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Bibi Netanyahu’s U.N. Speech Today and the Doomsday Gap

September 28, 2012 5 comments

Today Bibi Netanyahu put on a show, a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination, before the U.N. General Assembly. His performance was so over the top that it actually reminded me of George C. Scott’s performance as General “Buck” Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Good ‘Ol Bibi showed up with props and ACME-like-Bugs Bunny cartoon to alert the world to a danger that only he seems determined to eradicate in the most destructive and suicidal way. In fact, Good ‘Ol Bibi was as ridiculous and extreme as Ahmadinejad. While he was speaking, i couldn’t help myself thinking that i heard this speech before–it was like a déjà vu experience, and then it hit me: I was in fact listening to and watching Dr. Strangelove talking about the terrible Doomsday Machine and Doomsday Gap. At that point, i stopped worrying about Bibi, about his speech, about his concerns, and learned to love containment. There is something that good ‘ol Bibi needs to learn very fast: ain’t nobody on this side of the Atlantic who’s willing to start a doomsday scenario that no one knows how to end it. So Bibi, go peddle your fear-mongering and warmongering somewhere else.

Here is to Bibi Netanyahu’s U.N. Speech

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President Obama’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly (transcript)

September 26, 2012 1 comment

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.

Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician. As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco. He came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East, and he would carry that commitment throughout his life. As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria; from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked – tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic and listening with a broad smile.

Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship. As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for a future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. After the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.

Chris Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served, and saw dignity in the people he met. Two weeks ago, he travelled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital. That’s when America’s compound came under attack. Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city he helped to save. He was 52 years old.

I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America. Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents. He acted with humility, but stood up for a set of principles – a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and the Libyan people. And there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region – including Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen – have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm. So have religious authorities around the globe.

But the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded – the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.

If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.

Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.

It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. Since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that has taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.

We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair. This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab World. Over the past year, we have seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia. In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society; a courageous dissident has been elected to Parliament; and people look forward to further reform. Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress – dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend upon the status quo; and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division. From Northern Ireland to South Asia; from Africa to the Americas; from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order. At times, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of faith, race or tribe; and often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world. In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with.
We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.

There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

More broadly, the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab World moving to democracy. Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue. Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals, represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims– any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.

However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. It is time to marginalize those who – even when not resorting to violence – use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for those who resort to violence.

That brand of politics – one that pits East against West; South against North; Muslim against Christian, Hindu, and Jew – cannot deliver the promise of freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won’t create a single job. That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children and creating the opportunities they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.
Understand that America will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends. We will stand with our allies and are willing to partner with countries to deepen ties of trade and investment; science and technology; energy and development – efforts that can spark economic growth for all of our people, and stabilize democratic change. But such efforts depend upon a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. No government or company; no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered. For partnership to be effective, our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed.

A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunnis and Shia, between tribes and clans. It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos. In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. Extremists understand this. And because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They do not build, they only destroy.

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past. We cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard but the destination is clear – a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people. If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings. And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.

Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision – a Syria that is united and inclusive; where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed – Sunnis and Alawites; Kurds and Christians. That is what America stands for; that is the outcome that we will work for – with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for those who work for this common good. Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and legitimacy to lead.
In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads. The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government props up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.

Let me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights. That is why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict; that is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War; and that is the lesson of the last two decades as well. History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices.

Nations in every part of the world have travelled this hard path. Europe – the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century – is united, free and at peace. From Brazil to South Africa; from Turkey to South Korea; from India to Indonesia; people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.

And it is because of the progress I’ve witnessed that after nearly four years as President, I am hopeful about the world we live in. The war in Iraq is over, and our troops have come home. We have begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014. Al Qaeda has been weakened and Osama bin Laden is no more. Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals. I’ve seen hard choices made – from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan – to put more power in the hands of citizens.
At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity. Through the G-20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery. America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent. New commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity. And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of leaders – it is the people I’ve seen. The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away. The students in Jakarta and Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit humankind. The faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations. The young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise. These men, women and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the globe who share similar hopes and dreams. They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.

