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“Another Inconvenient Truth For The GOP”: How Will 2016 Republicans Lead A World That Largely Agrees With Obama?

The 14 Republicans running for president can’t decide if Russian President Vladimir Putin is a great leader or a dangerous and despicable “gangster” and “KGB thug,” but they all agree on one thing: President Obama couldn’t lead his way out of a paper bag.

When discussing Obama’s foreign policy, they routinely rely on words like “feckless” and “weak” and “indecisive,” arguing that this alleged lack of spine has left the U.S. where “our friends no longer trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us.” They all say that any of them — Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Ben Carson — would be better able to lead the world than Obama or any of the Democrats running to replace him. Even Jeb Bush, who appears to despise Trump, said Sunday he would support him in the general election “because anybody is better than Hillary Clinton. Let me just be clear about that.”

Here’s the thing: On just about every major topic in world affairs, Obama is more closely aligned with America’s major allies than any of the Republican candidates. Either the Republicans are in denial about this inconvenient truth or they have a plan to work around it. If they do, I for one would love to hear it.

Let’s start with climate change, since all major world leaders — America’s friends, foes, and those the U.S. has a complicated relationship with — gathered in Paris last week to discuss not whether climate change is real but what hard decisions need to be made to address it. Obama worked toward this summit, which ends later this week, for years, talking with world leaders one-on-one and setting up the U.S. emissions cuts. It’s frankly hard to imagine any of the Republican presidential candidates even attending COP21.

Frontrunner Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), rapidly rising to runner-up status, accuses U.S. climate scientists of “cooking the books” and espousing “pseudoscientific” theories on human-influenced global warming. Even the GOP candidates who do believe that humanity is adversely affecting the climate say they don’t think that’s a big deal or don’t believe the government can or should do much about it. And even if one of those candidate open to the idea of addressing climate change is elected, he will still lead a party that is opposed to any such action.

There are different ideas on how to best reduce carbon emissions, but the GOP’s indifference to or denial of climate change would put it on the lunatic fringe in America’s closest allied nations. In a recent study, Sondre Båtstrand at Norway’s University of Bergen examined the policy platforms of the main conservative party in nine countries — the U.S., U.K., Norway, Sweden, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany — and found that “the U.S. Republican Party is an anomaly in denying anthropogenic climate change.” (The article is behind a paywall, but you can read a summary at The Guardian, or Jonathan Chait’s more opinionated synopsis at New York.)

The GOP is so out-of-step with the rest of the world on climate change that one of the big hurdles to a global climate agreement is the expectation that the Republican-controlled Congress won’t ratify a legally binding treaty. Obama insists that parts of the deal will be binding under international law, but proponents of an effective climate pact are concerned that GOP opposition will leave it toothless. Other countries, The Associated Press reports, are annoyed that the world is “expected to adjust the agreement to the political situation in one country.”

Let’s turn to Syria, a country where the world only really agrees on one thing: The Islamic State must be defeated. This is one area, broadly, where Obama and the GOP candidates agree, though they differ on the best way to defeat ISIS. Jeb Bush, like Turkey, wants a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, and Trump wants Russia to wipe out ISIS for everyone else. But most countries, and certainly most U.S. allies, favor bombing ISIS in Syria and helping local militias fight them on the ground, something Obama was the first to initiate.

Russia has committed ground troops (as has the U.S., to a very limited degree, just recently), but Russian forces are mainly propping up the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A few of the Republicans, like Cruz, support leaving Assad in power, a position held mostly by Russia and Iran. European allies, Israel, the Gulf Arab states, and Turkey agree with Obama that Assad must go.

When it comes to refugees from the Syrian mess, the GOP field is unified against accepting any in the U.S. Among U.S. allies, Obama is on the stingy side, but his pledge to take in 10,000 refugees in 2016 still puts him closer to Canada, taking in 10,000 this month alone; France — the site of the terrorist attack that prompted the Republican refugee retreat — which has vowed to take in 30,000 over the next two years; and Germany, signed on to accept 500,000 asylum-seekers.

On Cuba, the U.S. diplomatic freeze and economic embargo has put the U.S. at odds with Europe and the overwhelming majority of Latin America for years. All but two Republican candidates — Trump and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) — oppose Obama’s Cuba thaw. Only three of the 14 candidates — Bush, Paul, and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) — aren’t totally against the Iran nuclear deal Obama’s team negotiated with not just U.S. allies Britain, France, and Germany, but also China, Russia, and Iran.

For what its worth, the world thinks highly of Obama’s leadership, according to a Gallup poll of 134 countries — the U.S. got top leadership marks in 2014, as it has every year since a low point in 2008. Still, the Iran deal is a good prompt to note that not every U.S. ally hews closer to Obama than the GOP on foreign policy.

Israel and Saudi Arabia, for example, oppose the Iran accord, and Israel’s conservative government neither likes nor trusts Obama. But here again, Obama’s hard line against new Israeli settlements is closer to the world consensus than the GOP’s unwavering allegiance — as is evident from every United Nations vote in favor of the Palestinians and every lone U.S. veto in U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning some Israeli military action in the Palestinian territories.

