Opinion

David Rohde

Mursi’s folly

David Rohde
Nov 23, 2012 23:38 UTC

After helping end the fighting in Gaza, impressing President Barack Obama and negotiating a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has fallen victim to what Bill Clinton calls “brass.”

Mursi’s hubristic post-Gaza power grab on Thursday was politically tone deaf, strategic folly and classic over-reach. It will deepen Egypt’s political polarization, scare off desperately needed foreign investment and squander Egypt’s rising credibility in the region and the world.

Television images of renewed clashes in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said and Suez will play into stereotypes that the Middle East is not ready for democracy. They will bolster suspicions inside and outside Egypt that the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be trusted.

I disagree with the skeptics and believe democracy can still be established in Egypt. But Mursi’s moves won’t help Egypt make the difficult transition.

“There was a disease but this is not the remedy,” Hassan Nafaa, a liberal political science professor and activist at Cairo University, told Reuters Friday. “We are going towards more polarization between the Islamist front on one hand and all the others on the other. This is a dangerous situation.”

After the ceasefire

David Rohde
Nov 22, 2012 01:01 UTC

For now, the fighting has stopped in Israel and Gaza. But let’s be honest, this is the latest round in a long and bitter struggle. In the future, more bloodshed is likely.

After eight days of clashes, Hamas’ claim that it is the true leader of the Palestinian resistance has gained strength. Long-range rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have made Israelis increasingly wary of a two-state solution. And the deaths of 140 Palestinians, one-third of them combatants, compared to five Israelis, one of them a soldier, will be seen across the Middle East as U.S.-abetted Israeli aggression.

Don’t expect those dynamics to improve anytime soon. In the months ahead, Hamas’ popularity among Palestinians is likely to rise. The more moderate Fatah faction of Mahmoud Abbas will be seen as increasingly impotent. And Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s conservative government will likely fare well in January’s parliamentary elections. As so often happens in conflicts, one side’s right wing abets the other’s.

A hidden cause of Benghazi tragedy

David Rohde
Nov 16, 2012 20:22 UTC

Amid the politicking, there’s an overlooked cause of the Benghazi tragedy

For conservatives, the Benghazi scandal is a Watergate-like presidential cover-up. For liberals, it a fabricated Republican witch-hunt. For me, Benghazi is a call to act on an enduring problem that both parties ignore.

One major overlooked cause of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is we have underfunded the State Department and other civilian agencies that play a vital role in our national security. Instead of building up cadres of skilled diplomatic security guards, we have bought them from the lowest bidder, trying to acquire capacity and expertise on the cheap. Benghazi showed how vulnerable that makes us.

Now, I’m not arguing that this use of contractors was the sole cause of the Benghazi tragedy, but I believe it was a primary one. Let me explain.

Jeb, Saxby and Chris: Save your party – and us

David Rohde
Nov 7, 2012 22:25 UTC

Within hours of President Obama winning re-election, two faces of the Republican Party emerged. One impressed me enormously. The other deeply troubled me. Liberals, meanwhile, rejoiced at having averted what they saw as a national calamity.

The time, though, is not for gloating. It is for supporting the Republicans who can rein in their party’s far right and help us all. For me, Fox News, of all places, was a hopeful sign.

While Karl Rove questioned whether Obama had, in fact, won Ohio, Juan Williams and Brit Hume courageously admitted the party had lost touch with a changing nation. They embraced exit polls showing that the surge in Latino, black, female and young voters that aided Obama in 2008 was a permanent demographic change, not a one-time event.

Voters: Fire our partisan, failed Congress

David Rohde
Nov 5, 2012 20:08 UTC

Whoever wins the presidency, his ability to address our country’s daunting problems depends on a functioning Congress. And by multiple measures, our current Congress is one of the most partisan, deadlocked and unpopular in American history.

A surge in state legislatures’ politically-driven redrawing of congressional districts has created a Congress that is more partisan than the American electorate, according to a study by the non-partisan Center for Voting and Democracy. And I believe that the dominance of blatantly partisan news coverage – led by Fox and MSNBC – has poisoned the broader dynamics that affect the U.S. Senate.

