Something to learn from other countries
Those of us who will be casting votes for the next president, have a thing or two to learn. One of our best resources can be the foreign press. The rest of the world is observing our electoral processes with a great deal of interest, and very often with a helpful and relatively unbiased fresh view. This post presents a current sampling.
United Kingdom - BBC News features a special report, "Vote USA 2008." It is an "Election Issues Guide" that sets out leading candidate positions from a drop-down list on Iraq, Iran, National Security, Climate change, Health care, Illegal immigration, Abortion and the Economy. The various positions are given only for the Democrats' three "main candidates," Clinton, Obama and Edwards. However the section includes the five Republican views of those they consider to be the "main candidates," Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain, Romney and Thompson. It could be a very handy tool for those of us who are undecided and want to compare positions, rather than polls. Take a look; it is excellent.
China - Opinion Brendan John Worrell, originally from Australia, writes from chinadaily.com. 2007-12-17: "Which country scares you the most? There is no more important relationship that America has than our relationship with China." It is a bit of a fresh perspective, and seems very favorable towards John Edwards. The op-ed begins:
In a CBS Evening News special series "Primary Questions," news presenter Katie Couric asked 12 United States presidential candidates, "Which country scares them the most?" and if they were president, "what would they do about it?"
. . . Nine of the 12 candidates listed Iran, two, including Hilary Clinton mentioned Pakistan, and a lone John Edwards commented, "Scares me the most in terms of America and being president, China, because I think China presents huge challenges for America because of their size, because of their population."
. . . When Edwards came to China in the middle of October last year, he met with the nation's top education, economic and environment ministers. A week after returning to the US he gave an interview with the Asia Society, a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational institution that seeks to promote greater knowledge of Asia in the US.
Worrell's op-ed closes with this:
Back at the Asia Society interview, and Edwards who is often compared to the dynamic JFK said: "I think that, by no means, is it pre-determined where this relationship (China US) is headed. There's great potential and there are great challenges. And we just need to engage this relationship with our eyes wide open in a thoughtful and visionary way. And I think there is great potential for success if we do that. Ignoring the relationship or not giving it the attention it deserves is a huge mistake."
Thoughtful and visionary are the key ingredients here. President Bush has less than 11 months to try and reverse the anti-US front that has spread around the world since he took office. And perhaps a majority of the world's citizens may answer Katie Couric's question as, "The US, this is the nation that scares me the most." To follow up her question and challenge that nation's resolve, "what are the voters going to do about it?" For better or worse, come November 4, 2008, the world will find out.
The Financial Times of London had a very good editorial yesterday titled,"Why we must have faith in America’s voters." Senior editor at the Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell, wrote very insightfully about religion and politics in America. The writer's analysis brings a much needed outside view to us. To quote:
A spectre is haunting America, the spectre of theocracy. Presidential candidates are either citing scripture or dropping broad hints that they will govern as “people of faith”.
. . . The irruption of God into the presidential campaign need not mean the country is growing more conservative or doctrinaire . . . What has changed is that candidates’ personal convictions have become an issue.
. . . changes were often mandated by courts changed voters in two ways. The first was ideological. If such principles as secularism or neutrality become a basis for condemning and banning cherished traditions without the say-so of the legislature, then some voters will view a candidate’s repudiation of those principles as evidence of democratic good faith. The second shift was organisational. Thanks to constitutional limits on government’s right to meddle in religion, churches are the surest refuge from overweening government.
. . . It is always legitimate to want information about a candidate’s bedrock beliefs, whether they are religious or not. If Americans are pressing for such information more urgently in recent elections, the reason is not that they are turning into fanatics. It is that, when basic institutions and social rules are in flux, convictions about first principles matter more than they once appeared to.
The International Herald Tribune is the international voice of the New York Times. Based in Paris, non-American readers comprise 2/3 of its readership. Their "U.S. Election 2008" sidebar section carries eight feature stories about all of the leading candidates. The main story focused on Bill Richardson's international experience as an envoy.
According to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Giuliani and the ex-Massachusetts governor are tied at 20 per cent support among primary voters.
. . . According to the survey, 45 per cent of Democratic primary voters support Clinton compared with 23 per cent for Illinois Senator Barack Obama and 13 per cent for John Edwards, former North Carolina senator.
Ria Novosti, Russia -- An editorial written by a Russian about Time Magazine's choice of Vladimir Putin as its "person of the year," is not really about our upcoming elections. And yet it is, in a way. Just as the next president must deal with China in an effective manner, so must that person know how to deal with Russia. To quote RIA Novosti political analyst Boris Kaimakov:
I have no illusions that Time has conferred the title on Putin because it likes him. Most probably the magazine meant to highlight the role of Russia in the modern world. When the Kremlin gives the instruction to turn off the gas tap, half the world is about to faint. It is one thing to discuss Khodorkovsky and the way top Russian lawyers use electoral law to put down sources of instability, and it is quite another thing when there is no gas in your stove when you want to make your morning coffee.
A president who can afford to pursue such a policy deserves close attention. He jolts Western politicians out of the complacency that they have felt after the Soviet threat vanished, and he comes across as a serious irritant or even a threat to the man in the street.
. . . The West is worried about lack of free speech and democracy in Russia, and Putin is worried about delays of wages and pensions. This is his top priority. That is his idea of stability, which he maintains with the help of his rigorous vertical power structure. This accounts for his intolerance of opponents and blistering criticism directed at them. His message is: I am sustaining the vertical structure with both my hands, and I don't care what my critics try to cadge from foreign embassies.
Don't look Putin in the eye. Look at the roots. Time has done it. Perhaps, as many think, its choice of person of the year was a mistake. But there is no mistake about one thing: Russia is resurgent, and the start of that resurgence coincided with Vladimir Putin's presidency.
Other countries can inform us about the election in several useful ways. Today I looked at a few possibilities. They stated who they think the leading candidates are. They let us know what scares them about the U.S. We learned some new information about our religiosity. We saw that foreign policy experience carries weight with them. We saw that Aljazeera can write straight news about U.S. politics. And we got a peek into what the Russians think about their "Man of the Year." Not bad for a morning's read.
(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)