Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
SOURCE: The European (11-14-12)
Stefano Casertano is an international politics expert, author and journalist residing in Berlin, with a focus on global economics and energy affairs.
Barack Obama has been reelected by concentrating on domestic issues. A look beyond US borders would have been unbearable to American voters anyways. That isn’t Obama’s fault: Foreign policy problems usually come with a long history, and we certainly can’t blame the president for not forecasting global turmoil.
Yet we can admit that the global panorama resembles a painting of apocalyptic proportions. The four horsemen: Iranian nuclear frenzy, Islamic revolts, Eurozone breakdown and Chinese slowdown. There’s also a fifth horseman of US domestic origin: the federal deficit. "The Economist" believes that this might indeed be the most powerful threat – an opinion that is shared by the "New York Times" (which published an article right after the presidential election titled Back to Work, Obama Is Greeted by Looming Fiscal Crisis).
The claim is that the US cannot pursue small-state taxation levels and big-state spending at the same time. And there’s the additional worry that the US would feel the consequences of international turmoil as soon as any of the four global horsemen rears its head.
US president are seldom reelected on foreign affairs – but elections can surely be lost on them...
SOURCE: The New Yorker (11-14-12)
Amy Davidson is a senior editor at The New Yorker.
There are plenty of reasons for women, generally, to be discouraged by both the fact and the coverage of the Petraeus scandal. It began with the comparison of the looks of Paula Broadwell, his lover, and Holly Petraeus, his wife, who are twenty years apart in age—as if older women could have no expectation of fidelity—and an almost gleeful cataloging of Broadwell’s wardrobe, body, and, as a Petraeus associate put it anonymously, the “claws” that she got into the General. (“You’re a 60 year-old man and an attractive woman almost half your age makes herself available to you—that would be a test for anyone.”) She wore tight clothes in Afghanistan; she wore a halter at the Pentagon. As Frank Bruni of the Times noted, the odd detail from her life—“her long-ago coronation as homecoming queen, her six-minute mile”—was “presented not merely as a matter of accomplishment, but as something a bit titillating, perhaps a part of the trap she laid.” Then, before one had time to brood much on the foolishness of powerful men, attention shifted to side-by-side analyses of Broadwell and Jill Kelley, the “Tampa socialite,” whose interactions were described as a “cat-fight.”...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (11-13-12)
Mark Perry is a Washington-based author and reporter. His most recent book is Partners in Command. His forthcoming book (Basic Books, 2013) is a study of the relationship between President Franklin Roosevelt and General Douglas MacArthur.
In May 1934, reporters Drew Pearson and Robert Allen published a column in the Washington Herald accusing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas MacArthur of "dictatorial, insubordinate, disloyal, mutinous and disrespectful" actions during the Bonus March, a peaceful veterans demonstration. MacArthur had broken up the protest by force -- using tanks commanded by Gen. George Patton -- back in July of 1932, an action that forever stained his reputation. Enraged by Pearson and Allen's claims, MacArthur sued them for $1.75 million. That scared the hell out of the columnists, who knew they'd have trouble proving their allegations. Here comes the good part.
Among MacArthur's enemies was Rep. Ross Collins, a powerful Mississippi Democrat -- drawl, jowls, slicked hair, the whole bit -- who controlled military appropriations and lived in the Chastleton Apartments on 16th Street and had seen MacArthur often in his building. Collins disliked MacArthur, and when he found out that Pearson and Allen were looking for something to hold against the general, he told them about the visits. Pearson and Allen followed up on Collins's tip and discovered that the 55-year old MacArthur was visiting Isabel Rosario Cooper, a 19-year old Filipino film star whom he'd brought with him from his last command in Manila and with whom he was having an affair.
Isabel was young and beautiful, and MacArthur showered her with gifts -- visiting her every day during his long lunches while he was chief of staff. But Isabel grew tired of the general and found his attention stifling, so she went to live with her brother in Baltimore, which is where Pearson and Allen found her. She then shared with the reporters what MacArthur had told her about Herbert Hoover (a "weakling," he said), and Franklin Roosevelt ("that cripple in the White House")....
SOURCE: NYT (11-14-12)
Nathaniel Persily is a professor of law and political science at Columbia.
