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Peter Beinart: Is the World Losing Faith in Obama?

Is the World Losing Faith in Obama?
The president's critics fret about America's image abroad, but the numbers tell a different story.

MAY 30 2014

Tennis fans at the Australian Open in Melbourne, in January 2009 (Mick Tsikas/Reuters)

Dick Cheney is worried about America’s image in the world. “I think the perception around the world is increasingly negative,” the former vice president declared on Wednesday to Sean Hannity, one of the few talk-show hosts who could hear such a claim without being struck dumb by its irony. It’s become a frequent Republican refrain. President Obama’s foreign policy, opines Karl Rove in a new Wall Street Journal column, has produced “strained relations with allies and declining confidence in American leadership.” Marco Rubio recently added that, “In Asia, our allies are increasingly unsure about our ability to counter both North Korea and Chinese expansionism.”

In a way, it’s heartening that Cheney and Rove feel the need to make non-Americans the ventriloquist dummies for their anti-Obama hostility. It suggests awareness that when it comes to foreign policy, they need spokespeople more credible than themselves. And it suggests a recognition, not always obvious during the George W. Bush years, that Americans should actually care what the rest of the world thinks.

Cheney and Rove are making non-Americans the ventriloquist dummies for their anti-Obama hostility. But when Cheney says world opinion is “increasingly negative” and Rove detects “declining confidence” in the United States, it’s hard not to ask the obvious question: compared to when? In fact, while faith in the United States, and in Obama personally, has declined modestly since 2009, it is still dramatically higher than when Cheney and Rove roamed the West Wing.

For more than a decade, the Pew Research Center has been asking people around the world about their opinion of the United States. The upshot: In every region of the globe except the Middle East (where the United States was wildly unpopular under George W. Bush and remains so), America’s favorability is way up since Obama took office. In Spain, approval of the United States is 29 percentage points higher than when Bush left office. In Italy, it’s up 23 points. In Germany and France, it’s 22. With the exception of China, where the numbers have remained flat, the trend is the same in Asia. The U.S. is 19 points more popular in Japan, 24 points more popular in Indonesia, and 28 points more popular in Malaysia. Likewise among the biggest powers in Latin America and Africa: Approval of the United States has risen 19 points in Argentina and 12 points in South Africa. (For some reason, there’s no Bush-era data on this question for Brazil or Nigeria).



Fred Kaplan: Obama Lays Siege to His Critics

Obama Lays Siege to His Critics
At West Point, President Obama defends a foreign policy vision based on more than U.S. military might.

By Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan is the author of The Insurgents and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

President Obama arrives at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, to deliver the commencement address to the 2014 graduating class on May 28, 2014. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama’s speech at West Point on Wednesday morning could be called a tribute to common sense, except that the sense it made is so uncommon. The ensuing cable pundits’ complaints—that it was insufficiently “muscular” or “robust”—only proved how necessary this speech was.

Obama’s point was not (contrary to some commentators’ claims) to draw a “middle-of-the-road” line between isolationism and unilateralism. That’s a line so broad almost anyone could walk it.

The president’s main point was to emphasize that not every problem has a military solution; that the proper measure of strength and leadership is not merely the eagerness to deploy military power; that, in fact, America’s costliest mistakes have stemmed not from restraint but from rushing to armed adventures “without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”

He drew one other distinction. On the one hand, there are “core interests”—direct threats to America and its allies—that we would absolutely defend with military force, “unilaterally if necessary.” On the other hand, there are crises that may “stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction” but don’t threaten our core interests. In those cases, “the threshold for military action must be higher”; and if force is used, “we should not go it alone,” for the practical reason that “collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, and less likely to lead to costly mistakes.”



Greg Sargent: Obama slams 'false equivalence' media

Morning Plum: Obama slams ‘false equivalence’ media
May 23 at 9:26 am

At a fundraiser last night, President Obama unleashed a surprisingly spirited and comprehensive attack on both-sides-to-blame media coverage. While he has taken issue with Beltway coverage before, what was particularly noteworthy this time is that he made the case that “false equivalence” coverage is fundamentally misleading in the sense that it obscures the basic imbalance that currently exists between the two parties.

It’s worth quoting at length (per the White House transcript):

“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.

“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.

“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side. There are no radical proposals coming out from the left. When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy. When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism. We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…

“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago. We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system. All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.

“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true. What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”



Luckovich: Q. What do Islamic terrorists fear most?

