Bernd Debusmann

Obama, immigration and “anchor babies”

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 31, 2011 16:59 UTC

After breaking a promise to tackle immigration reform in his first year in office, President Barack Obama now thinks the time has come to deal with the thorny issue “once and for all.” It’s a safe bet that he will fail to repair America’s broken immigration system. Why? George W. Bush helps explain.

The immigration reform Bush championed would have provided tighter control over the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, a new visa system for temporary workers, and a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. The bill failed in 2007 after running into stiff opposition from congressional leaders of his own Republican party.

In his memoir, Decision Points, he says the debate over the reform had been affected by “a blend of isolationism, protectionism and nativism,” apocalyptic warnings of a “third world invasion and conquest of America” by TV radio hosts and commentators and last but not least the influence of ideological extremes in Congress.

“The failure of immigration reform points out larger concerns about the direction of our politics,” Bush writes in a perceptive passage. Since members of Congress in safe districts do not have to worry about challenges from the opposition party, their greatest vulnerability is getting outflanked in their own party. The result is a drift towards the extreme, he writes, and “this is especially true in the era of bloggers, who make national targets out of politicians they deem ideologically impure.”

That trend was obvious in the 2010 mid-term elections that gave Republicans a 49-seat majority in the House of Representatives and brought in many extremely vocal guardians of ideological purity, adherents to the populist tea party movement.

The great Iranian nuclear guessing game

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 21, 2011 14:39 UTC

On April 24, 1984, the respected London-based Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that Iran was in the final stages of producing a nuclear bomb that could be ready in two years. Sound familiar?

In the past quarter century, forecasts of when Iran might have a nuclear bomb have been issued, and proven wrong, so frequently that nuclear experts have coined the phrase “rolling estimate.” Forecasts have come from a wide variety of sources, including Iraq (during its disastrous war with Iran), the U.S. Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency, Israel’s Mossad, prominent Israeli politicians, and think tanks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Iranian bomb estimates have been making headlines again this month after Meir Dagan, on the day he handed over leadership of the Mossad to his successor, said he did not believe Iran could have a nuclear capability before 2015. Last year, he forecast Iran could reach that stage within a year.

In America, violence and guns forever

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 14, 2011 15:09 UTC

Another American mass shooting. Another rush to buy more guns.

On the Monday after the latest of the bloody rampages that are part of American life, gun sales in Arizona shot up by more than 60 percent and rose by an average of five percent across the entire country. The figures come from the FBI and speak volumes about a gun culture that has long baffled much of the world.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation compared January 10, 2011, with the corresponding Monday a year ago.

So what would prompt Americans to stock up their arsenals in the wake of the shooting in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 14, including Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman who was the target of an unhinged 22-year-old who has since been charged with attempted assassination?