Friday, February 1, 2008
Listen.... to the BBC World Service!
UPDATE: To listen to the entire discussion, click here and then click on the "listen to the debate" link.
On Saturday at 1:00 PM Eastern time I'll be participating a live debate on the BBC World Service. What's it about? I'll let the BBC explain:
Ahead of Super Tuesday - the day when 24 US states decide on their preferred candidate for the Presidency - BBC World Service and Chicago Public Radio present a major debate on the big election issues live from Chicago on Saturday 2 February.I believe you can listen to it online as well.
Since I wrote my Newsweek column on this issue, there's been some straight news coverage on this from the New York Times, as well as Roger Cohen's recent op-ed.
None of these stories cover Chinese perceptions of the campaign. Thank goodness for sexyBeijing.tv!!!:
And for those wondering where the title of this post comes from.... well, see below:
Human rights vs. democracy promotion
Human Rights Watch has released their 2008 world report, and it's getting some play in the Financial Times and other outlets. Here's the FT lead:
The world’s well established democracies are increasingly prepared to give credibility to authoritarian regimes, failing to probe how autocracies conduct flawed elections to bolster their international standing, a leading human rights body said on Thursday.This is difficult to dispute. That said, Roth's introduction reveals an interesting tension between the human rights and democracy promotion agendas:
Part of the reason that dictators can hope to get away with such subterfuge is that, unlike human rights, “democracy” has no legally established definition. The concept of democracy reflects the powerful vision that the best way to select a government and guide its course is to entrust ultimate authority to those who are subject to its rule. It is far from a perfect political system, with its risk of majoritarian indifference to minorities and its susceptibility to excessive influence by powerful elements, but as famously the “least bad” form of government, in the words of Winston Churchill, it is an important part of the human rights ideal. Yet there is no International Convention on Democracy, no widely ratified treaty affirming how a government must behave to earn the democracy label. The meaning of democracy lies too much in the eye of the beholder.On the one hand, Roth is correct so far as the state of international law is concerned. On the other hand, it's far from clear that the clarity of human rights law has had appreciable effects on, you know, respect for human rights.
Indeed, whether human rights treaties have had any effect on state behavior is a disputed point in both international relations and international law scholarship. Compared to the various waves (and smaller counterwaves) of democratization that have occurred in recent decades, however, the advancement of human rights looks like its lagging pretty badly. So I'm not sure that the codification of human rights law is the great advancement that Roth proclaims it to be.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Live-blogging the Democratic debate
Because I feel compelled to do one of these.....
7:58 PM: Yep, even two minutes of Lou Dobbs Tonight is painful.
8:02 PM: Wow, Clinton dominated the walking-out-on-stage part of the debate!!
8:06 PM: Jesus, there have been seventeen debates?!!
8:07 PM: From the opening statements, a clear advantage that Clinton has over Obama in these formats is the latter's hesitancy in his voice -- which plays into the belief that he's inexperienced. Hillary, on the other hand, does not lack in confidence. This will impress the commentariat, at least.
8:12 PM: Clinton just gave the GOP one guaranteed YouTube clip to use if Obama wins the nomination -- about how their policies are really so similar. This is not a new thought, but to have Hillary say it right next to Obama will make for a great ad.
8:17 PM: I like Obama's reply on the mortgage crisis.... and he's definitely winning the "kiss John Edwards' ass" contest.
8:24 PM: Clinton's response on the political realities of health care makes her sound like George W. Bush: neither of them will negotiate with themselves.
8:27 PM: Obama's "broadcast health care dialogue on C-SPAN" seemed like a deft comparison to Clinton's 1994 health care fiasco... until Wolf Blitzer made it overt.
8:28 PM: K-Lo on the debate: "Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney makes you feel good about America. McCain vs. Hillary makes you stressed."
8:30 PM: Andrew Sullivan: "They are not disabusing me of the notion that discussing the details of healthcare policy is really boring."
8:34 PM: GEORGE!!!!! Jason Alexander is in the house!
8:36 PM: As a former employee, it's worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton's claim that the RAND Corporation is "far from liberal" is a bit rich. If memory serves, they're actually pretty liberal on health care .
8:40 PM: I don't know if it will win him any votes, but Obama's refusal to blame immigration on inner-city unemployment was the right answer
8:48 PM: Clinton gets a point for bringing up the fact that she was co-sponsoring immigration legislation in 2004
8:50 PM: Is there any issue Clinton does not feel personally?
8:53 PM: We're almost at the halfway point... and my
9:03 PM: A Bradley Whitford sighting... our long national nightmare is over.
