By Fareed Zakaria
President Obama has surged in the polls in recent weeks, and Republicans have been quick to identify the problem: Mitt Romney. The columnist Peggy Noonan eloquently voiced what many conservatives believe when she said that Romney’s campaign had been a rolling calamity.
And yet shouldn’t it puzzle us that Romney’s campaign is so “incompetent,” as Noonan calls it, given his deserved reputation for, well, competence? After all, he founded one of this country’s leading financial firms, turned around the failing Salt Lake City Olympics, and was a very successful governor. How did he get so clumsy so fast?
In fact, the problem is not Romney, but the new Republican Party.
Watch the video for Fareed's full take on the problems facing Mitt Romney. Fareed Zakaria GPS airs on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
As President Obama has surged in the polls, Republicans have been quick to identify the problem: Mitt Romney. Peggy Noonan eloquently voiced what many conservatives believe when she said that Romney’s campaign has been a “rolling calamity.” Others have been equally critical of his candidacy. And yet, shouldn’t it puzzle us that Romney is so “incompetent” (also from Noonan), given his deserved reputation for, well, competence? He founded one of this country’s most successful financial firms, turned around the flailing Salt Lake City Olympics and was a successful governor. How did he get so clumsy so fast?
In fact, the problem is not Romney but the new Republican Party. Given the direction in which it has moved and the pressures from its most extreme — yet most powerful — elements, any nominee would face the same challenge: Can you be a serious candidate for the general election while not outraging the Republican base?
Read the full column at the Washington Post
Mitt Romney and his campaign feel that they have an opening in the presidential campaign, on foreign policy at least. The unrest in the Middle East the past couple of weeks, including the killing of the American ambassador to Libya and widespread protests over a controversial YouTube video that has been condemned as blasphemous, has left a general sense of turmoil in the region. The Romney campaign wants to take advantage of it.
On the surface, it seems like a reasonable idea. And Obama has made some missteps including the inexplicable decision to not meet with any foreign leaders this week during the U.N. General Assembly. But I don’t think it will work. And one need look no further than President Obama’s speech at the General Assembly to see why.
International events, even crises, typically help the president because they make him look, well, presidential. The symbolism of Obama delivering a speech at the United Nations will have been a powerful reminder to the public that Obama is the president and Mitt Romney is not. This in turn has the effect of conferring a certain gravitas on the incumbent.
There is a kind of bipartisan arrogance that is often at work in Washington, where both sides believe that everything happening in the world is a consequence of American power and policy. If only we had made a different speech or implemented a different policy, or sent out a different tweet. But the truth is, what is happening in the Arab world is not about us – it is really about them.
Watch the video for Fareed's take on the reasons for the unrest in the Arab world. Fareed Zakaria GPS airs on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
Watching the protests and associated violence spreading across the Muslim world in recent days, I couldn't help thinking, Where are you now, Wael Ghonim? Ghonim is, of course, the former marketing executive for Google who was catapulted onto the global stage in 2011 as one of the organizers of the opposition to Egypt's dictatorship. He became the hopeful face of the Arab Spring–young, hip, modern and passionate in the cause of freedom.
Where is he, and the thousands like him, now that freedom is under assault in Egypt again? Over the past few weeks, mobs have gathered to demand the death of a filmmaker–not really a filmmaker but a bigot who made a crude Internet video satirizing the Prophet Muhammad. It provided a pretext that radical Islamists in Egypt pounced on to advance their cause. But whatever the trumped-up origins of the protests, the question facing a number of newly minted democracies from Libya to Afghanistan is clear: With freedom challenged by the violence of mobs and the intolerance of masses, will anyone stand up to defend it?
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The images of the American embassy burning in Benghazi might have conjured up memories of Tehran in 1979 but the analogy is false.
In Libya, the government is not fomenting Anti-Americanism, it is fighting it, openly declaring America an ally and friend. The country is pro-American by a 2-to-1 margin, and the violence there appears to have been the work of small, extremist elements that lack much popular support. But the storm has spread from Libya.
