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.

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.

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