Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

America’s election has gone to the dogs

Bernd Debusmann
Apr 30, 2012 21:02 UTC

America’s electorate is sliced, diced and analyzed in minute detail, but there’s one comparative poll yet to be conducted: What is worse in the eyes of voters, having eaten dog meat or having put the family dog in a crate on the roof of a car for 12 hours?

This is not a trifling question in a country with close to 80 million pet dogs, whose owners treat them as family members and might be disinclined to give their votes to a candidate perceived as a dog eater, in the case of President Barack Obama, or a dog abuser, in the case of his presumptive Republican rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney.

The crated dog on the roof, an Irish setter named Seamus, has dogged Romney on and off ever since the story came to light in 2007. Obama’s dog-eating is a recent addition to the ever-growing catalog of anecdotes collected by Republican and Democratic activists and campaign operatives to paint the other side’s candidate in the darkest possible colors.

The dog stories have legs, so to say, and are likely to stay part of the election campaign until it finally ends on November 6. To refresh the memories of those who might have followed the campaign for weightier topics – high unemployment, say, or the war in Afghanistan – here is a recapitulation of what happened so far.

While Seamus rode atop the Romney family station wagon on the way to a vacation in Canada, the dog was struck by a bout of diarrhea that resulted in fecal matter running down the windows. Romney pulled up at a gasoline station, hosed down the car, the crate and the dog, and continued on his way. That was in 1983, but the story was revived in the Republican primary campaign when one of Romney’s rivals said it pointed to character flaws.

America’s decline – myth or reality?

Bernd Debusmann
Apr 20, 2012 15:59 UTC

Take note of a new phrase in the seemingly endless debate over whether the days of the United States as the world’s pre-eminent power are numbered: Those who doubt the country’s economic decline are holding an “intellectual ostrich position.”

The expression was coined by Edward Luce, author of a deeply-researched new book entitled Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent. It notes that the United States accounted for 31 percent of the global economy in 2000 and 23.5 percent in 2010. By 2020, he estimates that it will shrink to around 16 percent.

Luce’s diagnosis of descent, published in April, was the latest addition to a steadily growing library of books, academic papers and opinion pieces for or against the idea that the United States can maintain its status as the world’s only superpower. If we adopt Luce’s phrase, it’s a discussion between declinists and ostriches. The latter include President Barack Obama and his presumptive Republican rival in next November’s presidential elections.

Obama and the failed war on drugs

Bernd Debusmann
Apr 16, 2012 18:30 UTC

Long before he was in a position to change his country’s policies, Barack Obama had firm views on a complex problem: “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws. We need to rethink how we’re operating the drug war.”

That was in January 2004, during a debate at Northwestern University, when he was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. To make sure his student audience understood his position on the controversial issue, Obama added: “Currently, we are not doing a good job.”

To look at a classic flip-flop, forward to April 2012 and a summit of Latin American leaders, several of whom have become vocal critics of the U.S.-driven war on drugs, in the Colombian city of Cartagena. More than three years into his presidency, Obama made clear that he is not in favor of legalizing drugs or of ending policies that treat drug users as criminals.

Will Latinos decide America’s elections?

Bernd Debusmann
Apr 7, 2012 13:45 UTC

Every day, around 1,600 U.S. citizens of Latin American extraction are turning 18, voting age, and add to the fastest-growing segment of the American electorate. Almost 22 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in November and how many of them turn out may well decide who will be the next U.S. president.

A series of recent polls show that Latinos favor President Barack Obama over any of the Republican presidential hopefuls, with a comfortable 70 percent to 14 percent over Mitt Romney, the man most likely to win the Republican nomination at the end of a primary campaign marked by often shrill anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Obama is so confident that he primary debates have driven Latinos away from the Republican party that  he told the Spanish-language television network Univision last November there was no need for his campaign to run negative ads on the Republican presidential hopefuls. Instead, “we may just run clips of the Republican debates verbatim. We won’t even comment on them…and people can make up their own minds.”

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