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Battle for White House: Missing issues from US 2016 presidential debates

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Americans will vote on 8 November to decide who will be the country’s next president to lead the nation to a peaceful path without wars and bloodbaths. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have presented a crude irony to the poll that American people have been provided with a choice between not only the two most unpopular candidates, but also the two most reactionary candidates in modern history.

The usual battle for the White House by two-party system is nearing the end point. World is damn sure that irrespective of who win the battle would continue the Bushdom agenda of permanent war on Islam by using many Muslim rulers like Syrian leader Assad.

With capitalism facing serious crakes globally, (notwithstanding the strenuous efforts by World bank and IMF to promote capitalism), imperialism could face obstructions and so US president would strive hard to promote both capitalism and imperialism to phase out the “enemies” and stabilize the “world order” to benefit these anti-humanity features on a permanent basis.

Ritualistic performance?

“They came, performed and disappeared”- this description fits well for the US presidential candidates -Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump – who joined the three “joint” debates on the worthiness of their candidature.

Neither the Republican nor the Democratic person has any real vision about USA but in public mudslinging they have outsmarted the third world leaders. When the elected presidents are not duty bound to fulfill all their promises, pledges and programs, now the empty debates make the life easy for the next President too as he or she can be assured of space in NATO permanent war project on Islam for securing energy resources and for reducing Islamic populations. Pentagon led Nato terror wars can be a perfect tool for the president to justify all their illegal actions at home.

Clearly, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the only two presidential candidates of the permitted parties, viz Republican and Democratic, debated only those useless issues without any substance, without any values for the society and governance, leaving out important issues.

They’re the only candidates that stand a real chance of winning the race, but there are other third-party and independent candidates in the running. The rules around getting on the ballot differ state to state, but most voters will have two main alternatives to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clearly, there is no clarity in their debates as to how and where exactly these two candidates would differ as the one to replace the incumbent president Obama who is heavily burned with several wars abroad.

The third and final of the Trump- Clinton presidential debates was just as false and intellectually degraded as the first two, characterized by lies by both candidates and mutual mudslinging. Trump and Clinton replied with mutual hatred, first about the allegations of sexual harassment by Trump which have been the focus of a week-long media barrage, then the charges of “pay to play” at the Clinton State Department, with donors to the Clinton Foundation receiving special access.

Both candidates gave themselves the widest possible latitude for escalating the US military aggression throughout the Middle East in the name of fighting “terrorism.” Clinton went on to advocate a wider war in the Middle East while concealing her plans after taking office, claiming she would “not support putting American troops back into Iraq as an occupying force.”

Trump: “Our inner cities are a disaster… I will do more for the African Americans than she will do in 10 lifetimes.” Perhaps most remarkable, however, was when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to support the election results. He refused to do so. Trump accused the media of poisoning people’s minds. He said Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run for president. It was Trump in a bunker, settling scores and lashing out at enemies real and perceived.

During the debate, Trump called Clinton a liar and hit back that she was a Russian puppet, not him. By the time the topic turned to “fitness to be president”, the stage was set for a total meltdown. He said the woman who has accused him of sexual harassment were in it for the fame and were Clinton campaign stooges.

Consensual candidate?

The final 2016 presidential debate took place on October 19 night, and expectations were not high either. Apparently, both leaders debated only those issues that seemed agreed upon in advance. That has been the practice of US politics cutting across the two-party system. The presidential candidates, therefore, have not been asked questions on some of the critical issues facing the nation that is fighting illegal wars abroad in Middle East on fake pretexts.

US establishment which generally decides who should be the next president and also work for that, is still seen busy with a Hillary win and Trump defeat. Clinton has become the consensus candidate of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, and, increasingly, of the Republican as well as the Democratic wing of the political establishment. It is significant that Trump never identified himself as a Republican or made any reference to the Republican Party during the debate, while Clinton repeatedly invoked the names of Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and contrasted them to Trump. Hillary is ready to claim to be the next president in January 2017.

