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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. Foreign policy commands attention when it’s crisis management. A street revolt breaks out in Egypt or Libya or Kiev and everyone asks, how should the president respond?

Now these are important parts of America’s role in the world, but they are essentially reactive and tactical. The broader challenge is to lay down a longer-term strategy that endures after the crisis of the moment. The Obama administration has tried to do this with its Asia’s strategy, and the president’s trip this week is a part of that, but progress has been halting and incomplete.

So for all its problems, the real threat to a serious Asia strategy comes not from the administration but from Congress and maybe the American public. In fact, the difficulties in the execution of the Asian pivot raised the broader question — can America have a grand strategy today?

Obama’s basic approach is wise and in many ways a continuation of U.S. foreign policy since Bill Clinton’s presidency, including George W. Bush. On the diplomatic front, it has two elements — deterrence and engagement. All countries in Asia as well as the United States seek stronger and deeper economic ties with China and want to ensure that that country does not become an expansionist regional bully.

Now getting the balance between those two elements — engagement and deterrence — is hard to do and easy to criticize. There is, however, a broader aspect to Asia policy, one that is constructive. At the center of this is the Transpacific Partnership. It would not only be the largest trade deal in decades if it happened involving most of Asia’s large economies and perhaps eventually even including China but it would strongly reinforce America style rules about free and open trade worldwide.

Yet the president has not been able to get the fast track authority that makes it possible to negotiate such a trade deal. The Democratic Party, once the greatest champion of free trade, has long turned its back on it. A sad shift in a once open and optimistic party. And in recent years, Republican support for trade has also gotten much weaker.

America’s military strategy in Asia requires significant budgets, and these are under pressure from both sides of the aisle. Public support for any kind of ambitious, generous foreign policy is pretty low these days.

Now the most worrying obstacle to a serious American strategy might seem at first to be a highly technical issue. The administration has proposed reform of the International Monetary Fund which congressional Republicans are blocking. But reforming the agency is crucial to America’s future global vote.

Let me explain. The IMF governing board has long been dominated by the United States and Europe. As Asian countries have become a large part of the global economic pie, the Obama administration has proposed enlarging their votes on the board. Now this mostly would take power away from Europe, not the United States. And yet congressional Republicans have held up this plan for three years, and they show no signs of being ready to pass it.

This issue has united Asian countries from China to Indonesia to Singapore who see it a sign that the West will never let them share real power in these institutions. And you know what? They have a point. After World War II, the United States confronted Soviet communism but it also built a stable world order by creating many institutions that set global rules and norms, and shared power from the U.N. itself to the IMF and the World Bank.

The urgent task is to expand these institutions to include the rising powers of Asia. If Washington does not do this, it will strengthen those voices in Asia, especially in China, who say that their countries should not try to integrate into a Western framework of international rules because they will always be second class citizens, and they should, instead, buy their time and create their own institutions, played by their own rules and do their own thing.

And at that point, we will all deeply regret that we did not let these countries into the club when we had a chance.

CNN.com – Transcripts

Posted April 28, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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John Oliver “Luckily, there are some people in Congress who are paying attention.”

Fox anchor June 18th “Within the last hour, a statement from Republican Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-MI), who are introducing legislation to limit the collection of phone records, and force secret national security court opinions to be public.”

MSNBC anchor “This strange coalition, very liberal and very conservative, you don’t often hear that these days.”

Oliver “That’s right.  Not only is Congress actually responding to this scandal, Democrats and Republicans are actually working together.  That feels strange.  It’s like when an animal becomes friends with a totally different animal (shows picture of a small monkey hugging a bird).  It’s lovely to see, but something about it just feels wrong.  Sure, maybe they’re going to work together to get a banana out of a tree.  But, call me cynical, once that fruit hits the ground, you’re going to end up with a dead bird and a blind monkey, both laying next to a rotten banana.”

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Jon Stewart “Yesterday, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul fell asleep on the Washington Metro’s green line and ended up at historically black Howard University, where he decided to speak.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) April 10, 2013 “Some people have asked me, are you nervous about speaking at Howard?…Some have said I’m either brave or crazy to be here today.”
Stewart “But, that’s what heroes do.  They don’t think about the odds when they plunge head first into a symposium with high achieving students at a prestigious university.  But, go ahead.  You had them at you’re crazy.”
Paul “How did the party that elected the first black US Senator, the party that elected the first 20 African-American Congressmen, how did that party become a party that looses 95% of the black vote?”
Stewart “I’ll take that one.  See, because for the last 50 years, the Republican party has embraced a craven political calculation known as the southern strategy which stated that, quote (From New York Times May 17, 1970) ‘From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 percent to 20 percent of the Negro vote.  And they don’t need any more than that.’ ‘The Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.’ because ‘The more Negros who register as Democrats in the south, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.  That’s where the votes are.’ unquote.”

