Category Archives: Elections

Criticism that Sticks

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While living in Italy, at least early on, I bristled at the European accusation that we, the U.S., were always minding other countries’ affairs. Meddling. Interfering. But it didn’t take long before I realized they had a point. The long and growing list of examples of America’s nosing into other people’s business includes our recent push to gain EU membership for Turkey. Just last month after a meeting with the President of Turkey, Bush argued, “It’s in the interest of peace that Turkey be admitted into the EU.”

 

I wonder how Europeans, more specifically Germans, feel about Bush’s hyperbolic assertion. I certainly know how many Italians feel about the growing Islamic influence in Europe. I wrote about it extensively in my book, The Absentee Ballot. 

 

Speaking Tuesday before Turkish Parliament, Prime Minister Erdogan referred to Germany’s practice of assimilating Turkish immigrants into German society as a “crime against humanity,” after just last week proposing that Germany should begin creating Turkish language high-schools…in Germany.

Just three percent of the German population is of Turkish descent, yet the headscarf aficionado, with a straight face, is lobbying Germany for the creation of new high-schools, hiring teachers from Turkey and instructing students in Turkish. How outraged would we be if the Mexican President came to the United States and demanded Spanish only high-schools? Spanish speakers make up nine percent of the U.S. population. At least President Calderón, would have a better argument.

A journalist for the German newspaper Der Spiegel called the Turkish language high-school suggestion “a novel idea,” but I’m not sure the German population shares that multicultural outlook. Conservative politicians most certainly don’t. The governor of Bavaria Gunther Beckstein spoke to Germany’s N24 TV and had this to say (from Der Spiegel):

      “The task (for Turks) is to be good citizens in Germany, to learn German, to speak German in their families.”  Erdogan’s remarks are   “nationalistic” and “highly displeasing.”

Conservative German newspaper Die Walt opined:

“This is the message that will stick: The Germans don’t want integration; they want to rob the Turks of their Turkishness, of their culture. That is grist for the mill of the not especially small number of Turks or Turkish descendants who aren’t very interested in integrating and who try to blame the Germans for that.”

 “Integration also involves assimilation. A person who grows into another culture changes by doing so. He leaves much of the culture he descends from behind. He gives up the old to become someone new. It’s a beautiful, painful process. In the long run it makes no sense to refuse to accept that.”

Maybe it would be in America’s best interest for Turkey to gain EU membership, but would it really benefit our partners in NATO? Europeans, not Americans, are the ones forced to confront the radical change occurring within their societies. Setting cars ablaze, threatening newspapers, inciting hate at radical mosques and murdering artists don’t exactly reflect the enlightenment values of their adopted nations.  

When Europeans tell us to mind our own beeswax, well, maybe we should.

Are Republicans after the Anti-Bush?

John McCain Hangry

Lost in the analysis of the ever-changing complexion of the Republican primary—more specifically the ascension of John McCain—is why conservatives seem to be bucking conventional wisdom by gravitating toward someone who hasn’t simply bucked party principles but has been the party maverick, the one most likely to appear first under results of a ‘Republican outcast’ Google search.    

Some pundits cite a less than stellar field as a rationale for McCain’s popularity, and perhaps they’re right. Others believe it’s his electability, in so much as he might be the only one that can knock off Hillary Clinton. But there is one motivation for the McCain surge not making the editorial roundtables—Bush fatigue. Usually mentioned in connection with Democratic frustration and voter turnout, it’s rarely mentioned as an explanation for McCain’s emergence.

Republicans haven’t forgotten McCain-Feingold or his roguish ‘gang of 14’. They also don’t share his view on immigration. From Zogby:

“An overwhelming majority of American adults say a candidate’s stance on immigration is important to their voting decisions, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows. More than 76 % of the online poll respondents said a candidate’s position on immigration is a “very important” or “somewhat important” factor in their decision on who to vote for in the presidential elections of 2008”

So obviously, many Republicans are ignoring recent history with regards to McCain, his amnesty proposal and his forever needling of conservatives. Maybe they too want change and are looking for the anti-Bush.

Who better than that Republican who has been most openly critical?

