On the eve of Tuesday's Michigan primary, Republican presidential hopefuls made an obligatory stop at the Auto Show in Detroit. While they all lamented the fragile state of Michigan's economy—a declining auto industry and the U.S. mortgage crisis have combined to give Michigan the nation's highest unemployment rate at 7.4 percent—two leading candidates advanced starkly different strategies for solving the state's economic woes.
McCain took the tough-love approach. Referring to auto-industry jobs lost in recent years, he asked:
Does anyone think they're coming back?" he told reporters. "There's going to be a lot of new jobs. Anyone who thinks the old jobs are coming back is either naive or not being straight with the people of Michigan and America. There's going to be a flood of new jobs because of this green technology."
In other words, Michigan will be saved by investing in new technology. Mitt Romney, however, fell back on a familiar tactic: Blame the foreigners. "I do not believe that the transportation sector of our economy has to be ceded to other nations," he told the crowd.
Mitt may be fighting the proverbial last war here. There's a reason the Detroit Auto Show is now known as the North American International Auto Show: The U.S. auto industry is already a composite of U.S.- and foreign-owned companies. By last year, foreign car manufacturers accounted for nearly half of all U.S. auto sales.
The Level Field Institute, an organization formed by retired GM, Ford, and Chrysler employees to encourage U.S. citizens to "buy American," reports that roughly 30 percent of U.S. autoworkers now work for foreign companies. How does Romney propose to protect these roughly 83,000 U.S. jobs (pdf) and rescue a drowning industry at the same time? By standing athwart the tide of globalization and yelling "stop"? Somehow, I don't think that's going to work.
I don't think very many political journalists bathed themselves in analytical glory when it comes to the New Hampshire primary. Pretty much everyone read the same flawed polls, got caught up in the frenzy of media excitement, and expected Obama to win big. But this editorial call by our friends at the Weekly Standard had to feel particularly painful at around 10:32 p.m. last night:
NBC and the Associated Press are now calling the New Hampshire primary for Hillary Clinton, who leads Barack Obama 39 to 36. On the Republican side, John McCain was long ago called the winner, though his lead over Mitt Romney has narrowed to just five or six points. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a real race. This is going to be exciting. More in the morning.
It won't be long now before pundits begin tallying up the winners and losers of today's New Hampshire primary. Heck, some of the conventional wisdom is probably typed up and ready to go already. But elections are about far more than just who's up and who's down at any given moment—billions of dollars and lives will be affected by the man or woman who becomes the next leader of the free world. Herewith, 10 issues and forces that will shape the race to come:
-This post written by Mike Boyer, Blake Hounshell, and Carolyn O'Hara
New Hampshire officials were bracing for a monster turnout in New Hampshire today, but it looks like even they might have been caught unprepared. Here's the screaming headline on Drudge right now: "EPIC TURNOUT FOR DEMS -- We Are Out of Ballots!"
But we may have wait to find out what that means. According to pollster Mark Blumenthal, we may not get leaked results until closer to 8 p.m., when the polls close:
In past years, the network consortium that conducts the exit polls distributed mid-day estimates and tabulations to hundreds of journalists that would inevitably leak. In 2006, however, the networks adopted a new policy that restricted access to a small number of analysts in a "quarantine room" for most of the day and did not release the results to the networks and subscriber news organizations until just before the polls closed (information that did ultimately leak to blogs). As far as I know, that process will remain in place today.
UPDATE: More reports of heavy turnout from New Hampshire's largest newspaper.
Notwithstanding the medias bias in favour of Mr Saakashvili, the blurring of the line between his roles as the president and as a candidate, and reported cases of intimidation and pressure, the poll was "in essence consistent with most international standards for democratic elections" said the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Inspiring stuff. Opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze has himself declared victory and accused Saakashvili of stealing the election. As expected, large protests have already been held but the results are likely to stand. For all its flaws, one election observer described it as "the first election where no one was 100 percent sure whether they were going to win or not," which is itself a victory. The strong showing by the opposition should also help to curb some of Saakashvili's autocratic impulses in the future and temper some of the undue enthusiasm that some Westerners have for this promising but flawed leader.
The folks at the Kremlin, on the other hand, are shocked, shocked to find electoral irregularities happening in their backyard. This statement is pretty rich:
Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement describing the presidential race as marred by a raft of violations, including "widespread use of administrative resources, blatant pressure on the opposition candidates, stringent restriction of access to financial and media resources."
