Newsweek Japan asked me to write an introductory essay for its January 16 special issue on tension in Northeast Asia (cover story to the left). I should have put this up 4 months ago, but I forgot and the arguments are still valid. Anyway, here is the link in Japanese, but I thought it would be useful to publish the original, untranslated version as well. (If you actually want the Japanese language version, email me for it please.)
The essay argues that Northeast Asia has benefited enormously from an ‘Asian peace’ in the last 35 years. All the remarkable growth in China and South Korea (as well as India and Southeast Asia) would not have happened without it. So fighting over some empty rocks (Liancourt Rocks, Pinnacle Islands) is a terrible idea. And for political scientists, the current Sino-Japanese tension is a good test of the hypothesis that economic interdependence brings peace. It’s fascinating to watch China especially try to figure out just how much economic gain to forego in pushing Japan over the Pinnacle Islands.
This was intended for their print edition, so there are no hyperlinks included in the text. Here we go:
“1979 was an important year in modern East Asia. It captures two of the region’s most important trends. It was the year of both the last serious military conflict between two East Asian countries – a Sino-Vietnamese border war – and the start of China’s capitalist modernization under Deng Xiaoping. These moments usefully frame the following thirty-four years: much of Asia has gotten substantially wealthier, and no major conflicts have broken out to upset that upward economic swing. This magnificent regional achievement has catapulted Asia, particularly East Asia, into the center of world politics.
Back when I was at Ohio State University in graduate school, I was solicited by a friend to write for a start-up journal in political science. The journal didn’t survive, but my essay at the time was on the surge debate. Given that I’ve been talking about Iraq for the last month here, I thought I’d put this up; it’s not available elsewhere anymore. This is the unaltered text from the spring 2007. I feel like I did pretty well actually. I still agree with most of what I wrote 6 years ago in the midst of the war’s worst days:
“One Last Chance in Iraq for a Sustainable War on Terror
The sense that the United States is losing the war (or more precisely, the peace) in Iraq is palpable. The cable news networks are filled with images of burning cars and markets. The Bush administration seems almost paralyzed – reciting only bromides about freedom and democracy as the long-predicted post-sovereignty civil war seems already to have begun. New York Times pundits like Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman increasing see a negotiated, half-and-half, ‘at-least-its-better-than-Saddam’ outcome as the most likely scenario. Centrist/liberal supporters of the war, like the Economist and the New Republic are publishing a flurry of criticism that we are ‘losing the peace’ despite having won the war. Even conservatives like the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, stalwart defenders of the war, have backed away from higher hopes of a democratic, liberal Iraq which the President outlined.
But the growing Iraqi withdrawal debate is wrong-headed. The pullout mooted by such diverse figures as Senator Charles Hagel, Jon Stewart, and Cindy Sheehan would be catastrophic, and our growing national fantasy with its imminence is hazardous. It creates an unreal expectation that ignores the probable post-withdrawal bloodbath, emboldens the insurgents to hang tough, gives false comfort to military families especially, and tempts the Democrats to abdicate responsible policy input for cheap political shots.
My first post on the Iraq War asked if academic IR had any responsibility to slow the march to war.
The second tried to formulate what the neoconservative theory of the war was, because many of us, in retrospect of a conflict gone so badly, desperately want to un-remember that there really was a logic to the war, that it was at least somewhat intellectually defensible, and that a lot of us believed it. We may want to retroactively exculpate ourselves by suggesting it was just W the cowboy acting ridiculous, or a neocon hijacking of the policy process, or Halliburton oil imperialism, and all the other reasons so popular on the left. And some of that is true of course.
But it ducks the crucial point that the war was popular until it flew wildly off-the-rails, which in turn revealed the staggering incompetence of the Bush administration to act on the neocon logic the country had embraced by March 2003. In short, I argued that the Iraq invasion was not about WMD, preemption, or democracy, although that rationale was played up in the wake of the failure to find WMD. The real neocon goal was to scare the daylights out of the Arabs and their elites by punching one of their worst regimes in the face, thereby showing what was coming to rest of the region unless it cleaned up its act, i.e., crack down on salafism and liberalize so as to defuse the cultural extremism that lead to 9/11. (Read Ajami saying in January 2003 that the war is ‘to modernize the Arabs;’ that’s about as a good a pre-war summary of this logic as you’ll get.)