9:06 PM: Wow, Hillary's wants to let me use my own crieria to evaluate my choice for president?!!! That's the most libertarian thing she's ever said.
9:11 PM: Pierce Brosnan in the house... is he an American citizen?
9:13 PM: And now I see Diane Keaton and Rob Reiner... thank God this audience is truly representative of America.
9:19 PM: One of the problems with watching too many of these debates is that many of these lines have been repeated seventeen times.
9:20 PM: America Ferrara and Alfre Woodard in attendance.... it's good to see Hollywood looking more like America.
9:23 PM: Hillary is proud to have Maxine Waters endorse her? Man, that's sad....
9:27 PM: Topher Grace looks intense.
9:32 PM: Official Blog Wife on Hillary's answer on her Iraq vote: "Is this her 'I did not inhale' moment?"
9:33 PM: Hillary claims that no one could forsee that President Bush was bound and determined to go to war in Iraq? Um, really? That was pretty obvious to the entire blogosphere in the fall of 2002. UPDATE: And Obama makes exactly this point.
9:39 PM: Lou Gossett Jr. sighting. The first Oscar winner. UPDATE: And Spielberg as well... Garry Shandling did not win an Oscar.
9:46 PM: Good Lord, Hillary Clinton has the worst, most annoying laugh ever.
9:52 PM: Maybe they're good actors, but there seemed to be genuine affection between the two of them at the end of the debate.
9:53 PM: From the Blog Wife -- she gives a thumbs up to the earth-tones of Hillary's brown suit with the turquoise jewelry, but Obama's tie exuded cool.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: I thought Clinton did marginally better on the nitty-gritty of policy, but Obama did better on everything else. More importantly, given his past debate performances, Obama did much better than expected.
Thumbs up to Doyle McManus as well... and thumbs down to Wolf Blitzer.
Hegemonic decline, revisited
Both Kevin and Matt like the fact that, "it's a useful article if only because it's so rare to see foreign policy pieces in the mainstream media that aren't almost completely America-centric." Fair enough. But if that's their interest, I would recommend "A World Without the West," by Naazneen Barma, Ely Ratner and Steve Weber in May/June 2007 issue of The National Interest -- which was followed up by a lively debate on TNI online.
Furthermore, as an adjunct to Khanna's essay, it would be good to read Michael Lind's cover story in the February issue of Prospect magazine. Lind's argument:
America does, of course, have many problems, such as spiralling healthcare costs and a decline in social mobility. Yet the truth is that apart from the temporary frictions caused by current immigration from Latin America, the US is more integrated than ever. Racial and cultural diversity is in long-term decline, as a result of the success of the melting pot in merging groups through assimilation and intermarriage—and many of the country's infamous social pathologies, from violent crime to teenage drug use, are also seeing improvements. Americans are far more religious than Europeans, but the "religious right" is concentrated among white southern Protestants. And there is no genuine long-term entitlement problem in the US. The US suffers from healthcare cost inflation, a problem that will be solved one way or another in the near future, long before it cripples the economy as a whole. And the long-term costs of social security, America's public pension programme, could be met by moderate benefit cuts or a moderate growth in the US government share of GDP. With a linguistically united, increasingly racially mixed supermajority and a solvent system of middle-class entitlements, the US will remain first among equals for generations to come, even in a multipolar world with several great powers.Another, small cavilabout Matt's post. He writes:
[T]he big thing to keep in mind when considering any particular "declinist" thesis about American hegemony is that we've actually been on the decline for a good long while. In 1945-46 the U.S. economy completely dominated the world, contributing some absurdly high share of total output. Every other significant country on earth had been completely destroyed by war, and we had a monopoly on nuclear weapons. Over time, this dominant position unraveled and Robert Keohane's After Hegemony, a study of America's efforts to forge a diplomatic system to continue to get bye in this new world actually came out decades ago. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a kind of illusion of a return to hegemony since international politics had been organized as "USA or USSR" for so long, but all along throughout the postwar period other countries have been gaining in importance.Well, sort of. Yglesias is completely correct that the U.S. had nowhere to go but down after 1945 -- a year in which we had the nuclear monopoly and were responsible for 50% of global economic output. Nevertheless, the U.S. resurgence in the nineties was not an illusion. The simple fact is that all of the potential peer competitors to the United States -- Germany, Japan and the USSR -- either stagnated or broke apart. At the same time, U.S. GDP and productivity growth surged. The revival of U.S. relative power was not a mirage.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Behold the awesome power of undorsements!!!
In December I wrote: "[M]y two undorsements of candidates that could ostensibly win are.... John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani."
BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!
Many thanks to Minipundit for the shout-out.