Takes one to know one, I guess.
Until yesterday, I was a doubter of Mike Huckabee's potential for broad-based appeal. No longer. After attending one of his rallies up in New Hampshire, my mind was changed — quickly. I attended Huckabee's "chowderfest" event yesterday in the southeast New Hampshire town of Windham, where more than 600 people crowded shoulder-to-shoulder into a small school gymnasium to see the Arkansas Republican and his traveling companion, Hollywood martial-arts star Chuck Norris.
To be honest, I was expecting a bunch of Christian conservatives looking for a little more salvation on their way home from church. I couldn't have been more wrong. Most of the attendees at Huckabee's event appeared to be moderate Republican or independent undecided voters. A man from Windham told me he was trying to decide between Huckabee and current New Hampshire Republican front runner John McCain. He didn't know much about Huckabee and had come to see him for the first time. By my guesstimation, he was hardly alone. Huckabee's stump speech was light on Bible thumping. And a brief pro-life riff drew applause from, maybe, one-third of the room. Instead, Huckabee sounded almost John Edwards-esque. His pitch was to disillusioned middle-class families, and it appeared to be working. His line on energy independence, for instance, drew an overwhelming roar. Ditto for his riff on tax reform.
NAIROBI — Kenyan store owners mark the outline of what used to be their store amid the burned-out remains of what was a used clothes market before it was destroyed by looting mobs.
Apparently, Kenyan looters prefer Coke:
Yet another disputed election seems inevitable this weekend. Georgians are heading to the polls tomorrow for a snap presidential vote that is seen as a referendum on the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili, who came into power on a wave of reformist enthusiasm in the 2003 "Rose Revolution," has an impressive record of economic reform and building political alliances in the West. But he's lost some luster recently thanks to corruption scandals and his government's heavy-handed crackdown on opposition protests in November. November's turmoil forced Saakashvili to call the early election rather than serve out his term. He has resigned from the presidency in order to campaign, in accordance with Georgian law.
Opposition leaders are already predicting fraud and accusing Saakashvili of trying to rig the vote. Ads for Saakashvili have dominated the airwaves in the weeks leading up to the election and opposition TV station Imedi TV has been off the air since it was forcibly shut down by police in November. Though currently managed by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, Imedi is seen by many as a mouthpiece for its founder Badri Patarkatsishvili, Georgia's richest man and a presidential candidate himself. Patarkatsishvili, who has ties to exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, is a controversial figure to say the least. Tapes that recently surfaced of him trying to bribe a government official to help swing the election were a major embarrassment to the opposition.
Interestingly, Saakashvili's former campaign manager, Levan Gachechiladze, is considered the strongest opposition figure and his entire platform consists of a plan to abolish the presidency altogether and form a parliamentary republic.
As political drama goes, it makes for good reading. But the outcome is beginning to seem all too predictable and depressing. Saakashvili seems certain to win just as the opposition seems certain to challenge the victory as illegitimate (post-election protests are already in the works), leading to further instability in an already tense region. The scenario is becoming all too familiar—it's a sad statement on the state of democratic institutions when the most likely reaction to news of an upcoming election in a developing nation is a cringe.
You have to admire Bob Kerrey's skill as a political assassin. While casually shooting the breeze over the weekend with the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray after a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton, the former Nebraska senator and 9/11 commissioner had this to say about Barack Obama:
It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."
Kerrey kept it going Monday on CNN:
[T]here is a smear campaign going on. And people are acting as if he's an Islamic Manchurian candidate. And I feel it's actually a substantial strength. He is a Christian. Both he and his family are Christians. They've chosen Christianity. But that connection to Indonesia and a billion Muslims on this Earth I think is a real strength and will add an awful lot of value in his foreign policy efforts. [...] I've watched the blogs try to say that you can't trust him because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa.
The point Kerrey makes in these statements is, on the face of it, a nice one: Obama's diverse roots could be a real asset abroad. But if you think the Obama campaign is eager to receive compliments that include the words "Hussein" and "madrassa," especially from someone who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, then I have a bridge to sell you in New York City. (Also, it's worth noting that it wasn't a "madrassa" in any case.) Obama supporters and others recently jumped all over the Washington Post for running a front-page story about how rumors that the candidate is some sort of "closet Muslim" could hurt him politically. The critics accused the Post of essentially laundering a smear. But the point made in the story seems to be on solid ground: Americans simply aren't ready to elect a Muslim president or even someone falsely rumored to be Muslim. It shouldn't be this way, but it's simply a fact that associating Obama with Islam hurts him politically.
