Archive for the ‘Politique Americaine’ Category

Egypt: MILITARY COUP D’ETAT IN EGYPT–7 Immediate Consequences

July 3, 2013 1 comment

The Egyptian military has just conducted a coup d’état, thus forcing out Mohammed Al-Morsi from power. It’s useful to remind the readers that Morsi was legitimately elected in a free and fair election a year ago.

There are no justifications for this military coup, or for any military coup, or for any intervention of the military in civilian democratic governance. None whatsoever. Those who claim that Morsi mismanaged the economy (which could be a valid claim, though he found when he took over the Egyptian economy was already in the tank) or overstepped his power, or was tone deaf to the demands of the opposition do not advance solid justifications for the intervention of the military and the coup. Moreover, all these grievances are normal political grievances found in any democracy and could have been resolved and dealt with through normal democratic and legal means and mechanisms that all democracies–including the Egyptian one–provide.

Moreover, those who argue that this is not a coup d’état, but an civilian inspired intervention of the military in politics to stop Egypt from descending into anarchy and chaos cannot change the fact that Egypt’s military transferred power illegally from a legitimately elected official and placed it in the hands of an unelected and illegitimate official. This is the definition of a coup d’état. And there is no further debate about that aspect of the event.

Having said that, what are the immediate consequences of this military coup d’état in Egypt & in the Arab/Muslim world?

1-High likelihood of a civil strife and civil war

Civil unrest, and a probable civil war, is very likely and sadly almost unavoidable. The supporters of Morsi will probably protest this coup. They will organize sit-ins in parks, streets, avenues and even  mosques. The military will somehow look away for a couple of months, but sooner or later will intervene forcibly to disperse  the protesters, and that would be the spark which would ignite the first round of violence, which, sadly, wouldn’t the last one. Even if the leaders of the MB have announced that they are against and do not support violence and have denounced it repeatedly, violence is more than likely to occur. In this case, who do we blame? The military or the radical wings of the Islamist movement? It’s clear to me that the blame should go first and foremost to those who organized this coup and stole the legitimate and democratic victory of the MB. After that, the blame game starts again, and we will soon not know who did what, why, and when. Sadly, this has always been the hallmark of the cycle of violence in almost all civil wars and civil strife. But as of now, the aggrieved are the member of the MB, and the aggressors are the military. This much is clear.

2-Victory of the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and defeat of the moderate one

For decades, the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood has been engaged in a serious and tough internal debate to convince its rank and file that democracy is a valid and a legitimate means to arrive to power and do politics. During those years, there were divisions within the movement, the radicals were forced out, outnumbered and muted, and serious fights, fatwas and religious edits were issued to justify democracy, and undermine all alternative means that were so popular in the movement back in the 1960s and 70s. Those who won that debate are the biggest losers today since this coup will provide cover, support, and justification for the rhetoric of the radicals. So, we will probably see the revival of the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood which has never believed that Arab/Muslim autocrats would allow an Islamist Party to win elections and exercise power.

3-U.S. will be fairly or unfairly blamed for the coup d’état

The U.S and Israel will be directly or indirectly, fairly or unfairly, blamed for this coup. Even if the U.S did not have any involvement in the coup, the fact that it did not put sufficient pressures on the Egyptian military (with whom it has great relations) will be held against it. Already all over social media networks and Internet forums pictures of a collage of Mossadegh, Salvador Allende and Morsi are floating intimating that this was a coup designed in the West (you add to that Israel) and carried out by “their stooges”, the Egyptian military.

