Tag Archives: presidential election

About the Putin-envy of Republican presidential candidates

Summary: There are many candidates vying to become the Republican’s Presidential nominee, but they offer a narrow range of policies — especially in foreign affairs. Here Bill Astore describes where they wish to take America. Unlike Putin, they’re serious.

The idol of the Republican Candidate for President!

Putin riding a bear

How Republicans Talk About Foreign Policy

By William J. Astore, from Contrary Perspective, 9 October 2015
Reposted with his generous permission

At the New York Times, Robert Draper had a fascinating article last month on how Republican candidates for president are positioning themselves on foreign policy.  Rand Paul excepted, all of the Republican candidates are calling for a more “aggressive” U.S. foreign policy, one that promises more military interventions and higher military spending.  The goal is apparently to show more muscle than President Obama, who has been “weak,” according to these same Republicans.

The language here fascinates me.  Again and again in Draper’s article, you see references to “a more muscular foreign policy.”  Showcasing muscles appears to be a favorite trope of Republican advisers, as is the need to be more “aggressive” overseas (Obama, of course, is viewed as being passive and timid).  Republicans according to Draper favor the “aggressive promotion of American values” (whatever those are), an aggression that will somehow avoid recklessness (good luck with that).  So, ISIS will be aggressively “destroyed,” even as the Middle East is stabilized by infusing it with “American values” (freedom? democracy? human rights?) promulgated by (as near as I can tell) American military muscle.

To cite just one example, consider this political ad featuring Senator Lindsey Graham, seen in his Air Force reserve uniform, highlighting his promise to “destroy” ISIS.

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Donald Trump leads us back to the future, to the dark days of US history

Summary: Every election gives us the opportunity to shape America. We do not choose the specific national policies of the next four years, since Presidents often don’t do what they promised. Rather we give a nudge to the evolution of America; we influencing what we become. Those who vote make that decision. The choices, however unappealing, are unusually clear in 2016.

On September 22 Donald Trump attended at 45-minute long rally at Rochester, New Hampshire, speaking to about 3,000 people. Anyone who believes America is not in serious trouble should read these remarks as reported by The Hill.

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one — you know he’s not even an American. But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?”

Trump responded: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things, a lot of people are saying bad things are happening, we’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

A second man stood and made the same claim. “I applaud the gentleman who stood and said Obama is a Muslim born abroad and about the military camps, everyone knows that,” he said.

“Right,” Trump responded, before quickly moving to the next questioner.

… {A woman in the audience} told him that there is a “new holocaust” in New Hampshire and that people are being loaded into boxcars and beheaded by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “I just wanted you to know that,” the woman said. Trump moved on without addressing the woman’s claim.

The remarks from the people are unexceptional; every society has people on the fringes with such views. Hatred of people different from ourselves is a sad but widespread phenomenon around the world and across history. It is an endemic “disease” that has errupted again in America, as reported by the NYT: “New Poll Finds Anti-Muslim Sentiment Frighteningly High“.

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The numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign

Summary:  Trump serves a common and vital role in US politics, introducing popular issues that the elites of both parties suppress. Such as immigration. Here are some of the numbers that show why many Americans worry about the high rate of immigration (but not our elites, who love the cheap workers and politically passive voters).  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Trump and motto

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Cui bono from the recovery?

This graph and the accompanying analysis from the ECRI shows that the employment to population ratio (E/P) for those with less than a high school diploma (orange line) hit bottom in 2011. Since then it has regained almost two-thirds of the losses in the great recession. But the E/P ratio for high school and college graduates (90% of adults; purple line) has not recovered since the recessionary losses. The new jobs have gone to the least educated — and so the lowest-paid — workers.

ECRI: Employment to Population Ratio

Combined with the income gains to the top 10%, we have a recovery that has done little for most Americans. No amount of cheer-leading by Team Obama and Wall Street can change that.

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The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning

Summary: Donald Trump’s assumption of leadership of the right wing of American politics, and perhaps of the Republican Party, marks a milestone in our history. Even if he burns out, we see in him the outlines of a greater leader to follow. Meanwhile the machinery of Republic lies unused, as we tell ourselves there is no difference between the parties and that reform is impossible.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Donald Trump

NBC Photo, by Chris Haston.

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson.

The rise of Donald Trump to a leading position in the Republican Party marks a milestone in the evolution of modern America.

Conservatives have worked for generation to create a body of people ignorant of our history, of economics, and of current events. They’ve created a faux version of economics and a faux version of history (buttressed with hundreds of fake quotes). They have incited fake fears about threatening “others”, foreign and domestic — and the almost certainly coming crash of the US dollar and bankruptcy of the US government.

Perhaps these people have found a leader in Donald Trump — an ignorant, prejudiced and boorish figure even by the lax standards of American politics. He makes previous political outsiders look like George Washington (e.g., Ralph Nader, Ross PerotJessie Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger). America has a tradition of populist leaders, such as Huey Long and William Jennings Bryan, but Trump is like them as chalk is to cheese.

Assessing the Trump phenomenon

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Jeb Bush speaks to us about climate change. Is he a denier?

Summary:  American political campaigns are the longest and most expensive in the world, but consist largely of both sides kicking sand into our eyes. The result leaves us less informed and more divided, and gives the victor no mandate. Campaign 2016 has begun. The reaction to Jeb Bush’s remarks about climate shows that we’ve learned nothing from the spectacle of past campaigns.

