By Fareed Zakaria
It is the defining moment of a democracy – an outgoing leader celebrates the election of a new one, from the opposing party. Think of George H.W. Bush welcoming Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter doing the same for Ronald Reagan. Across the world, this is the acid test of a real democracy. Mexicans will tell you that they knew that they had gotten there when President Ernesto Zedillo, after 70 years of one-party rule, allowed free elections and stood with his newly elected successor and affirmed his legitimacy.
The basic and powerful idea behind this ritual is that in a democracy, the process is more important than the outcome. If a genuine democratic process has been followed, we have to accept the results, regardless of how much we dislike the outcome. The ultimate example of this in recent American history might be Al Gore’s elegant acceptance of the process – complicated, politicized, but utterly constitutional – that put George W. Bush in the White House.
It must also have been difficult for Richard Nixon to grin and accept the results of the 1960 election – a poll marred by voter fraud that John F. Kennedy won by a narrow margin – but he did. And as vice president, he reported the results to the Senate, saying:
“This is the first time in 100 years that a candidate for the presidency announced the result of an election in which he was defeated and announced the victory of his opponent. I do not think we could have a more striking example of the stability of our constitutional system and of the proud tradition of the American people of developing, respecting and honoring institutions of self-government. In our campaigns, no matter how hard fought they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win.”
President Obama, short story writer?
In his story for Vanity Fair, writer Michael Lewis had near unprecedented access to the president: Flying on Air Force One, a tour of the White House private quarters, playing basketball with Obama. All for an in-depth account of the day-to-day life of a sitting president.
Lewis talked to Fareed on Sunday's show about the more literary aspects of Obama. Here's an excerpt (or watch the entire interview on iTunes)
FAREED ZAKARIA: [Obama] shows you his private office, that little cubbyhole, and there are a lot of books in it, which, we know he's a reading president. But there's a novel on top, Julian Barnes. And we know from a couple of other things that you think he must be the most "writerly" president. Because it's not just about reading. Lots of them read, but he's reading novels.
MICHAEL LEWIS: If he had time, he'd likely be writing them, too. That's the interesting thing to me. I think that he's as literary a president as we ever had, and more literary than probably anybody since Lincoln anyway. FULL POST
By Michael O’Hanlon, Special to CNN
Michael O’Hanlon is senior fellow at Brookings and author of The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity. The views expressed are his own.
The partisan furor over President Obama's Middle East policy strikes me as misplaced.
While there is plenty to debate in foreign policy, and even more to debate on economic matters — themselves central to America's future global role — the allegations of supposed Obama apologies do not hold water.
I say this as someone who was dubious about Obama's big promises during his 2007/2008 campaign. The talk of reconciling with dictators, stemming climate change, making a big dent against global poverty, working towards a nuclear-free world, achieving Middle East peace and healing the broader breach with the Islamic world was unrealistic and, for me at least, overdone.
In fairness, the big vision did help Obama get elected, and it did excite the world at large about his presidency. But that also set up false expectations around the world about what he could really do. And that has led to disappointment, especially in the Middle East. (In Europe, Obama is still popular. In much of Asia, President George W. Bush was never so unpopular and the U.S. stock was never so low prior to Obama's inauguration.) Throughout the Islamic world, Obama's standing as measured by public opinion polls is similar to Bush's. That is surely a disappointment.
However, even for those of us who shared in the critiques of Obama the candidate the first time around, the way he has conducted his presidency has been anything but apologetic.
In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, former President Jimmy Carter makes the case that the United States is "abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights."
He points to some of the government’s counterterrorism policies including, interrogation tactics at Guantánamo Bay and the "president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or 'associated forces.'”
Carter also points to the use of drones and its negative impact on American foreign policy: FULL POST
Editor's note: Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is a director at the New America Foundation and the author of the new book, "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden - From 9/11 to Abbottabad."
By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst
On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate a series of recent leaks that critics charge are designed to bolster the national security credentials of the Obama administration. ...