Did You Know …

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Around the world

France

Tuesday’s ruling of the European Court of Human Rights gave a sharp rebuke to a French court decision while simultaneously overturning their adoption legislation. The ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) took on the case of a French teacher who was denied permission to adopt based upon her homosexuality. Because French law allows single parent petitions, the court ruled that France had discriminated against the woman and awarded her 10,000 euros in punitive damages.

The lawyer for the teacher rejoiced in the decision in an interview with LeFigaro, “Now, France can no longer refuse approval of adoption to a single person because she is homosexual.”  I imagine, however, Europeans opposed to a European constitution and expansion of EU powers weren’t quite as enthusiastic.

Italy

 In Lombardia (the northern region of Milan and Como), the period of time a woman can obtain an abortion was shortened to 22 weeks and 3 days from 24 weeks

Everything is Relative

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From Michigan to Florida, voters are anxious about the direction of the U.S. economy and how the downturn will affect their pocketbook. Their anxiety is understandable, but a proper perspective might dampen their increasing negativity.

 From today’s Italian newspaper (with the help of Google translator), Il Corriere Della Sera According to ISTAT, 14.6% of Italian families (one in seven) say they have a hard time at the end of the month to pay their bills. One out of ten have difficulty with the most essential expenses: bills, heating, and medical treatment, while 4.2% of families in Corsica had problems, at least once, to stock their refrigerator. The Istat survey was in 2006.” 

Americans face tough times, but in looking around the world, even in Western Europe, they still sit top the figurative list of world’s luckiest populations.

The Quality of Color

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Oofah!

“In the Obama candidacy, there is a potentially history-making quality that we should reflect on. It is one that is especially relevant on the sensitive topic of race — because South Carolina and the South as a whole bear a heavier historical burden than the rest of our country on that front”

 Even more amazing than the quote is the party affiliation of the author. The Republican Governor of South Carolina penned the rather embarrassing op-ed in The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper.  Not only did Gov. Sanford insult South Carolinians by reminding them of their shameful past with respect to racism, but if you read between the lines, he’s saying an Obama vote is a vehicle for atonement. Kind of sad, really.  He goes on…. 

“Nonetheless, what is happening in the initial success of his candidacy should not escape us. Within many of our own lifetimes, a man who looked like Barack Obama had a difficult time even using the public restrooms in our state.”

 Maybe the premise of Shelby Steele’s book White Guilt is accurate. And maybe those who suggest that the discrepancy between the Iowa caucus vote and the New Hampshire primary vote have a point. Perhaps those white Iowans didn’t want to look un-hip, un-cool and even slightly racist. Nobody wanted to be the guy with his hands down when the Obama roll call came.  

Apparently, the most important qualification Senator Obama has is his color. And silly me, I thought we were past this.

Even Socialists are Hip to Tax Cuts

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The first part of tonight’s debate had Romney, Thompson and Huckabee fighting over who could be relied upon to carry on the Reagan tradition of cutting taxes. But as painful as our taxes in America are, they don’t compare to taxes in Europe.

 

Earlier today on the other side of the Atlantic, another leader attempted to stem his poll numbers from their continual slide.  Despite his ostensible reformation from a communist into a redistribution happy socialist, Prime Minister Prodi announced his plans for the extra cash, from Italy’s unexpected growth in the third quarter of last year, in a speech where he proposed the unthinkable, at least for a socialist. He cut taxes.

 

Perhaps paying down the deficit would have been more prudent, but hey, at least he’s providing relief for hard-working Italians, who, like most Europeans, pay too much of their income in taxes. But his speech today on lowering taxes proves just how desperate he is to maintain his tenuous grip on power and how dissatisfied the Italian people are with his lackluster tenure.

 

Lowering taxes, or promising to, is one electoral move sure to raise even cellar-dwelling approval ratings.

Lost in Translation. Again.