Far more rapidly than most people are aware, the quarter-century of war waged by the US since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the fifteen years of the “war on terror,” are metastasizing into a direct confrontation with the larger geopolitical rivals of the United States.

This immense war danger has been virtually excluded from the presidential election campaign and all but ignored by what presents itself as the political “left” in the United States. After a quarter-century of unending war, including eight years under Obama–the first president to serve two full terms with the country continuously at war–there is no functioning antiwar movement.

Donald Trump disgorged more of his predictable and already tiresome tirades. Words poured out in randomly shuffled stacks, like cards dealt by a drunken croupier. One imagines him under the hot lights, reeking of narcissism, Trump “Success” aftershave, and flop sweat. If Trump manages to bring up jobs and trade, he may reprise his only strong moment from the first two debates.

Once again, Hillary Clinton spends far too much time belaboring the rather obvious fact that Donald Trump is a “horrible” human being. Recent Clinton ads attacking Trump have featured everyone from military veterans to obnoxious movie characters.

The Clinton campaign calculates that its candidate is likelier to prevail by ‘disqualifying’ Trump — using ads to make the idea of voting for him socially unacceptable in professional suburbs — among additional well-educated voters … than by holding on to working-class voters tempted by Trump’s populism …” In one sense, it’s hard to blame them for devoting so much effort to dissing the Donald. An old political cliché says, “Don’t interrupt your enemy when he’s in the process of destroying himself.” It must be tempting to take that one step further and offer a helping hand.

Many voters can be persuaded to despise a privileged, bigoted, misogynistic, bullying, lying, pompous, self-regarding jackass. But Trump has undoubtedly convinced most of those voters already.

Clinton could choose to “go high” instead, using the debate platform to offer uplifting proposals around the issues that matter most to voters – issues like jobs, wages, growth, student debt, and criminal justice. When it comes to uplift, moderator Chris Wallace won’t be much help. Wallace made it clear that he plans to abdicate his journalistic responsibility on Wednesday night. He likened the moderator’s job to “being a referee in a heavyweight championship fight,” a statement that trivializes the democratic process.

The phrase “debt and entitlements” reflects a misguided, inside-the-Beltway financial mindset. This is not the first time Social Security has been badly served in this year’s debates. The third most popular question submitted for October 9’s so-called “town hall” debate was, “Do you support expanding, and not cutting, Social Security’s modest benefits?” It became even timelier after this week’s announcement that Social Security’s next cost of living adjustment will be a “measly” 0.3 percent, an average monthly increase of only $5 per month, despite the fact that drug prices and other medical costs have soared.

Issues

Both have very cleverly avoided foreign policy even in the final debate. They have no explanation for the continuation of terror wars even after their “objectives’ have been sufficiently achieved. Nor did they touch upon serious problems affecting domestic policy, they ignored the basic human rights in the most advanced nation on earth.

On every issue of domestic policy raised in the course of the 90-minute debate—democratic rights, immigration, economic policy, social spending—Clinton employed liberal rhetoric, claiming to defend abortion rights, the legalization of most undocumented workers, government-funded job-creation, a rise in the minimum wage, equal pay for women workers, and an increase in Social Security benefits. Clinton aides openly discuss the need to make such bogus promises in order to fool the American people, and Clinton herself reassures her Wall Street paymasters that they should take her campaign promises with a very large grain of salt.

On national security issues she gave a glimpse of the “genuine” hawkish Clinton, the arch militarist who sought to close the deal with the US ruling elite by demonstrating her hard-line defense of imperialist interests around the world.

Speaking for the first time in his entire campaign with some seriousness, Trump touched a number of ultra-right talking points calling for the appointment of Supreme Court justices, for a wall along the US-Mexico border and to deport millions of undocumented workers, and pointing out, correctly, that President Obama has deported many millions already. Trump appealed to the economic grievances of working people, declaring that expelling immigrant workers, renegotiating trade agreements to bar foreign imports and slashing taxes on the wealthy and the corporations would generate an unprecedented economic boom, with annual GDP growth of six or seven percent. He declared that “millions of people are registered to vote that should not be allowed to vote,” then added that Clinton herself “should never have been allowed to run for president because of what she did with emails and so many other things.”