So what went wrong?
Despite the fact that Donald Rumsfeld supposedly wanted to bomb al Jazeera during the Iraq War as a jihadi propaganda machine, I have to say I find it a pretty good news source. It’s got a great documentary hustle that lazy incumbents like CNN don’t, and its Middle East coverage is far more balanced and fair than most Americans think.
Anyway, the vid is my quick thoughts on Park Geun Hye’s inauguration as South Korea’s new president. The quick sum: she can’t follow through on making Korea ‘happier’ unless she takes on the vested interests, especially the chaebol, central to her political coalition. I don’t think she can do that, and, honestly, I’m not even sure she wants to. So I would not expect anything big at home in her term; the right, the elderly, and business in Korea like the status quo, and they’re the ones that put her in office. And certainly, the social democratic policies of ‘economic democratization’ kicked around last year won’t happen meaningfully. That’s my prediction at least. I’ll have more in a few days when my contribution to a foreign ‘Korea analyst’ forum on PGH is published in the Korea Times.
For my previous TV appearances, go here.
Here is part one of this post. The following will make more sense if you start there.
I noted that I am participating, today in Seoul (attend if you can), in a USC-CSIS project on Korean unification. This is the final ‘phase’ of their Korea Project on unification.
I thought I would post my thoughts on the USC-CSIS Phase II report (available here) which provided all sorts of suggestions for reconstruction. It’s required reading if your area is Korea and NK, but I actually disagree with a fair number of the analogies to Iraq and Afghanistan. I think Germany is a better model for what will happen here, and I think a ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement like in greater China is nearly impossible given the extraordinary deep ideological divide, which is also existentially necessary for NK to demonstrate why it must be a seperate, poorer Korean state. So it’s either implosion or stalemate.
Anyway, the rest of my thoughts are after the jump. Having read the CSIS report is not a prerequisite to understanding my arguments, but it would help.
The University of Southern California Korean Studies Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies are running a joint Korea Project: Planning for the Long Term (pic to the left). CSIS will hold the last of three conferences in this project at the Asan Institute on January 21st next week. If you are in Seoul, you should go. The agenda looks pretty good. (Contact the Asan Institute.) I’d like to thank USC and CSIS for soliciting my participation..
The January 21 conference is actually the last meeting of the Project. The first meeting asked Korea area experts to look at unification; the second meeting asked functional experts to do the same. This upcoming third meeting will look at regional impacts from unification. I will comment on papers from Russia and Japan. I will put up my thoughts on those papers after the Phase III conference, but for now, I thought I would post my comments on the Phase II conference (by the functional experts).
Basically I argue that Germany is a better model for what will happen here than either the occupations of Iraq or Afghanistan, or LDCs in transition. Also I don’t buy for one second that NK will enter into a meaningful ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement like in greater China. DPRK change meaningful enough to permit a federation would be so far-reaching, that it would inevitably raise the question why the DPRK exists at all. Ideological change is an existential threat to the regime: why be a poorer version of SK if you’re in a federation with SK? why not just join up? This is the logic that undid the GDR. So it’s either implosion or stalemate IMO.
Here is the final CSIS report on Phase II (a must-read if you want to research unification); my gloss on that follows the jump. (Here is the much shorter Phase I report.)
(I updated/lengthened the last section, after the jump, to respond to some of the criticisms made.)
Daniel Tudor, the Korean correspondent of the Economist (full disclosure: we are friends), just wrote a book on South Korea where he argues that Korea, despite all its success, is a discontented society. This is exactly right. (Here is a good review of the book.) Despite growing rapidly in just a generation, and capturing some global profile with things like ‘Gangnam Style’ or well-known products like Samsung gizmos, Koreans continue to have wildly unrealistic expectations of global interest in their small, linguistically unique (and difficult to learn) country culturally similar to enormous China. This generates constant geopolitical disappointment, per Tudor, and outsized sensitivities over foreign criticism – e.g., the widespread urban legend here that no Korean has yet won a Nobel Prize, because the committee is staffed by anti-Korean racists, or read this.
