Archive for September, 2008

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

September 27, 2008

And that is all she wrote. Well, my first impressions are that McCain stuck to his experience and was strong on details, but Obama held his own on a subject he is widely seen less knowledgeable on. The candidates did not pull any surprises or break the mold. By no means a game changer. The bookies will likely chalk this one up as a draw — or a slight McCain edge.

As for the questions, most of the big issues were covered. Some major gaps: China, South American relations including Venezuela, and Africa — the foremost issues being Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. It’s impossible to cover everything, but these — particularly China — were large omissions.

All in all, pretty standard fare. Now let’s leave it to the commentators and spinners.

Good night all.

***

The attacks of 9/11 now. McCain says that the U.S. is safer. Obama counters that Al Qa’eda is still the major threat despite the attempts of the Bush Administration, and there has been a major undermining of U.S. popularity.

The usual attacks: Obama would surrender in Iraq; McCain is the same as Bush. McCain talks about the need for flexibility in a president, citing the surge. Obama summarizes with the need to restore the U.S.’s place in the world.

***

Obama brings up offshore drilling, and McCain says that drilling would lead to energy independence. That ignores the fact that drilling would not have any effect for at least 10 years.

***

Obama claims Russia’s actions in Georgia were “unacceptable.” Say that U.S. will be in solidarity with Ukraine and have membership action plan. Asserts that there are areas cooperation.

McCain says that there was  a “serious aggression” against Georgia, which was fueled by petrodollars. He says Saakashvili is a “great young president.” He also talks about the pipelines, and then talks about the independence of Ukraine.

There is a lot of bluster about this issue. It should be remembered that there is little that the U.S. can directly do to stop the Kremlin from acting. Also, both candidates have talk about Putin, rather than Medvedev, who is the official elected leader of Russia.

***

Iran now. McCain says a nuclear-armed Tehran is a threat to Israel, and could spark an arms race. He also brings up the widely criticized League of Democracies. He says that these countries have most of the economic and military power of the world. He neglects to say that these countries are also suffering from financial meltdown. China and Russia are the countries who are rising in power.

Obama, says a nuclear Iran would be “a game changer,” and asserts Israel as a “stalwart” ally. He say that he reserves the right to talk to anybody at any time as long as it protects America. That last bit is new, following criticism. Obama strongly defends his intention to negotiate.

McCain continues to paint Obama with the naive brush. And then it decends into bickering.

***

McCain is really asserting his long history with mentions of the U.S. support for Afghanistan in the ’80s, and his personal relationship with Bush 41’s Secretary of State.

On Afghanistan, McCain talks about collaborating to eliminate the Taliban foothold. He really has a strong grip of this issue. He says that he is not willing to cut of aid to Pakistan either. Obama talks about the present, but again McCain talks his long record. This line is very effective for him.

***

Obama came into the debate with much higher expectations, yet the public felt that McCain had much stronger foreign policy knowledge. McCain is commanding the Iraq issue, boasting about his support for the surge.

Obama instead is concentrating on Afghanistan.

This is an interesting back-and-forth, because the U.S. public is most concerned about Iraq — even if academics and military strategists are more concerned with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

***

McCain talks about Iraq, stands behind the surge and General Petraeus. Claims that Iraq “will succeed” now, despite mismanagement following the initial invasion.

Obama talks about his opposition of the Iraq war. And hints at foresight in his concern for Afghanistan, which has taken a decidedly bad turn over the past year.

McCain say that the issue is no longer should we attack Iraq; now it is how should we leave. Strong point. Obama deflects by praising Gen. Petraeus and talking about Joe Biden, his running mate.

First zinger: McCain says Obama doesn’t know the difference between “a tactic and a strategy.”

***

Obama hits McCain for ties to Bush who has led an “orgy of spending.” McCain mentions Palin as a Maverick.

***

Obama acknowledges that his projects would have to downsized as a result of the financial crisis.

McCain reasserts the need to cuts spending.

Also the first Iraq mention of the night: Obama say that pulling out of Iraq would save tax payers’ money.

***

Lehrer asks a great question about pulling back pet projects because of the worsening economy. Both neglect to answer it, but Messr. Moderator holds their feet to the fire.