So much attention in our world turns to what divides us. That’s what we see on the news, and that consumes our political debates. But when you strip that all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes from faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people – and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people, and all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows. And that is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.

And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook FB 0.00% photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.”

They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.

US Presidential elections: Some fun from the campaign trail

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

In today’s episode of “Fun From the Campaign Trail”, we have some Romney’s parodies. Yes, the man is so stiff and awkward and has a chronic condition of Foot-to-Mouth disease that he doesn’t seem to get rid of. So, he’s the perfect candidate for all kind of hilarious parodies and most of them have some truth to them
So enjoy some of Romney’s best parodies

Tunisie: Rached Ghannouchi met en garde contre les dangers de l’intégrisme violent

September 22, 2012 5 comments

Courtesy of Juan Cole.

Tunisian Muslim Leader Warns of Dangers of Violent Fundamentalism

Posted on 09/21/2012 by Juan

As the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior announced that no demonstrations would be permitted on Friday, the Muslim leader Rached Ghanoushi warned of the dangers of violent fundamentalism. The Tunisian government invoked emergency powers on learning of plans for violent disruptions on Friday, in response to anti-Islam caricatures published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Ghanoushi, the leader of the ruling al-Nahda Party and a long-time proponent of political Islam in Tunisia, has come out strongly against the small but violent “Salafi Jihadi” movement in an interview with Agence France Presse. He said that these violent extremists posed a threat both to his own al-Nahda Party and also to general liberties in the country, and said that such disruptive groups need to be dealt with decisively.

The Salafis, or hard line ultra-fundamentalists, in Tunisia, unlike those in Egypt, did not gain seats in parliament, and they are mainly known for a series of small but provocative public acts of violence and disruption, including throwing stones outside movie theaters, rioting outside art exhibits, harassing unveiled women, attacking tourist hotels for selling alcohol, and, last Saturday, attacking the American school and setting a fire on the grounds of the US Embassy in Tunis. The hard core of activists sometimes gets support in a few working class districts of the capital and some small rural towns, but it is far out of the mainstream of the country.

Many Tunisians are secularists, and there is a strong tradition of moderate Sunni Muslim reformism. Ghanouchi himself told me in an interview in May that his al-Nahda had unreservedly embraced democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty.

Other Tunisians when I was there viewed al-Nahda with suspicion and felt as though it was using the Salafis or at least not interfering with them, as a way of shifting the country toward the religious Right. Educated women often expressed fear of the Salafis taking away their rights.

The al-Nahda government is being criticized for not having arrested Salafi extremist Seif Allah Ibn Hussein, known as Abu Iyadh.

Ghanoushi has in the past condemned actions of the Salafis but at the same time complained of ‘provocations’ by secularists. In this interview, he appears to have made no excuses for them and to have condemned them roundly (though the Arabic version of the AFP interview condemns ‘Salafi Jihadis,’ not all Salafis).

I take it he has begun to worry, as I suggested last weekend, that al-Nahda itself may become associated in the public mind with the extremism and violence of the Salafis, and so could suffer in the parliamentary elections now scheduled for late spring, 2013. The proponents of political Islam in both Tunisia and Egypt face the problem that if they crack down on the extremist Salafis, they look like lackeys of imperialism defending attacks on the Prophet Muhammad. They could thus injure their standing with their own base. On the other hand, if they don’t dissociate themselves from and prove the can curb the disruptions of the Salafis, they could lose the general public in a future election.

Secular-minded Tunisians will be watching al-Nahda carefully to see if it follows through on its commitment to public order and to curbing the Salafi Jihadis.

The US State Department took revenge on the al-Nahda government for its failure to prevent Saturday’s attack on the American embassy by issuing a travel warning for Tunisia, discouraging Americans from going there. This step was a blow to Tunisian tourism and prospects of attracting foreign investment. Ghanoushi told me that the al-Nahda government had good relations with the US and was pleased with the support in Washington for Tunisian democracy. He couldn’t say so publicly, but some of his forthrightness in his AFP interview may have been an attempt to reassure Western powers about the new Tunisia.