For the first time in any of the debates, the question of a US-Russian conflict in Syria was broached when Wallace asked Clinton directly about her support for a no-fly zone over Aleppo and other contested Syrian cities. A no-fly zone meant war with Syria and Russia, and if a Russian plane violates the no-fly zone, does President Clinton shoot it down? Clinton simply ducked the question, claiming that the no-fly zone, an act of war against Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, would be the subject of “negotiation.”

Capitalist funds and spending

Immoral act of fund raising from the rich and corporate lords by the party candidates makes the presidential poll a total farce. Those who “offer huge sums” to the candidates obviously expect “return favors” from the next president. The candidates thus spend huge resources on the campaign.

New poll finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission outlined their dramatically different approaches to the quest for the White House. Trump, while putting more money than ever into advertising, spent a fraction of the roughly USD 66 million Clinton poured into media buys.

Defying his notorious stinginess, Donald Trump more than doubled his campaign spending last month compared to August. He burned through roughly USD 70 million as his standing in polls and among fellow Republicans dropped. His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, spent even more, almost USD 83 million. Clinton’s payroll topped 800 people, coming in as her second-highest expense of the month, about USD 5.5 million.

Trump paid roughly 350 employees and consultants. He has outsourced most of his on-the-ground voter contact to the Republican Party. The New York real estate mogul has bragged until recently about his low-cost campaign and dismissed the need for television ads and polling services. But in September, he paid USD 23 million for commercials. In August he paid Conway’s The Polling Company 130,000. Last month, he almost tripled his payment to her company, part of USD 1.7 million in September expenditures to five different polling firms.

Another big expense: Long-ago ousted Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski received a total of USD 100,000. Lewandowski was fired in June and quickly became a paid contributor to CNN. That hasn’t stopped him from collecting Trump campaign checks thanks to a contract. In September, his Green Monster Consulting firm collected what the campaign said was its final payout to him. His firm took in about USD 540,000 over the course of the campaign. As a comparison, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, has been paid about USD 153,000 so far. One of Clinton’s expenditures causes a double-take. Her campaign reimbursed employees who purchased USD 260 worth of products from Trump International Hotel in New York.

Poll rigged and hijacked?

Commentators point out the US election administration is highly de-centralized, with each state setting its own rules and local officials administering them. In most states, observers keep tabs on poll workers too. Voter ID requirements and voting machines also have huge variations, so widespread rigging would be hard to co-ordinate. “It’s bipartisan, it’s transparent, and there’s just no justification for concern about widespread voter fraud.” Former House Speaker and Republican Newt Gingrich harked all the way back to the Richard Nixon versus JFK 1960 election this weekend, saying no “serious historian doubts that Illinois and Texas were stolen”. His comments refer to allegations that JFK’s operatives – allegedly with the collusion of public officials – fixed tallies in Texas and Illinois, giving him 51 electoral votes, and ultimately winning him the closely contested election.

In 2014, when Obama was reelected to White House, 31 known cases of impersonation fraud were found in one billion votes cast in all US elections between 2000 and 2014. And in 2012, News21 analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 turned up some 10 cases of voter impersonation. The idea that the US election will be rigged is “ludicrous”, and “certainly not stolen in the way that Trump has alleged,” according to Professor Richard Hasen, an expert in election law.

The Trump campaign has made claims of “election rigging” for months, blaming the “dishonest and distorted media” and the “Clinton machine” for the Republican’s slide in battleground states in the polls. But now the rhetoric has reached new heights, with Trump launching a twitterstorm to hammer home his allegations. A third of Republicans say they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence that votes will be counted fairly, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Donald Trump has alleged that “large scale voter fraud” is occurring in the US, but is it possible to rig the US election? However, studies suggest voter fraud isn’t really a widespread problem in the USA.

