Opinion

The Great Debate

Ukraine: U.S. hawks regain their voice

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression is having an unintended effect on U.S. politics. It is generating a backlash against America’s retreat from world leadership.

That retreat was itself a backlash against President George W. Bush’s overextension of U.S. military power in Iraq and Afghanistan. Putin’s actions spotlight the consequences of America’s world wariness. Internationalists in both parties are expressing alarm about the shrinking U.S. role around the globe.

Republican hawks, long on the defensive after the war in Iraq and the missing weapons of mass destruction, have found their voice again. They are attacking President Barack Obama as weak and feckless. Even some Democrats are calling for a tougher response.

They point to Ukraine, where there is no evidence that U.S. sanctions are forcing Russia out. To Syria, where the Obama administration drew a “red line” and then had to back down. To Egypt, where the United States seemed powerless to influence events.

“There are no consequences when you defy what Obama’s telling you to do,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on CNN, echoing a growing chorus of criticism.

Clinton: The newest New Democrat

Democrats have a history of plucking presidential candidates out of obscurity: Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Republicans are supposed to go for whomever is next in line, particularly if they have run before: Richard M. Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney.

It looks like just the opposite for 2016.

In the latest Iowa poll, Hillary Clinton completely dominates the Democratic field with 56 percent of the likely caucus vote (she came in third in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards). No other potential Democratic candidate gets more than single digit support. It’s Clinton’s turn.

And for the Republican nomination? The top choice of Iowa caucus-goers is “unsure” (36 percent), followed by Senator Marco Rubio (11 percent), Senator Rand Paul (10.5), Representative Paul Ryan (9), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (8.7), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (7.7) and 2012 Iowa caucus winner Rick Santorum (6.7). Meaning, the Republican race is wide open. In 2016, Republicans may very well end up plucking a candidate out of obscurity. Hey, it’s worked for Democrats before.

Can Christie tackle the partisan divide?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in Asbury Park in New Jersey, May 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

How often these days do we see a political figure liked by both Republicans and Democrats? Not so often that we should fail to notice.

But there was the evidence last week in two different polls. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie drew a 58 percent favorable rating from his fellow Republicans around the country and 52 percent from Democrats in a recent Gallup Poll. Forty percent of Republicans in the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, and 43 percent of Democrats, said they like Christie. (The NBC-Journal numbers are a bit lower because the poll offered a “neutral” option.)

John McCain, maverick survivor

In 2009, if you had asked the Tea Party movement regulars who their most hated Republican was the answer would have been John McCain in a landslide. For years, McCain has been the man much of the Republican conservative base loved to hate, thanks to his 2000 presidential run and his apostasy on campaign finance and other issues. Movement conservatives discussed a primary campaign in 2004. McCain’s losing the presidential race to Obama didn’t help his popularity one bit.

And yet, in this anti-incumbent tidal wave, where Republican incumbents and party regular front-runners (such as in Delaware, Nevada, Colorado) were taken down in record number, John McCain survived. Why?

Maybe because he knew he would be a target, or perhaps because he is more attuned to the danger, McCain acted differently than the other officials. He tacked hard to the right, ignoring a torrent of criticisms from his what he use to call his “base” – the media. He immediately took the fight to his opponent, going very negative, very fast. He called in chits – including an endorsement from Sarah Palin. The result was a crushing victory over a very well-known conservative. What’s surprising is not that McCain succeeded, it’s that others like Murkowski and Castle didn’t take notes.

Clean up Washington: mission impossible?

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Can any U.S. administration avoid the fate spelled out in the following 12 words? “We were elected to change Washington and we let Washington change us.”

Thus spoke John McCain when he formally accepted the Republican party’s nomination for president last September. He then listed a number of reasons why the party had lost the trust of the American people, including that “some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption”.

from For the Record:

After the warm glow, telling the cold, hard truths

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The president was inaugurated in front of adoring crowds and positive reviews in the media. As the unpopular incumbent sat on the platform with him, the new Democratic chief executive took office as the nation faced a crippling economic crisis. The incoming president was a charismatic figure who had run a brilliant campaign and had handled the press with aplomb. The media were ready to give him a break.

That was 1933, and in Franklin Roosevelt’s case, the media gave him a break.

For Barack Obama, the honeymoon was shorter.

Less than 36 hours after Obama took the oath of office, the White House denied news photographers access to the new president’s do-over swearing in, instead releasing official White House photos of the event. Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse protested and refused to distribute the official photos (which nevertheless showed up on the websites of a number of large U.S. newspapers).

Real vs unreal Americans

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

By Bernd Debusmann

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – What is a real American? As opposed to an unreal American, a fake American, an un-American American or an anti-American American.

The answer is in the eye of the beholder and his or her political orientation. The question, and variations of it, has been asked in several periods of U.S. history and has bubbled up again, one of a number of odd sideshows, in the closing stages of the campaign for the presidential election on Nov. 4.

from Tales from the Trail:

Is internal strife rippling through McCain-Palin campaign?

WASHINGTON - As the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign enters its final week, reports are bubbling up about internal strife within the Republican ticket that suggest vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is trying to distance herself from the top of the ticket, John McCain.

Palin over the last few weeks has publicly expressed her differences with McCain on issues such as a constitutional ban on gay marriage, the campaign's decision to no longer contest Democrats in Michigan and her distaste for automated calls that have drawn scrutiny.

Politico.com reported this weekend that Palin has also cast aside advice from former George W. Bush aides assigned to help her on the campaign trail, citing their handling of her debut. She was roundly criticized for her poor performance in her initial national media interviews.

In U.S. elections, fear of Muslims

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

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the summer of 2006, a Gallup poll of more than 1,000 Americans found that one out of four favoured forcing Muslims in the United States, including U.S. citizens, to carry special identification. About a third said Muslims living in the U.S. sympathized with al Qaeda.

Almost a quarter said they wouldn’t want a Muslim as a neighbour. Republicans, the poll said, saw Muslims in a more negative light than Democrats and independents, and were more opposed to having Muslim neighbours. Fewer than half those polled thought U.S. Muslims were loyal to the United States.

A few months after the poll, callers to a Washington area radio talk show suggested branding Muslims with crescent-shaped tattoos and special stamps in their identity papers, the better to spot potential terrorists.

from Tales from the Trail:

McCain says he wants people to ‘get wealthy’

johnmc.jpgGREEN, Ohio - John McCain wants Americans to get rich.

That was the message from the Republican presidential hopeful Wednesday as he focused again on the differences in his tax proposals and those of Democratic rival Barack Obama.

The Arizona senator has hammered Obama in recent days for a philosophy of spreading Americans' wealth around, articulated by the Illinois senator in a now famous exchange with an Ohio man dubbed Joe the Plumber.

McCain promised at an outdoor rally with an enthusiatic crowd he and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, would not make people or businesses send more money to the federal government.

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