***

Obama goes for a hot button topic, declaring McCain’s tax plan would cut oil company taxes by $400 billion. He then goes on to energy, and reels through his usual green energy plans with its vow for energy independence. This is a red herring though. Energy independence in eight years is about as realistic as England winning the World Cup. That is to say, not at all.

***

The candidates have warmed up now, and they are into spending and tax cuts. McCain is hitting Obama for “pork barrel spending” and earmarks.

And now the ol’ Marevick flips it by asking Obama how he would define rich. McCain was slammed for defining rich as anyone with $5 million. Obama ignores the jab.

***

Initial impressions are that Obama has started off quickly, linking his opponent to the unpopular George W. Bush. McCain for his part is talking about his experience and wide-ranging service. He has also boasted about his long-held crusade against earmarks.

***

And we are off …

Mark Partridge, Contributing Editor

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

September 27, 2008

The Issues:

As I mentioned, the foreign policy and national security will be the topic d’jour. You therefore would expect a host of questions about Iran, Russia, and the war on terror. The FP blog came up with a nice list here. Here is a quick sample:

  • What do you consider the biggest foreign-policy success and the biggest foreign-policy failure of the Bush administration?
  • Do you think we are entering a post-American multipolar world?
  • How would you define victory in the war on terror?
  • Would you close or leave open the Guantánamo Bay prison?
  • Would you be willing to cut farm subsidies to allow the Doha Round of trade negotiations to proceed?

To this list, I would add the following:

  • Who is running Russia at the moment, and how important are good relations between the U.S. and Russia?
  • Should the next president’s be concerned about the growing trade deficit with China? And if so, how should he do to rectify the situation?
  • What is the single most important bi-lateral relationship?

But as everyone knows, the U.S. financial market has been going through a tough time. So prepare for questions about the bailout plan.

But, Mr. Lehrer is in his seat and it looks like we are about to get going …

Mark Partridge, Contributing Editor

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

September 26, 2008

The Numbers:

Via RCP, Obama is leading in the national poll by an average of 4.2%. However, the U.S. election is not based on the popular vote — much to the chagrin of Democrats in 2000. (But then again, Abraham Lincoln was elected without a majority of the popular vote.)

The freshman senator from Illinois has pulled ahead of his colleague from Arizona this week on troubling news from Wall Street. He now enjoys strong polling numbers in key swing states like Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

However, McCain has been very strong riding the popularity of his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. So the election is very fluid right now and both candidates will be looking to capitalize on this opportunity.

 

Mark C. Partridge, Contributing Editor

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

September 26, 2008

The Format:

This year’s debates will likely be more open affairs than they have been in the past. Gone is the 32-page treatise we saw in 2004 outlining room temperatures and the type of note paper to be used. Instead, we have 90-minute debate, slated to cover foreign policy issues–though don’t be surprised if the moderator, PBS’s Jim Lehrer, takes the opportunity to quiz the candidates on the ongoing financial crisis.

The debate, being held at the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus, will be broken into eight ten-minute segments. Messrs. McCain and Obama will have 2 minutes to answer the questions posed before a five-minute “discussion period”.

Expect all the usual trimmings, with podiums, stars, lights, cameras, and a very conspicuously placed bald eagle.

 

Mark C. Partridge, Contributing Editor
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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

September 26, 2008

Here we are, only hours away from the Great Debate ’08. I’ll be here for the next length of the Oxford debate with lucid insights and the odd wry comment. I hope you all enjoy the show.

By way of build-up …

For tonight’s match-up, in the left corner, we have Barack “The Change” Obama. He bringing a pledge for renewed diplomacy in U.S. diplomacy, a law degree from Harvard, and record of 1-0-0 with 1 KO following his victory over Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. This candidate may look like a welterweight, but he will need to land a political jab like a heavyweight if he wants to win this bout.

And in the right corner, we have John “Maverick” McCain, who is know for his scrappy style and propensity for breaking ranks with his Republican party in search of what is “right.” It was unclear if the Senator from the Copper state would be joining us tonight. He made it, fresh from negotiations in Washington, DC over the proposed financial bailout. After flying in late, let see if this former Navy pilot can prove he truly is America’s Top Gun.

