Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The View from Afar

Michael - Thursday

Sometimes my friends ask me why I follow US politics. After all, I live in South Africa and most Americans don’t follow US politics. Well, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the US one way and another and, when all is said and done, US politics matter to everyone. A change of government philosophy in Zimbabwe – or South Africa for that matter – will hardly cause a ripple on the surface of world affairs. But if the US casts a pebble into the water, it may cause choppy waves all over the place.  Mind you, it’s not always clear that one can predict the way presidents will behave. George W Bush was not one of my favorite leaders, yet he did a lot for Africa. He had a serious interest in the continent, and directed a lot of aid and support for medical and other purposes this way.  Maybe not all of it was well used, but it made a significant impact. On the other hand, Barrack Obama – still rumored by some people to have been born on this continent! – has been much less forthcoming. His interests lie elsewhere – perhaps mainly in the thankless task of trying to understand and coexist with the Muslim word.

So with Super Tuesday just behind us, it seems reasonable to speculate about the path ahead. Hillary has trounced Bernie outside his home turf; in the end his appeal doesn’t really seem to have extended beyond his white liberal base. The denunciation of the evils of Wall Street – however real - tends to pall after the fiftieth rally. Is there really such a big disagreement between the candidates on that?  It’s a bit like Jeremy Corbyn saying he’s “not on the same side of the argument” as David Cameron (about whether the UK should stay in or withdraw from the European Community). Cameron thinks the UK should stay in. On the other hand, Corbyn thinks…the UK should stay in.

Actually Bernie did better than I would have guessed picking up Minnesota, Oklahoma and Colorado by small margins as well as sweeping Vermont. But he lost badly in the South.  So Hillary will be leading the Democratic Party into the fray in November, carrying with her a lot of baggage, but not all of it bad. People know who she is. She’s not perfect, but she’s paid her dues.

As for the Donald, well, Cruz (Texas) and Rubio (Minnesota again) gave him a run for his money. And I do mean HIS money. He doesn't go for the PACs either. (As has been pointed out, he and Bernie have several things in common.) Of course, just where his money came from in the first place is another question. But by the time the establishment candidates realized that he and Cruz weren’t jokes, but serious contenders – in fact the front runners – it was all too late. Donald was smiling from sea to shining sea. Not that there’s really much to choose between the Republican candidates anyway as far as I can see. Paul Krugman summed it up beautifully in the New York Times. Writing off Ted Cruz, he compared the remaining two serious Republican candidates in last week's Op Ed piece Cranks on Top. It started:

The thing is, one of the two men who may still have a good chance of becoming the Republican nominee is a scary character. His notions on foreign policy seem to boil down to the belief that America can bully everyone into doing its bidding, and that engaging in diplomacy is a sign of weakness. His ideas on domestic policy are deeply ignorant and irresponsible, and would be disastrous if put into effect.

The other man, of course, has very peculiar hair.

You can read the full piece HERE

So what of the view from abroad? How will President Trump or President Clinton play out? I would say from the bit I’ve read that almost universally the rest of the world would prefer President Clinton. She’s been Secretary of State and she comes across as interested in other countries even if she hasn’t been able to make much diplomatic progress. (Who did?) Mostly, she’s pretty predictable. One knows what one’s getting and gets what one knows. 

The Donald is unpredictable. Will he really build a wall with Mexico? He says the length is negotiable – to a few feet - but the wall is a given. Does he really expect Mexico to pay for it? Or what? He’ll invade Mexico? As for China, they are manipulating currencies and have invented global warming to try to destroy American industries.  He does feel he can work with Russia on ISIS. Well, Putin has a thing or two in common with him. Maybe they can do business. Certainly there seems more than a touch of narcissism in the Russian leader too. Listen to what the Donald says. Maybe he doesn’t mean that stuff, but maybe he does. Because the stuff he says is ridiculous and impossible doesn't imply that he doesn't believe it.

One thing seems absolutely clear. The run of the mill politician has lost the confidence of people everywhere. For that reason alone, Hilary will have a run for her PACs' money. 


  1. That's about as measured an assessment as I can imagine...not one I could possibly give considering the deep emotions brought on by what portends to be the dirtiest Presidential Election in living memory. You're a better man than I am, Mister M. Or should I say "the Michael?"

  2. You think the Drumph view is scary from OUTSIDE the U.S., you should try it as an intelligent, reasoning citizen INSIDE the U.S. (And that's just Jeff, think what it's like for a weak-knee hermit such as myself!)

  3. Well, I was trying to be polite! I even said nice things about GWB!

  4. Great piece, Michael. It's train-wreck politics, with what I would call a 'mesmoronic' effect. Utterly stupid, but impossible to look away.

    But on the bright side, don't you think The Donald would make a superb Bond villain?

    1. Indeed, Zoe, I would say that The Donald IS a superb Bond villain!

  5. Really? What is frightening the most is that Trump is using fear-mongering, racism and xenphobia to whip up his supporters. It is a horror what is going on here.
    An African-American woman was pushed out of a Trump rally by a man identified on TV as a known white supremacist.
    Trump won't disavow endorsement by former Klan chief. He denies he knows what "white supremacy" means or who are its adherents.
    He also quoted Mussolini the other day and skirted around reporters asking him about that.
    And he is emboldening the far-right here to come out from under their rocks and act out their hostility.
    Read that he keeps a book of Hitler's speeches in his bedroom which he reads as his bedtime reading. Probably helps him practice his speeches.
    This guy is also a misogynist and anti-Semitic, as well as being insensitive to people with disabilities.
    He appeals to the worst elements in this country. It is awful to live here and see this going on.

    1. And the current polls say that Hillary would beat him, but only just...

  6. My refrain all along has been: Don't laugh: Hitler was elected. Mussolini was elected. Ronald Regan was laughed at and elected by manipulating the ignorant and disaffected with one appeal, and then through treachery elected. The state of the US today is the legacy of all that. My passport is current.

  7. Keep your passport current!