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Bill Maher “You know what today is?  Right, sequester day.  This is March first, sequester day.  You know what happened here.  For months they’ve been trying to get a deal, the Republicans and Democrats.  The two parties could not agree, so they said, many months ago, we were going to set a date, and this is the date, to motivate themselves.  They said if we can’t do it by then, then automatic spending cuts that could send us back into a recession, will go into effect.  Well, this is like not having the willpower to diet, so instead, rigging your refrigerator to blow up if you open the door.  This is where we are with our Congress now.”

 

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Ezra Klein “Think back to July 2011. The problem was simple. Republicans wouldn’t agree to raise the debt ceiling without trillions of dollars in deficit reduction. Democrats wouldn’t agree to trillions of dollars in deficit reduction if it didn’t include significant tax increases. Republicans wouldn’t agree to significant tax increases. The political system was at an impasse, and in a few short days, that impasse would create a global financial crisis.

The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change.

There were two candidates to drive that change. The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.

The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.

Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they wanted the goalposts moved to.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/23/on-the-sequester-the-american-people-moved-the-goalposts/

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Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on Sunday explained to Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan that she was wrong to slam President Barack Obama for not compromising with Republicans on the debt ceiling because you don’t negotiate with “hostage takers” who are trying to “blow up the world economy.”

“The White House position, which is right, is that there should be no bargaining over this,” Krugman told a panel on ABC’s This Week. “If the Republican majority in the House wants to cut spending, let them propose legislation that cuts spending and pass it, not hold America hostage.”

“We should not allow this to become or be thought of as a legitimate budget strategy,” Krugman warned. “This is hostage taking, this is walking into a room and saying, ‘I’ve got a bomb, give me what I want or I’ll blow up this room.’ This has never happened before and should not be allowed to happen.”

“This is much scarier that the fiscal cliff because we don’t know what it does,” he continued. “What we do know is that U.S. government debt is the global safe asset. It is what every financial transaction relies on as the ultimate, this is what value consists of — and better than gold, better than anything. U.S. Treasury bills are the thing. If they are called into question, nobody knows what happens.”

Noonan, however, insisted that the president “should be sitting down and talking with those who would attempt to move forward on spending.”

“I consider it unusual that this president can never make a deal with those folks,” she opined.

“This is not something you negotiate over,” Krugman shot back. “You do not negotiate with hostage takers. That’s the White House position. They’re right about that. You just don’t negotiate on this. You can negotiate on the sequester, you can negotiate on taxes, but not on someone who is threatening to blow up the world economy if he doesn’t get his way.”

“My goodness,” Noonan replied. “That appeared to be the White House position on the fiscal cliff just a month or two ago. Why can nothing ever be worked out? We do have a president, we do have legislative leaders, we do — it should be noted — have a spending crisis in America. It is not an eccentric thing to worry about the amount of spending that America does.”

“You don’t do it this way,” Krugman disagreed. “This is a doomsday, this is really saying, ‘I will blow up world unless you give me what I want.’ And you don’t negotiate on that.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/13/krugman-schools-noonan-dont-negotiate-with-republicans-who-want-to-blow-up-the-world/

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Ezra Klein “In a letter co-signed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, majority whip Dick Durbin, vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus Chuck Schumer, and budget committee chairwoman Patty Murray, the four Democrats, presumably on behalf of their caucus, ask President Obama to ignore the debt ceiling when the time comes:

‘It is hard to imagine that the Speaker and Leader McConnell would really follow through on their threat to let the nation default on its debts. They are responsible leaders who know better. Sadly, some of their Republican colleagues do not. There, we believe that you must make clear that you will never allow our nation’s economy and reputation to be held hostage. In the event that Republicans make good on their threat by failing to act, or by moving unilaterally to pass a debt-limit extension only as part of unbalanced or unreasonable legislation, we believe you must be willing to take any lawful steps to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global crisis — without congressional approval, if necessary.’

