Posts Tagged ‘George H. W. Bush’

USA | Barack Obamas utrikespolitik har uppfattats av många som både motsägelsefull och otydlig. Någon röd tråd har varit svår att se.

The Atlantic April 2016

Jeffrey Goldberg, nationell korrespondent för The Atlantic, har träffat presidenten vid ett flertal sedan det första intervjutillfället 2006 när han träffade den dåvarande senatorn från Illinois.

Under Goldbergs senaste möte med presidenten i Vita huset redogjorde Obama bl.a. för hur han ser på USA:s roll i världen och vilken utrikes- och säkerhetspolitisk skola han anser sig ligga närmast.

Något förvånande är att Obama är en stor anhängare till den doktrin som i akademiska kretsar brukar kallas den realistiska skolan. Det är en inriktning som präglade president Richard Nixon och Henry Kissinger under deras tid i Vita huset.

I Obamas fall lär det dock mest vara Brent Scowcroft, nationell säkerhetsrådgivare till president George H. W. Bush, som stått för inspirationen.

I den nitton sidor långa essän i The Atlantic skrev Goldberg bl.a. följande:

Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union; Scowcroft also, on Bush’s behalf, toasted the leaders of China shortly after the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. As Obama was writing his campaign manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, Susan Rice, then an informal adviser, felt it necessary to remind him to include at least one line of praise for the foreign policy of President Bill Clinton, to partially balance the praise he showered on Bush and Scowcroft.


One day, over lunch in the Oval Office dining room, I asked the president how he thought his foreign policy might be understood by historians. He started by describing for me a four-box grid representing the main schools of American foreign-policy thought. One box he called isolationism, which he dismissed out of hand. “The world is ever-shrinking,” he said. “Withdrawal is untenable.” The other boxes he labeled realism, liberal interventionism, and internationalism. “I suppose you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery,” he said. “We have to choose where we can make a real impact.” He also noted that he was quite obviously an internationalist, devoted as he is to strengthening multilateral organizations and international norms.

I told him my impression was that the various traumas of the past seven years have, if anything, intensified his commitment to realist-driven restraint. Had nearly two full terms in the White House soured him on interventionism?

“For all of our warts, the United States has clearly been a force for good in the world,” he said. “If you compare us to previous superpowers, we act less on the basis of naked self-interest, and have been interested in establishing norms that benefit everyone. If it is possible to do good at a bearable cost, to save lives, we will do it.”

If a crisis, or a humanitarian catastrophe, does not meet his stringent standard for what constitutes a direct national-security threat, Obama said, he doesn’t believe that he should be forced into silence. He is not so much the realist, he suggested, that he won’t pass judgment on other leaders. Though he has so far ruled out the use of direct American power to depose Assad, he was not wrong, he argued, to call on Assad to go. “Oftentimes when you get critics of our Syria policy, one of the things that they’ll point out is ‘You called for Assad to go, but you didn’t force him to go. You did not invade.’ And the notion is that if you weren’t going to overthrow the regime, you shouldn’t have said anything. That’s a weird argument to me, the notion that if we use our moral authority to say ‘This is a brutal regime, and this is not how a leader should treat his people,’ once you do that, you are obliged to invade the country and install a government you prefer.”

“I am very much the internationalist,” Obama said in a later conversation. “And I am also an idealist insofar as I believe that we should be promoting values, like democracy and human rights and norms and values, because not only do they serve our interests the more people adopt values that we share—in the same way that, economically, if people adopt rule of law and property rights and so forth, that is to our advantage—but because it makes the world a better place. And I’m willing to say that in a very corny way, and in a way that probably Brent Scowcroft would not say.

“Having said that,” he continued, “I also believe that the world is a tough, complicated, messy, mean place, and full of hardship and tragedy. And in order to advance both our security interests and those ideals and values that we care about, we’ve got to be hardheaded at the same time as we’re bighearted, and pick and choose our spots, and recognize that there are going to be times where the best that we can do is to shine a spotlight on something that’s terrible, but not believe that we can automatically solve it. There are going to be times where our security interests conflict with our concerns about human rights. There are going to be times where we can do something about innocent people being killed, but there are going to be times where we can’t.”

Tidskriftsomslag: The Atlantic, april 2016.

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Roger Stone, politisk rådgivare till bl.a. Rickard Nixon, Ronald Reagan och George H. W. Bush, förklarar, med utgångspunkt från valrörelsen mellan Barack Obama och John McCain, vad som krävs för att vinna ett presidentval.

