country without a little luck being thrown in the mix. (Except in the U.K. where the "winner" of the current "none of the above" referendum is almost certain to face horrific choice, be put in the position of taking much away from his "supporters" and go down in history as a victim of circumstance.) But, Barack Obama clearly has a guardian angel somewhere. He might well someday be seen as having faced a series of crises that actually end up leaving the United States --at least temporarily -- strengthened. Actually, it'll only be temporary...but it could leave us with a little breathing room to get our own house in order.
Unless it ushers in a global depression.
But why think about that? It's such a last century sort of a downer. This is The Silver Lining Century. So kick back, relax, go long the dollar, don't worry about your credit cards America and, while you're at it, keep buying up that vacationland in Siberia. Because as we have discovered, all it takes to make other brewing disasters -- like global warming -- our friends, is that perfect combination of a good attitude and a willingness to overlook the misfortunes of others.
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As a general rule, I'm not so keen on the way Americans go about elections. My two biggest problems are that election campaigns go on for ever-longer periods and that our campaign finance rules are simply a way to dress up rampant corruption in volumes of complex code. I'm also not so keen on the electoral college, which ought to show up on Antiques Roadshow any day now were it not for the fact that I suspect it wouldn't fetch much of a valuation.
That said, one thing America does pretty well is debate. I say this despite the tenor of recent debates and the debating skills of recent candidates. Airing differences between candidates in a televised forum is an important innovation in democracy. And it is one that has yet to come to the United Kingdom.
That seems to be changing though with reports that Tory Leader David Cameron and the LDP's Nick Clegg have now agreed to take part in a televised debate in the run up to the next election. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has thus far declined to join the fray and frankly, I don't blame him. First of all, while television is good for those with "cool" personalities, it is not so good for people with none whatsoever. Secondly, as it becomes increasingly clear that Brown's government gave a well-thought out wink and a nod to the Scottish Authorities release of Libyan bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, it is clear his team has manufactured yet another issue that can't work to their boss's advantage no matter how he addresses it.
That said, yesterday's statement that Brown "respected" the Scot decision to release the ailing terrorist certainly wasn't the way to calm the uproar over a mishandled mess that combines elements of placing compassion for a murderer over justice for his victims, alienating the U.K.'s principal ally and, no matter how many denials are made, currying favor with Libya's crackpot leader in exchange for better relations. On some level, for all the mouthwash about Megraghi's family's needs to see their dying relative (despite the unspeakable way he deprived hundreds of others of the same privilege), this is a situation in which it is clear that the Brown government has chosen to dance to the ka-ching of the cash register.
Given Brown's other bumbles (screwing up the British economy comes to mind) and the fact that David Cameron is a twit who will be an international embarrassment to the U.K. should he win the premiership, if you had to be someone on that stage you'd definitely want to be Clegg. But whatever the outcome of the exchange, it is a necessary exercise that ought to be part of the British electoral process ... and one which Brown should not be permitted to hide from.
Brown's associates argue he goes through the process of debate on the floor of the parliament every week. But for all its value "Question Time" has its own rules and its own ritual theater that invalidate it as the kind of debate to which British voters are entitled. And as the list of questions the average citizen or thinking journalist would want to ask these characters grows, the need for the debate grows more urgent and the prospect for a valuable exchange grows more compelling.
Let's see Brown defend playing footsie at a distance with Qaddafi. Let's see Cameron defend backing a racist right wing leader of the right in European parliament. This is one of those occasions where television is the best medium for providing both heat and light.
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
David Rothkopf is the CEO and Editor-at-Large of Foreign Policy. His new book, "Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead" is due out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux on March 1.