Opinion

David Rohde

Honoring a slain ambassador

David Rohde
Sep 13, 2012 20:32 UTC

Whoever murdered Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his staff in Libya this week is our enemy. And so are the bigots who made a lurid amateur video denigrating Islam.

Whether the video prompted the deadly attack in Libya is not yet known. Militant groups may have planned the killings. And the two acts are not equivalent: murdering four people is unjustifiable and incomparably worse than making an insulting video.

But both acts are the products of delusional extremists trying to drive a wedge between the United States and the Islamic world. Muslim and Christian extremists may seem to have nothing in common, but they are united in their desire to divide us. Stevens, an affable 52-year-old diplomat famed for his humility, integrity and willingness to listen, would not want us to help them, according to colleagues and friends.

 

Mark Ward, a senior USAID and State Department official who worked with Stevens in Libya, said his wishes would be clear. “He would say to the American people please don’t turn your back on Libya,” Ward said in an interview Wednesday. “They’ve been through 40 terrible years, they’ve just held elections and they’ve rejected extremism. This is absolutely not the time to let a couple of lunatics throw us off our resolve.”

According to Ward, Stevens’ message to Libyans would be to arrest the suspected perpetrators, provide them with defense lawyers and give them a fair trial. ’’Do the right thing,’” Ward said of the way to honor Stevens. “If there is one thing [his] life should stand for, let it stand for the rule of law.”

Parsing Romney’s and Obama’s middle-class pablum

David Rohde
Sep 7, 2012 12:30 UTC

Throughout the last two weeks of political conventions, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and a vast array of surrogates accused their opponents of gutting the American middle class.

Paul Ryan and Bill Clinton did it blatantly. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney did it subtly. And all speakers tried to portray themselves as in touch with the middle class, from the Romneys eating “lots of pasta and tuna fish” to Barack Obama’s proudest possession being “a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster.”

In the process, though, both parties gave politically skewed definitions of the middle class, simplistically blamed each other for its struggles and presented pat solutions for the complex problems it faces.

Make immigration a campaign issue

David Rohde
Sep 4, 2012 15:58 UTC

John Weston, Eric Buckland and Mike Bloomberg don’t have much in common.

Weston is a farmer struggling to keep in business the 1,000-acre farm his family has operated in Western Maine for seven generations.

Buckland is an entrepreneur who runs a small high-tech manufacturing company in North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle Park that makes handheld retinal scanners.

And Mike Bloomberg is the billionaire mayor of New York who doesn’t have many struggles at all.

Beyond the gaffes, Romney misleads and veers right

David Rohde
Aug 3, 2012 15:56 UTC

In presidential races, the gaffes get the headlines, but the prepared texts and advisers are more telling. Mitt Romney’s widely reported blunders in his three six-day trip to Britain, Israel and Poland dominated press coverage, but the candidate’s prepared comments and the aides who advised him were far more disappointing.

At a fundraiser in Jerusalem this week, Romney said that aspects of Israel’s culture explained why the average per capita income in Israel was twice that of the Palestinians. Within hours, Palestinian officials called the statement “racist” and accused Romney of ignoring the economic impact of Israeli’s military occupation of the West Bank, as well as $3 billion a year in American aid to Israel.

Romney could have dismissed the episode as a misunderstanding. But instead he stood by – and expanded – his argument that culture is why Israelis were wealthier than Palestinians.

Obama, Romney and leading from the front in Syria

David Rohde
Jun 14, 2012 22:48 UTC

Next week in the Mexican resort town of Los Cabos, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin will meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Mitt Romney and his aides say that after 15 months of dithering on Syria, it is time for Obama to confront Putin on an increasingly brutal conflict that has left 10,000 dead.

“President Obama’s ‘reset policy’ toward Russia has clearly failed,” Romney said in a statement this week. “Russia has openly armed and protected a murderous regime in Syria, frustrated international sanctions on Iran and opposed American efforts on a range of issues.”