You basically have to do three things to win. Define yourself. Define the other guy. The other person. And define the issues on which the election is going to be decided. In other word dominate the dialogue. If you do those three things you will win. If you fail to do those three things you lose.

Mer: Del I och del II av intervjun med Stone i TPMtv (Talking Points Memo TV). 

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USA | Inget är vad det ser ut att vara i amerikansk politik. Senast minimilönen ökade i USA var t.ex. under George W. Bush. Alltså inte under Barack Obama!

republikaner & demokrater

John R. MacArthur, utgivare av tidskriften Harper’s Magazine och författare till You Can’t Be President, skriver i The Spectator om de paradoxer och likheter som finns mellan demokraterna och republikanerna när man väl skalat bort den politisk retoriken.

In 2008, there was virtually no difference in the positions of Obama, promoted by the Chicago Democratic machine, and Hillary Clinton, supported by her husband’s staff machine. Obama could cite his one speech opposing the Iraq invasion. But the Obama-Clinton duel was little more than an intra-party factional fight fueled by human ambition. Obama’s votes in the U.S. Senate were identical to Mrs. Clinton’s in support of continued funding of Bush’s military folly. Both parties agree on the value of outsourcing jobs to Mexico and China – that is, the value of receiving in return big contributions from corporations, law firms and banks that benefitting from ‘free trade’. Similarly, both Obama and Clinton pretended to criticize the North American Free Trade Agreement during the Ohio primary six years ago, and today they both support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which if approved is guaranteed to close more factories in the Rust Belt. In order to understand American politics, it is essential to know that NAFTA was launched by President George H.W. Bush and rammed through Congress by President William Jefferson Clinton.

With manufacturing jobs leaving the country for cheap-labor locales and the economy still sluggish, it would make sense to raise the federal minimum wage. But Obama’s current rhetoric on the subject is merely hot air. When he had big majorities in both houses of Congress, he did almost nothing to help ordinary workers, but much to reward Wall Street and Goldman Sachs, his top corporate contributor in 2008. The last time the minimum wage was increased was during the administration of that notorious leftist George W. Bush. Meanwhile, Obama, Jeb Bush and Clinton go on about ‘immigration reform’, but not one of them will ever cross the restaurant and farm lobbies that love illegal Mexican labor, since it can’t unionise, can’t complain about working conditions, and is happy to toil for $ 3 an hour.

Then there’s ‘Socialist’ Obamacare, which is merely a bigger version of Republican Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts. Whatever its bureaucratic failings, Obamacare is marvelously efficient – from the standpoint of Democratic party functionaries – at transfer taxpayers’ money to private insurance companies (in the form of government-subsidised policies) That are happy to return the favour with donations to Democrats.

It is perhaps not a coincidence that the rigid, top-down political control of the electoral process coincides with the Commerce Department’s report that last year corporate profits, as a proportion of GDP, reached a record high – the highest since 1929 – while the employee compensation fell to its lowest level, as a percentage of GDP, since in 1948.

Det är knappast en sund bild av den amerikanska demokratin som MacArthur målar upp.

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INSPIRATION | Är Mitt Romneys ”Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!” bästa kampanjslogan någonsin?

Det är åtminstone så nära poesi – eller haiku – man kan komma i en valrörelse. Som politisk kommunikation är det smått briljant.

Trots kritiken mot Romney för att man lånat idén från en popular tv-serie så är det ett slagord som bara väntade på att plockas upp av någons valkampanj.

(Även Barack Obama har använt sig av den. Vilket en sur svensk kommentar glömde bort att nämna. Inte heller nämdes att författaren till boken som serien bygger på stödjer Romney.)

På Romneys kampanjsajt kan man nu köpa röda, vita eller blå armband med den alernativa texten ”Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, America Can’t Lose!”.

Den här typen av inspirerande one-liners är amerikanarna mästare på att lägga in i sina tal.

Ett exempel är president George H. W. Bush när han i sitt instalationstal talade om ”thousand points of light” – en vision om att inspirera amerikanerna till göra goda gärningar för sina medmänniskor.

Det är något helt annat än ”Alla skall med”. Den typen av banaliteter får ingen någon gåshud av.

Bild: En Twitter-bild från Mitt’s Body Man.