They’re saying, for the record, that the majority party of the U.S. Senate will not consider it an executive power grab if the president takes unusual action to avoid default.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/11/senate-democrats-to-obama-ignore-the-debt-ceiling/

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Ezra Klein “Democrats do want to raise taxes on families making more than $250,000. You sometimes hear Democrats say they just want to “restore the Clinton-era rates” for these folks, but that’s misleading. In addition to letting the Bush tax cuts expire, the White House wants to add about $700 billion in further tax increases on these taxpayers. And that’s in addition to the high-income taxes passed in the health-care law. Under Obama’s plan, taxes on the richest Americans would be much higher than under the Clinton tax code.

So yes, Democrats want to raise some taxes. But so do Republicans. They want to let the payroll tax cut and the various stimulus tax credits (notably the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit) expire. Those are the tax cuts that primarily help poor and middle-class Americans. In fact, 87.8 percent of the payroll tax cut’s benefits go to taxpayers making less than $200,000 and 99.9 percent of the stimulus tax credits’ benefits go to taxpayers making less than $200,000.

And those tax cuts help many, many Americans. Pretty much everyone who works benefits from the payroll tax cut. Pretty much everyone who works in a low-wage job benefits from the stimulus credits. Whereas the tax cuts for income over $250,000 help about 4 percent of taxpayers, these cuts and credits help almost every taxpayer. Letting them expire will thus raise taxes on many, many more people than letting the high-income Bush tax cuts expire.

(It’s worth noting here that support for the payroll tax cut isn’t universal among congressional Democrats. Some worry that it appears to undermine Social Security’s finances, even though the law says that the revenue removed from Social Security will be replaced by revenue from the general fund. These Democrats would happily sign onto a replacement for the payroll tax cut, but Republicans haven’t been open to that, either.)

Republicans argue that these policies weren’t really tax cuts, that they were temporary stimulus measures designed to be tax cuts. And it’s true that their primary purpose was stimulus. But the Bush tax cuts were also designed to be temporary and they were sold as stimulus once the 2001 recession began. “By ensuring that Americans have more to spend, to save, and to invest, this legislation is adding fuel to an economic recovery,” President Bush said in 2003, upon signing the second set of his tax cuts.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/27/hey-america-republicans-want-to-raise-your-taxes/

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Stewart “Now, of course, we could show you Democrats and Republicans taking opposite positions on filibuster reform, when their roles were reversed seven years ago, but eeh.  There’s something about this I, actually, don’t understand.  If the Republicans can filibuster anything the Democrats can propose, they how can the Democrats reform the filibuster without being filibustered?”

Reporter 11-30-12 “Democrats have said they won’t move forward on any changes before January, when the one hundred thirteenth Congress begins.  At that point, under conditions that only apply on the first day of a new session, they could alter the Senate rules by a simple majority.”

Stewart “Now you’re just making (stuff) up.  What kind of rule is that?  Well, we can’t do it, except on the first day of a new session, when Orion is in the house of the rising sun, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, and it’s opposite day and the girl Senators get to ask the boy Senators to the dance.  When crazy rules like these get in the way, how do you expect anything to get done?”

Sen Harry Reid 12-8-06 “The Senate was not established to be efficient.”

Stewart “Well, mission bleeping accomplished.”

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-december-3-2012/the-men-who-stall-on-votes

My letter to Senator John McCain 11-19-12   Leave a comment

I just sent this to Senator McCain:

 

Dear Senator McCain,

As a citizen of Vermont, I never quite know if it’s OK to express my opinion to another Senator, but with all of the comments on Benghazi, I feel compelled to write.  When Dr Rice first spoke on television, I heard her say she thought it was a demonstration linked to the video, but it was an armed group of attackers who killed our Ambassador and his guards.  The semantics of whether it was an Al Queda attack, or another armed group of thugs is irrelevant to me as a citizen.  We’re Americans.  We believe in living free.  That often exposes us.  Sometimes people attack us.  We always get them back.  It just seems like you are harping on a minor irrelevant point, and that is not what we need in America right now.

The Democrats just won big and are starting to strut their stuff.  We, the citizens of the United States, need you, the Republicans to be the calm voice of reason.  They tend to have a lot of hot headed ideas, and I love them for that.  But, we need balance.  We need to have you work with them in a calm professional way.  We need you to stop yelling at them, and just sit down and figure out the best way to move America forward, in consideration of how the states have elected their representatives.  I implore you, Senator McCain.  Stop with the Benghazi arguments and help bring the Democrats and Republicans together to quietly and efficiently get the job done for America.  Please be the man that I heard at a town hall meeting in Burlington, VT so many years ago.  I think you still have it in you, and hope that you do to.

Sincerely,

Tim Lewis