In the third debate, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tried to be restrained, cool and matured- rather ready to assume presidency. He really did calling his previous version as mere gimmicks. During the first section of the third presidential debate, when the topic was the Supreme Court, if you squinted you could almost imagine that this was just another presidential race, with two candidates squaring off and vigorously discussing their public policy positions on abortion and gun control. Even the immigration discussion started reasonably civilly, until Clinton pivoted to turn a question about Wikileaks into an attack on Trump’s relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sparred at debate over gun rights, with the Republican nominee charging that the Second Amendment is “under absolute siege” and would be eroded if his opponent wins. Trump, in the final three weeks, is thought to be zeroing in on several key battlegrounds including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina – but the polls suggest his path to the presidency remains narrow, as even once-reliably red states like Texas are being contested by the Clinton campaign.

Trump, slipping in the polls amid various campaign controversies, said at the last debate that Clinton should be in jail – while moderating a press conference for women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. Clinton has blasted Trump all along as temperamentally unfit for office.

Trump accused the media of poisoning people’s minds. He said Mrs Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run for president. It was Trump in a bunker, settling scores and lashing out at enemies real and perceived.

For a commentator, the irony with the Trump campaign’s remarks about election rigging is most of them suggest there will be in-person voter impersonation on election day, which studies show is the rarest form of voter fraud. He says the most common forms of voter fraud are election official fraud – either in the form of stuffing ballot boxes, or “losing” ballots – and absentee ballot fraud.

Observations

The American political system, in which two right-wing corporate-controlled parties have long enjoyed a monopoly, is staggering toward the finish line under conditions of a global crisis so deep that no one can be certain what the world will look like when the votes are counted on November 8.

With just 20 days to the election, millennials suggest they’d rather die than vote for the two main parties while Canadians try to keep their neighbors’ spirits up.

The candidates’ third and final debate sets the tone for the homestretch of the 2016 presidential campaign – a race that already stands out as arguably the most personal, caustic and unpredictable White House battle in modern politics.

WikiLeaks has embarrassed the Clinton campaign by releasing thousands of hacked emails purportedly from her campaign chairman’s account. FBI files alleging a State Department official sought a “quid pro quo” to alter the classification on a Clinton server email added to the campaign’s – and Obama government’s – woes.

Media promote imperialism being represented by Hillary. Since the establishment hawks in USA have already decided to make Hillary the successor of Obama, it would be extremely difficult for Trump to win presidency, but nothing is impossible.

The routine US presidential poll campaign formality is over. The third and final debate is finished! The candidates go their separate ways without a handshake. Clinton walks off stage first. Of course, no love lost there, that’s for sure. What would be the fate of Americans?

To date, the controversies have appeared to hurt Trump more than Clinton, who has gradually expanded her lead over the GOP nominee in recent polls.

Media lords want the terror wars to continue and so the Bushdom agenda being pursued vigorously by Obama. Trump’s vulgarity and demagoguery, together with the media’s insatiable appetite for ratings, have made this campaign a race to the bottom. The night’s biggest question won’t be asked by the moderator. The question is: How low can this race go before it’s over?

With media projecting Hillary as the best choice to promote terror wars and Islamophobia, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have clashed in Las Vegas in final debate. Mrs Hillary Clinton vows to uphold women’s and LGBT rights, while Trump pledges to protect gun rights; Trump said he expects a key ruling that made abortion legal in the US to be overturned if president; She says Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Trump elected because he is his puppet;

Polls suggest Clinton is ahead nationally and in key battleground states.

However, Donald Trump gained on Hillary Clinton among American voters off late, cutting her lead nearly in half despite a string of women accusing him of unwanted sexual advances and the furor over his disputed claims that the election process is rigged, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday. Clinton, the Democratic former secretary of state, led Trump 44 percent to 40 percent, according to the Oct. 14-20 poll, a 4-point lead, with the Nov. 8 election fast approaching. That compared with 44 percent for Clinton and 37 percent for Trump in the Oct. 7-13 poll released last week.