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KAMPANJ | Barack Obama leder över Romney i de flesta opinionsundersökningar. En anledning: Republikanerna tappar inom många viktiga väljargrupper.

Philip Gourevitch, i The New Yorker, har blickat tillbaka tjugo år för att se hur republikanska partiet har utvecklats.

Twenty years ago this month, Republicans convened at the Astrodome, in Houston, to nominate George H. W. Bush for reëlection to the Presidency. His acceptance speech was interrupted by spirited chants of “Viva Bush!,” but few remember what he said. Bush, the last of his breed to head a Presidential ticket, was a patrician product of the pre-Reaganite Republican establishment: business-friendly, foreign-policy-minded, more secular than not, anti-Communist but otherwise minimally ideological. This was held against him by Party insurgents, such as the Louisiana state legislator and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and the pundit and former Nixon aide Patrick Buchanan, both of whom had challenged the incumbent in the primaries. Buchanan was granted a prime-time slot on the first night of the Houston Convention, and although he came with just eighteen delegates, he stole the show.

“Friends,” Buchanan said, “there is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America.” The fight, he explained, was over such issues as abortion, equal rights for homosexuals, and the inclusion of women in combat units. Buchanan was against these things—“It’s not the kind of change we can abide in a nation we still call ‘God’s country.’ ” Of course, he said, he stood for unity and had come to rally the Buchanan Brigades to Bush’s cause, but nobody was fooled.

Today, solid majorities of Americans support gay rights, legal abortion, and women in combat. Yet the G.O.P. platform opposes them; the culture war that Buchanan trumpeted is no longer an insurgent cause but a permanent condition of the Republican Party, and, increasingly, it is being fought within the Party.

Även efter hans framgångsrika insats i den första presidentvalsdebatten kommer Romney att ha fortsatta problem att nå en lång rad viktiga målgrupper som t.ex. kvinnor, svarta, unga och latinos.

På grund av detta har partiet ägnat mycket tid till att försöka sätta upp juridiska hinder för just de väljargrupper man vet inte gärna röstar på republikanska kandidater.

In the past year and a half, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, states have passed twenty-three laws limiting access to the polls. In the swing state of Pennsylvania—which Obama won in 2008, and where there has been no evidence of voter fraud—a new law could disenfranchise nine per cent of voters; in Philadelphia, the number could be twice as high. And in Ohio, another swing state that went for Obama, a top adviser to John Kasich, the Republican governor, defended a decree that curtailed early voting, telling the Columbus Dispatch, “We shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.”

Övrigt: Tidskriftsomslaget, och utdraget ovan, är från The New Yorker, 3 september 2012. Omslaget ”Bromance” är av Barry Blitt.

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TRAILER | TV-serien “Scandal”, om krishanteraren Olivia Pope i Washington, har premiär på Kanal 5 på onsdag.

Huvudpersonen är baserad på Judy Smith som tidigare var pressekreterare hos president George H. W. Bush.

I dag jobbar hon som professionell krishanterare på den egna firman Smith & Co. BP Oil och Monica Lewinsky (Bill Clintons favoritintern i Vita huset) har varit klienter hos henne.

När Annie Groer intervjuar henne i Washington Post svarar hon bl.a. på en fråga om skillnaderna mellan män och kvinnors benägenhet att hamna i skandaler.

Why does it seem that men screw up more than women?

While women are certainly in substantial positions of power, that number is still lower compared to men, so I think that probably has something to do with it. I have more high-profile men involved in cases concerning allegations of sex … Women are more inclined to weigh consequences. Women are smarter about it.  Over the years, beginning with Gary Hart, we have seen politicians get into trouble in this area and we have seen the ‘stand by your man’ wife go away over time.

Mer: Lyssna på en intervju med Smith på radio NPR. Och läs Patrick Gavins “Judy Smith’s crisis management at heart of ‘Scandal’Politico.

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KAMPANJ | Newsweek slår ett slag för Barack Obama i senaste numret genom att definiera Mitt Romney som en “mes” på omslaget.

1987 publicerade Newsweek en artikel som kom att förfölja George H. W. Bush långt efter att blivit president. Titeln var ”Fighting the ’Wimp Factor’”.

Nu gör man det igen med Mitt Romney.