The recent leaks involve stories in The New York Times, Newsweek and the Associated Press that range from the hitherto undisclosed role of the United States in cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear facilities to details about the president's decision-making surrounding the selection of the targets of the CIA drone program in Pakistan and Yemen and the penetration by a spy of al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate.
Have those leaks, as Romney claimed on Monday, "put American interests and our people in jeopardy"?
Editor's note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of the new book "The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Stanley.
Thursday afternoon, Barack Obama presided over the unveiling of George W. Bush's official portrait in the White House, a warm event that reminds us: It feels like years since President Dubya regaled the world with his famous spoonerisms. His retirement has been defined by an awkward silence. While John McCain's endorsement was trumpeted by Mitt Romney, Bush delivered his in just four words. "I'm for Mitt Romney," he shouted to a journalist as an elevator door closed between them. If, just for old time's sake, Bush had said, "I'm for Ritt Momney," it would have been perfect.
Bush's silence may be motivated by the recognition that much of the public doesn't like him. He left office with the worst approval rating for a president since Watergate. But Bush could undergo a renaissance of enthusiasm. FULL POST
Day by day, it seems the world is watching the situation in Syria deteriorate, especially after a massacre in Houla over the weekend that left more than 100 people dead, half of them children.
In the last few years, no one person has embodied the cause to end austerity as much as Paul Krugman. The Nobel Prize-winning economist is a professor at Princeton University, a columnist for the New York Times, and author of the new book "End This Depression Now!"
In the above clip from "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Krugman weighs in on the economic plans of President Obama and Mitt Romney. One, he says, is talking economic sense while the other one is talking "utter nonsense."
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad."
It's the diplomatic equivalent of hosting both the World Cup and the World Series in the same country on the same weekend.
On Saturday President Obama welcomes the leaders of the world's most powerful countries to the G8 conference at his country retreat at Camp David in Maryland. And the next day he hosts some two dozen NATO heads of state in Chicago.
The challenges of this Diplopaloozaa include some complicated logistics: How do you get eight world leaders and their delegations comfortably situated in the rustic wood chalets that make up Camp David, and which has never hosted this many heads of state before?
Read more from Peter Bergen about the challenges, the Syria question and the last-minute guest at the NATO summit: Pakistan.
Historian Robert Caro has spent almost 40 years studying and writing about President Lyndon B. Johnson. The result of that toil, in addition to two Pulitzer prizes, is about 3,388 pages so far on Johnson's life.
The fourth volume, "Passage of Power," has just published.
In the web exclusive video above, Caro talks about why Johnson could get things done in Washington and gives an example of what he calls Johnson's legislative genius in action.
On Sunday's GPS show interview, Caro said Johnson could offer today's politicians - and president - lessons on wielding power. Below is an excerpt of that interview. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Whatever you thought of President Obama's recent speech on Afghanistan, it is now increasingly clear that the United States is winding down its massive military commitments to the two wars of the last decade.
We are out of Iraq and we will soon be largely out of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self. Threats remain but these are being handled using special forces and intelligence. So, finally, after a decade, we seem to be right-sizing the threat from terrorist groups.
Or are we? FULL POST
Editor's Note: Michael O’Hanlon is coauthor with Martin Indyk and Kenneth Lieberthal of the new book, Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy. You can read more from him on the Global Public Square.
By Michael O'Hanlon – Special to CNN
President Obama’s trip to Afghanistan this week is a very good thing for American national security in general and the Afghanistan mission in particular. Thankfully, it should probably arrest some of the unproductive dialogue on both sides about whether Governor Romney or President Carter or anyone else would have authorized the same raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago. (In fact, of course, Carter did authorize a similar raid, Operation Desert One in 1980 in Iran, but largely because the U.S. military was not nearly as proficient at such things at the time, it failed.) President Obama deserves credit for authorizing the bin Laden raid but it is time to move on to a broader debate. FULL POST