If the upward swings and shifts continue Trump would land in White House to control the world. USA would wait for some more years to have their first ever woman president who is honest and sincere, unlike hawkish warmongering Hillary who over exposed as a terror inspired US leader.

The poll was a conspiracy and hence questions on Trump’s unwanted sexual advances scandal were asked of 1,915 American adults, including 546 likely Republican voters. It had a credibility interval of 3 percentage points for all adults and 5 points for Republican voters. Trump’s deficit narrowed to what it was before a video surfaced on Oct. 7 featuring him bragging about groping and kissing women. Several women, supporting Hillary, have since accused him of making unwanted sexual advances in separate incidents from the early 1980s to 2007. Trump has denied the allegations, calling them “totally and absolutely false.”

Hillary Clinton has long been the frontrunner in this contest but there have been times where she has looked far from comfortable. The most recent examples came back-to-back in early September. First, she made headlines by labeling half of Donald Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorable”, allowing her rival to conclude it was evidence of her disdain for “hardworking people”.

Mrs. Clinton had been suffering from pneumonia fuelling further rumours about her health – rumours that some of her critics have been pushing for months. The news about her “sudden illness” helps Hillary in poll rating. Her poll numbers took a noticeable hit in the days that followed, but they appeared to recover towards the end of September.

While both candidates are unfit to be the US president, now Americans have no choice but to vote for one of them. If by mistake they prefer Hillary that would be their hilarious fate. One still hopes something good emerging out of Trump’s mind that would benefit USA and world at large. Polls suggest Clinton is ahead nationally and in key battleground states.

In order to overcome the high level expectations and manipulations, Trump and his advisers should be prudent enough to understand the under current in the campaigns trying to wean away the votes from Trump camp.

The high light of the final debate is that it has witnessed a reformed Trump performing.

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The ‘Reverse Nixon’ and New Nero: Where to Focus After the Trump-Putin Summit

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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It would be too easy to simply jump on all of the stereotypical bandwagoning going on across most of the world’s media (especially the American) coming out of the Trump-Putin summit that took place this week briefly in Helsinki. It was most certainly NOT a bravura performance by the American president, but honestly that really is low-hanging fruit to focus any commentary on. Instead, let us consider some more subtle but nevertheless crucially important takeaways as we move on from Helsinki and are still left to consider what’s next for the incredibly poor Russian-American relationship.

1.Trump has unfortunately become the ‘reverse Nixon’

While most millennials may not recall or understand the importance of this historical reference, it bears repeating: Nixon, as Vice-President to Eisenhower, was an adamant opponent of establishing relations with China. Flash forward 15 years or so to his own presidency and suddenly Nixon himself was going over to China and opening up a new world of diplomatic contact and relations. “Only Nixon could go to China” was the refrain, meaning it was exactly because of his historical animosity toward the country that the American people would trust him making new maneuvers toward China. With Trump, alas, it is the exact reverse: even if he had an important policy innovation or sound diplomatic strategy for creating new relations with Russia, it wouldn’t matter. If only Nixon could go to China, then today literally ANYONE can go to Russia except Trump.

2.The ‘Putin smirk’ lives!!!!

Putin has a long-established and well-deserved reputation for teasing and even somewhat bullying/lecturing Western media, especially when American/British journalists think they have damning information or uncomfortable questions for him. There are few world leaders today who relish the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with foreign journalists as much as Putin. This is simply unquestionable fact. He also loves having the upper hand or at least giving the impression that he does on the world stage. Make no mistake: while he has steadfastly denied any direct Russian meddling in the American elections of 2016, he has absolutely LOVED every single minute of hand-wringing and treason-talking that has taken place in America because of the possibility. The Helsinki Summit proved this beyond measure. It is quite possible this was one of the quietest summit performances ever given by Putin. The reason for it was embarrassingly simple: all he really needed to do was sit there and look bemused 80% of the time while Trump mangled his own native English language trying to do verbal acrobatics around awkward questions about election interference. If Putin is famous for his ‘I know something you don’t know’ smirk, then the Helsinki Summit gave us all one of the most permanent exhibitions of said trademark in recent memory.