Today on her show, one of my favorite radio hosts, Laura Ingraham, repeatedly pushed the idea that the world would love to see Barack Obama become President. She cited The Financial Times, the BBC, LeMonde and generic French and Italian newspapers. LeMonde is a communist newspaper so it doesn’t count, and even if it did, the only stories I found concerned Hillary staying on the offensive and a Barack biography. Obviously communists prefer Obama because he’s to the left of Hillary.  As for LeFigaro, the other major French newspaper, I found absolutely nothing to support her claim. I also checked every Italian newspapers. Nothing. One of Italy’s most prominent giornali, La Corriere, a left-leaning paper, even ran “Israel Afraid of Obama” and “Grandma of Obama prayed to Allah for him,” neither can be construed as positive for Obama.  La Repubblica ran an interview with Bill giving faulting the media for Hillary’s lackluster performances in the early states.

The world is simply reporting the news. Sure there’s a fascination about Obama because let’s face it, when is the last time a black politician made noise in Europe? The last one I can recall was Ayan Hirsi Ali and she was kicked out of the Netherlands.

Just because his picture is on foreign newspapers doesn’t signal a massive global wave of support for Barack. It just means they’re following the story and right now, he’s it. 

Hillary’s freefall; Is Barack the man to beat?

Living in Italy gave me an opportunity to learn about European politics, but it also gave me an education on American politics, only from their perspective, not The New York Times. For political geeks like me, election year entertainment is wall to wall TV coverage and site to site web reportage. But until I moved to Italy and had lived there for a while, I didn’t realize Europe’s level of interest in U.S. politics, and how significant American elections are and were abroad.

Headlining Italy’s Corriere della Sera is Hillary Clinton’s freefall from favored status. Another major Italian magazine, Panorama, calls Barack “the man to beat in New Hampshire.”  France’s Le Figaro leads with “Hillary Clinton in turmoil” and goes on to say (with Google translator’s help):

“The campaign of the former first lady, long time favorite of the Democratic primaries, seems mired in disarray. Officially, her staff ensures that the setback in Iowa hasn’t influenced its plans and that there is no need to change strategy. The emphasis is always on “experience” and to “swallow” the hope embodied by Barack Obama to the rank of perilous adventure”.

Germany’s Der Spiegel explores how populism and fears of a recession have factored into the success of Obama and Edwards—the angry crowd rouser who “speaks with rage” against the existence of  the “two Americas.”

I wonder though.

Are these European writers sympathetic to an electorate driven to the polls by 4% unemployment and $3 dollar gas? As mentioned in my book, The Absentee Ballot, as of last year, Italians were paying almost $6 per gallon for unleaded gas. European journalists and their readers suffer taxes, gas-prices and employment rates much higher than populism enthusiasts. American voters who are attracted to the message du jour see a nation filled with problems, while many others around the world see a paradise full of opportunities.  

 This election is closely followed, not just in the U.S, and is paramount, not only to the American people. It’ll be interesting to watch their reactions to Hillary’s fall, Obama’s rise and whichever Republican gets the nod.

Huckabee, the Presidency and the Pope

I haven’t met an actual Huck-backer since he began skyrocketing in the polls and shaking up the pundits’ election score-card. I just don’t get the fascination with him. Sure, he’s shown many positions, but are those positions really in line with the GOP? He’s a prolific pardoner, he’s disinterested in closing the borders, and I’ve learned that he not only can lead the congregation in sermons, but also in song. Only, instead of “Old Rugged Cross”, it’s more like “Kumbaya” and “Kyrie.”

So what is the reason for his surprising frontrunner status in Iowa and South Carolina? I gather it’s his ministerial background as opposed to his gubernatorial one. Apparently, Republicans are electing a Pope, not a President.

But how would some of the world’s greatest leaders have fared under this relatively new, yet narrow criterion? Carter vs Reagan in 1980. I have no doubt: if the more dedicated Christian had won, we would have missed out on perhaps the most prosperous decade of the 20th Century, not to mention one of its best Presidents. What about a sinner like Sarkozy who dared to divorce his first wife, and, gasp, is in the middle of his second separation? Would he be elected in the U.S.?

I don’t know, the preoccupation with faith in politics has me bewildered and depressed. In this election cycle at least, the candidates’ dedication to Christianity appears essential to their viability.

Maybe it’s not too late to persuade one of my parents to run; after all, they’re both Southern Baptist Sunday school teachers.

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