DOES the re-election of the first black president mean the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unnecessary and perhaps unconstitutional? The Supreme Court’s decision last week to consider a constitutional challenge to a key section of the act suggests that a perverse outcome of the 2012 campaign may be that President Obama’s victory spells doom for the civil rights law most responsible for African-American enfranchisement.
The central question in the constitutional debate is whether times have changed enough in the nearly five decades since the act’s passage to suggest that the law has outlived its usefulness. The unprecedented flexing of racial minorities’ political muscle on Nov. 6 does make it clear how much times have changed. But a campaign marred by charges of voter suppression and Election Day mishaps also makes the need for federal protection of voting rights clearer than ever....
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (11-12-12)
The writer is a professor of government at Harvard.
The moment of succession is the midnight of the state, a period of maximum danger, the hour when power passes from incumbent to novice, when experience gives way to uncertainty. To preserve stability, traditional states used to insist on a speedy succession: "The king is dead; long live the king." In modern democracies, speed has been sacrificed to legitimation by popular mandate. But in China today, speed has been sacrificed, but without legitimation, for there is no longer an accepted procedure by which an heir apparent is chosen.
In Mao Zedong’s day the Chairman chose or dispensed with putative successors as he saw fit. After 20 years in the No 2 slot, Liu Shaoqi was purged in 1966. Five years later his successor, Marshal Lin Biao, was hounded into fleeing the country, dying when his plane crashed in Mongolia. The young Shanghai revolutionary Wang Hongwen was helicoptered into Beijing to take Lin’s place, but Mao soon found he was not up to the job.
Finally, Mao chose the unremarkable Hua Guofeng, who did succeed him. But Hua declared loyalty to his patron’s disastrous Cultural Revolution policies and, within five years, Deng Xiaoping was able to deprive him of all his posts...
SOURCE: National Interest (11-13-12)
Robert A. Manning is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. He previously served in the State Department as a senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific (1989-93) and on the Secretary’s policy planning staff (2004-08).
It just won’t go away—and it may be Asia’s contemporary equivalent to Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination sparked World War I.
In recent weeks, a nearly daily occurrence near the disputed rocks are visits by Chinese ships. Carefully chosen maritime-surveillance or fisheries-agency (not military) ships have hovered on waters just outside the twelve-mile territorial limits (but inside the two-hundred-mile economic zone) of the Senkaku islands, which Japan controls and China calls the Diaoyu. These five lonely islets jutting out of the East China Sea are inhabited by a few dozen goats.
But the Sino-Japanese dispute has heated up in recent months. Nationalist sentiments are coming to a boil and crippling relations between two of the world’s largest economies. These tensions are emblematic of larger trends in East Asia. South Korea and Japan are also in the midst of a similar dispute over even smaller and more inconsequential rocks, Dokdo, which are called Takeshima by Japan. So spun up are the Koreans (not coincidentally in an election year) that their President Lee Myung-bak became the first Korean leader to ever visit the rocks last August. The Korean government, at public expense, supports a single couple living there so they can say it is inhabited. Lee called the tiny specks of land "a place worth staking our lives to defend."
And it doesn’t end there...
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald (11-13-12)
Peter Hartcher is the international editor.
China's political leaders put stability above all else. So it's a remarkable sign of the times that they could be passing around well-thumbed copies of a book about the sudden, bloody outbreak of the French Revolution two-and-a-quarter centuries ago.
Why would China's modern rulers, preoccupied with the leadership handover under way in Beijing this week, be interested in Alexis de Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the French Revolution?
They are ''fascinated by the French thinker's writings because of what his observations say about conditions in their times,'' says a visiting professor at China's Sun Yat-sen University, Nailene Chou Wiest.
Since the Communist Party seized power in 1949 in a violent revolution, its highest priority has been to guard against what it calls ''counter-revolution''.
Yet the popularity of Tocqueville's work suggests that this is precisely what it now fears. ''Is China ripe for another revolution?'' poses Wiest...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (11-11-12)
Geoffrey Wheatcroft is a British journalist and writer.
It could have been much worse. Most Europeans, even conservatives, were dreading the prospect of President Mitt Romney, an obvious fraud whose voters are angry ageing white men and whose sponsors are half nasty and half crazy. And there was an almost worse prospect, of a rerun of 2000 and the grotesque farce in Florida – or alternatively of Barack Obama winning a majority in the preposterous electoral college but not a majority of the popular vote, and having his legitimacy challenged by the Republican for the next four years.