3.The regression of President Trump’s relationship with his own Intelligence Community will continue

Trump’s uncomfortable declaration that Putin gave him a very strong and powerful denial of election meddling (and therefore that should be good enough for all present to believe) had one very significant but little identified post-summit domestic consequence: it was yet another example of the Commander-in-Chief basically throwing his own Intelligence Community and the analysis of all 17 of its member agencies under the bus in favor of a foreign leader’s opinion who had every reason to not tell the truth. Trump’s relationship with the IC has been complicated even before his presidency began but has only become more antagonistic and unfriendly in his first year in the Oval Office. The Helsinki Summit did nothing to repair that relationship or even give anyone reason to search for a kernel of hope that a new more positive foundation could be established. If the IC in general felt the President of the United States was not in its corner before the summit, then it had no doubt of that impression walking away from it.

4.The summit only deepened Trump’s political Catch-22

Most media and pundit circles in America are flabbergasted by Trump’s refusal to believe the obvious when it concerns an attempt by Russian intelligence to hack/influence the 2016 election. But for Trump it is not so simple as admitting to the obvious: he clearly has made his own mental connection whereby admitting that Russia meddled leads to a semi-confession that he may not have legitimately won the election. Many Americans, if not most, on the liberal side also want to believe in this connection. Unfortunately, that connection is most likely NOT true. It is entirely plausible (even likely) that Russia to some degree attempted to meddle in the election AND Trump legitimately won the electoral college that gave him the presidency. Current American media seem to be treating the two as if they cannot be mutually exclusive when in all likelihood they are just that: Russia meddled; Trump won the electoral college. If we could get into a time machine, go back in time, and zap Russia with a special ‘removal of meddling’ laser beam it would not mean we would be analyzing the foreign policy of President Hillary Clinton today. It would most likely still be President Trump’s foreign policy. But Trump, despite his constant lamentations of so-called fake news and trying to make all mainstream media appear like sycophants of the Democratic Party, has clearly given in to the overall media impression that the admission of one sin (Russian meddling) results in the confession of another (he did not legitimately win the presidency). Consequently, stuck in this Catch-22, he continues to side with the ridiculous statement of ‘not having enough facts’ to know what really happened and it seems like it should be ok for him to just believe Putin at his word.

5.Is Putin the new Nero?

Remember the old adage, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned?” After the Helsinki Summit it seems at least plausible to ask if Putin is the new Nero, fiddling away happily oblivious while the American media burns. If the original point of Russian election meddling was not to actually sway the results of the election (no one in the Russian Intelligence Community really believes they could engineer that much power over the American electorate) but to just cause general chaos, havoc, and discontent within American society, then it is hard to imagine a more successful disinformation intelligence campaign than this one. American media is in a tizzy and the louder the cacophony of discontent rings after the Helsinki Summit, the crazier social media becomes in the never-ending battle between liberals and conservatives over what to do about it. Facebook alone has blown up since the Helsinki meeting with memes about treason, only to be countered by photographs of prominent Democratic congressmen/women smiling and laughing happily in the past during their own meetings with Putin. The discord and disconnect only grows. The anger and counter-anger only gets more intense and indignant. And all the while, in a lush suite of opulence deep inside the Kremlin, Vladimir Vladimirovich sits at his desk, smirking, fiddle in hand.

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Shooting the Messenger: Corruption and Peace

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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It is the most natural of behaviors for the guilty to lay the blame elsewhere and to make the most noise.  The Democratic Party leadership did the meddling — not the Russians — when it conspired with Hillary Clinton to deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination.  Thus Hillary was an illegitimate candidate to begin with.