Four events in 2012 really seemed to capture the chip on the national shoulder, which ideally would serve to recommend a little modesty instead of yet more nationalistic grievance (but that won’t happen):
The Olympics: Some KOC official said on TV that Korea needs to ‘improve its Olympic diplomacy’ (whatever that means), even though it won a huge haul of medals for a country so small. India has more than 1 in 7 of the people on the planet, while Korea has .007%, but I guess the fifth highest pull of golds and ninth highest overall was a conspiracy of the Anti-Korean Olympics or something. What is it with the endless chip on the shoulder? As Evan Ramstad put it, Korean officials once again had to come off sounding arriviste and aggrieved, rather than balanced and modern:
“Even so, a government sports official could be counted upon to again declare that South Korea was at last among the world’s great nations instead of recognizing that it has been there for awhile now. Second Vice Culture Minister Kim Yong-hwan was quoted in local media saying the performance in London meant that South Korea could “join the ranks of advanced nations in terms of sports and culture” and “has leapt into a higher level not only in the field of sports but also in culture and arts.”
And we had to spoil the Olympics too, with tiresome Dokdo posturing too (pic above). That the placard violated the apolitical Olympic spirit is obvoious, but no major Korean figure came forward to denounce that action. *Sigh*
Newsweek Japan asked me for a long-form essay on the challenges facing the new Korean president-elect for its December 26, 2012 issue (cover story to the left). Here is the link in Japanese, but I thought it would be useful to publish the original, untranslated version as well. (If you actually want the Japanese language version, email me for it please.)
The essay was actually written up before the outcome (a Park Geun-Hye victory) was known, but the argument still applies. In brief, I argue that Korea is drifting leftward. The young in Korea want chaebol reform and less political elitism at home, and abroad they want a foreign policy both less hawkish on North Korea and less influenced by the United States. In fact, if Korea weren’t aging so extremely fast, this agenda would have won. But Korea’s demography is now so skewed that ‘missing’ youth voters due to Korea’s super-low birthrate probably cost Moon Jae-In the election. (Not surprisingly, the Korean news is already reporting on youth action against against free bus fair for the elderly, because they ‘stole’ the election.) Nevertheless, the generational split is real, and the right would be foolish to govern against future voters’ wishes in the name of aging voters who will naturally pass away. Hence my prediction that Park will govern as a centrist not a conservative.
Regular readers of this blog will see themes I have emphasized before. This was intended for their print edition, so there are no hyperlinks included in the text. Here we go:
“On December 19, South Korea will have its sixth democratic election since the end of military rule in 1987. The main candidates are Park Geun-Hye of the conservative New Frontier Party and Moon Jae-In of the liberal Democratic United Party. Park is expected to win, as Moon has run a poorly organized campaign and the Korean left has split. Ahn Chul-Soo, a popular reformist liberal candidate, dropped out late in the race and only weakly endorsed Moon, while a far-left party, the Unified Progressives, has stayed in the race. All this will fragment the left’s vote, likely throwing the election to Park.
This pic is from the TV election coverage on the Korean version of CNN. That would be the two main candidates (the liberal Moon Jae-In on the left, and conservative Park Geun-Hye, who won, on the right) as dancing electronic cartoon avatars. Yes, they do look like boogying Nintendo Miis, and yes, they are the most bizarre, hysterical election graphics I have ever seen. Who says political science is boring?
So Foreign Affairs solicited me for a ‘snapshot’ essay on the Korean election. Here is the link, but I also thought it might be useful to post my first draft which is fuller:
“South Korea’s next presidential election will occur on December 19. The main candidates are Park Geun-Hye of the conservative New Frontier (Sae Nuri) party and Moon Jae-In of the liberal Democratic United Party (DUP). A third, unaffiliated liberal candidate, Ahn Chul-Soo, dropped out in late November. Ahn had no clear party identification, which was part of his attraction, although he was broadly center-left. A former hi-tech entrepreneur and professor, he was popular with the young who feel alienated by the closed, oligarchic character of Korean politics and for much of the year, he outpolled Moon. Because he and Moon were splitting the anti-Park liberal vote, they tried to merge their campaigns. But Ahn’s hasty, somewhat bitter withdrawal speech implied that old-style, backroom politics by the DUP had pushed him out. Post-withdrawal polls showed Park picked up around one-fifth of Ahn voters, a very strong showing.