Luckovich nails it today

Al Gore: ‘Our democracy has been hacked’

Al Gore: ‘Our democracy has been hacked’
by ROGER SIMON | 5/13/14 3:34 PM EDT

CHICAGO — You think Al Gore is upset about global warming? You ought to hear him on American politics.

“The American political system is an utter catastrophe,” he said. “Our democracy has been hacked. The country is utterly and completely paralyzed. Hog-tied. And on a measure that will mean countless deaths in the future.”

“Why?” Gore asked. “The influence of money. The average member of the House and Senate has to spend five hours per day begging rich people for money. Begging rich interests for money!”

And those rich people and rich interests don’t give you money with no strings attached. No way. In return for their money, they want votes that will benefit them. “The piper is paid,” Gore said.



MSNBC's The Last Word: Richard Clarke: Benghazi committee a ‘stunt’

THE LAST WORD 05/12/14

Richard Clarke: Benghazi committee a ‘stunt’

Former Bush official Richard Clarke called the Benghazi committee a political ploy to “smear” former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. Richard Wolffe also joins.

Video here: http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/watch/richard-clarke-benghazi-cmte-a-stunt-254406723755

Michael Tomasky: Beirut Barracks vs. Benghazi

Beirut Barracks vs. Benghazi

POLITICS 05.09.14
Michael Tomasky

Republicans are trying to criminalize a tragedy—wholly unprecedented, even after 241 Marines died because of a massive U.S. intelligence failure.

One of the most maddening things about this Benghazi nonsense is the way Republicans have gotten a lot of Americans to go along with the idea that 10 investigations of something is normal; that as long as there’s one unanswered question, one area where the administration’s position is ambiguous or where its cooperation has been anything other than the immediate handing over of any conceivably related document, we still need to get to the bottom of matters.

People believe this because—first of all, partisans in heat believe it because they want to pin some kind of blame on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But even some people who aren’t diehard partisans believe it because, well, it seems to make sense. That’s what we do. We get to the bottom of things.

That’s what we do, that is, when it comes to the law. When there’s a question of legal guilt or innocence, of course we want all the facts needed to make the proper legal determination. But what about when there is no question of legal guilt or innocence, and it’s just a political matter? Of course we still want to know what happened, but in these cases it’s not chiefly to determine guilt or innocence, since there is none; it’s to get an honest accounting of what happened to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

I’m trying to explain as calmly as I can here, to readers with no allegiance to either party, why what the Republicans are doing with Benghazi is so out of bounds. They are turning a political situation into a legal case. They’re trying to impose the standards of the courtroom onto a place where they clearly don’t belong. It’s an awful, poisonous precedent, especially given that the incident in question was a tragedy. Using a national tragedy, the kind of event that used to unite Americans, to turn a political matter into a legal one is just a shocking thing to do, wholly outside the American tradition.



Luckovich: Dark as a Dungeon

Michael Tomasky: The B Is Back: The Benghazi Hearings Are Bullsh*t

The B Is Back: The Benghazi Hearings Are Bullsh*t

Michael Tomasky
May 7, 2014

Instead of demanding a bipartisan Benghazi committee, the Democrats must boycott this farce, whose sole aim is to humiliate Obama and Clinton.

So House Republicans are zeroing in on the particulars of how the Select Committee to Mention the Words Clinton and Benghazi in the Same Sentence for as Long as Possible (I think that’s the official name) is going to work. On Tuesday morning, Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on the question: The panel has to be 50-50 bipartisan, she insisted, and all information must be shared on a bipartisan basis. Then, she seemed to imply, maybe the Democrats would play ball.

News broke Tuesday night that the Republicans were rejecting that and insisting on seven Republicans and five Democrats. Whatever. I don’t care if the Republicans had accepted Pelosi’s conditions and then agreed to bake cookies with the likeness of Franklin Roosevelt on top. There is no way on earth the Democrats should lend this committee the least bit of legitimacy. They absolutely must boycott this absurd, insane, sickening, repulsive, shameful, and at the same time shame-less circus.

Benghazi is and has been for some time a witch hunt that perverts all notions of democratic accountability and that obviously carries one purpose and one purpose only—the humiliation or worse of as many Democrats as possible, preferably the big cheeses (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton). Ever since Watergate, the Republicans have wanted one of their own, one in which they’re the good guys, forcing a Democratic president to resign in disgrace. They tried it with Bill Clinton, but he just kept getting more and more popular as more and more Americans came to see the Republicans’ coup d’etat, their attempt to criminalize errant but perfectly legal behavior, for what it was—an affair.


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