U.S. Presidential elections: Some fun from the campaign trail

September 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Ok, today is Friday and i think it’s an appropriate day to take a bit of a break from all the campaign rhetoric and infighting for at least a couple of hours. And i propose to watch some very fun videos, some of them are impressive and hilarious at the same time.

Enjoy!

And his greatest hits keep on coming 🙂

 

U.S. Presidential elections: Obama answers the Question…

September 16, 2012 4 comments

This is the first post of a long series of upcoming posts which will focus on the U.S. presidential elections. In the coming weeks and months, i will be posting polls, electoral maps, strategies, forecasting models, latest news, and analyses of the 2012 presidential race. Meanwhile, i high encourage the readers to ask questions and propose topics concerning the U.S. presidential elections. I will try to do my best to answer them and write back. So, stay tuned, get a cold one as they say, and let’s get started.

 
Every presidential elections is a contest between 2 candidates representing 2 political parties anchored in 2 different ideological traditions supported by 2 different electoral coalitions. The purpose of any campaign is to put together an electoral coalition that allows it to get to the crucial threshold of 50%+1.  But what’s even more interesting in a presidential contest is when one of the two candidates is the incumbent. Of course, incumbency has its advantage–high name recognition, known bio, and fundraising and so forth–but it also has its drawbacks, and one of them is the economic record of the last 4 years. If a president presides over bad economic times, the voters punish him. If a president presides over booming economic times, the voters reward him. It is as simple as this. But then, there is the case of Obama.  His economic record is not that great–the unemployment rate is still hovering above 8%, the real estate market is still weak and in some places of the country is still deleveraging, which means it still hasn’t even started the recovery phase, and the debt has grown by a few trillion dollars under Obama’s watch.

The question is, given Obama’s record, the only question that the Romney campaign should be asking is the “are you better off question, which was made very famous by Ronald Reagan 1980 campaign (see the clip below). The “Are you better off than 4 years ago” is a deadly question is you can’t answer it.  To that question, the Carter campaign and administration could not find a satisfactory answer. In fact, they could not answer it at all. The “are you better off?” question is the only question that an incumbent must clearly and unequivocally answer. Every challenger asks the question, and it is up to the voters to evaluate the incumbent’s answer. Every incumbent who had lost his reelection bid the past 2 years could not answer this question clearly. Nicolas Sarkozy could not answer it and therefore chose to wage a campaign on values and domestic security and immigration.  Jose Luis Zapatero could not answer this question because the economy was falling apart from under him, and so he pretended that good days are ahead and every Spanish voter knew that he was done. Gorden Brown experienced the same thing and so many other prime ministers and presidents. Their inability to answer this very simple question doomed their reelection chances.

But then, there is Obama. Nothing in his record could indicate that he could answer this question clearly and unequivocally. The Obama campaign knows very well that if it puts together an answer that exaggerates the truth or stretches and embellishes Obama’s economic record, it would be ridiculed by the media, by the voters, and Obama would lose. And so, the campaign didn’t try to embellish the truth. Rather it has tried to answer it directly, but in a twisted and interesting way. The campaign answer it like this: “Yes, we are better off, but we are not where we want or desire to be.” Why is Obama able to answer this question with a qualifier, with a caveat? And why is it working? The simple reason is that the American voters, though not that happy with Obama’s economic record (we see this clearly in the polling data and the wrong/right track over the last 4 years), do not hold him fully responsible for the economic situation. The American people still blame G.W. Bush for the disastrous economic situation. We can clearly see this in the Gallup polling data from June 2012.