I won't have Rudy Giuliani to kick around anymore
I know I've picked on Rudy Giuliani during his presidential campaign, and it seems a bit cruel to dogpile on him after he finished a distant third in his make-or-break state.
That said, after reading Michael Powell and Michael Cooper's dissection of the Giuliani campaign in the New York Times, I do have one final thought. Consider this passage:
Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was stumbling, even if it was not immediately evident. He leaned on friendly executives who would let him speak to employees in company cafeterias. Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain, by contrast, compiled lists of undecided Republican voters and invited them — sometimes weeks in advance — to town-hall-style meetings.From the way he organized his campaign, it seems like Giuliani would have been a complete failure at any kind of governance that would have required, you know, politics or legislation or wonky stuff like that.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Second World and my discontents
Over at Duck of Minerva, Daniel Nexon heaps praise (and gentle criticism) on Parag Khanna's The Second World, which was excerpted as the cover story for the New York Times Magazine: ("[T]he book is really excellent. I consider it one of the most important contributions to the debate over American grand strategy to make its way into the public sphere in quite some time.")
I will heap praise on Khanna's agent for getting the excerpt placed into the Magazine. There's less demand than there used to be for prose stylings that read like Benjamin Barber after a three-day coke bender in Macao.
As for the content of Khanna's ideas... well, here's a key excerpt:
The Big Three are the ultimate “Frenemies.” Twenty-first-century geopolitics will resemble nothing more than Orwell’s 1984, but instead of three world powers (Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia), we have three hemispheric pan-regions, longitudinal zones dominated by America, Europe and China. As the early 20th-century European scholars of geopolitics realized, because a vertically organized region contains all climatic zones year-round, each pan-region can be self-sufficient and build a power base from which to intrude in others’ terrain. But in a globalized and shrinking world, no geography is sacrosanct. So in various ways, both overtly and under the radar, China and Europe will meddle in America’s backyard, America and China will compete for African resources in Europe’s southern periphery and America and Europe will seek to profit from the rapid economic growth of countries within China’s growing sphere of influence. Globalization is the weapon of choice. The main battlefield is what I call “the second world.”Maybe I'm a stickler for conceptual boundaries, but I don't think you can claim that the central conceit in your book -- the second world -- is really, really important by temporarily sticking China in the category to inflate the numbers.
There are other, bigger problems:
1) The second world is not nearly as nimble at playing the big powers off of each other as Khanna would have you believe. For example, despite all of Hugo Chavez's machinations, Venezuela still needs the U.S. market.I did like the frenemies line, though.
Monday, January 28, 2008
This year, pollsters know nothing
This has proved a tough season for statewide pollsters even by historical standards. Mrs. Clinton eked out a win in New Hampshire even though most pollsters expected her to be buried by Mr. Obama. A recent analysis of polls in that state by Survey USA found that pollsters were off by an average of 10 percentage points in the days leading up to the election. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, where Mr. Obama routed Mrs. Clinton on Saturday, Survey USA found that prognosticators did even worse, chalking up average error rates of 17 percentage points.What's odd about this is that the bulk of Cooper and Chozick's article is about how Hillary Clinton has a built-in advantage come Super Tuesday... because of statewide polls showing her in the lead.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Looking on the bright side of politics
Kevin Drum is grumpy about the post-South Carolina primary reaction:
I haven't been impressed with very much of the chatter about Barack Obama's primary victory last night. Hillary didn't give a concession speech? Give me a break. Who cares? Turnout was up? Yes, but it's been an exciting and money-filled campaign and turnout has been up everywhere. Obama won the black vote and lost the white vote? Nothing new there. Obama won young people and Hillary won among the elderly? Again, no surprise.I'll maintain that South Carolina is another notch in an argument I made in Newsweek ten days ago:
In a pleasant surprise, negative campaigning has not worked. Part of the explanation for Huckabee's rise in the polls has been the relentlessly upbeat quality of the campaign and the man. Mitt Romney, in contrast, has not gained much from attacking either Huckabee or McCain. Obama's optimism on the campaign trail worked well for him, until women thought Hillary was being unfairly attacked and rallied behind her. In South Carolina, however, Clinton will likely pay a price for statements made by her, her husband, and her surrogates impugning Obama in particular and, in some instances, the civil rights movement in general.I think this thesis still holds up. Romney did well n Michigan because he
If my hypothesis is correct, Romney wins Florida.
As Drum wryly observed in a previous post, "As long as negative campaigning works — and it's worked pretty effectively ever since Og defeated Ug 56-55 for the presidency of the Olduvai Gorge Mammoth Hunting Alliance — we'll keep seeing it." Drum is likely correct, but so far this year, negative campaigning has been a stinker of a campaign tactic.