And thanks to Kerrey, this issue became the dominant political story of the week. The only thing many voters will hear is "Obama Muslim," even though the Illinois senator is a Protestant Christian. Emphasizing his father's African roots is standard fare for Obama, and it's one of the first items on his campaign bio. But the Muslim thing? That's a bit tricky given today's political climate.
James Fallows thinks Hillary Clinton's supporters need to come to terms with what the harsh realities of gender politics would mean for her foreign policy if she were elected president:
[H]aving voted five years ago for the war in Iraq, which she then continued to support for years, she went ahead this fall and voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which however you slice it was essentially a vote for legitimizing military action against Iran....
If she is sworn in as the first female president, she will still have to remove doubts about her "toughness." There will be the 2010 midterms to think of. And of course the 2012 reelection campaign. And if she is tough enough to get through that, then concerns about her legacy. Over the long run, is there any difference between a candidate who needs to "seem" hawkish on questions like Iraq and Iran, and a candidate who is an actual hawk?
I sympathize completely with her predicament: dealing with those atavistic voter emotions about the "weakness" of female candidates is a terrible problem. But here's the predicament it creates for voters. If I don't want the next president to be someone who had a hawkish outlook on both Iraq and Iran, do I say: Never mind, she's not really a hawk, she just has to vote like one?
This is the kind of phony trumpeting of the "gender issue" that is at once disappointing and completely unwarranted. Legitimate, substantive questions can and should be asked about Clinton's positions on Iraq and Iran. But to insinuate that as president she would attack Iran with no motive other than the fear of being called a sissy is preposterous. Andrew Sullivan apparently agrees with this cacophony, too. I know it's a boys club over at The Atlantic's blog shop, where just one of the seven "voices" is a woman, but come on, fellas. What century are you boys living in? It certainly hasn't played out that way with Condi Rice on North Korea and Iran. Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, helped convince Bush to exhaust all peaceful efforts with Tehran before seeking punitive steps. And when was the last time you saw Nancy Pelosi calling for a military strike lest she be considered weak? If you want to discuss Clinton's qualifications for the presidency, fine. But let's talk about the things that matter.
Why exactly is Nicolas Sarkozy "calling to congratulate" Vladimir Putin on United Russia's widely discredited electoral victory? Putin always enjoyed a warm relationship with Jacques Chirac, but Sarkozy seemed to be less predisposed toward coddling dictators than his predecessor. This is certainly true of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose stern tone with Russia couldn't be more different from Gerhard Schröder, another of Putin's European defenders. (And indeed, when he left office, Schröder became board chairman for a Gazprom pipeline project that he had boosted as chancellor.)
Sarkozy has also put France at odds with the EU, which issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Russia's elections "did not meet international standards and commitments voluntarily assumed by Moscow." Even new Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who has made improved relations with Moscow part of his platform, said, "we can't turn a blind eye when democratic standards are not respected."
Another interesting question: If Sarkozy is just playing realpolitik with the Russians, what does this say about the influence of Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in the president's administration? The left-wing humanitarian has been one of Europe's staunchest critics of Putin's crackdown on opposition groups in recent weeks. Has France found its Colin Powell?
Authorities in Chechnya—which until recently was in a state of armed rebellion against Russian occupation—is reporting a voter turnout of 99.5 percent(!) in Sunday's Russian parliamentary elections. A full 99.36 percent of the vote went to Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.
Chechnya wasn't alone. The rest of the Caucasian republics also reporting turnouts in the 90s. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attributed the ludicrous turnout to "the great respect of the people for President Putin" and to the region's "special traditions" of political participation that "we have to respect." Local human rights activists weren't so sure, as the Moscow Times reported:
Oleg Orlov, head of the Memorial human rights organization, who was in Chechnya and Ingushetia for a week through Friday, said the turnout results were credible. But he argued that the reasons were rooted more in unfairness than tradition. [...]
