The normally Republican-phobic continent is taking a surprising shine to the lead GOP candidate, which it sees as a champion against the fringe
Mitt Romney, the GOP forerunner, met with fanfare on his recent travel to Europe./ Reuters
The presidential primaries look a little different from across the Atlantic, and not necessarily in the way that you'd expect. The coverage isn't an Obama love-fest as it was early in his presidency, nor is it entirely GOP-bashing. That said, mainstream Europe -- whose open antagonism toward the Republican party appears to have faded somewhat since the Bush years ended, despite an uptick during the health care debates -- is clearly fascinated by the current split in the Republican party. And, in the split, thus far Europeans would prefer Romney.
The European media has presented a fairly clear narrative of the primary to date: Romney's the leader but he doesn't excite Republicans -- that's the basic message. Perhaps because there's been less discussion of individual polls, there's been less hype about the as-yet short-lived leads by Herman Cain, Ron Paul, or Rick Perry. That also means, though, that there's been less journalistic reveling in the wackiness of what European (as well as some American) publications tend to portray as the wild-eyed Republican fringe. There's a hint of wariness, but it's not the full-blown incomprehension, derision, and fear that has occasionally been expressed on Continental op-ed pages.
But what Europe really does seem interested in is the split in the Republican party. "The Iowa presidential primaries reveal deep divisions among the Republicans," proclaims German paper Die Welt. An opinion in French Le Monde riffs on "Mitt Romney and the fatwas of the Republican Party." Libérationdescribes the "Christian right" as "torn," while Spanish El Paíssuggests Obama may be "tak[ing] advantage" of the Republican divide.
Thus far, European media voices have also expressed a strong preference for Romney over the other contenders. Clemens Wergin, for example, writes for Die Welt that the results in Iowa "show how uncertain the conservative movement in America is of its own identity." Mitt Romney represents the "classic, pragmatic, business-oriented branch." Then there's the "Christian, archconservative" side represented by Rick Santorum. Ron Paul "stands for the anti-state, radical libertarian impulses of America and for many populist reflexes. At the same time he's the candidate from whom there is the most to fear."
If that wasn't clear enough, how about this summary: "the good news from Iowa is that in this highly social conservative and less diverse state the moderate Romney can still win." Wergin adds that the "bad news" is that Paul is still a factor at all:
The Paul phenomenon makes it clear that there is an eerie potential for anger in the current conditions in America [...] It is an anger that above all feeds on the fact that the classic midle class dream of mobility in America is being dashed. Even well-educated young Americans today have huge problems getting a job appropriate to their training. [...] The vote in Iowa shows that conservatives in America apparently still don't know what they want to be: culture warriors? Isolationists? Moralists? Tied to the economy? Anti-establishment populists? Thus the Republican primary system is still good for some surprises.
The editorial board of French paper Le Monde pulls even fewer punches: it sees the difficulty Romney is having gaining support as evidence of the "ultra-right drift" in the Republican party (El País, to compare,calls it "petrified on the right"). Write the editors: "This is worrying for the U.S. -- and the rest of the world."
The standard negative narrative for Romney in the U.S. is that he's a chameleon, changing positions according to political expediency. Most liberals in America didn't take his liberal drift while governor of Massachusetts any more seriously than Republicans take his conservative drift at present. But that's not the way Le Monde sees it. The French paper sees Romney fundamentally as a moderate who "is winning only by aligning himself with the new catechism of the [Republican] party."
Previously, this narrative goes, Romney was "a New England Patrician [...] He governed Massachusetts form the center, with talent. He installed a universal system of health insurance. He defended the rights of sexual minorities, as well as that of women to abortion. He practiced a balanced budget policy. He was careful to defend the environment." Now, "he has conformed to what The Economist calls a 'list of fatwas' making up the new Republican creed." Now, "Romney is no longer the centrist he was in Boston. He no longer believes in climate change. He's opposed to abortion and gay marriage."
This French offering may be the starkest and most anti-conservative of the prominent views, but it's worth noting that the point of the article isn't to glorify Obama in contrasts. Though the final sentence admits the Republican drift is probably good for Obama, "it's bad for American democracy."
Therein lies the key to understanding this kind of European thinking. While it's important to realize this is all analytical shorthand -- Europe as a whole does not think with one mind, and even opinions on the same general path tend to diverge on specifics -- it's hard not to read a common thread in some of the media coverage of the Republican primaries. Contrary to what some might think, the tone even in condemnations isn't one of pure disdain: this is not a case of Europeans looking down their noses at Americans' Tea Party antics, the unstated view being that they'd never occur in Europe.
Arguably, it's precisely because Europe has seen its own Tea Parties that the media is so wary of America's right wing. No, this is not just another Nazi comparison: people often forget that Hitler was hardly Europe's only brush with fascism or populism gone wild. There are the extreme examples -- the French Revolution, France's July Revolution of 1830, the Revolutions of 1848, the Paris Commune, and on. But there's also a Christian right in Europe today: for example, Jean-Marie Le Pen's Tea-Party-like opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration. Despite the strong trend of European media wariness toward people like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul, European opinion and historical experience is clearly quite diverse. And that may be exactly what's informing the current across-the-water fascination with the Republican split.
