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Best Music Videos for the US Elections

I have tuned out of the Republican presidential debates. Too much pandering, too much silly campaign rhetoric. I wrote about their statements on Europe, for instance in Gingrich, Romney rely on Eurobashing to "define their America" and "Europe" is a Dirty Word in the United States. I do, however, tune into official and unoffical campaign music videos.

Here are my three favorites so far in this election cycle: The best music video for a presidential candidate (Rick Santorum), the best video against a presidential candidate (Newt Gingrich), and the most bizarre one from a (former) candidate (Herman Cain).

1. While I don't agree with Rick Santorum's political views, I consider this the best music video for a presidential candidate. It helps me to better understand why so many Americans like him and why his campaign is so successful at the moment. The music video "Game On" by the band First Love, praises Rick Santorum's stands on faith, abortion, and manufacturing:

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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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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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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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Romney's Foreign Policy Team

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney published his foreign policy strategy: "An American Century -- A Strategy to Secure America's Enduring Interests and Ideals."

James Joyner has read it and says "Romney's Realist Foreign Policy Is a Lot Like Obama's": "Like Romney himself, it's not particularly exciting. Nor, thankfully, is it frightening."

Meanwhile Rachel Maddow looks at his newly announced team of foreign policy advisors and concludes "Romney Gives Bush Neocons Another Chance". That is frightening.

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The Forces Behind the Revolution in Egypt

Who gets the most credit for toppling Mubarak? And who will be blamed if the revolution turns nasty in the next 12 months? Who inspired the events that could change history like the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the Islamic Revolution in 1979?

Facebook? Twitter? Rising food prices? The "liberation" of Iraq? George W. Bush? David Hasselhoff? The Egyptian Army? The youth groups of the opposition parties? The Tahrir square campers? Or the tragic narratives of the two individuals Khaled Said from Alexandria or Mohammed Bouazizi from Ben Arous?

1. The BBC has a great image of "the camp that toppled a president."

2. Interestingly, the Boston Globe, often described as very liberal, gives George W. Bush some credit. A program to fund and train election monitors in Egypt "played a key role in the movement to topple President Hosni Mubarak's regime":

The program, which provided millions in direct funding to prodemocracy groups, helped dispatch 13,000 volunteers to observe Egypt's parliamentary elections in December. Thousands of those monitors, angered by what they said was blatant election rigging, joined the protests. Some became outspoken leaders; others used the networking and communication skills they learned to help coordinate 18 days of rallies. (...)

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2010 is Deadliest Year for Coalition Forces in Afghanistan

2010 is the deadliest year for NATO forces in Afghanistan, reports the NYT.
Violence is 69 percent higher for the three months ending Sept. 14 than it was for the same period last year, according to the United Nations special representative’s quarterly report to the Security Council, which was released Tuesday.

The deterioration of security was most evident in the increase in roadside bomb explosions, which rose 82 percent over the same period in 2009.
A graph documenting the steady annual rise of coalition deaths from 2001 to today can be found at iCasualties.org. US forces have suffered 1301 deaths out of the total 2098 among coalition forces since the war began in 2001.

This record in casualties follows another landmark event in Afghanistan last week, nation-wide provincial elections.  Here are some (grim) stats on the election outcome provided by AFP:

* more than 2,500 candidates stood for 249 seats
* over 3,000 official complaints about voting irregularities
* more than 1,000 polling centers were unable to open because security could not be guaranteed
* 22 people were killed by polling day violence, and 294 insurgent attacks occurred
* final results are due October 31st, though may be delayed for months

While these numbers may be discouraging, Tony Karon writes in Time that the elections actually have only a marginal impact on Afghanistan's future:
Most of the region's main players, including President Karzai himself, are operating on the assumption that the only plausible endgame for the war in Afghanistan is some form of political settlement with the Taliban — and reports from the region suggest that the pursuit of such a settlement, with Pakistan acting as broker, has already begun via discreet talks. The bottom line in such a settlement would be for the Taliban to agree to prevent territory under its control from being used to export terrorism, and to accept that it will not be able to restore its theocratic rule over the whole country — some form of power sharing would be inevitable, with the Taliban likely to end up as the dominant political authority in the Pashtun south and east. But despite reports that Taliban leaders are open to a different approach to wielding power and hosting al-Qaeda, achieving a deal would be far from easy. The Taliban's military momentum diminishes its incentive to compromise, and the leaders of the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban for years and brought President Karzai to power are fiercely opposed to the restoration of the movement to any position of power. Still, the distribution of power in Afghanistan is clearly going to be determined by the outcome of efforts to broker a political solution among those who wield military force on the ground. And in that respect, Saturday's vote was, unfortunately, a sideshow.

Yanukovych: Ukraine Will Be a Bridge Between East and West

Ukraine's President-elect Viktor Yanukovych writes in the Wall Street Journal that “Ukraine Will Be a Bridge Between East and West”:

Let me say here, a Yanukovych presidency is committed to the integration of European values in Ukraine. Ukraine should make use of its geopolitical advantages and become a bridge between Russia and the West. Developing a good relationship with the West and bridging the gap to Russia will help Ukraine. We should not be forced to make the false choice between the benefits of the East and those of the West. As president I will endeavor to build a bridge between both, not a one-way street in either direction. We are a nation with a European identity, but we have historic cultural and economic ties to Russia as well. The re-establishment of relations with the Russian Federation is consistent with our European ambitions. We will rebuild relations with Moscow as a strategic economic partner. There is no reason that good relations with all of our neighbors cannot be achieved.

Can Yanukovych bridge the gap between East and West? Will he even try, or is this article simply political posturing to console those concerned about his pro-Russia stance?

Yanukovych was the most pro-Russia candidate, and has quickly sought to improve ties with Russia; he already suggested the Russian Black Sea Fleet may stay in Ukrainian waters and made clear Ukraine will not seek NATO membership. Ukraine will however continue moving toward EU membership (Businessweek).

His rival in the campaign and a leader of the 2004 western-supported Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko refuses to concede, and has requested the high court in Ukraine overturn the election results – an outcome seen as highly unlikely.

President Obama, the EU and NATO have already sent congratulations to Yanukovych.

With Yanukovych ditching NATO and seeking to improve ties to Russia and EU membership, the United States is the biggest loser from Yanukovych’s election. This outcome should not come as a surprise however: popular support in Ukraine for NATO membership has been consistently at or below 30 percent over the past few years, making NATO membership never really likely anyhow (AR forecasted this here).

With NATO membership for Ukraine never likely anyhow, perhaps the US has not lost much. In fact, Ukraine relations with the West under Yanukovych may not be much different than it has been under the Orange Revolution leadership for a few reasons:

* Ukraine will likely continue to develop a partnership with NATO, though not membership;
* Ukraine will want pragmatic and productive relations with the United States, and still seeks EU membership;
*
The acceptance by international observers of Yanukovych's election and his intent to pursue EU membership both support the fact that while the Orange Revolution leadership has been voted out, the western values it respresented - a democratic and free society - are now embedded into Ukraine. 

Whether or not Yanukovich can balance between the West and Russia is tough to predict.  However, Yanukovich's intent to pursue this balance is likely a genuine aspiration.