Orlov said doctors, teachers and other state-paid workers had faced pressure to vote. Also, he said, there was fierce competition among rural communities. "No village can afford to trail in the statistics," he said.
An Ingushetian election official dismissed reports of pressure to vote, saying, "We mountaineers retain our free will."
One free-willed mountaineer, Farid Babayev, leader of the liberal Yabloko party in the Caucasian republic of Dagestan, was murdered in front of his home by unidentified gunmen last week after criticizing the local government for human rights abuses and electoral manipulation. He must have been a member of the minority: 92 percent of Dagestanians apparently voted on Sunday, with 89 percent supporting United Russia.
Last week, I thought one of the few good things about United Russia's dominance in the Russian parliamentary elections might be that the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party would be shut out of the Duma. Parties needed to win 7 percent of the vote to be represented. Turns out the LDPR snuck in with 8.4 percent of the vote, just enough to win a seat for Andrei Lugovoi, prime suspect in the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in November, 2006. Along with his Duma seat, Lugovoi will now enjoy immunity from prosecution in the Russian Federation. Litvinenko's widow Marina was apoplectic:
Now Mr Putin and Mr Lugovoi stand together as the emblem of Russia — the two people linked by a murder," she said in a written statement.
For what it's worth, British prosecutors say they have no plans to drop charges against Lugovoi.
With zero polling stations reporting from zero districts, this blogger is now ready to call this coming Sunday's Russian parliamentary elections for... Vladimir Putin's United Russia party! We specialize in bold predictions here at FP.
United Russia is currently polling at about 64 percent and the Communists are likely the only other party that will pass the 7 percent threshold required for a Duma seat. (If there's a bright spot in all this, it's that suspected murderer Andrei Lugovoi probably won't be elected.) All the same, the virtually guaranteed landslide hasn't stopped the Kremlin from doing nearly everything possible to put down Russia's already weak opposition. Here's a roundup:
If United Russia would overwhelmingly win even a fair contest, what's the point of all this? It's clear that if Putin feels that if he is to remain in power when his constitutionally limited term runs out next year, he not only needs a win, he needs to crush the idea that meaningful opposition even exists. This election could just be setting the stage for a much more significant power grab next year, though it's anybody's guess how this will ultimately play out.
In Russia, they call this type of manipulation "political technology." Right now, the world is watching a master class.
I guess it's a small world after all. Courtesy of the New York Times' handy debate transcript analyzer, here's some evidence of the narrowness of America's current foreign-policy dialogue:
Candidate Mentions in Last Night's Debate
Immigration? The candidates mentioned it 25 times.
When Google launched its fancy Web site for the 2007 Australian federal elections, the company gave no hint about Easter eggs—fun little surprises put there by mischievous programmers—buried in its mashup map section.
But blogger Ben Balbo poked around and found two animated graphics of Prime Minister John Howard and opposition leader Kevin Rudd having some fun with each other.
Here we see these bitter political rivals tossing the Frisbee at Bondi Beach in
And here we see them playing a vigorous game of rock, paper, scissors in front of Parliament, presumably deciding the fate of the nation:
And there's more, Ben says:
I've been reliably informed that there are another 6 "easter eggs" hidden around Seaworld on the Gold Coast, Tanunda in Adelaide, a well known Melbourne sporting venue, near Barrack St Jetty in Perth, near Mandorah in Darwin and near the Botanic Gardens in Hobart.
The elections are slated for Nov. 24, which is this coming Saturday.
(Hat tip: Google Maps Mania)
Two weeks ago, when it was announced that Russia was only inviting 70 observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the election, I suspected that Russia's arcane visa process would prevent even that number from attending. Turns out I underestimated the good folks in the Moscow bureaucracy who have not, as of yet, sent any visas to OSCE, prompting the organization to cancel its mission altogether. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to answer questions about the visas, describing it as a "rather technical issue". It always is, isn't it?
While this is pretty grim news, it may actually be for the best that OSCE is sitting this one out. A mere 70 observers couldn't possibly be effective in a country the size of Russia. Pretending otherwise would simply lend this sham more dignity than it deserves. Russian opposition leader and FP contributor Garry Kasparov told the New York Times that "Putin's regime has no interest in revealing its dark side."
With all due respect to Kasparov, I'd say it already has.