Jeb Bush logo


  1. Jeb Bush talks about the climate. The Left smears.
  2. What do climate scientists say?
  3. What does the American public say?
  4. Do we need more innovation?
  5. For More Information.

See tomorrow’s post, where eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr. answering your questions about climate models.

(1) Jeb Bush talks about the climate. The Left smears.

The Left warms up for the 2016 election with smears to arouse the dwindling faithful…

Two stories are the most often cited to support these statements. Neither remotely justifies them. First there is this…

“It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view.” {Fox News, August 2011}

And this, more recently…

“The climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you. … It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it, even.”

Bush said that climate change should be just “part of, a small part of prioritization of our foreign policy.” He suggested that the United States should encourage countries that have higher carbon emissions rates to reduce them. “We’ve had a pretty significant decrease and we’ll continue on, not because of Barack Obama, but because of the energy revolution.” He credited hydraulic fracking, horizontal drilling and an increased use of natural gas for helping cut American carbon emissions.

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Why did we elect Obama, “the World’s Most Important Spectator”?

Summary: Today we have an article by Prof Bromwich painting a portrait of Obama. As his term slides to its end and the 2016 election begins we must learn from our experience. Yet again we elected as President someone with inadequate experience but a powerful image, as if we vote for the best float in the Memorial Day parade. So long as we remain uninvolved in the political machinery, as consumers, our elites will serve us only choices that meet their needs — not ours.

Obama: Hope


The World’s Most Important Spectator

David Bromwich (Professor of English, Yale)

London Review of Books, 2 July 2014

Reprinted with the permission of the author and LRB


The first year and a half of Barack Obama’s second term has been preternaturally unlucky. The stymied enrollments for his healthcare plan, the multiple errors of computer co-ordination that forced people to wait days or weeks in front of blank screens, marred the new faith in government the plan had been intended to affirm. Just when, around the end of April, the trouble seemed to be halfway resolved, with millions finally insured and several deadlines put off, there emerged stories of faked records of treatment and months-long waiting lists at Veterans Hospitals. It was another failure of managerial competence, in another branch of government to which Obama had professed the warmest commitment. And there has been nothing resembling a success in foreign policy to offset the embarrassments at home. The United States, which always needs to be doing something, was in no position to do much about the Russian annexation of Crimea or the conflict in Ukraine.

A common feature in all these events was that Obama himself seemed far from the scene. He was looking on, we were made to think, with concern and understanding. But in matters like these, one could easily feel that a conspicuous sign of a ‘hands-on’ president was needed. Apparently Obama was startled by the bad rollout of healthcare – shocked and dismayed like all Americans. But shouldn’t he have known more about it than most Americans? Again, the Veterans Affairs scandal was something he learned about when he read the papers, but why only then? His show of injured trust and surprise had been received more charitably on the still obscure earlier occasion when four Americans were killed in Benghazi on 11 September 2012. He was notified at the time, but he was in the middle of campaigning and left the crisis to the State Department. Absent and accounted for. Yet there has been, all along, an airy and unnerving quality about these absences. Obama launched the bombing of Libya in March 2011, having previously signaled that he intended no such action, in an emergency speech during a state visit to Brazil.

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What will Obama do in term II? He’ll finish the great work of term I!

Summary:  Today we guess about Obama’s next term. Post your thoughts in the comments. I expect him (or Him) to finish the great work of this first term, moving the US political spectrum decisively to the Right by committing the Democratic Party to conservative policies. His first term did that with Bush Jr’s national security and financial regulation policies.  Now he’ll do the same by slashing the New Deal’s safety net and firmly extending the Bush Jr’s flattish taxes (ie, only partially undoing them).  First in this series about the results of Campaign 2012; see the other posts listed at the end.

“Barack Obama broadly follows Ronald Reagan’s (second term) security policy, George H.W. Bush’s spending policy, Bill Clinton’s tax policy, the bipartisan Squam Lake Group’s financial-regulatory policy, Rick Perry’s immigration policy, John McCain’s climate-change policy, and Mitt Romney’s health-care policy.”
— A charitable view of Obama by good liberal Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley), 10 Sept 2012


  1. Term two will take us further to the right
  2. Michael Hudson explains
  3. Valuable articles about the election, and term II
  4. This series about the results of Election 2012
  5. For More Information

(1)  Term two will take us further to the right

All public policy in America remains uncertain until adopted by both major parties. FDR’s revolutionary new deal and internationalist policies were finalized by Eisenhower and Nixon.

Bush Jr’s revolutionary policy changes were too soon, too large for Obama to absorb in one term:  global interventionist military, low taxes for the rich (undoing much of the progressive tax structure), “unitary executive” (few practical limits on Executive power).  But he did yeoman work, quashing the opportunity for regulatory reform of the banks and stimulus programs to start the rebuilding of America — expanding Bush Jr’s wars into new lands (especially Africa), and continuing the historic rollback of civil liberties that took centuries to achieve.

Quite an accomplishment for four years.  More change than the 1% hoped for!  The next four years might prove even more rewards, showing their massive expenditures in Campaign 2012 successfully shifted the Overton Window to the Right — allowing Obama to drag the Democratic Party to the Right.

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