Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

Does Paul Ryan mean Romney has already lost the Latino vote?

Bernd Debusmann
Aug 13, 2012 14:34 UTC

Has Mitt Romney, the U.S. Republican Party’s candidate for November’s presidential elections, given up hope of boosting his dismal standing among U.S. citizens of Latin American extraction? The question arises after Romney’s pick of a running mate of no apparent appeal to Latinos.

Romney’s choice as candidate for Vice President, the ultra-conservative congressman Paul Ryan, is a darling of the Republican Party’s rigidly ideological base but has done nothing that could endear him to the fastest growing segment of the American electorate. On average, around 1,600 Latinos turn 18, voting age, every day and by November 6, some 22 million will be eligible to vote.

Romney is aware of how important their vote will be – in April, two reporters overheard him talk about the subject in a closed-door meeting with donors in Palm Beach. His message then, according to the eavesdropping journalists, was blunt: failure to win over more Latinos “spells doom for us.” Since then, the Romney campaign stepped up efforts to court Latinos with television ads and a Spanish-language website.

That failed to narrow the wide gap in Latino support between President Barack Obama and his rival. In July, the latest in a string of public opinion polls with similar results showed 23 percent would vote for Romney and 67 percent for Obama. While support for Romney has been going down, Obama held steady. The President won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008.

Romney’s standing among Latinos is the worst for a Republican presidential candidate since 1996 and number-crunching pundits from both ends of the political spectrum have estimated that he would need more than 30 percent of the Latino vote to win. Which makes his choice of Ryan baffling. Of all the potential running mates Romney could have picked from, Ryan is probably the one least likely to draw in Latino support.

America’s Republican extremists

Bernd Debusmann
Jul 20, 2012 16:24 UTC

The United States is in grave danger from domestic enemies:  Infiltrators from the Muslim Brotherhood have wormed their way into sensitive government positions, Communists wield influence in the House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama hates America and is trying to dismantle, brick by brick, the American Dream.

The first two assertions – Muslim infiltrators and Communists in Congress – come from Republican members of Congress. The third comes from the host of the radio talk show with the biggest audience in the United States. All three merit pondering about the current state of the Republican Party, a mainstay of American democracy for more than 150 years.

A brief look at the details of the claims first. In June, Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a radio interview that “it appears there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood.” In letters that came to light in mid-July, she asked the inspectors general of four government departments to launch inquiries into the depth of Muslim penetration.

America and Syria’s ‘dead man walking’

Bernd Debusmann
May 22, 2012 13:06 UTC

When U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of  Germany, France, Britain, Canada and the European Union first issued public calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the death toll in Syria stood at 2,000. That was in August 18 last year.

When Obama repeated the call on May 19, as host of a summit meeting of the Group of Eight, the body count had reached 10,000, according to United Nations estimates. The two figures highlight the lack of success of economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure on a ruthless leader who learned lessons in unrestrained brutality from his father, Hafez al-Assad, whom he succeeded in office.

A peaceful solution to Syria’s protracted crisis now looks remote enough to wonder whether Bashar al-Assad might outlast Obama in power. The U.S. president is not assured of winning another term in office next November. But the odds of the Assad regime surviving into 2013 look better with every passing day, even though one of the U.S. government’s top experts on Syria has labeled the Syrian president a “dead man walking.”

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.

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.

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.”

Obama and the American fringe

Bernd Debusmann
Mar 16, 2012 19:06 UTC

The prospect of President Barack Obama winning another four-year term in November is swelling the ranks of anti-Muslim activists and groups on the extremist fringe of American society. Their growth has accelerated every year since Obama took office in 2009.

So says a new report by a civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, that has tracked extremist groups for the past three decades and found that last year alone, the number of anti-Muslim groups tripled, from 10 to 30.

Between 2008 and the end of 2011, according to the center, there was an eight-fold increase in the number of militias and “patriot” groups whose members inhabit a parallel universe where the federal government wants to rob them of their guns and their freedom.

The dirtiest word on the campaign trail: Europe

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 20, 2012 16:36 UTC

Here we go again.

It’s an American election year which means a season to bash France, Europe and China as well as drawing attention to un-American skills by presidential hopefuls. Such as speaking in foreign tongues.

Mastering foreign languages is considered an asset in most parts of the world but clearly not in the United States, a fact highlighted by attack ads in the race for the nomination of a Republican candidate to run against President Barack Obama next November.

One television clip mocked Mitt Romney, the present frontrunner, for speaking French. Another featured Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the contest this week, and suggested that his fluency in Mandarin meant that he subscribed to Chinese rather than American values.

The US elections and pandering to Israel

Bernd Debusmann
Sep 23, 2011 16:28 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

So much for charges from conservative contenders for the 2012 U.S. presidential elections that Barack Obama is not pro-Israel enough — the president just won seals of approval from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and the U.S. lobby that usually reflects their views.

If the elections, as some predict, will include a contest on who loves Israel most, Obama can use their praise to good effect. How much it will contribute to his legacy is another matter.

The plaudits came in response to Obama’s address to the United Nations on Sept. 21, when he rejected the Palestinians’ bid for U.N. membership in what one Israeli journalist, Chemi Shalev of the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, described as “probably the warmest pro-Israel speech ever given at an annual U.N. General Assembly meeting by any U.S. president, bar none.”

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