Michael Tomasky skriver:

In 1987, this magazine created a famous hubbub by labeling George H.W. Bush a “wimp” on its cover. “The Wimp Factor.” Huge stir. And not entirely fair—the guy had been an aviator in the war, the big war, the good war, and he was even shot down out over the Pacific, cockpit drenched in smoke and fumes, at an age (20) when in most states he couldn’t even legally drink a beer. In hindsight, Poppy looks like Dirty Harry Callahan compared with Romney, who spent his war (Vietnam) in—ready?—Paris. Where he learned … French.


Harvey Mansfield, the Harvard political philosopher, is a godhead to conservatives. He wrote a book while Bush was president called Manliness. It was a self-parodic volume, but conservatives loved it. In 2006 an interviewer asked Mansfield his definition of manliness, and he said: “confidence in a situation of risk.”

By this definition, the conservative definition, Romney is a total bust. He’s the most risk-averse major politician to come along in ages.


The catalog of Romney flip-flops is lengthy and by now famous: abortion rights; support for Planned Parenthood, to which he and his wife once wrote checks, now in his gun sights; Grover Norquist’s “no tax increases” pledge, which he admirably refused to sign as a gubernatorial candidate but since 2007 has taken up with gusto; on immigration, where he once supported a path to citizenship; on guns (he supported the Brady Bill in the 1990s); on “don’t ask, don’t tell”; and, most famously of all, on health care.


All politicians undergo a tuck here and a trim there. Comparatively few turn outright somersaults on big issues, let alone half a dozen or more of them. What gives? Most pols in Romney’s position would think: OK, I’ve got to change some stances, but I’d better keep one or two, just to show I stand for something, and accept the consequences. But not Romney.

Politicians change positions for three main reasons: financial ambition, political ruthlessness, and political cowardice. Romney already has the big money, so that’s out. Ruthless? Not really—a ruthless change of position is one designed to please one group of people but equally to piss off another group. Romney’s flip-flops are solely about making a group of highly suspicious voters like him. That, folks, is door No. 3.

Att detta är rena rama julafton för Obamakampanjen är uppenbart. Trots detta lyckades Romney låta ganska avslappnad när han skulle kommentera omslaget i en intervju i programmet Face the Nation.

Att det inte lät likadant bakom kulisserna kan man förstå när man läser hur George W. Bush reagerade när han fick beskedet att Newsweek hade stämplat hans far som ”mes”.

Barbara Bush placed a furious call to her son, future president George W., who had vetted journalist Margaret Garrard Warner. “Have you seen Newsweek?” Barbara Bush growled, according to her son’s recent memoir, Decision Points. “I quickly tracked down a copy and was greeted by the screaming headline: ‘Fighting the Wimp Factor,’ ” Bush 43 wrote. “I was red hot. I got Margaret on the phone. I. . . told her I thought it was part of a political ambush. She muttered something about her editors being responsible for the cover. I did not mutter. I railed about editors and hung up. From then on, I was suspicious of political journalists and their unseen editors.”

Läs mer: Michael Tomasky on Wimpy Mitt Romney’s Missing Backbone” samt ”Answering Tomaskyav David Frum. (Bild: Tidskriftomslagen är från den 6 augusti 2012 respektive den 19 oktober 1987.)

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IDENTITET | Om Mitt Romney förlorar i november kommer republikanska partiet med all sannolikhet kastas in i en identitetskris.

Vad som slår en när man läser om partiet är hur genuint förvånade många skribenter är över partiets politiska utveckling under senare år.

Även ledande politiker inom partiet är oroade över utvecklingen.

Governör Jeb Bush, George W. Bushs bror, har t.ex. ifrågasatt om hans far George H. W. Bush eller ens Ronald Reagan skulle haft en chans att bli nominerade som partiets presidentkandidat idag.

Här är tre läsvärda artiklar om GOP – the Grand Old Party.

Monika Bauerlein och Clara Jeffery: “WTF, GOP?” (Mother Jones, juni 2012)

Ryan Lizza: “Life of the Party” (The New Yorker, 12 mars 2012)

John Heilemann: “The Lost Party” (New York, 5 mars 2012)

Läs även: David Frums ”When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?” och ”George and Mitt Romney & the Death of Moderate GOP”.

Övrigt: Om tecknaren Bob Staakes tidskriftsomslag ”State by State” och storyn bakom (och en twist på den).

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VÄLJARE | Varför gillar inte de konservativa gräsrötterna Mitt Romney? Antagligen för att man fortfarande letar efter Ronald Reagans arvtagare.

Men enligt Peter J. Boyer i Newsweek behöver ”the pichfork crowd” inte oroa sig allt för mycket.

