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Global Oil Panic: The United States of America

Oil prices are on the up and up, setting new records at the pump. Each time this happens, a spate of panicky reactions in national politics, all isolated from each other, burst up. First, a brief look at the state of the debate in the USA:

In the USA, McCain has proposed reacting to the higher oil prices by temporarily cutting taxes. This is in keeping with the Republican solution to everything -- cut taxes. Hillary Clinton has jumped on the McCain tax cutting train, hoping to draw more contrasts with Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Obama finds himself in the same camp as George W. Bush in opposing a symbolic tax holiday. A few paragraphs from the New York Times, via Drezner:

At a meeting with voters in North Carolina on Monday, Mr. Obama said lifting the gas tax for three months would save the average consumer no more than $30, a figure confirmed by Congressional analysts. Mr. Obama has previously dismissed Mr. McCain’s proposal as a “scheme.”

“Half a tank of gas,” Mr. Obama told his audience. “That’s his big solution.”

President Bush’s spokeswoman essentially sided with Mr. Obama in saying that tax holidays and new levies on oil companies would not address the long-term problems of dependence on foreign oil.

Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman, said gasoline prices were “entirely too high, but I think it would be disingenuous and unfortunate for American consumers for them to be led to believe that there is a short-term fix.”

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Superdelegates Might Decide Democratic Party Convention

It has been many years since a party convention in the United States has been decided by superdelegates rather than delegates from state primaries and caucuses. It could happen this time again, says our guest writer Brian Livingston, editorial director of Plus: He expects "the worst kind of racist smear literature coming from far-right extremists" should Barack Obama win the Democratic nomination. Here's what else he had to say shortly after the Washington State primaries:

Brian LivingstonMy wife and I attended our precinct caucuses on February 9, and about 100 people were there to vote, as opposed to about 25 in the same precinct four years earlier, when Kerry, Dean, and Edwards were candidates. The vote in our precinct this month was more than 2-to-1 for Obama over Clinton (we supported Obama).

Hillary won in zero out of 39 counties in Washington State. The interesting part for people around the world, of course, is not how Washington State liberals voted, but how the nomination process will go in the rest of the U.S.

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A European View of the US Election Campaign

Ulf Gartzke, a visiting scholar at the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, writes that many Europeans are captivated by and invested in the outcome of the US presidential election campaign:

In electing a young black politician with a Muslim father, Americans would do something that is pretty much unthinkable in any country in Europe, where politics are traditionally dominated by a white old boy's club (notable exceptions like German chancellor Angela Merkel notwithstanding). In this context, however, Europeans must not forget that Obama (despite having a very Europe-savvy foreign policy team) is not known to be an Atlanticist. Senator Clinton, for her part, has many European admirers dating back to her time in the White House with Bill, who remains a very popular figure in Europe.

According to Gartzke, McCain would be good for Europe as well: Continue reading "A European View of the US Election Campaign"

Are Europeans Hiding in the Bush, or is Transatlantic Panacea to Come?

There has been speculation on both sides of the Atlantic about whether America’s next president will be able to revitalize the acidulated transatlantic partnership.  Con Coughlin has captured a common sentiment in an op-ed published by the Telegraph:
Whether it is a Republican… or one of the two remaining Democrat contenders… none of them will arouse anything approaching the level of controversy and hostility that has been caused by President George W Bush's seven-year tenure.
President Bush has certainly been a divisive figure, both in policy and style.  However, it is hardly a foregone conclusion that there will be a panacea in transatlantic relations once Bush decamps.  As suggested by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a recent interview with Spiegel Online, transatlantic differences run deeper than one administration:
SPIEGEL: Isn't German and European opposition to a greater military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq also a result of deep distrust of American power?

KISSINGER: By this time next year, we will see the beginning of a new administration. We will then discover to what extent the Bush administration was the cause or the alibi for European-American disagreements. Right now, many Europeans hide behind the unpopularity of President Bush.
Kissinger brings to mind a good question: has European hostility toward the US been solely the response to poor leadership by Bush, or is there a more fundamental schism in the Alliance?

Crispin Williams weighs in at Social Europe Blog, arguing that Bush has left a scar on transatlantic relations that will not easily heal:
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Would the Democrats Cut Defense Spending?

Our reader Pat Patterson commented last night:

And if anyone seriously believes that either of the two Democrats aspiring to be president are actually going to cut defense spending then I own a bridge in Brooklyn...

I might be interested in this bridge. Here are three reasons:

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US Presidential Candidates: Who's Good for Europe?

As much as many Americans are looking forward for policy change, Europe is hoping for a multinational foreign policy under a new administration in the United States. In an article addressed to our "Dear Americans", former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt asks (in German; following translation and editing by Sonja Bonin) what Europe can expect from the next US president:

How do you intend to end the war in Iraq and what should Iraq look like afterwards?

What is your goal in Afghanistan? Eliminating just Al-Qaeda or the Taliban as well? Establishing democracy?

Should Al-Qaeda evade to Pakistan for good, perhaps even gaining access to nuclear weapons, would you military intervene?

What is your strategy for a peaceful solution of the decades-old conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors? Will you support the establishment of a Palestinian state?

What is the future US policy regarding Iran?

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Parag Khanna: "Europe's Influence Grows at America's Expense"

The short-lived age of US hegemony is over, with no hope of return.  Instead of comfortable primacy, the United States will struggle as one of three global superpowers.

This is the 21st century described by Parag Khanna in an essay published in New York Times Magazine, titled “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony” (HT: David Vickrey).  Khanna, a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation, bases the essay on his new book, “The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order,” to be published by Random House in March (the book is already the second bestseller at Amazon).  Here is Khanna’s line of argument:

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Clinton Most Likely to Rebuild US-European Alliance

Will "the Bush Administration’s unfathomably cavalier and gratuitously alienating attitude toward America’s European allies (...) change substantially on January 20, 2009?" asks Stephen Holmes, a professor at New York University School of Law, on Project Syndicates.
After all, the current Administration’s denigration of “old Europe” was not just a rhetorical aside, but a centerpiece of its reckless approach to foreign affairs.  That is why any serious break with the disastrous Bush legacy should start with rethinking and rebuilding the Atlantic Alliance.  That a renewed Atlanticism would be a priority for either Obama or Huckabee is extremely doubtful, however.
Candidates have no incentive to focus attention on a subject, such as the strained Atlantic Alliance, that seldom if ever enters the consciousness of the average voter.  Obama’s failure to convene a single policy meeting of the Senate European sub-committee which he chairs (a committee that oversees, among other things, US relations with NATO and the EU) has had absolutely zero resonance among the electorate at large.  When the topic arises, the Republican candidates, for their part, seem less blandly indifferent than overtly hostile to Europe.  Their anti-European animus, while crudely uninformed, reflects, among other factors, the scorn for secularism typical of Southern white evangelicals and the perverse notion promulgated by some distinguished Republican defense intellectuals that Europe today can contribute little or nothing to American security. (...) Other candidates, notably Hillary Clinton, would be more likely to conduct an intensely Atlanticist foreign policy, placing emphasis on rebuilding America’s alliance with those extraordinarily prosperous countries best positioned to help the US face the daunting challenges to global stability that lie ahead.