It's safe to say that no one really expects this December's Russian elections to be a fair contest. All the same, the Kremlin's decision to cut the number of international observers invited by two thirds is a particularly brazen demonstration that Vladimir Putin has stopped trying to even appear remotely democratic. Europe's largest election watchdog, the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe, has grudgingly accepted Putin's conditions, having little other choice. Russia is planning to allow 300 to 400 observers to observe polling throughout a country that spans eleven time zones.
It will likely be fewer than that. Since Russia waited until a month before the election to issue its initiation, OSCE and other groups have had to scramble to obtain visas for their observers. Getting a travel visa for Russia is a trying experience under the best of circumstances, but the current regime has proven masterful at using the inefficiency of Russian bureaucracy as a political weapon. Just ask the head of any of the foreign NGOs that operate in Russia and spend about as much time fighting through red tape as they do on advocacy work. If the OSCE folks get anywhere near the 70 observers they want into Russia in time, they'll be extraordinarily lucky.
All the same, the tactics of intimidation and media blackout that essentially rig Russian elections in favor of the pro-Putin United Russia party are hardly a secret and the world hardly needs OSCE to tell us about them. Putin's more troubling suggestion may be his proposal that OSCE permanently limit observers in seven other post-Soviet states and ban them from issuing reports until official results are published. Again, it's not really news that Russia's leaders feel they have the right to control political outcomes in their "near-abroad," but they've rarely been so forthright about it before. Armenia's government has already heartily endorsed the proposal.
All the same, Putin thinks that Russia has a lot to teach the West about democracy. At this week's EU-Russia summit he announced plans to start a Russian-funded think tank to promote democracy and human rights in Europe and counter the influence of western NGOs in his country.
With the aid of grants, the EU helps develop such institutes in Russia. I think the time has come for Russia, given the growth in our financial capabilities, to make its contribution in this sphere as well."
With oil prices nearing $100 a barrel, Russia's "financial capabilities" seem to allow Putin to do pretty much whatever he wants.
Vladimir Putin can't run for president of Russia again (the constitution bars a third consecutive term), but he just announced that he'll lead United Russia's parliamentary list for the upcoming elections, which begin December 2. United Russia is the most popular party in the country, and Putin will be guaranteed a spot in the Duma if his party wins, as is widely expected.
He also said today that the rumors of him becoming a future prime minister are "realistic."
Other recent FP items of interest on Putin and his mysterious succession plans:
Nicholas Rajula is running for Kenyan Parliament, and he has a pretty novel campaign strategy: He claims to be U.S. Senator Barack Obama's distant cousin.
People in Kenya love Obama, whose father was from the African country. When Obama visited Kenya last year, throngs of singing and dancing Kenyans greeted him with a hero's welcome. His Kenyan roots may be why Kenya is one of three countries that love the United States more than Americans themselves do: 87 percent of Kenyans have a favorable view of the United States, compared with 80 percent of Americans, according to a Pew Research Center poll released earlier this year.
Obama's campaign denies that Rajula and Obama are related; Rajula and Obama's father just happen to come from the same Kenyan village. To Rajula's credit, though, Obama's paternal grandmother says she considers herself a grandmother to Rajula, and Rajula is known for organizing part of Obama's itinerary when he visited Kenya (although Obama's campaign wouldn't comment on this).
It's uncertain whether Rajula's campaign strategy will be successful. During one campaign stop, villagers got upset that Rajula wasn't doling out the cash too freely, violating a time-honored custom of Kenya's parliamentary campaigns (although he did quietly give money to village leaders later on). Echoing the language of his "cousin" from Illinois, Rajula explained that he aspires to "a new kind of politics." Such rhetoric hasn't been enough for Obama to keep up with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, and it probably won't put Rajula over the top in Kenya, either.
Mark Jordan, FP's D.C. correspondent, writes in with a dispatch from our nation's capital:
All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected." That was George W. Bush, speaking on February 26, 2003.
On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Senate demonstrated its commitment to this bedrock democratic principle. Unbeknownst to most Americans, despite its larger population than the state of Wyoming, the 580,000-plus residents of Washington, D.C., are not represented by any voting member in Congress. Nevertheless, District residents are required to pay federal taxes and serve in the United States military. Three District residents have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Earlier this year, a bill that would provide Washington with a voting representative in Congress passed in the House. And Tuesday, Republican Senators—with the explicit encouragement of the Bush administration—blocked consideration of that legislation in the Senate, leaving over half a million Americans without a voice, and without their rights protected.