Gallup first asked this “blame assessment” question in July 2009–that is, about 6 months after Obama took office. At that time, the data showed that about 80% of Americans blamed the bad economic situation of the country on Bush. The percentage blaming Bush dropped to about 70% in August 2010, and has stayed roughly in that range since. Meanwhile, about 50% of Americans have blamed Obama since March 2010, with little substantive change from then to the present.

Even more interesting is that when we analyze the “blame assessment” responses by party-identification or affiliation, we find that about 49% of Republicans and 67% of Independents still hold G.W.Bush for the bad economic situation in the country.

The American voter, party identification notwithstanding, knows at the gut level that Obama cannot be fully blame for the economic situation of the country. The American voter knows that Obama took office when the economy was literally falling off the cliff. And so this voter extends a bit of latitude to Obama. Moreover, the fact that Obama has had almost 30 months of positive private sector job growth (though it didn’t make a huge dent into the overall unemployment rates) in a very bad global economic situation, and was able to bring back General Motors and Chrysler from the brink of oblivion boosted his image and helped his favorables with the voters on the economy. Basically, the American voter is at the gut level saying this: “Well, taking into consideration how he found the country when he took-over, the guy did a pretty good job so far, and therefore i am inclined to give him a second chance.”
This is what the Democrats did during the DNC convention in Charlotte, NC., 2 weeks ago. They hammered this message over and over. The whole speech of Bill Clinton on prime time on the second night of the convention did just that in a very skillful way (see the clip of the whole speech below).  Preempting Romney’s attacks with the “are you better off” question, Bill Clinton said the following:

“Now, are we where we want to be today?  No.  Is the president satisfied?  Of course not.  But are we better off than we were when he took office?  Listen to this everybody,  when President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in freefall.  It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP.  We were losing 750,000 jobs a month.  Are we doing better than that today? The answer is yes. Now, look.  Here’s the challenge he faces and the challenge all of you who support him face.  I get it.  I know it.  I’ve been there.  A lot of Americans are still angry and frustrated about this economy.  If you look at the numbers, you know employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend again, and in a lot of places, housing prices have even began to pick up. But too many people do not feel it yet.  I had this same thing happen in 1994 and early ’95.  We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing, but most people didn’t feel it yet.  Thankfully, by 1996, the economy was roaring, everybody felt it, and we were halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in the history of the United States. But…the difference this time is purely in the circumstances. President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did.  Listen to me now.  No president, no president — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.”

The is a very crucial passage in Bill Clinton’s speech. In it, the former president, who presided over a huge economic boom and a tremendous job growth, asks the question and answers it in a very direct and clever way. It is only at that time that the Democratic Party and Obama found a way to answer that question in a satisfactory manner, and they did it in prime time while most American voters who are still making up their minds about this election were watching. This, in politics, is called a home run grand slam. You cannot do it better than this.
After the convention, the Obama campaign has had a nice bounce in the polls mostly because it was able to answer the “are you better off” question, and not shy away from it. Obama has showed that he was not scared from it. What is even more impressive is that not only does Obama answer this question, he is also questioning Romney’s fitness on the economic questions. Obama is actually framing this race in a clear choice between him and Romney, rather than a referendum on Obama’s last 4 years. Take a look at this new ad released by the Obama campaign in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and Florida:

In sum, Obama and his campaign are on their way to avoid the disaster that has befallen all incumbents these last 2 years. Almost every incumbent lost his reelection. It’s true that Obama has a better record on the economy that Sarkozy or Brown or Zapatero, but it is not a stellar one. However, it is a record that allows him to answer “the better off” question that could have doomed his reelection chances.

Bill Clinton Speech at the DNC Convention 2012

Reagan vs. Carter Debate 1980: Are you better off than four years ago?

A viral movement of support exploded overnight

September 15, 2012 2 comments

Throughout the day today, pictures of young and not-so-young Americans showing their support for Islam in their own simple way in their own words popped up on the web. This movement of support has gone viral. 1000s of Facebook pages, blogs, tweets, and YouTube videos have been posted. It is truly sui generis and truly impressive movement.

Take a look, here are a few samples…you can find 1000s more on the web…