4-Good days ahead for Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda has just gotten a fresh batch of new recruits, slogans, narrative, and material. All that material will point an accusatory finger toward the U.S and accuse the U.S (and by extension Israel) for its hypocrisy–i.e., the U.S loves democracy only when it doesn’t involve Islamist Parties–and for being anti-Islam. The “I told you so” will be the new recruiting slogan for Al-Qaeda. Members of Al-Qaeda as well as its ideology never believed and/or supported democracy and have always undermined moderate and not so moderate Islamist political parties. Probably, the biggest blow to the Al-Qaeda as an ideology was the Arab Spring and the electoral victories of moderate Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt. However, Al-Qaeda’s biggest victory so far was handed to it by the Egyptian military today. I have no doubt that Al-Zawahiri is celebrating and dancing in his cave right now.

5-Delegitimization of future Islamist Parties in Egypt post Morsi’s MB

All Islamist Parties that choose to take part in future elections in Egypt will have no credibility, just like all Islamist Parties in Algeria now have lost all popular credibility and legitimacy. The loss of credibility will result from 2 sources: 1) the alleged mismanagement of the economy during Morsi’s first year in office (though it is extremely unfair to blame him for the economic situation since he inherited a collapsing economy); and 2) if the MB engages in violence, and clearly calls for a violent uprising against the military or loses control over its base. This will be held against the MB and will harm its political and social brand, and might even lead to its ban.

6-Delegitimization of democracy as a valid means of governance in Egypt

This is a deadly blow to democracy in Egypt. I am afraid that it might even be a complete delegitimization of the democratic process. Regardless of all the spin that we are listening to right now and is coming from Egypt notwithstanding, democracy has died tonight in Egypt. The consequences of that is the rise of an electoral authoritarian system with a democratic veneer, but with deep layers of authoritarian rules.  The freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, freedom of association and speech are, as of now, something of the past.

7-Chilling effect on new democracies in the Arab World and Sub-Saharan Africa

This coup will have a chilling effect on all new and fledgling democratization processes in Tunisia and Libya (there is also another effect that i will develop in future posts). The military in those countries (and in Sub-Saharan democracies as well) will feel emboldened by the Egyptian example. They will feel that they can intervene at any time in the political process to shape politics in the manner they see fit. Effectively, the military has become in the Arab World a very powerful veto player in civilian democratic governance. This is the death of democracy as we know it, and the rise of electoral authoritarianism, which will last a generation or two.

Video of president Morsi’s last speech moment before he was placed under house arrest


Présidentielle Américaine: OBAMA REELECTED. Signed, Sealed, Delivered!

November 6, 2012 Leave a comment












Key groups that voted for OBAMA: 60% of “Not Married”; 58% “Making under $50K/year”; and 52% “Of Political Moderate”

Key groups that voted ROMNEY: 79% “White Evangelicals”; 79% “Conservatives”; and 58% “Making over $100K/year”



Early exit polls released on Tuesday show that about 50% of voters still blame President George W. Bush more than President Barack Obama for the country’s economic problems and most cite the economy as their top issue in the election.


45% of voters said they think the 2010 OBAMACARE law should be either fully or partially repealed, compared with 47% who want to see the law remain as-is or see it expanded further.


The economy is he most important issue among those who voted today.

Of those voters who were asked about the biggest economic problem facing “people like you,” 40% said it was unemployment, 37% said rising prices, 13% said taxes and 8% said it was the housing market.

Of those who voted today, 24% said they were doing better today compared with four years ago, 34% said they were doing worse and 41% said they were doing about the same.


Auto Bailout: 59% Approve; 36% Disapprove.
Among those who approved of the Auto Bailout, 75% voted Obama, 23% Romney. This means that Obama could very well carry the White vote in Ohio.

Attention Readers: I will be liveblogging the results of the U.S. presidential elections at 20:00 this evening. All the results from the battleground states will be directly posted at the AP releases them and they are confirmed by at least one independent source or a network.
The counties that we will be focusing on are: Hillsborough County (Florida), Orange County (Florida), Miami (Florida), Lauden County (Virginia), and Hamilton County (Ohio). These are the counties that i picked as early indicators of how those states will go.
Stay tuned and it is going to be an exciting night.