Does anyone else find Fox News strangely appealing to watch? For some reason I watch it all the time. As ideology that is inadvertently entertaining, interwoven with a veneer of ‘news,’ it’s a freaky, terrifying wonder to behold. It is vastly more interesting – maybe because it’s akin to experiencing an alternate reality - than it’s-so-bland-what’s-the-point-anymore CNN. Watching Fox is like watching yourself becoming dumber, all while being shamelessly entertained by gorgeous teleprompter-readers and militant American nationalism. It’s like the news + ‘Call of Duty’ + ‘Baywatch.’
As a news station it is, of course, preposterous. Its presentations are astonishingly partisan. Even after 15 years, I am amazed at what Hannity, O’Reilly, etc. can get away with (try here or here in just the last few weeks). It does very little investigative/reportorial work itself. It generally repackages what other outlets have produced or presents lengthy ‘Crossfire’-style opinionating, which is not really journalism. And it’s Michael Bay-style presentations, particularly its graphics and swooping necklines, make the news look like an action movie, not like, you know, the news.
Newsweek Japan asked me for a long-form essay on Korea’s economy for its December 5, 2012 issue (cover story to the left). Here is the link in Japanese, but I thought it would be useful to publish the original, untranslated version as well. (If you actually want the Japanese language version, email me for it please.)
The essay broadly argues that Korea needs to move beyond ‘developmentalism’ toward economic liberalism, as a lot of Asia does in my opinion. Regular readers of this blog will see themes I have emphasized before. This was intended for their print edition, so there are no hyperlinks included in the text. Here we go:
“As Korea’s presidential election moves into the home stretch, the local economic discussion is sharpening. Inequality, demographic collapse, massive concentration of economic weight in a few mega-conglomerates, weak consumer purchasing power, growing trade friction over intellectual property rights, and a chronically under-powered small- and medium-enterprise sector (SME) are among the major problems this outwardly very successful economy must confront. Unfortunately, none of the major candidates are pushing the deep reform needed to fix these underlying issues. As with China’s leadership transition, things seem so good at the moment that elites are wary of rocking the boat; as with the recent American election, tough choices will likely once again be kicked down the road. In Korea’s case, that means moving away from its ‘developmentalist’ growth model before encountering troubles similar to Japan’s.
Each year in September, the Economist holds a conference on the Korea economy (a part of its Bellwether series on Asian economies). They invite me to come, and then I try to write up my thoughts on it in the JoongAng Daily as an op-ed. Each year, unfortunately, we seem to argue about the same things – a proper, untweaked float of the won, and the openness of the Korean economy to foreign products and owners. Here are my thoughts from 2010 and 2011. I was so busy in the last few months on this site with the US election and other stuff, that I didn’t get a chance to reprint the JAI op-ed. But I like it, so here is the link, and here is the text itself:
“Last week the Economist magazine held its annual conference on Korea’s economy. This series is rapidly becoming the most important regular discussion in Korea for Korea’s foreign investors. Last year in these pages, I was critical of the Korean speakers’ response to foreign concerns. This year was an improvement. The finance minister particularly fielded a tough question about foreign investors’ rights in Korea in the wake of the Lone Star debacle. To his credit, he admitted what many already know from that case – that the Korean public is deeply ambivalent about substantial foreign profit-taking and ownership of major Korean assets.
UPDATE: This story couldn’t be more perfectly timed for argument I make in this post. (H/t to Zach Keck.) This one sentence captures a lot of what is wrong with the political economy in Korea: “Compelling conglomerates to unwind their intricate cross shareholdings would ‘expose companies to hostile foreign takeovers,’ Park Geun Hye told reporters.”