 

Mark C. Partridge, Contributing Editor
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The World’s Weekly Blue Streak

September 26, 2008

Girls Rule (In Rwanda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 27, 2008: RWANDA-This week, women filled 44 seats in the Rwandan parliament, tipping the gender balance and making Rwanda the first country to elect a female majority. Although the constitution calls for an obligatory 30% female representation, Rwandan women have surpassed this number in both the senate and parliament. The news comes as a major step in gender equality in a country that traditionally enforces stereotypical gender roles. The change can be partially attributed to the 1994 genocide, which opened up career opportunities normally closed to women. Increased representation means increased legislation for children’s and women’s rights, and more voices heard: true girl power. 

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Back to Square One?

September 27, 2008: NORTH KOREA—Despite the fact that North Korea recently confirmed that it is restoring its nuclear facilities, the North has proposed meeting with South Korea for talks next week, the first offer of its kind since President Lee-Myung-bak took power in February. South Korea has approached the offer with trepidation, and hasn’t yet given a reply. The North is likely to discuss how to implement past military agreements. The talks are not likely to affect South Korea’s alarmed opinion that restoring the facilities has brought diplomatic negotiations “back to square one.” However, the situation is particularly delicate for North Korea right now, as there are new signs of famine and increased rumors of Kim Jong Il’s physical decline. It may just be the time to take advantage of North Korea’s vulnerability. 

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Where Have All the Kalashnikov Assault Rifles Gone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 27, 2008: RUSSIA-It was the American-Ambassador-boot heard all ‘round the world, and now Russia has joined the fun and offered Venezuela a $1 billion dollar loan for arms purchases. In the latest move demonstrating the increasingly close ties between Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez, Russia has already started delivering fighter jets, helicopters and assault rifles to Venezuela. Both leaders have expressed their joint frustration with Western diplomacy, and Chavez has made it clear that he supports Russia’s operation against Georgia. Last week, the United States expelled the Venezuelan ambassador and slapped on harsh sanctions. Today’s trip will be Chavez’s third visit to Moscow since June 2007, and as demonstrated by this photo, things are going swimmingly. But when can all the Ambassadors come back? 

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It’s On

September 27, 2008: USA—It was on. It was off. Now it’s on again. The epic debate between good vs. evil (or evil vs. less evil, depending on your point of view) takes place tonight at 9 PM E.D.T. If you’re not so stuffed with American electoral politics that you want to puke, be there. 

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By: Dana Liebelson

 

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World’s Bi-Weekly Blue Streak

September 19, 2008

The Dead Snake

 September 20, 2008: SOUTH AFRICA–On Friday, South Africa’s ruling party met to decide the fate of President Thabo Mbeki, barring him from a third term as state president. The move comes as a result of tension between fellow party member Jacob Zuma and subsequent trade unions. Mbeki was charged for orchestrating a conspiracy against Zuma, something he denied heavily before the court. Mbeki will be allowed to finish out his term despite voices calling for his resignation. There is fear among the international community that Mbeki’s ousting could lead to a pro-Mbeki faction split, propped by the large investors who support Mbeki. None of this seems to be concerning Zuma, who is allowing Mbeki to finish out his term because he reportedly doesn’t want to “waste his energy on a dead snake.” 

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Wiping Israel Off the Map (But Not the People) 

 September 20, 2008: IRAN–Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made a name for himself with his claim that the Holocaust didn’t happen, his threat to wipe Israel off the map, and an uncomfortable nuclear sanctions tango with the United Nations. However, this week Ahmadinejad back-peddled, stating: “We have no problem with the [Israeli] people.” This remark echoes a trend in the last few months where Ahmadinejad has placed blame on the Israeli government, even going so far as to say it “tricked” the Israeli people into shielding the “Zionist government.” Some believe that this lessening of hostilities may indicate Iran’s willingness to respond to sanctions, but Ahmadinejad has so far shown no sign of suspending uranium enrichment. When Ahmadinejad travels to New York this week to address the United Nations, he’ll have to prove his words are more than fairy floss.  

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 Quote of the Week:

“You’re looking at the modern miracle that John McCain helped create.”

-Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Republican advisor, while pointing to his Blackberry

DL: Looks like the Republicans are feeling threatened that Democrats invented the Internet
By Dana Liebelson