In an interview on Thursday, Richard Williamson, a senior foreign policy adviser to the Romney campaign, argued that the White House should stop naively hoping the Russian leader will end his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Angus King and the rise of the independent

David Rohde
Jun 7, 2012 20:21 UTC

PORTLAND, MAINE – Angus King is trying to turn back time in this state. I hope he can do the same across the country.

In a speech Saturday morning, the self-made millionaire-turned-independent politician deftly displayed the qualities that helped him serve as a popular two-term governor here from 1995 to 2003. The 68-year-old hailed Abraham Lincoln, Bill Bellichick, Sam Walton and his teenage son in a 30-minute talk that made the audience at the Maine Historical Society’s annual meeting howl with laughter. King was a self-deprecating, pragmatic and non-partisan everyman, a character type that flinty and fiercely independent Maine voters have sent to Washington for decades.

But as in the rest of the nation, politics in Maine have dramatically changed in recent years. The state’s dynamic new political force is Governor Paul LePage, a take-no-prisoners, Tea Party-backed conservative Republican. Since winning a three-way race for governor with 39 percent of the vote in 2010, LePage has assailed public employee unions, unleashed blistering attacks on his opponents and delighted his conservative Republican base. Like them or not, the Tea Party has out-organized its rivals and gained an outsize voice.

Break up the big banks

David Rohde
May 10, 2012 18:39 UTC

UPDATE: JPMorgan’s surprise announcement late Thursday of a $2 billion trading loss – and the drop in stocks it sparked – is yet another sign of the need for reform.

The numbers are startling. HSBC, the world’s fifth-largest bank, failed to review thousands of internal anti-money-laundering alerts, according to a Reuters investigation published last week.

The bank did not file legally required “suspicious activity reports” to U.S. law enforcement officials. It hired “gullible, poorly trained, and otherwise incompetent personnel” to run its anti-money-laundering effort. Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars flowed through the bank without being properly monitored.

How Obama and Romney can up their middle-class game

David Rohde
Apr 13, 2012 01:13 UTC

Barack Obama is going to save America’s middle class by taxing the rich and fostering an American manufacturing renaissance. Mitt Romney is going to revive it by creating more jobs for women and rewarding successful people instead of punishing them.

Welcome to the so-far deeply disappointing 2012 general election. This week’s middle-class-related broadsides from both campaigns bordered on the comic.

Obama’s promoting of the Buffett Rule in Florida on Tuesday was smart politics, but the measure is unlikely to create jobs or significantly reduce the deficit. Even liberal pundits assailed it as an election-year “gimmick.”

How Obama’s drone war is backfiring

David Rohde
Mar 1, 2012 17:16 UTC

This essay was originally published in the March/April issue of Foreign Policy.

When Barack Obama took the oath of office three years ago, no one associated the phrase “targeted killing” with his optimistic young presidency. In his inaugural address, the 47-year-old former constitutional law professor uttered the word “terror” only once. Instead, he promised to use technology to “harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

Oddly, technology has enabled Obama to become something few expected: a president who has dramatically expanded the executive branch’s ability to wage high-tech clandestine war. With a determination that has surprised many, Obama has embraced the CIA, expanded its powers and approved more targeted killings than any modern president. Over the last three years, the Obama administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes, more than five times the 44 approved under George W. Bush. And after promising to make counterterrorism operations more transparent and rein in executive power, Obama has arguably done the opposite, maintaining secrecy and expanding presidential authority.

Just as importantly, the administration’s excessive use of drone attacks undercuts one of its most laudable policies: a promising new post-9/11 approach to the use of lethal American force, one of multilateralism, transparency and narrow focus.

Mitt and the middle class

David Rohde
Feb 3, 2012 02:32 UTC

Mitt Romney’s declaration that he wasn’t concerned about “the very poor” was lampooned by Republicans and Democrats alike this week. But his next statement in a CNN interview is the one that could determine the fate of his candidacy.

“I’m concerned about the very heart of America,” Romney said, adding later: “My focus is on middle-income Americans.”

With astonishing speed, the 2012 presidential election is becoming a referendum on how best to help the American middle class. So far, Romney’s solutions are likely to be far more pleasing to the Republican base than the general electorate.

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