Then there was the question of emails.  Hillary refused to use the secure State Department server preferring a personal one.  Why?  Because she would then be selective in the emails that became public record.  And an accurate historic picture of her tenure as Secretary of State is debatable if 33,000 emails were not surrendered.  She said these were personal and not work related but the FBI later recovered about 17,000 and many of these were work related  (para 7 from end of ABC report).

How did the Clintons become so rich?  First, if you give commercial banks a license to gamble with depositors’ money, they ought to be grateful.  Speaking fees are one answer, and heaven knows what else.  That gambling can also lead to ruin proved true.  Bankrupted, the banks sought help, and were rescued through the public purse.  Turning losses public while bonuses and profits remained private emerged as a new capitalism for the very rich.  The banks crooked schemes included certain risky mortgage-backed securities sold as safe that caused huge state pension funds losses, destroying state finances in some cases.  People in those states are still suffering.  Any surprise then if Donald Trump’s pejorative “crooked Hillary” resonates to this day.

Second, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, there was talk of her either using the position, or of the position itself leading to favor seekers donating to the Clinton Foundation.  During the 2016 election campaign, Trump said Hillary Clinton received tens of millions by countries that ‘treat women horribly … and countries that kill gays’.  Politifact says the claim is half-true.  He also asked that she return the $25 million Saudi Arabia gave to the foundation.

The Democrats continue to blame the Russians for the election loss despite their own meddling — nothing like shooting the messenger — and other issues like emails erupting just before the election.  Hence the uproar over the Helsinki summit.  Add the Ukraine and Crimea issue and assorted lobbies, and soon Republicans joined in.  But anger and hysteria are their own catharsis, and after Trump had been accused of treason and called a traitor, there was little else except to cool off.

When Trump placed the blame for poor relations with  Russia on ‘many years of US foolishness and stupidity,’ he was being mild.  Others might have said worse.  Look at the record.  Years of recruiting Eastern bloc countries into NATO after promising not to; after all, Russia accepted peace and disbanded the Warsaw Pact.  Then the blatant interference in Ukraine, toppling an elected government and dismembering the country leaving a trail of blood.

The fact is, one either supports peace or one does not.  In the US unfortunately, there are plenty of supporters for war.  Otherwise, why would we get Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan (17 years and continuing), etc., etc., etc.  And the Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama delivering the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture.  A supreme irony because the old man himself refused to meet Obama after what he had done to his friend Gaddafi.  One has to be reminded, Gaddafi provide financial support to the ANC independence movement when no one else cared or dared.  At the time in the West, Mandela was a terrorist.  Gaddafi also helped the IRA.  And what do we have in Libya now?  A descent from a secular country supporting women’s rights and leading Africa in the Human Development Index to a disaster spawning fundamentalist extremists as far south as Nigeria.  How soon the world forgets?

One may criticize Trump for much of his agenda — and I do often enough — but he has kept us mostly out of war.  With Hillary the Hawk, we would have been mired in Syria up to our necks, in serious danger of a major conflagration with Russia.

Let’s support peace irrespective of who nurtures that gentle dove.

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Flip-Flops and Foreign Policy: How American Tourist Behavior Hinders U.S. National Security

Dr. Elise Carlson-Rainer

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photo: Duane Hanson

Dear American tourist,

When you are in great European cathedrals, palaces, and important historical sites, would it be possible for you to leave your flip-flops at home? Your shorts and T-shirts could stay as well. If you can afford to bring you and your family to a European palace, I am assuming you could also afford close-toed shoes and proper pants. I do not expect you to be fluent in German, or French. However, it is not too much to ask for you learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the native language. You are not at home: please reflect that you are in a different country, attempt to assimilate, and show a modicum of respect for where you are – it is in your national interest to do so.

Recently, in Vienna, Austria – one of the global centers of high culture, music, and art – I dined at the famous Belvedere Palace’s bistro. During the middle of my meal, a family sat down at the table next to me, with the telltale signs of coming from the United States. All four were wearing flip-flops, they spoke two decibels higher than anyone else at the restaurant, and all were wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Not used to Viennese cuisine, at one point the mother exclaimed loudly, “I believe this gazpacho has turned!” I am guessing many readers have had a similar experience while traveling abroad, as this is sadly not a unique encounter with American tourists. This overall attitude can easily make locals feel annoyed and insulted. While seemingly harmless, these types of interactions can leave a lasting impression about the United States and hurt U.S. diplomacy.

