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The US elections and the Middle East

First of all, I think it is fair to say that no-one who wants to be taken seriously should use the words “Arab Spring” without heavy irony.

The fact is that the First Amendment, no matter how embattled, protects a range of expression unthinkable even in Western Europe. Because of that unique position, and because the U.S. seems doomed to play an outsized diplomatic and military role in the tumultuous Muslim world, it behooves the State Department to constantly explain the vast differences between state-sanctioned and legally protected speech in the so-called Land of the Free. If the U.S. government really was in the business of “firmly reject[ing]” private free-speech acts that “hurt the religious beliefs of others” there would be no time left over for doing anything else.

Matt Welch, stating what is alas not obvious to officials at the US State Department.

Meanwhile, I note – as have others – that the killing of the US ambassador in Libya only made it on page 4 of the New York Times. All the news that’s fit, to, er, print. Okay, I understand the limitations of print journalism, but something tells me that a journalist and editors goofed. A US ambassador got murdered, FFS.

The US elections got a lot more interesting, alas, for horrible reasons. The ghost of Jimmy Carter hangs over it.

Some wise comments, I think, from Walter Russell Mead. He is even-handed in how he regards the options for Obama and his opponent:

The order and competence dimension of a presidential election should not be underestimated. Voters generally don’t want presidents who drive the U.S. government like it was a Ferrari. They want a comfortable, safe ride; their kids are in the back seat of the car. Yesterday’s events damage President Obama because they call into question the story the campaign wants to tell—that President Obama is a calm and laid-back, though ultimately decisive person who brings order to a dangerous world and can be trusted with the car keys. But if Republicans respond by looking wild eyed and excitable (remember John McCain’s response to the financial crisis in 2008?), bad times will actually rally people to stick with the devil they know.

And this:

Yesterday rocked President Obama’s world and gave Governor Romney’s campaign some new openings. But one day in a long campaign is just one day. We still don’t know how these events will reverberate across the Middle East or how the U.S. response will develop. In some ways, trouble overseas distracts attention from the White House’s current domestic problems—the Woodward book and the Chicago strike. And the President can thank his stars that the German Constitutional Court decided not to plunge the world economy into crisis this morning and allowed the German government to complete the ratification of the most recent European bailout agreements.

As he says, we are living through a period where there is a lot of what finance geeks and others call “event risk”. There is a lot of it about.

I am off to Turkey tomorrow. Gulp.

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12 comments to The US elections and the Middle East

  • Ken in TN

    Be careful, have a boring flight.

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT the Matt Welch quote: the First Amendment is MEANT to protect “a range of expression unthinkable even in Western Europe”.
    The reality is different, though that is not the fault of the Founding Fathers.
    The difference can be seen in the different responses of the continental and anglo media to the Cartoon Jihad of 2005/2006.
    Now the chicken have come home to roost: no Danes died in the Cartoon Jihad, but already four Americans have died for a similar “offense”.
    While I still feel resentment against the anglo media, the American people have my sympathy … as long as they do not work in the mainstream media.

  • chuck

    I doubt the events will have much impact on Democrats, they will spend their time blaming Romney for criticizing the president. Apart from the usual political calculations that distraction will allow them to ignore what is going on in the world. In their minds the war that matters is the war on Republicans. What the impact of these events will be on independents I don’t venture to guess.

  • JeremiadBullfrog

    Add to the pile of differences between an Obama and a Romney presidency the unabashed Stalinism of the press under Democrat administrations.

  • Add to the pile of differences between an Obama and a Romney presidency the unabashed Stalinism of the press under Democrat administrations

    So no difference at all then.

  • Following on from Chuck, it seems to me that American Democrats aren’t the only ones thinking locally rather than globally. I mean, had the people who arranged these dramas cared about American policy, they’d not have humiliated Obama like this. Okay, maybe not worth many votes, but surely worth some, in what many (including many here) are saying will be a close American election. Do they want Romney to win? Maybe they do. But more likely, they haven’t given it that much thought.

    I know little of the local story, but I bet those who do will tell you what is really going on with these attacks, and that it’s all about local jockeying for power, in a mere background of anti-Americanism. The foreground is those other (local) bastards, whoever they are.

    But what do I know?

  • RRS

    What I can’t figure is why Romney didn’t come out and just say:

    “It appears we are now beginning to see the “new begining” that President Obama sought at the beginning of his term in his speech in Cairo seeking to appease reactions to what he viewed as our offenses to others.”

  • RRS

    It goes right along with the “reset” with Russia (read, Putin).

  • James Waterton

    Some isolated thoughts:

    re. McCain’s suspension of his campaign to deal with the Lehmann Brothers collapse, financial crisis etc; if McCain had’ve been able to stitch together (or be seen to have been responsible for stitching together) some kind of grand ‘rescue package’ – ie. some more of the Keynesian shit that Bush dished up in the dying days of his presidency and Obama delivered thrice over when he took office – McCain would probably have won bigtime. But he couldn’t pull it off. Yes, suspending his campaign to attempt the above was a high-stakes gamble that he ultimately lost, and it cost him the presidency. But inferring the gambit was ‘wild-eyed and excitable’ is not really a fair interpretation of events.

    re. the movie that’s causing all the fracas from the genuinely wild-eyed and excitable…having watched the trailer of the movie*, I have to say that it is far, far more incendiary than the motoons. Severe turbulence ahead, if the puppetmasters of the ummah wish there to be so.

    *plot content aside, it’s an insult to the craft of filmmaking

  • JeremiadBullfrog

    So no difference at all then.

    Touche’. But there is a great difference between having a supportive Stainist press versus a combative one.

  • Paul Marks

    On radio before 9/11 one man warned (again and again) about Bin Laden attacking.

    And duing the “Arab Spring” one man on national television warned (again and again) that it was not the nice thing the establishment all said it was.

    That man was Glenn Beck.

    “Paul you are praseing a crazy man”.

    Well I am crazy also – so that is O.K. then.

  • newrouter

    as of 9/12/12 beck’s show is on the dish sat network now