Even as it is, the situation in Washington is bad enough, as the re-elected Obama faces a bitterly hostile House of Representatives, yet again a dismal reflection of the American political system. No doubt anti-Americanism can take odious forms, but pro-Americanism is almost more curious. Not only the Anglo-neocons infesting the Tory party but some Labour politicians – Gordon Brown as well as Tony Blair – and liberal pundits are infatuated by all things American, including their written constitution, and a political culture which we are told we should emulate. To the contrary, without being complacent or excessively patriotic, I suggest we have nothing at all to learn about politics from across the Atlantic.
In their way, the founding documents of the American republic are very remarkable. The Declaration of Independence, the constitution and the Bill of Rights are written in limpid Augustan prose which can be read for literary pleasure, a contrast indeed to the equivalent documents of the European Union, from the Treaty of Rome to the abortive constitution, with their rebarbative bureaucratese. And never mind the fact that the declaration demands a free hand to deal with "merciless Indian savages" or that the constitution implicitly recognises the institution of slavery.
The trouble was that the constitution was set in stone, or at least on parchment...
SOURCE: WaPo (11-13-12)
Buried in the mountain of demographic data preoccupying political pundits this week is one historic statistic that may have far-reaching consequences for religious freedom in America:
Seventy-nine percent of white Protestant evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – popularly known as the Mormon Church.
After a bitter Republican primary season during which many evangelical leaders supported the “anybody but Romney” effort, prominent conservative Christian ministers lined up behind Romney for the general election. A defining moment came on Oct. 11 when America’s Preacher, the Rev. Billy Graham, publicly signaled support for Romney’s candidacy....
SOURCE: The New Republic (11-12-12)
Nate Cohn writes the Electionate blog for The New Republic.
From the moment political reporters armed with leaked internal polls wrote that Obama led by mid-to-upper single digits in Ohio, the Buckeye State was widely regarded as Romney’s Achilles heel. As early as mid-August, the conventional wisdom held that some combination of attacks on Romney’s tenure at Bain, the auto bailout, the shale gas boom, and a strong local economy was allowing Obama to overcome his national weakness with white working class voters in a traditionally Republican state.
When Obama’s national standing faltered after the first presidential debate, polls showed Obama falling behind in the “new coalition” states while maintaining a slight but consistent lead in the key Midwestern battlegrounds, including Ohio. The president seemed to be defying gravity, and the Obama campaign told reporters that Ohio was the crux of the “midwestern firewall” that provided the president with a critical and durable advantage in the Electoral College. With the polls showing Obama ahead by 3 points with more than 49 percent of the vote, the state appeared poised to provide the president with reelection....
SOURCE: The New Republic (11-12-12)
Lydia DePillis is a staff writer for The New Republic.
...CONSERVATIVES, BY NOW, should be very comfortable with adapting to changing demographics. They've done it before. Back in the 1960s, inner cities were on the decline, their white residents high-tailing it for the urban fringe. Democrats responded with a war on poverty. Richard Nixon, by contrast, saw an opening.
"[Republicans] recognized the same problems. They didn’t see them as something to be solved, but something to be exploited," explains Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse. Kevin Phillips' seminal 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority outlined a "southern strategy" to wrest white people away from the Democrats—by demonizing the black inner cities. "If you look at who he's talking to, it's a 'suburban strategy,'" says Kruse.
In the 1970s, Nixon followed up with a battery of policies designed to re-segregate the American landscape, most effectively through Supreme Court nominees who ruled against busing for educational diversity and upheld discriminatory zoning ordinances. The approach was validated in 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the presidency without carrying a single major city. From then on, the GOP and cities seemed to be antithetical: A party that believes government is the problem won't find support where people rely on government for everyday services....
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (11-13-12)
Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent Michael Tomasky is also editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.
You know the history. Arthur Laffer sketched out his famous curve—whether on a napkin or not is apparently still debated—back in 1974, when the top marginal rate was 90 percent. There is a certain point, Laffer explained, at which rates decrease revenue. Since many of the people to whom he was doing this explaining found themselves to be in or near the top bracket, quite naturally they liked his theory a lot....