So much for leading by example.
Did you ever wonder exactly why Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf tried to sack his chief justice, Iftikahr Chaudhry? Here's why, according to Zahid Hussain and Peter Wonacott of the Wall Street Journal:
Before the presidential vote, the Supreme Court is also expected to weigh in on several petitions challenging Gen. Musharraf's legal right to campaign for president while serving as the head of the army. These petitions, filed by political opponents, contend that the constitution bars this dual role. The Supreme Court backed an amendment to the constitution that allowed Gen. Musharraf to hold both posts during his current term. He has said he plans to hold both posts if he is re-elected. "Uniform has a legal force," Gen. Musharraf told some members of Parliament last week.
But some predict the Supreme Court will now disagree. "The law is very clear on this issue, and there is absolutely no possibility of a court ruling in his favor," said Iqbal Haider, a former federal law minister.
Already, a reinstated Chadhry has hailed the "inalienable right" of Nawaz Sharif, the man whom Musharraf ousted back in 1999, to return from exile. Any guesses on where the court will rule on the uniform question? For a U.S. administration that is nervous about a resurgent al Qaeda and is busy trying to convince Musharraf to share power with Benazir Bhutto, things are getting a little out of hand. Your move, George.
Fresh off his Camp David meeting with President Bush—where the newly minted PM studiously refused to go casual (a subtle sign of cooling relations?) — Gordon Brown may soon be suiting up for a general election. Opinion polls show Labor with a nine point lead over David Cameron's Tories. That's got Labor in the mood for a vote many thought wouldn't happen for more than a year.
We are making the necessary preparations for a general election so the party is ready to fight a winning campaign whenever the prime minister chooses to name the day," Martin Salter, a vice-chairman of the party, told Reuters.
Bizarrely, the recent floods in Britain seem to have stained David Cameron as much as Brown. The Tory leader was heavily criticized for jaunting to Rwanda as his constituents fended off high water. Brown, meanwhile, has avoided the kind of obloquy that President Bush suffered in the wake of Katrina. He toured hard-hit areas and has managed to confine criticism to lower officials. Often criticized for being wooden, Brown is at least proving to be water resistant.
Matt Yglesias has questions about Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, a.k.a "the one that always wins."
I'm hardly an expert on contemporary Japanese politics, but I did read Tim Weiner's gripping new history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes. Here's what Weiner has to say about the LDP (pp. 116-121):
The most crucial interaction between the CIA and the Liberal Democratic Party was the exchange of information for money. It was used to support the party and to recruit informers within it. The Americans established paid relationships with promising young men who became, a generation later, members of parliament, ministers, and elder statesmen. Together they promoted the LDP and subverted Japan's Socialist Party and labor unions. [...]
The Japanese came to describe the political system created with the CIA's support as kozo oshoku—"structural corruption." The CIA's payoffs went on into the 1970s. The structural corruption of the political life of Japan continued long thereafter.
"We ran Japan during the occupation, and we ran it a different way in these years after the occupation," said the CIA's Horace Feldman, who served as station chief in Tokyo. "General MacArthur had his ways. We had ours."
The idea was to prevent communist subversion. And it worked! I'm tempted to ask, "At what price?" but it seems that the price was not terribly high. Japan's a pretty stable democracy now, though its justice system needs some work.
Turkey's parliamentary elections are over, and the ruling AK Party emerged the clear victor with 47 percent of the vote. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's party fell short, however, of obtaining the two-thirds majority that would have allowed him to push his agenda through parliament without opposition. The AKP must now sit with members of both the secular CHP (20 percent), the nationalist MHP (14 percent), and several independents under one roof.
So, what's next for Turkish politics?
Most importantly, though, the end of the election means that Turkish vacationers can finally head back to the beaches, which have been deserted all summer.
Néstor Kirchner isn't standing for a second term as Argentina's president. Instead, he's recommending his wife for the position. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who represents the highly populous Buenos Aires province in the Argentinian Senate, plans to run for Argentina's top job in October.
Kirchner is reasonably well liked, with an approval rating of 52 percent. It's not as if he couldn't win reelection. So why is he doing this? The Post speculates that Néstor is worried that recent setbacks have hurt his popularity. His plan, analysts suspect, is to give Cristina a turn at the wheel and return to power in 2011. (Argentina prohibits a president from serving more than two terms in a row.) The Kirchners' scheme to stay in power for longer could very well work; none of the other four contenders for the presidency is even polling in the double digits.