It is important for tourists to realize that they do not come as individuals. Rather, they are seen as “Americans.” As a former American diplomat, it is exhausting and hard to explain the unmeasurable time-consuming task public diplomacy programs spend in combating negative stereotypes of the United States[1]. Beyond showing respect for other nations in places such as Europe, these programs aim to explain to predominately Muslim nations that Americans do not hate Muslims, that our streets are not lined with gold, and that Americans value ethnic and cultural diversity. These efforts in diplomacy work to strengthen ties with would-be skeptical trade partners, and enable carrying out critical U.S. security interests. A nation must build trust to create allies. Currently, the U.S. is in an existential crisis regarding our national values. As tourists are informal representatives of our nation, they can help, or jeopardize, the complex project of American diplomacy in communicating who we are as a people.

When one is dressed properly, as I always do while traveling, one earns respect from locals. I take great pride when I am asked for directions, or locals start conversations with me in German, Swedish, or French, etc. It is a small victory when they realize that I too am an American, but present myself differently than the cafe neighbors I referenced above. It does not matter what you look like, your heritage, or ethnicity. It matters how you present yourself while traveling abroad. There is a universal quality that results in responding back positively when one feels respected. No matter the country, I work hard to give a different impression: that of an American who values local customs and mores. When American tourists show blatant disregard for the country they are visiting, at best it leads to annoyance, at worst, anger and a lasting ill-impression of whom we are as a people.

I recognize that this is a negative generalization of American tourists. Different, but similarly harmful norms can be seen from Australian, English, or German tourists, to name a few examples. Their behavior abroad can also hurt their counties’ national image. Also, it is important to recognize the many tourists – from America and beyond – that come to foreign countries and assimilate beautifully. Thus, tourists are like a toupee; you only see the bad ones.

Scholars such as Jonathan Mercer demonstrate how important reputation is for international relations[2]. Mercer and others argue that countries sign trade agreements, enter into peace deals, and trust the lasting impact of an international negotiation, largely based upon a countries’ reputation. While I recognize that it is not the foreign minister or secretary of state one is interacting with in a café, but rather likely a nice family from Florida, California, or North Carolina. Still, it is not necessarily high level people who carry out the lion-share of trade deals between the United States and foreign countries. It is small and large business partnerships on either side of the Atlantic. These interactions matter: they impact how, and to what extent, foreigners are willing to negotiate, trade, and make security partnerships with the United States.

While encounters like this are frustratingly common in tourist sites across Europe, many do not realize how much it hurts American public diplomacy. Diplomats spend years learning languages. Beyond language, they immerse themselves in local customs. There is a reason for this: understanding other cultures and languages importantly enables foreigners to understand us. It is a way to bridge cultures, discard stereotypes, and defeat ignorance about the fascinating and important peoples that are beyond our borders. When Americans show disregard for host nations and peoples, it makes our diplomatic efforts to build long-lasting bridges and permanent connections – whether for business, security, values, or broader international relations – monumentally more complex and difficult.

When traveling abroad, why not show locals great things about American culture? For example, our strong value of customer service, world class technology, or our ability to make connections and meet strangers openly? There is a plethora of wonderful things about American society that becomes hidden behind distracting Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. Therefore, leaving your cut-offs at home and learning a few words of the native language is in your country’s national interest. It will help foreigners you meet feel respected and valued. It is in all of our interests to communicate attitudes that inspire people to want to create partnerships with us across the Atlantic.

Danke et Merci!

  • [1] U.S. Department of State. Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs https://www.state.gov/r/ Accessed on July 3, 2018.
  • [2] Mercer, Jonathan 1997.Reputation And International Politics. Cornell University Press | Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, New York.
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