...Mitt Romney was offering people a bigger cut than even Bush had. It was the centerpiece of his campaign, as it had been of Bush’s, and it was the central policy issue of this campaign in a way that Bush’s tax proposal wasn’t in 2000. In other words, if there was a single policy issue on which people voted this time, it was tax policy—whether everyone should get a massive cut (Romney), or whether the middle class should be held harmless and the wealthy should pay more (Barack Obama). It’s impossible to imagine a way in which the choice could have been clearer. And it’s hard to imagine the voters’ response being much clearer, either....
SOURCE: WaPo (11-9-12)
Robert Baer is a former CIA case officer and the author of several books on the Middle East.
Sometimes, age-old wisdom notwithstanding, the enemy of our enemy turns out not to be our friend. Once, in the mid-1980s, I was handed the portfolio for Libya’s opposition leaders, many of whom were operating out of Khartoum, Sudan. At first, I had only a hazy idea of who Moammar Gaddafi’s opponents were. All I knew for sure was that the Reagan administration wanted Gaddafi to go.
Late one night, I woke up to the sound of the butts of assault rifles pounding my door. Two of my Libyan contacts were on the run from Gaddafi’s assassins and expected me to protect them. We talked most of the night — about Libya, history and Allah. By the time they could safely leave, I had come to understand that the people we’d picked to replace Gaddafi were militant Salafists determined to turn Libya into an Islamic republic. They didn’t succeed then, but you could argue that the people who attacked our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi in September were their linear descendents....
SOURCE: WaPo (11-9-12)
David Maraniss, an associate editor of The Post, is the author of “Barack Obama: The Story” and “First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton.” This column is part of an occasional series on the 2012 presidential candidates’ political lives.
On two historic election nights in Chicago, Barack Obama’s face has told the story. Four years ago in Grant Park, the solemnity of his expression after he took the stage revealed a man at last feeling the full weight of expectations. While his supporters cried and laughed and swayed with joy, his countenance reflected the responsibilities he soon would bear as president. On Tuesday, inside McCormick Place, his hair was grayer, his skin more creased, the crowd not so spontaneous. Yet his face betrayed an incredible lightness of being that went beyond the simple relief that he had won reelection.
Second terms often bring a new set of frustrations for a president, following the laws of diminishing returns and lame-duckiness. But history also shows that a second term is required to create, or to ratify, presidential greatness — and in that sense, Obama is not ambivalent about his ambitions. Since he first thought about being president, a notion that came to him relatively late compared with most politicians, he has wanted to be a great one. When he stepped onto the stage Tuesday night, he realized that he has that chance....
SOURCE: WaPo (11-12-12)
Charles Lane is an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
...On July 10, 2012, George Romney’s son Mitt stood before the NAACP’s annual convention as the soon-to-be Republican nominee for an office his father had coveted in vain: president. “If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community,” he declared, “you are looking at him.” He invoked his father’s legacy.
The audience responded with catcalls....
The NAACP didn’t boo Mitt Romney because he is especially hostile toward civil rights, much less a racist — or even because the NAACP’s delegates thought of him that way.
It happened because the delegates could not easily forget the intervening political history, in which the GOP had evolved from the party of George Romney into the party of white backlash. They could not forget it, and Mitt Romney’s personal heritage was not sufficient to trump it....
SOURCE: NYT (11-11-12)
THE re-election of President Obama, preceded by the extraordinary damage done by Hurricane Sandy, raises a critical question: In the coming years, might it be possible for the United States to take significant steps to reduce the risks associated with climate change?
A crucial decision during Ronald Reagan’s second term suggests that the answer may well be yes. The Reagan administration was generally skeptical about costly environmental rules, but with respect to protection of the ozone layer, Reagan was an environmentalist hero. Under his leadership, the United States became the prime mover behind the Montreal Protocol, which required the phasing out of ozone-depleting chemicals.
There is a real irony here. Republicans and conservatives had ridiculed scientists who expressed concern about the destruction of the ozone layer. How did Ronald Reagan, of all people, come to favor aggressive regulatory steps and lead the world toward a strong and historic international agreement?...
SOURCE: USA Today (11-7-12)
Ross K. Baker is a political science professor at Rutgers University and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.