Romney har redan anammat många av deras ståndpunkter. Han har därför inte speciellt mycket svängrum att backa om han nu väl tar sig till Vita huset.

Och skulle han backa kommer de republikanska väljarna straffa honom när det blir dags för omval. Det var vad som hände när president George H. W. Bush, trots löften om motsatsen, höjde skatten.

Men redan nu finns det likheter mellan Bush och Romney som skulle kunna förklarar den avvaktande hållningen från kärnväljare. Boyer skriver:

His problem is the same as the problem that George Herbert Walker Bush had,” says John Sununu, a Romney supporter who served as the elder Bush’s White House chief of staff. “They come from a genteel segment of society that doesn’t instinctively have the capacity of putting sharp edges on the words they use. Conservatives like sharp rhetoric and prefer to support someone with sharper elbows.”

Romney’s campaign has no particular strategy for winning over the pitchfork crowd (“Just win,” says a senior strategist. “When you win, they all love you”), beyond his positions on issues, which are at least as conservative as those of his remaining competitors. The restive base is still not sold, but that very fact may contain the seeds of Romney’s ultimate vindication on the right.


What he has to sell to the right is the idea that he is a conservative by disposition, by sensibility. Before he had any discernible politics, he devoted himself to a faith that extols family values, and the line of work he chose, for all its failings, was a full-immersion experience in free enterprise. When he took up politics, he accommodated himself enough to the realities of Massachusetts to win election (see Scott Brown’s current campaign). But he makes a plausible case that he governed as conservatively as is possible in the Bay State. He tried, vainly, to finesse the abortion issue, declaring himself a defender of Roe v. Wade, but he also recanted his pro-choice stance convincingly enough (vetoing an -embryonic-stem-cell bill) to earn the commendation of the leader of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. Sununu makes the argument that Romney governed as conservatively in liberal Massachusetts as Reagan did in liberal California (where Reagan signed a law liberalizing abortion restrictions and presided over the doubling of the state budget). “In an almost paradoxical way, Reagan, pre-governor, was more conservative than when he was a governor, and Mitt Romney as a governor was more conservative than he campaigned,” Sununu says.

Övrigt: Tidskriftsomslaget (amerikanska upplagan) och Peter J. Boyers artikel ”Mitt Romney’s struggle to convince conservatives” är från Newsweek den 6 februari 2012.

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MITT ROMNEY har ett problem. Han har en tendens att stöta bort väljarna ju mer de lär känna honom.

Romney är den bland de republikanska presidentkandidaterna som har störst chans att besegra president Barack Obama.

Men innan han kan ta sig an Obama måste han först besegra – inte bara övriga republikanska utmanare – utan också delar av sin egen personlighet.

Andrew Romano, Newsweek, skriver om hur olika personlighetsdrag kan påverka både valrörelser och valresultat:

What is Mitt Romney? It is very hard to tell. Put him on a debate stage, and he can outshine the klieg lights.


And yet, away from the stage, and the lights, and the shrink-wrapped soundbites, where real human beings aren’t kept at a respectful distance, and résumés and factoids matter less, Romney isn’t quite as luminous.


If Romney loses the Republican nomination, the reasons won’t be mysterious: “Romneycare,” Mormonism, and the rise of a rival, Rick Perry, who is better at connecting with voters. (Perry’s Positive Intensity Score among Republicans is a league-leading 24, according to Gallup; Romney’s has fallen as low as 11.) By the same token, if Romney becomes president, it won’t be a surprise to see him succeed; his conscientiousness has already helped him oversee a successful state, a successful business, and a successful Olympics.

The only mystery now, the only surprise left, is Romney vs. Obama. Supporters say that Romney would be “more himself” in a general-election setting, where he’d no longer have to pander to the Republican fringe. But it’s possible, too, that being himself would be the problem. In America, voters tend to replace sitting presidents with polar-opposite personalities: Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. But as Aubrey Immelman [an expert on the electoral effects of personality] points out, the rational, technocratic Obama “is one of the few presidential candidates since 1996 who can be labeled conscientious,” just like Romney. Faced with a choice between the conscientious devil they know and the conscientious devil they don’t, voters may not be as motivated to switch sides—especially when the incumbent scores higher on empathy, confidence, and comfort in his own skin.

Övrigt: Tidskriftsomslaget är från den amerikanska editionen.

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