And Obama has certainly made mistakes, which Republicans are right to call him out on. Drawing a figurative “red line” in Syria and then failing to enforce it, even when it became clear Congress wouldn’t support him? Obama would probably take that back if he could. Libya? The U.S. followed France, Britain, and the Arab League into that intervention, but it was Obama’s decision to commit U.S. air and sea assets to the fight and wrangle U.N. approval. “Leading from behind” — the most enduring phrase (coined by an anonymous Obama adviser) from the Libya campaign — is a questionable idea of leadership.

The Republican presidential candidates may talk about the U.S. leading with its freedom beacon, or its values, or the example of its raw exceptionalism, but when they get down to specifics, they really only talk about raw power, usually of the military or theatrical variety. A president has to make tough calls, and when you’re the leader of the world’s sole superpower, those decisions have very real, potentially catastrophic consequences.

Most of Obama’s big foreign policy victories — the Russian nuke-reduction treaty, the Iran nuclear deal, the Cuba thaw, perhaps a COP21 accord — have been off the battlefield, and he’s probably not unhappy about it. All of those have involved finding common ground with at least one hostile country, and Obama has been the driving force behind all of them. “Your credibility and America’s ability to influence events depends on taking seriously what other countries care about,” Obama told reporters in Paris on Tuesday. He was talking about climate change, but it could just as well be a guiding policy.

That may not be the kind of global stewardship Republicans are talking about when they talk about leadership. But if they want to win the right to lead the United States, they should explain how their White House would lead a world in which, on just about every major issue, the U.S. president is the odd man out.

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, December 7, 2015

December 8, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP Presidential Candidates, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Turn Off The Money And Turn Up The Pressure”: When Will Corporate America Confront Republican Climate Denial?

Much as the world must hope that the governments assembled in Paris achieve their objectives, at the very least they have provided an occasion for business leaders of all descriptions to announce their commitment to climate sanity. With sponsorships, pledges, and official statements, a long list of major corporations has declared that man-made climate change is real and must be reversed to save the earth — and their profits.

Easy as it is to lampoon the professions of these corporate leaders, there should be little doubt that some and perhaps most are sincere. They’re sentient human beings, after all, whose children and grandchildren will have no choice but to live on this endangered planet. They say that is why they’ve publicly expressed support for successful negotiations in Paris and promised to reduce carbon emissions while using and investing in clean energy.

According to the White House, many of those firms have made still more stringent vows, to cut emissions by 50 percent, to reduce water waste by as much as 80 percent, to send no more solid waste to landfills, to purchase only renewable power, and to stop causing deforestation. All of which sounds marvelous and necessary – but what would American corporations do if they really, truly, seriously wanted to stop climate change?

They would do what they do whenever they want to influence any important policy change, of course: Deny financing to political forces on the other side, and deploy their enormous lobbying clout against those forces.

Today, that would mean giving not another dime to House and Senate Republicans – or to any Republican presidential candidate who denies climate realities and insists on reversing President Obama’s current initiatives.

As a matter of policy, the Republican Party obstructs any serious effort to prevent catastrophic climate change. And because the United States is still the largest carbon polluter per capita in the world — and now the second largest in absolute terms – Republican obstruction has worldwide consequences. Just this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell barked an ominous warning to the world leaders meeting in Paris, saying that the next GOP president could simply “tear up” all of Obama’s efforts to diminish power-plant pollution.

The myopic McConnell (whose home state of Kentucky produces dirty coal), has gone even further, sending his aides to foreign embassies with the message that none of America’s international partners can rely on commitments made by Obama in Paris. Unfortunately, McConnell’s irresponsible conduct is merely typical of his party’s leadership.

But the Republican hostility to climate science is a minority viewpoint in the United States, as polling data has demonstrated clearly for years. Two out of three Americans view climate change as a global menace and support a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. More than half want the United States to lead the world in dealing with that threat. Even a majority of Republican voters understand that an overheating planet is dangerous, and support the power-plant regulations that McConnell and his Senate caucus oppose.

Republican Congressional leaders in both houses know they can continue to lie and deny on climate, so long as the nation’s business leaders fail to demand change. Although they will always collect millions from ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, and assorted fossil fuel profiteers, they might begin to worry if other economic interests that have traditionally supported them suddenly turned off the money and turned on the pressure.

From Goldman Sachs to General Mills, from Microsoft to Monsanto to McDonalds, scores of major companies have signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Change Pledge. By doing so they affirmed support for “action on climate change and the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.”

Companies like these have huge lobbying, political action, public relations, and advertising budgets – and all of them could well afford to spend even more on such a crucial issue.

No doubt they would risk trouble with the Congressional Republicans if they took strong political action on climate. But they claim to believe their future at stake, along with the future of generations to come. So if they wish to accomplish more than green-washing their reputations, then the time is surely coming when the corporate environmentalists will have to confront the Republican Party – or be exposed as frauds.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post; The National Memo, December 4, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Corporations, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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