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Gingrich, Romney rely on Eurobashing to "define their America"

Four years ago, Obama campaigned with hope and change. He ran against George W. Bush's track record, even though Bush was not running again. Today, Republicans campaign with fear and "against Europe", although Europe won't be on the ballot box in November.

For Obama, Bush was "the other" against which he defined himself. For Republicans that "other" is Europe. (See all the Poli Sci literature on collective identities and nationalism) Newt Gingrich in his South Caroline Victoria Speech according to FOX News:

Those two choices, I believe, will give the American people a chance to decide permanently whether we want to remain the historic America that has provided opportunity for more people of more backgrounds than any country in history, or whether in fact, we prefer to become a brand new secular, European-style bureaucratic socialist system.

What does secularism have to do with any of this? I think Newt Gingrich is just listing all the "bad" things he can think of and does not care for European differences.  Italy, Ireland, Poland are part of Europe and not that secular. Italy has big economic troubles, Poland not so much. I would leave religion out of it. The Scandinavians are more secular, have less economic troubles and provide more opportunities (social mobility) for their citizens than the US does.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff from the German Marshall Fund Blog sums up the Eurobaloney on the Campaign Trail and reminds us that Americans have "traditionally understood their history, culture, and identity in contrast to Europe's."

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"Germany has the economic strengths America once boasted"

Dear Don Lee and Los Angeles Times,

Thank you very much for writing and publishing a positive article about the German economy that goes beyond the usual focus on our exports and also looks into the general economic model and the frugal lifestyle with plenty of recreation:

Every summer, Volkmar and Vera Kruger spend three weeks vacationing in the south of France or at a cool getaway in Denmark. For the other three weeks of their annual vacation, they garden or travel a few hours away to root for their favorite team in Germany's biggest soccer stadium.

The couple, in their early 50s, aren't retired or well off. They live in a small Tudor-style house in this middle-class town about 30 miles northwest of Frankfurt. He's a foreman at a glass factory; she works part time for a company that tracks inventories for retailers. Their combined income is a modest $40,000.

Yet the Krugers have a higher standard of living than many Americans who have twice that income.

Their secret: little debt, frugal habits and a government that is intensely focused on high production, low inflation and extensive social services.

That has given them job security and good medical care as well as well-maintained roads, trains and bike paths. Both of their adult children are out on their own, thanks in part to Germany's job-training system and heavy subsidies for university education.

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"What Germans Don't Understand About America"

On Wednesday, January 25 at 7 PM (German time, which means 1:00 PM EST), US Ambassador to Germany Philip D. Murphy will deliver a keynote speech at the American Academy in Berlin entitled "What Germans Don't Understand About America."

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"Europe" is a Dirty Word in the United States

Mitt Romney's Anti-European rhetoric is stronger than the Anti-American statements by leading German politicians in the last few election campaigns. Romney seems to assume that Republican voters are so stupid, uninformed and Anti-European that he can get their votes with scaremongering.

His Europe bashing seems to be his response to the criticism of his "socialist" health care policy in Massachusetts and his French language skills. (Newt Gingrich released the attack ad "The French Connection".)

In Iowa Mitt Romney accused Obama of turning the United States into "a European-style welfare state," saying Obama's policies would "poison the very spirit of America and keep us from being one nation under God," according to the Washington Post.

In his New Hampshire Primary Victory Speech he said Obama "wants to turn America into a European-style social welfare state society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity. This President takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America." (See video at 6:30 minutes.)

Well, Norway, Finland, Denmark and even Germany and France deserve the title "land of opportunity" more than the US does because social mobility is higher. The NYT writes about five such studies.

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Republicans Campaign with Anti-European Rhetoric

"Europe bashing has become an important stump-speech cornerstone for the entire Republican field," writes Spiegel:

Europe is socialist, bloated and a threat to the global economy. That appears to be the message from the ongoing presidential campaign in the US. Republicans in particular have discovered Europe as a convenient punching bag -- and have even begun accusing each other of being too "European."

What they conveniently ignore is that American Dream is not what it used to be. (Neither is the European Dream of an ever closer union, but that's another story). The United States is increasingly less the land of opportunity. America is not only less equal, but also less mobile than many European nations.

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Some Good News for a Change: Afghanistan's Pop Idol

The Taliban had banned music and 99% of everything else that is fun. Now, an Afghan version of the "American Idol" called "Afghan Star" has been broadcasted for seven seasons. Millions are watching and voting for their favorite singers by mobile phone. For many this is their first encounter with democracy. A documentary from 2009 follows "the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk all to become the nation's favorite singer."

Watch the latest show from this week: 

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My Predictions for 2012

1. Germany's Federal President will resign after less than two years in office. Christian Wulff will be the second head of state in a row who resigns because he does not like what the press writes about him. Germans will get new president. Again without the opportunity to vote.

2. Americans will vote, but they won't get a new president. Obama will win in November because the economy improves, unemployment goes down and the Republican base does not care enough for Mitt Romney to do intensive door-to-door campaigns.

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"The United States should breathe new life into the Atlantic community"

Georgetown Prof Charles Kupchan has published the interesting essay "Grand Strategy: The Four Pillars of the Future" in Democracy Journal.

The first and most important, yet also quite mainstream and redundant recommendation is to reduce oversea commitments:

A progressive grand strategy must help guide the United States from its current state of overextension toward a new balance between its foreign policy ends and its economic and political means. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the scope of America's commitment has far outstripped the interests at stake. The Iraq War, as unnecessary as it has been expensive, has drained the nation's coffers and ground down the U.S. military. In Afghanistan, it makes little sense for the United States to spend more than $100 billion per year in a nation whose annual GDP is roughly $14 billion, or for 100,000 U.S. troops to be in the fight when Al Qaeda's operational capability in that country has been largely dismantled. An open-ended strategy of counterinsurgency should give way to a much smaller U.S. mission focused on counterterrorism.

The fourth pillar of his grand strategy concerns the transatlantic alliance. I am positively surprised that Prof. Kupchan still sees enough value and potential in Europe to make this one of his pillars: "Fourth, the United States should breathe new life into the Atlantic community":

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