Cristina, interestingly, has been critical of her husband's friendship with Hugo Chávez. But she can only go so far in distancing Argentina from Chávez, as Strafor notes—her country's economic health depends on the Venezuelan strongman's continued largesse.
The Weekly Standard reported Tuesday that three respected Republican foreign policy hawks have signed on to advise soon-to-be presidential candidate Fred Thompson, currently the toast of the Reagan wing of the GOP.
The three advisors are Mark Esper, who previously worked for Thompson in the Senate and who was Bill Frist's foreign relations guy, Joel Shin, who worked for the Bush campaign and is now with the Scowcroft Group, and Liz Cheney, the vice president's daughter and woman who, as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the near east, oversaw the "democracy" agenda in the Middle East.
Does this mean that we can expect some hawkish stands from Fred Thompson? There's little indication of that so far.
In fact, Thompson was on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" earlier this week sounding downright dovish on Iran. The Iran "problem" Thompson said, "might just take care of itself" if America played a Cold War style game of "intelligence and propaganda" correctly.
So seeking regime change is not in Thompson's playbook? Doesn't sound like it. "Because an [internal] revolution hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it can't," he concluded.
That sounds more like a dovish strategy of containment to me.
Like all the candidates in the expanding field of presidential hopefuls, Rudy Giuliani is reaching out supporters, friends, and acquaintances, asking them to help fund what will likely be the costliest election in U.S. history. "America's mayor" is staking his campaign on counterterrorism and national security issues. And who better to relate to the threat of Islamist extremism than Israel? Which is why "JoinRudy2008.com" donation letters are popping up in the in boxes of readers of the Jerusalem Post:
As a longtime friend and staunch supporter of Israel during my entire public life, I want to share with you my deep concern for the Jewish state and ask for your support as I campaign to become the next President of the United States....
I promise you that if elected President, I will make sure this country remains on offense against terrorism. But I need your help and support to get there. Will you consider giving $1,000, $500, $250, $100 or $50 to my campaign?...
I stand by Israel and I'll never embrace a terrorist like Arafat, a tyrant like Ahmadinejad, or a party like Hamas.
Giuliani's stand against terrorism is commendable. But campaign contributions from foreign nationals are against U.S. elections laws. True, the Jerusalem Post is distributed in the United States as well as in Israel and online, and has many U.S. readers. Yet it seems a bit distasteful to appeal directly to readers of a foreign newspaper—even from a U.S. ally as close as Israel—for money. Put it this way: Imagine the reaction if John Edwards or Barrack Obama sent a plea to readers of Le Monde asking for support to strengthen ties between the U.S. and France? I'm guessing it would prompt a bigger outrage than a $400 haircut.
Democracy has proven tough enough for many African nations—poor, riddled with corruption, and bereft of functioning institutions as they are—to achieve. Now we can add one more inhibiting factor to the list: HIV/AIDS. Not only does AIDS leave voter rolls bloated with the names of people who have died, a recent study of six southern African countries found, but the disease robs political parties of their most able campaigners and deprives constituencies of their MPs. A BBC article summarizing the study reports:
In Zambia for example, in the first 20 years from 1964 to 1984 only 6% of by-elections were held as a result of death. But in the next 10 years, 60% of by-elections were because MPs had died. In Malawi, the speaker admitted that 28 deaths of MPs were Aids related.
The study, which was conducted by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, points out that these vacancies sometimes stay open for a year, leaving parts of the population without a voice in government. And the unanticipated economic burden of special by-elections can be just as damaging—one by-election costs Zambia more than US$200,000—since the resources need to be reallocated from other parts of the national budget. Moreover, it's hard to mobilize apathetic voters during by-elections, so smaller parties with fewer resources end up losing out to the ruling party.
Most disturbingly, though, the study finds that the stigma attached to AIDS makes it extraordinarily difficult to get good data from political elites. How can you fix a problem if you can't measure it? Reporting these figures and calculating these costs is a vital first step towards greater openness and public disclosure about the disease. If African democracy is to avoid becoming the next victim of the AIDS pandemic, the conspiracy of silence among the continent's leaders will have to end.
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