Moderate senators are vanishing from the American political landscape, according to the Washington-based National Journal magazine. In 1982, there were 60 seats for moderate senators. In 1994, the number shrunk to 36. In 2002, there were nine. And in the current Senate, zero.

Response to Sandy holds election’s key

David Rohde
Nov 2, 2012 13:21 UTC

Jacqueline Pattison is giving Mayor Mike Bloomberg one more day. So far, she has been impressed by New York City’s response to Hurricane Sandy. Along with millions of other New Yorkers, she is patiently enduring the lack of electricity, tortuous commute and a deep sense of uncertainty.

But if electricity does not return to her apartment a few blocks north of the World Trade Center soon, she will have lost faith in her government.

“I think by Friday we should have power at the latest,” the 51-year-old co-owner of a small moving business said. “We live on the 28th floor.”

A hurricane’s inequality

David Rohde
Oct 31, 2012 00:28 UTC

A hotel bellman said he was worried about his mother uptown. A maid said she had been calling her family in Queens. A garage attendant said he hadn’t been able to contact his only relative – a sister in New Jersey – since the storm hit. Asked where he weathered the hurricane, his answer was simple.

“I slept in my car,” he said.

Sandy humbled every one of the 19 million people in the New York City metropolitan area. But it humbled some more than others in an increasingly economically divided city.

Hours before the storm arrived on Monday night, restaurants, corner grocery stores and hotels were open in the Union Square area of Manhattan. (My wife and I moved to a hotel there after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan.) Instead of heading home to their families as the winds picked up, the city’s army of cashiers, waiters and other service workers remained in place.

On housing, disappointing silence from Obama & Romney

David Rohde
Oct 25, 2012 22:10 UTC

For the last six months, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have battled ferociously to be seen as the true champion of the middle class. Yet neither candidate has offered concrete solutions for — indeed they have rarely raised — a central economic issue: the housing crisis.

How can the collapsing home prices that pummeled the middle class hardest — accounting for three-quarters of the  loss of wealth since 2007 — not be a campaign issue? Why is a principal cause of the economic downturn the focus of so little debate?

One explanation is simple. Across the country, the housing market is picking up. In September, new home construction increased by fifteen percent, its fastest rate in four years. And after seeing home mortgages become economic yokes that prevented their parents from moving out of depressed areas, many young Americans are less interested in buying homes.

Romney’s Etch a Sketch foreign policy

David Rohde
Oct 23, 2012 14:03 UTC

During last night’s foreign policy debate, the Mitt Romney of the Republican primaries disappeared. Romney’s April criticism of Obama’s decision to commit the United States military to helping oust Muammar Qaddafi  in Libya disappeared. Missing was a promise on his website to reduce foreign aid by $100 million. Romney’s past criticism of what he called Obama’s rushed exit from Afghanistan vanished as well.

Given his lurch to the center on domestic policy, that comes as no surprise. But it does not make Romney’s record – or his willingness to change  positions – a nonissue. If Romney wins this election, it will be arguably the latest and greatest shift to the center in presidential campaign history.

Last night the new Romney praised Obama’s toppling of Qaddafi, said he supported the president’s policy in Afghanistan and agreed that the administration’s economic sanctions on Iran were “crippling.”

The jobs answer that Jeremy Epstein – and the middle class – deserved

David Rohde
Oct 18, 2012 21:36 UTC

Since asking the candidates at Tuesday’s presidential debate how they would improve his job prospects, college junior Jeremy Epstein has been lionized on Twitter, repeatedly interviewed on television and declared a nerdy sex symbol.

Unfortunately, as they have throughout the campaign, Romney and Obama avoided details when answering Epstein’s thoughtful question. Instead, they lampooned each others’ records and policies. Such answers are to be expected, arguably, in the waning weeks of an extraordinarily tight presidential campaign.

But an analysis of Obama’s and Romney’s specific proposals and the positions of their key advisers – particularly when it comes to creating manufacturing jobs – shows that voters do face a critical choice. This is, in fact, an election that will send the federal government in one of two very different directions when it comes to long-term job creation.

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