Some fans are complaining that Zack Snyder’s envisioning of the Man of Steel is too grim—but it’s less a departure than a return to the superhero’s roots.
Since the official teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted online in April, fans and critics alike have been discussing the kind of Superman Zack Snyder is going to depict in his Man of Steel sequel. The controversy stems from Snyder’s decision to cast Superman as a brooding, Dark Knight-like character, who cares more about beating up bad guys than saving people. The casting split has proved divisive among Superman fans: Some love the new incarnation, citing him as an edgier, more realistic version of the character.
But Snyder’s is a different Superman than the one fans grew up with, and many have no problem expressing their outrage over it. Even Mark Waid, the author of Superman: Birthright (one of the comics the original film is based on), voiced his concern about Man of Steel’s turn toward bleakness when it came out in 2013:
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Changing neighborhoods may be a class issue, but in America, that means it's also a racial one.
Ask city-dwellers to describe what, precisely, gentrification is you’ll get an array of answers. The term is a murky one, used to describe the many different ways through which money and development enter poorer or less developed neighborhoods, changing them both economically and demographically.
For some, gentrification and gentrifiers are inherently bad—pushing out residents who are often older, poorer, and darker than the neighborhood’s new occupants. For others, a new group of inhabitants brings the possibility of things residents have long hoped for, better grocery stores, new retail, renovations, and an overall revitalization that often eludes low-income neighborhoods.
Rebel groups that employ terror in civil wars seldom win or gain concessions—but they tend to prolong conflicts, a new paper finds.
Nearly 14 years into the war on terror, there are signs of terrorism all around us, from Memorial Day tributes to the victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the raging Congressional debate over reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.
Yet some of the most basic information about terrorism remains surprisingly elusive. For example: Does it work?
There have been some attempts at answering the question, but many of them are either largely anecdotal or geographically constrained. Other studies have focused on international terror. But as political scientist Page Fortna of Columbia University notes, the vast majority of terrorism isn’t transnational—it’s localized, fought in the context of civil wars and fights for territorial control. Many of the intractable conflicts the U.S. is fighting today fit this definition: ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other groups in Iraq and Syria; Boko Haram in Nigeria; Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya; Yemen’s civil war; and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Is terrorism an effective tool when used in those conflicts?
In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
Advocates say that a guaranteed basic income can lead to more creative, fulfilling work. The question is how to fund it.
Scott Santens has been thinking a lot about fish lately. Specifically, he’s been reflecting on the aphorism, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.” What Santens wants to know is this: “If you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat?”
Santens is 37 years old, and he’s a leader in the basic income movement—a worldwide network of thousands of advocates (26,000 on Reddit alone) who believe that governments should provide every citizen with a monthly stipend big enough to cover life’s basic necessities. The idea of a basic income has been around for decades, and it once drew support from leaders as different as Martin Luther King Jr. and Richard Nixon. But rather than waiting for governments to act, Santens has started crowdfunding his own basic income of $1,000 per month. He’s nearly halfway to his his goal.
The former secretary of state jettisons sweeping rhetoric, and focuses on specific policies.
Hillary Clinton has been an official candidate for president for five weeks, and she still hasn’t done the thing most candidates do on day one: given a speech laying out her vision for America. Nor is she planning on doing so anytime soon. Politicoreports that Hillary’s “why I’m running for president,” speech, initially scheduled for May, has now been delayed until June, or even later.
There’s a reason for that: The speech is unlikely to be very good. Soaring rhetoric and grand themes have never been Hillary’s strengths. That’s one reason so many liberals found her so much less inspirational than Barack Obama in 2008. And it’s a problem with deep roots. In his biography, A Woman in Charge, Carl Bernstein describes Hillary, then in law school, struggling to articulate her generation’s perspective in an address to the League of Women Voters. “If she was speaking about a clearly defined subject,” Bernstein writes, “her thoughts would be well organized, finely articulated, and delivered in almost perfect outline form. But before the League audience, she again and again lapsed into sweeping abstractions.”
Why agriculture may someday take place in towers, not fields
A couple of Octobers ago, I found myself standing on a 5,000-acre cotton crop in the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, shoulder-to-shoulder with a third-generation cotton farmer. He swept his arm across the flat, brown horizon of his field, which was at that moment being plowed by an industrial-sized picker—a toothy machine as tall as a house and operated by one man. The picker’s yields were being dropped into a giant pod to be delivered late that night to the local gin. And far beneath our feet, the Ogallala aquifer dwindled away at its frighteningly swift pace. When asked about this, the farmer spoke of reverse osmosis—the process of desalinating water—which he seemed to put his faith in, and which kept him unafraid of famine and permanent drought.