Wow. So globalization is for ‘foreigners’ but not for us. We should be allowed to capture 20% of the US or EU auto market, but we don’t want anything like GM buying Daewoo or Lonestar-KEB ever again on our own turf. Foreigners should be excluded from Korea’s biggest firms, even though those firms are hugely dependent on foreign sales and Korea’s growth generally is dependent on foreigners’ willingness to run near-permanent trade deficits with Korea. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The sheer selfishness and xenophobia of that line is shocking. And I don’t believe for a second that that is really Park’s own belief. She used to support greater reform, and Korean conservatives are the most neoliberal element in Korean life (President Lee pushed through the FTAs, e.g.). That sentiment almost certainly reflects pressure from the chaebol families on the hoped-for winner to back-off the ‘economic democratization’ rhetoric. So if you ever wonder why foreigners think Korea is mercantilist or where the ‘Korea discount’ comes from, here you go.
It’s been a few months since the nasty Apple-Samsung battle led to a record lawsuit victory over Samsung in California. The Korean national response was downright vitriolic, but hopefully tempers have cooled enough that some reflections on how Korea can avoid this kind of stuff in the future are useful. I am displeased to say that Korean media turned down the following op-ed, but happy to note that The Diplomat was interested and posted this on Friday. The point of the media is not to flatter and tell us what we want to hear (see: the US media in 2002 on Iraq) but to challenges us to think beyond our prejudices. I am once again grateful to Zachary Keck, the assistant editor at the The Diplomat, for his interest in my work. So here we go:
“The bruising Apple-Samsung fight raises major intellectual property rights (IPR) issues that Korea and Asian economies generally are ill-prepared for. Unless the concerns raised by the Samsung-Apple scrap are resolved, Korea should expect regular trade friction with major partners and regular accusations of copying and cheating. As wealthy countries, including now Korea, move away from manufacturing and further into services and information, the need for innovative Korean firms will only grow. Neither Korea’s corporate structure – dominated by mega-oligopolies with strong disincentives to innovate – nor education system – overwhelmed by rote learning and plagiarism – position Korea well for the future.
Amazing how the Simpsons is still pretty funny after 25 years…
In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I’d list the reasons why I voted the way I did. I know conservative media regularly accuse professors of politicizing the classroom, but an honest discussion of why one chooses the way one did can also be useful exercise of citizenship. (See Drezner for an example of what I was thinking of.) So with that goal, not demagoguery, in mind, here we go:
1. The Tea Party Scares Me
This is easily the most important reason for me. Regular readers of this blog will know that I vote in the Republican primary and write regularly about the Republican party, but almost never about the Democrats. (Even in Korea where I live, my sympathies are with the conservatives.) I don’t see myself as a Democrat. I see myself as a moderate Republican, like Andrew Sullivan or (less so) David Frum. Unfortunately, the Tea Party has made the GOP very inhospitable for moderates.
Given Romney’s propensity to blow with the ideological wind rather than stake a claim somewhere, I think it is likely he’ll get bullied by the hard right once in office. Following Kornacki, my problem with Romney is not his ideology – because I don’t know what that is – but the party from which he stems, run, as it is, by increasingly radical, Christianist, southern right-wingers. I find it simply impossible to vote for a party so contemptuous of science, so willing to violate church-state distinctions, so committed to a heavily armed citizenry, so obsessed with regulating sex, so strutting and belligerent toward the rest of the world, so unwilling to compromise on taxes to close the deficit, etc. Hint to the RNC: the rest of the country is not Dixie; please stop dragging us down this road. This southernization of the GOP in the last 20 years has made it harder and harder for me to vote for national Republicans, even though I vote for them a lot in Ohio. Not surprisingly, I find Andrew Sullivan’s conservatism quite congenial.
|On Interstate 71, south of Columbus; Ohio’s most famous sign
So it’s election time, which means CNN, etc. will be filled with pundits with only the vaguest credentials – never any PhDs – telling you why the outcome inevitably had to be such-and-such. (Retrodiction is so insufferably smug.) And they’ll explain it as if these tired clichés are real insights and not the same flim-flam they pedal every November.