By the end of the evening, the electoral map below will be filled with blue and red states indicating the winner of the race

Présidentielle Américaine: J-1, THE FINAL PUSH

November 4, 2012 Leave a comment

This is the closing argument of Obama’s campaign for his reelection. Watch, it’s inspiring.

The Challenges

The Final Push

What We’re Fighting For


Présidentielle Américaine: J-2, Mes Prédictions

November 4, 2012 Leave a comment

I have been literally bombarded by messages and emails asking me to write something about the U.S. presidential election. Well, i made the conscious decision not to write a play-by-play of the campaign because it can be very tiring to read (and to write as well) and even very much redundant. So, in this post, i will summarize the GOP primaries (not much to write there), and then go directly into outlining the different paths to 270 electoral votes, and who’s most likely going get them.

A Short & Quick Recap:

Well, in 2 days, Americans will either reelect Barack Obama (D) or hand the presidency to a new president, Mitt Romney (R). This campaign has been long. First, we had the primaries of the Republican Party. It was truly a clown show, and if you folks missed it, well let just say that you didn’t miss much; maybe you missed some genuinely hilariously laughing out loud moments like Perry’s “Oops” moment or Michelle Buchmann playing the waitress for the other candidates.


By the time the Republican base chose its standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate moved so far to the right that he fell off the cliff. In order to clinch the nomination, Romney radicalized his positions on women’s health, immigration, fiscal policy, education, FEMA, health care, the federal bench, deficit, etc. In short, you name it, he radicalized it. To top this mad-dash to embrace the fringes of the GOP base and the Tea Party, and to get their blessings, Romney espoused a vision of the role of the government that is truly alien to modern day moderate America. Taking his cue from the Tea Party clowns, Romney argued for a minimal role of the government in almost every policy. To Romney, less regulations lead to small government, which is synonymous with good government and some sort of mythical increase of freedom. Let’s just say that this vision of the role of the government is not even a valid vision for the role of the government in the 19th century.

So, by the time Romney went to Tampa to accept his party nomination, he was a walking-dead electorally. Something had to be changed: enters the debates season. For Romney, it was either stick to his radical views and philosophy, and lose in a landslide, or pivot to the center and try to make this race as close as possible. Well, Romney opted for the second option–i.e., a pivot to the middle. And what a pivot that was. By the end of the first debate–it’s useful to note that Obama delivered a very poor performance that day–gone was Romney the radical of the primaries, the summer and the republican convention, and voila entered the moderate Romney of the general election and October. But to do a seamless pivot to the center, usually candidates don’t trade what is perceived as their core beliefs and positions for new ones, otherwise it would be too obvious and too damning. Well, this little caveat wasn’t a problem for Romney. He changed almost all his positions. You name it, he flip-flopped on it. Sometimes Romney changed his positions so many times that he had even forgotten his own initial ones. Take for example health care: during the primaries, Romney dismissed, repudiated, and emphatically rejected his own heath care plan–i.e., Romney-care–that he implemented in Massachusetts when he was a governor. After rejecting his own plan, he pledged to repeal Obama-care on his first day in office. A couple of months later (after the RNC convention), he declared that there might be a few things in the Obama-care that he liked. Then during the first debate, he came very close to embracing Obama-care that Obama himself was in total disbelief. Before the debate even ended, his senior campaign managed declared to the press that Romney was still against Obama-care. He did the same thing on Roe vs. Wade, immigration, taxes, the deficit etc. By the end of the month of October, Mitt Romney was a walking-talking contradiction. He was everything and nothing. He was an empty suit without conviction or a core. That flip-flopping was aimed at attracting or splitting the independent/undecided vote, and to a certain degree, he was successful in doing that. But is it enough to get him to 270? Not so fast!


