a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Samantha Power teaches Democrats how to be tough on national security

Posted on the August 12th, 2008

Earlier this week on a major American news show on CBS, the host and veteran newsman Bob Schieffer interviewed Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who’s been mentioned often in U.S. media as a top contender to be chosen as Obama’s vice presidential running mate.

Schieffer’s opening question to Kaine referred to the recent fighting between Russia and Georgia:

This morning’s headlines tell it all. American presidents, as we look at this situation going on in Russia, have to deal with problems that sometimes don’t come up at all in campaigns, so I guess my question this morning, Governor, is when we see what’s happening today, doesn’t that, won’t that bolster John McCain’s argument that the Presidency needs someone with experience dealing with issues like these?

What interested me most about Schieffer’s question was how much it reflected a perception — or rather misperception — that was analyzed recently in an article by Harvard University professor and foreign policy analyst Samantha Power (“The Democrats & National Security” by Samantha Power, The New York Review of Books, Aug 14, 2008).

In the essay, Power takes a close look at some of the factors that, according to her, have led American voters generally to regard the Republican Party to be much better on national security issues than the Democratic Party.

Power writes:

“This faith in Republican toughness has had profound electoral consequences. Since 1968, with the single exception of the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Americans have chosen Republican presidents in times of perceived danger and Democrats in times of relative calm.”

Power, who formerly served on Obama’s campaign as his foreign policy advisor, examines some of the origins of this faith in GOP toughness, and also questions its justification. She lays out some specific suggestions for how Obama and the Democratic Party leadership can reverse this crucial trend in voter thinking. Read full article here.

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Want to see an Iowan in its natural habitat? Here’s one

Posted on the January 3rd, 2008

He’s columnist David Yepsen of Iowa’s Des Moines Register. And for those who aren’t political junkies (USA), this interview with TV talk show host Charlie Rose may be largely gobbledygook. But for those who do take an interest in the internal workings of the U.S. presidential primary season, the drilling down into detail done here may be of interest. The interview also is timely (for the next eight hours or so, at least) given that the Iowa caucuses are being held today.

Rose and Yepsen talk about Democratic candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and who’s saying what, who’s listening and how Iowans may be responding. There is also some discussion about the leading Republican candidates, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and the Iowa surprise, Mike Huckabee. (I found this video on HuffingtonPost.com)

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The blogosphere: voters or villains?

Posted on the December 1st, 2007

Which position U.S. political candidates take on this question may correlate largely with which political party they represent, according to an article in The Times (“Are Republicans internet Luddites?” blog by Tom Baldwin, Washington correspondent, The Times, Nov 28, 2007). Republican politicians are considered “inept” in their use of the Internet, according to the article, in contrast to their Democratic counterparts who are utilizing it more.

In illustration of the difference, the article cites the number of Facebook and MySpace friends of various candidates — leading Democratic candidate Obama, for example, has 360,000 buddies on these two sites, whereas Republican candidate Giuliani has only 20,000.

A possible reason for the partisan divide? Though acknowledging that it is a” generalization,” Baldwin says that Republican “activists are more likely to regard the web as a purveyor of porn and terror or, at best, a business tool.”

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What sector of their society do Americans have the most confidence in?

Posted on the November 30th, 2007

The U.S. military, according to a recent Harvard University study. The national survey gave those in uniform a ranking of 3.15 out of a maximum possible rating of 4. Who scores the lowest among the twelve sectors listed? The press, with 2.26, ranking just below the White House which got a 2.43. (Note: graph values: 2 = not much; 3 = moderate amount; 4 = great deal)

The September 2007 study was based on interviews with 1,207 adults in the U.S., according to the report (“A National Study of Confidence in Leadership,” by the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2007). The annual study (begun in 2005) primarily seeks to measure Americans’ confidence in leadership, and is conducted in collaboration with the weekly news magazine U.S. News & World Report.

For a brief summary of the findings, go here (“Study: More Than 60% Don’t Trust Campaign Coverage,” by Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher, Nov 28, 2007) where I first read about this survey.

In its introduction, the Harvard report states that more than 75 percent of those surveyed believe there is a leadership crisis in the country, with 50 percent describing their confidence in their leaders as “not much” or “none at all.” A related question asked whether the U.S. has worse leaders today than twenty years ago. In response, 63 percent said they believed today’s leaders are worse, 12 percent said the quality of leadership is the same, and 7 percent said they weren’t sure.

In an exhibition of that famed Yankee optimism, however, almost eight in ten of those surveyed said they were confident that the next president — whether Democrat or Republican — will be good for the country, according to the study.

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