So let me predict the future: here are the five worst clichés you’ll hear Tuesday – the lamest, most recycled, simplistic, and least analytically useful (because they’re so flexible they can explain almost any outcome).
Save yourself hours of Donna Brazile and David Gergen right now; just roll these out at Thanksgiving dinner to impress the relatives:
1. Ohio, or the white, blue-collar voter theory of everything
Every four years the media runs the same easy, generic storyline about my state (Economist 2004, 2008, 2012; FT) that goes something like this: ‘these grizzled veterans of America’s economic dislocation cleave to their guns and religion but increasingly live in suburbs and see their kids work in tech plants outside Columbus or Dayton. The large urban populations of Cleveland and Cincinnati are balanced by the church-going rural voters in the god’s country of southeastern Appalachia…’ Yawn. And it goes on like that for pages. Most of these articles make sure to cite the above picture. And yes, that sign is for real; I’ve seen it. It’s on the same road that leads to the Creation Museum (no joke either – I’ve been there), but thankfully that’s over the river in Kentucky. I guess they go to the dentist even less often than we do.
The thing is, we get all this attention for 3-4 months before every election – but then nothing afterwards. So how much can they can take us seriously as a swing state? In 2004, Rove drove up GOP turnout with the Defense of Marriage Act ballot issue and terrorism. In 2008, Clinton and Obama told us they were going to amend NAFTA and reduce illegal immigration to save our jobs. This year, Romney and Obama promise to defend us against China. If you’re keeping score, that means there should be no homosexual Mexican terrorists driving NAFTA-certified trucks on Chinese tires around Ohio. Ah yes, Ohio, that clichéd, right-wing blue-collar paradise!
Warning! The lyrics are explicit – but the movie is hysterical
Did anyone else find the third presidential debate just appallingly narcissistic and self-congratulatory? Good lord. Good thing America is around to show you bubble-headed foreigners the way to freedom. I could run through all the offensive, ‘America-is-tasked-with-upholding-the-mantle-of-liberty’ patronizing condescension, but why bother? (Nexon does a nice job here.) I told my students to watch it, and in retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have. It was so embarrassing, and in class this week I kept trying to explain why we talk down to the rest of the world like this while my students rolled their eyes in disgust.
I keep saying this – running around the world telling people how exceptional and bound-to-lead we are is a great way to alienate the planet and convince them of exactly the opposite – to not to follow us. We’d have a much easier time with the world if we could back off the blustery, Fox News nationalism and actually speak maturely. But Americans couldn’t give a damn about the rest of the world, no matter how much we posture about our world historic role to lead it. Our ODA totals are disgrace for a coutnry as wealthy as we are. We don’t learn languages much. The only time we worry about casualties in the war on terror is when they are own; our clear disinterest for all the collateral damage we have done since 9/11 speak volumes to the rest of the planet.
So instead, here is the debate foreigners heard:
Yesterday, the JoongAng Daily printed an column by me about my trip to NK. Here is the link and column is reprinted after the jump. This condenses my earlier thoughts on my trip and adds some political analysis.
In passing, I should say that I find the JA the best newspaper in Korea – and no, not just because they publish my stuff every couple months (although that helps) .
For readers who don’t know the Korean media scene, the JA is like the Economist in Korea – centrist, neoliberal, intelligently hawkish on foreign policy, sane on social issues. This is why I send my stuff to them. The biggest newspaper in Korea by circulation is to the right, the Chosun Ilbo. The third big paper is to the left, Hankyoreh. I find the Chosun ok, but sometimes it can sound like Fox News, and I dislike its obsessive, Korea’s-status-in-the-world-is-rising!!! nationalism. But the far-too-soft-on-Pyongyang Hankyoreh I frequently find downright disturbing, as it comfortably trafficks in the worst conspiracy theories like poisoned US beef in Korea or a cover-up of the Cheonan sinking. So if you are researching Korea, stick to the JA first, and then CI.
(So yes, my politics are broadly center-right, even though I seem to criticize the US GOP relentlessly on this site. One thing I like about SK is that its conservatives are in fact conservative, not radical, as the Tea Party made the Republicans. Generally speaking, I find the SK right to be responsible and moderate most of the time. That’s so refreshing. Don’t you miss having sane conservatives back home?)