Obama’s Record and Agenda

On the other side, Obama is the incumbent and as such he has a record to defend and a vision (which is pretty much a continuation of his first term vision) to project. His record is a mixed bag, but in all objectivity, it is a good one nonetheless. America is the only advanced western democracy that according to the IMF projections will be the strongest economy in 2013. Moreover, the United States, as Fareed Zakaria rightly argues, is the only  advanced western democracy that has negotiated this terrible economic recession and gotten out of it pretty quickly and with a strong and stable economy. For example: US companies have $1.7 trillion in cash on their balance sheets. Debt in the financial sector relative to GDP has fallen back to levels last seen in 2000. US households have reduced their debt relative to disposable income by 15%, more than in any other country. US home construction jumped 15% in September to a 4-year high with 872,000 new permits. U.S. exports, which have increased by 45% in the past 4 years, are at their highest level ever as a % of the GDP. A 2% GDP growth for 2012, while almost everyone else has had a sub-2% growth. The IFM’s latest World Economic Outlook forecast a 3% growth for the US, while everyone is sub-2.5%. Unemployment is at 7.8%. 30 consecutive months of positive job creation with close to 5 million jobs created. The stock market is almost as its pre-2008 levels. Consumer confidence is fine and up. Inflation is almost nonexistent. The federal deficit fell to $1.1 trillion in the 2012 fiscal year, down from about $1.3 trillion a year earlier, which is the smallest deficit since 2008. All these economic indicators are positive and point toward a serious take off the economy in 2013 and beyond.

Job Growth under Obama


Forecast, electoral maps, and the path to 270

So, where do we go from here? And who’s got the better odds at winning the election in 2 days? Well in one word: Obama.

Statistically, Obama has a probability of about 70% of winning the election with 305 electoral votes on November 6th.

FiveThirtyEight Forecast



This election was always going to be a tight one, and Obama was always better positioned to win. As all incumbent, Obama benefited from his incumbency. Moreover, the fact that he successfully ordered the military operation that took out Usama Bin Laden, and the way he’s been handling the aftermath of hurricane Sandy increased his presidential stature.


Now, let us look at the different paths that might lead Obama to 270. First, there are about 7 very important battleground states: Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. In almost all of these battleground states, Obama is tied or has small, but substantially constant lead. As the 3 charts below show, Obama has been leading the polls in one very important state, which is Ohio. Why is Ohio important? Because of a very simple reason: without Ohio, the path to 270 for Romney becomes almost impossible.

Wednesday, 31th October: 27 Polls Released in the Battleground States

Wednesday, 31th October: 27 Polls Released in the Battleground States

Sorting Competitive States for Mr. Obama’s Current Projected Margin of Victory or Defeat

Not-Weighted Averaged of all the Polls of likely voters in the FiveThirtyEight database

There is one conclusion that jumps at us when we look at the above charts and averages of the polls, and that is as of today Obama is extremely well positionned to win. His constant lead in Ohio widens the electoral maps for him, and shrinks it for Romney.

Let us now, look at all possible electoral maps that lead to Obama’s victory.

Map 1: Winning Ohio and Wisconsin, but losing Florida, Virginia, NH, Iowa, Colorado, Obama gets 271 EV

Map 2: Winning Ohio, Iowa, and NH, but losing Florida, Virginia, Colorado, and Wisconsin, Obama gets 271 EV

Map 3: Even when losing, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, but winning Wisconsin, NH, Iowa, and Colorado, Obama get 272 EV

What these 3 electoral maps show is that there are several routes for Obama to get to 270, even if he loses Ohio. However, it is almost and virtually impossible for Romney to get to 270 EV if he loses Ohio. Unless a freakishly bizarre incident occurs between now and election day, i cannot see Obama lose this election.

Now, this is my forecast and my electoral map. You can hold me to my word on November 7. I think Obama will win Ohio, NH, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Virgin. He will lose Florida and Colorado (not by much). That would give him 294 electoral votes and the president.

My Map and predictions: Winning Ohio, Virginia, NH, Iowa, and Wisconsin and getting 294 EV

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.

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.


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?