Of the 43 men who have served as president, only 16 have been granted a second term. The voters who awarded the fortunate ones with an extended lease on the White House chose them for any number of reasons ranging from greater personal appeal to the incumbent's agenda, or satisfaction with the incumbent's performance.
In President Obama's case, it was a combination of all three. But Obama should look back on history for what might lie ahead. Second-term presidents who planned excessively bold agendas based on perceived mandates, or on freedom from the constraints of having to run for re-election, have stumbled badly.
In fact, the goals of re-elected incumbents rarely comport with what ultimately takes place in the second term. Often, events — rather than anything in the winner's playbook — can take unpredictable directions....
SOURCE: The Australian (11-9-12)
Alan R.M. Jones, an adviser in the Howard government, was also a political staffer in Washington during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
Even before the ballot counting is complete in the US presidential election, analysts, party faithful and journalists such as Andrew Sullivan claim already to see forensic messages in the debris that is the Republican Mitt Romney's unsuccessful Oval Office bid.
Sullivan, who only days ago claimed that the "Confederacy" was ascendant when Romney's chances looked hopeful - somebody call General Sherman - now claims Barack Obama has won a historic political and ideological referendum. He says 2012 is to today's political tectonics what Ronald Reagan's re-election was was to 1980s America.
Sullivan claims that Obama's 24-state, 303 electoral college vote win (as of yesterday's tally) represents a landslide that has delivered "a permanent Democratic majority". Obama's razor-thin 50.1 per cent of the popular vote has led Sullivan to anoint him "a Democratic Reagan".
Earth to Sullivan, the Gipper won 49 states - all but Democratic challenger Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota - and nearly 60 per cent of the popular vote. Reagan's re-election was a landslide victory of historic proportions.
Had Romney pulled another 300,000 or so votes across the four battleground states of Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia, Obama would be packing his teleprompter...
SOURCE: The Scotsman (11-8-12)
Michael Kelly is a columnist at The Scotsman.
Supporters of Scottish independence are mistaken if they think America’s past strengthens their case, writes Michael Kelly.
The Nationalists’ latest attempts to wrap their referendum in the Stars and Stripes is an admission of failure – their failure to find a credible present-day model for their headlong dash into the dark. Having failed to convince with "independence in Europe", and even less with the crumbling "arc of prosperity", supporters of separation are forced back more than 200 years to a time of different political philosophies and different geopolitics to provide a crutch for their disabled position.
George Kerevan’s piece in these pages last week was carefully argued to show that if the British colonists had fallen for the "fear" arguments and dire warnings of caution, the United States would not have come into being. He made his case, but in doing so admitted the uncertainty which surrounds such decisions and the risk involved. We just don’t know where independence might lead. But we do know the stability that we are asked to sacrifice. We are not the SAS. "Who dares wins" is not an attractive slogan to persuade us to loosen our ties in an increasingly interdependent world.
Some SNP supporters took the argument further by comparing our 2014 vote to the American Revolution. The differences between the two situations clearly show the comparison to be invalid...
SOURCE: American Spectator (11-7-12)
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.
For months, conservatives have been likening the conditions of the 2012 presidential race to that which saw the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The American Spectator's own Jeffrey Lord proclaimed that President Obama could be beaten handily "because the past four years really have been Jimmy Carter's second term."
Victor Davis Hanson of National Review Online put it this way:
What does 1980 tell us about 2012? Barack Obama, like Carter, can run neither on his dismal four-year stewardship of the economy nor on his collapsing Middle East policy.
Hanson went on to write:
The winner probably won't be decided by old video clips, gaffes, or even campaign money, but by turnout and the October debates -- depending on whether incumbent Obama comes across as a petulant Carter and challenger Romney appears an upbeat Reagan. As in 1980, voters want a better president -- but they first have to be assured he's on the ballot.
Well, Obama did come across as petulant in the debates while Romney was upbeat. And yet it wasn't enough. At the end of the day, despite Obama's dismal economic record and an ineffectual Middle East policy, his well-oiled organization turned out his vote and Romney could not. Romney could not break through in key states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan nor could he put Ohio and Florida back in the Republican column.
And yet Obama didn't win on turnout alone. He won because America has changed. We're not in 1980 anymore...