Ok, here’s the op-ed:
Yes, it’s partisan, but it’s a somewhat useful deconstruction
First, I included the above video to reference a point I tried to make last week – that Romney flip-flopped so much in the first debate that I no longer have any idea what he thinks about the big issues of campaign. I just wish I knew wth Romney wants to do with the presidency. There has to be some purpose, some reason to vote for him, and I can’t find it. Someone tell me in a few coherent, specifics-laden paragraphs why I should vote for him? Not why Obama is a bad president – I know that already – but why Romney should be president. Honestly, I don’t know, which makes his presidential run look like a vanity project or something.
Second, did anyone else think that the vice-presidential debate once again broadcast to the world that our foreign policy is dominated by the Middle East? It was all about Iran, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan. Obviously, these are all important places and issues. But it doesn’t take a lot of foreign policy training to know that Russia’s ever-more erratic course under Czar Putin, a possible euro-EU meltdown, or China are a lot more important to the US’ future than a bunch of small, poor fractured states in the Middle East. But no, let’s argue once again about Israel, Iran, terrorism, Iraq… Good grief. There are other issues out there!
Everyone remembers this – except Romney voters apparently…
George W Bush practically built his re-election effort against John Kerry on the idea that even if you disagreed with him, you consistently knew where he stood on stuff. That commercial above is famous. And the US right in general loves that sort of macho grandstanding on behalf of American will in the face of wimpy, carping detractors – usually Europeans, academics, and liberals, ideally combined. Remember ‘freedom fries’?
Palin and McCain struck the same pose in 2008 (‘I would much rather lose a campaign than a war’), and so did lots of Tea Party candidates in 2010 and in the 2012 GOP primary. Remember when Perry even said, “I’ll be for water-boarding until the day I die”? And Fox talks like this all the time, as if Hannity were the last bastion of American bootstrap ideals against a rising tide of liberals, illegal immigrants, and Muslims. So if the Tea Party right loves this ‘let’s-go-down-with-the-ship-on-behalf-of-principle’ posture, how can one possibly support Romney after he flip-flopped all over the place in the first debate last week?
It increasingly looks like Romney is gonna lose. Intratrade now puts that likelihood at 75%. So it’s my understanding from the American politics subfield of political science, in which I took exactly zero courses in grad school, that the state of the economy is supposed to be the great determiner of American elections. But somehow Romney can’t seem to win despite 8+% unemployment. So I’ll take that as a methodological opening for wild speculation – namely my own – masquerading as rigorous theory.
Given my masterful background in this field, which includes watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, still getting Fox News in my cable package even though I don’t live in the US (stop chasing me!), and having been a Congressional district
slave staffer (Republican) 15 years years ago, here’s my take. And no, I have no great proof to back up these instincts, but as George W Bush’s decision-making style taught me, my gut is enough, and ‘data,’ or whatever you ‘academics’ call it, is for wusses. “We’re an empire now; we make our our reality,” and here’s mine:
1. That 47% video just killed him.
Wow. The polling after this just collapsed. The desperate ‘me too-ism’ of Fox News in response spoke volumes about how destructive that leak was. Scrounging up any dated recording of Obama also saying something dumb (or not) and then trying for 2 weeks to balloon it into an ‘affront to all Americans’ to stir indignation was just embarrassing. I wonder if O’Reilly and Hannity can say to Roger Ailes or Rupert Murdoch once in awhile, that some conspiracy-mongering is just too ridiculous even for them. If some old, vague Obama comment on ‘redistribution,’ which the government has been doing for almost a century, is now cause enough for GOP ‘outrage’ (ever noticed that Fox is always ‘outraged,’ btw?), then they’re effectively repudiating more than half the budget. Even in the GOP, I don’t think eliminating redistribution is majority opinion, and there’s no way the electorate will go for that, as it essentially re-writes the social contract on something - a basic safety net – that most American simply assume now. Maybe Romney should apologize? I dunno; politicians do it in Asia sometimes. But doubling-down on that remark, as he has, is a sure-fire loser.