Across the Middle East, there have been protests railing against the United States and the West in general. Even in these places, however, keep in mind that these crowds number in the hundreds - perhaps thousands - in countries with tens of millions of people. They make for vivid images, but they do not tell the whole story. FULL POST
Underneath the headlines of the presidential campaign, there are growing signs that we are moving toward another war in the Middle East. This week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly scolded the United States for refusing to draw a “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program that, if crossed, would commit Washington to military strikes. He added that he would not accept a “red light” placed in front of Israel. Unless something dramatic changes its course, Israel is on a path to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities in the next six to nine months.
Israel’s rhetoric over the past year had seemed, to me, designed to force the international community into action and the United States into hyper-action.
Read more at The Washington Post
A few years after 9/11, I began to make the point – in columns, books and of television – that the threat from al-Qaeda had diminished substantially. Al-Qaeda had flourished in an age when governments regarded it as a sporadic annoyance rather than a major national security challenge. After 9/11, governments around the world began collaborating to track its people, stop its money flows, and eliminate it camps. Once that process was underway, al-Qaeda found it much harder to operate under the radar screen and plot its mayhem.
Today, 11 years after 9/11, it is clearer than ever that al-Qaeda is a shadow of its former self. So much so that there may now be a danger of complacency. Serious experts and scholars, like Bruce Riedel, argue that al-Qaeda has been able to reconstitute itself in places like Yemen, Somalia, and even Mali. The Pakistani connection remains strong. And the growing chaos in Syria has presented the group with an opportunity to make inroads there as well.
In the '70s and '80s, to many Americans the Democratic Party seemed more concerned with America's shortcomings than its strengths. Many of its leaders criticized the country relentlessly for its behavior at home and abroad, for its inequities and injustices. The Democrats, Jeane Kirkpatrick said at the Republican Convention in 1984, "always blame America first."
Today it is the Republican Party that often seems angry with America. Read the best-selling books by conservatives these days, watch Fox News or attend a Tea Party rally. They are filled with rage, often combined with a powerful nostalgia for an America that has gone away.
Reagan was said to be three parts optimism and one part nostalgia. Recently, that formula has been inverted. In 1996, Bob Dole gave an astonishing convention speech that attacked those who believed the U.S. had improved over the past decades. "I say you're wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember," said Dole. So much for progress on civil rights, women's rights or even toward a more open and meritocratic economy and society.
Originally published June 1, 2012.
Last week, the U.S. State Department released its annual report on human rights around the world. It covers nearly 200 countries, from Tunisia and Egypt and their uprisings, to North Korea and Cuba and the repression in those nations.
The report is an annual State Department tradition, going back nearly four decades. And for the last 13 years, it has been followed immediately by another tradition: a rebuttal.
China has released its own report on America. It says Washington is full of "overcritical" remarks about the world and "turns a blind eye to its own woeful human rights situation."
Let's flip through the two reports…
I’ve been in London this week, and I couldn’t help but catch the Olympics bug. The Games are the ultimate meritocracy – or so it seems. But why do some countries win lots of medals? Do they have more talented people than others? We’ve spent some time looking at the data.
A few trends are clear.
Countries with large populations tend to do well. Logic suggests that the more people you have, the more likely you are to have a few excellent athletes. In the 2008 Beijing Games, China was the runaway leader with 51 gold medals. The United States came second, but it won the most medals overall with 110. The two countries are of course among the three most populous in the world.
As Americans watch the London Olympics, commentators filling airtime have speculated on the decline of the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. Mitt Romney took a few swipes at Barack Obama for being responsible for this decline when he was in London two weeks ago. Actually, the bonds between the United States and United Kingdom remain very strong. Why?
Well, first – whether or not Romney actually said it – he simple fact is that Britain’s heritage is a crucial component of the United States. The country was founded by Englishmen seeking liberty along English lines. The institutions are so similar, the cultures are so similar, the values system is so similar that in a sense there’s an almost symbiotic relationship at the structural level.
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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