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“International Alarm”: World Watches Trump’s Rise With Fear, Trepidation

The United States is not just another democracy on the map. Plenty of countries have elections to choose their heads of state, but given the unique role the U.S. has as a global superpower, and the effects of our policies on the international stage, a global audience keeps an eye on our presidential elections with scrutiny other countries don’t receive.

After all, we’re choosing the “Leader of the Free World.”

But just as the U.S. is not just another democracy, 2016 is not just another election. While international observers tend to watch American presidential elections with a degree of curiosity, this year, the world is experiencing a very different kind of sentiment.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to reassure foreign leaders that Donald Trump is nothing to worry about during a trip to the Middle East last week. “Everybody asked me about Trump in terms of policy changes. I said he is an outlier, don’t look at him,” Graham told reporters Thursday about his overseas trip.

The most serious concerns Graham said leaders from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt expressed raised were regarding Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the United States.

The South Carolina Republican, hardly a liberal, added that many of the leaders he spoke to were “dumbfounded that somebody running for president of the United States would suggest that the United States ban everybody in their faith.” Officials abroad, he added, are “bewildered.”

There’s a lot of this going around. At a White House briefing this week, a reporter asked President Obama whether Trump’s foreign-policy proposals are “already doing damage” to America’s reputation. “The answer … is yes,” Obama responded. “I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.”

Last week, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) returned from a trip abroad and said officials in Israel and Turkey specifically pressed him on the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Republican presidential race.

All of this dovetails with reporting from a month ago about international “alarm” over Trump from officials in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.

A senior NATO official, speaking before the Republican frontrunner talked publicly about abandoning the treaty organization, was quoted telling Reuters, “European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief and, now, growing panic.”

As we talked about at the time, there’s ample speculation about the message the United States would send to the world if Trump was elected president. But there’s probably not enough speculation about the damage the success of Trump’s campaign is already doing to the nation’s reputation.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2016

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, World Leaders | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ham Handed Politics”: Netanyahu Becomes Political Player, So Kerry Treats Him Like One

Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill yesterday, and going into the hearing, it was widely expected that he’d tout the importance of international nuclear talks with Iran. He did exactly that, though he also went a little further in challenging a critic of those talks.

Secretary of State John Kerry reminded Americans on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who is expected to denounce a potential nuclear deal with Iran during an address to Congress next week, also visited Washington in late 2002 to lobby for the invasion of Iraq.

Apparently referring to testimony on the Middle East that Mr. Netanyahu delivered to Congress on Sept. 12, 2002, when he was a private citizen, Mr. Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “The prime minister, as you will recall, was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision.”

In 2002, Netanyahu assured lawmakers that invading Iraq was a great idea. “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region,” he said at the time.

We now know, of course, that Netanyahu’s guarantee was spectacularly wrong, which matters insofar as credibility still counts – the same Israeli leader is now telling lawmakers an international agreement with Iran would be a disaster for the United States and its allies. Kerry’s point wasn’t subtle: those who were this wrong before probably shouldn’t be trusted to be right now.

There’s something almost refreshing about this. Note, there’s nothing personal or even electoral about the administration’s message – Kerry didn’t offer some prolonged complaint about Netanyahu and the Israeli elections, or the unprecedented nature of the prime minister’s partnership with congressional Republicans.

It’s far more straightforward. Netanyahu has positioned himself as a participant in a policy debate and, at the same time, he’s claiming great credibility on the subject matter. The White House is responding in kind, treating Netanyahu as a policy rival.

What’s wrong with this? Actually, nothing.

We’re accustomed to foreign heads of state, at least publicly, approaching these kinds of disagreements with great care and delicacy, but the Israeli leader has forgone the usual route and is engaging in a fight as if he were just another political pugilist.

Netanyahu effectively told Obama and his team, “I’m going to try to derail American foreign policy,” to which administration officials have replied, “And we’re going to try to stop you.”

In yesterday’s case, that meant doing a little research and presenting lawmakers with a reminder about Netanyahu’s track record.

Kerry’s comments came soon after Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) announced he will not attend the Israeli prime minister’s speech next week, calling the event “highly inappropriate.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who is Jewish and represents a district with a large Jewish population, also said yesterday she’ll skip the joint-session of address, criticizing “the ham-handed politics” surrounding the Netanyahu/Republican partnership.

Barring an unexpected change, the Israeli leader will be on the House floor for his speech on Tuesday, March 3. As of yesterday, 25 House Democrats and four members of the Senate Democratic caucus have said they will not be there.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 26, 2015

February 27, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, John Kerry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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