Tag Archives: obama

For the GOP, a roadmap back from irrelevance

Op-ed published by International Network of Street Papers and Spare Change News, Dec. 5, 2012

By Tom Benner

Republican uber-strategist Karl Rove’s election-night meltdown on live television put a human face on the GOP’s willful self-delusion. Mitt Romney, who didn’t prepare an Election Night concession speech, ran a campaign based on yesteryear’s party values, policies, and world view. “It’s not a traditional America anymore,” moaned Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly.

The wake-up call was overdue. For the sake of a vibrant American two-party system, the GOP needs to change with the times and regroup into a party that matters to more than just the conservative entertainment complex.

That includes embracing modern demographics, expanding the party base beyond Tea Party extremists and the very rich, and some serious soul-searching over how the once-proud Party of Lincoln can be relevant in the 21st Century. Continue reading

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The right visit at the right time

Op-ed published in Today, Nov. 21, 2012

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar on Monday. REUTERS
Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

By Tom Benner

Critics in the United States and around the world offered plenty of reasons why President Barack Obama shouldn’t have gone to Myanmar on Monday.

Some called the visit premature, saying the country’s military junta has yet to atone for decades of human rights atrocities. Others worried it will be counterproductive, leaving the relatively new, nominally civilian government feeling complacent as political prisoners remain locked up. Ethnic and religious violence continues to make headlines and worry the global community.

Instead of listening to the naysayers, Mr Obama seized a historic opportunity in Myanmar and history may bear him out. Continue reading…

Hillary Clinton in Singapore: US is putting economics at the center of its foreign policy

Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in Singapore on Saturday, telling her audience at Singapore Management University that with the war in Iraq over for the U.S. military and the war in Afghanistan winding down, US foreign policy in the second Obama term will emphasize economic solutions to strategic challenges over military might. The US secretary of state cited Singapore as an example of an emerging power that is prospering because of its GDP, not the size if its army.

“Today the non-stop flow of people, goods, and capital through this small nation is proof that a country does not need to be big to be mighty, to be respected, to be a real leader,” reads the text of Clinton’s prepared remarks. “Every country wants to do business in Singapore, so every country has a stake in cultivating good relationships with Singapore.

“With only 1/60 of the population of the United States, Singapore is our 15th largest trading partner. More than 2,000 American companies base their regional headquarters here. Two-way trade exceeded $50 billion for the first time last year. And U.S. direct investment surpassed $116 billion over the last decade. That makes Singapore’s security and stability a vital interest for the United States. This connection between economic power and global influence explains why the United States is placing economics at the heart of our own foreign policy. I call it economic statecraft.” Continue reading

Sandy and the price of gridlock

(Photo: flickr/Steve Rhodes)

As a lifelong resident of the U.S. eastern seaboard until moving to Singapore a few weeks ago, I took the early reports about Hurricane Sandy in stride. After all, this was hurricane season, we usually have some sort of weather event on the East Coast. Besides, I hadn’t been glued to CNN or any other Western-focused news outlet; I had been watching the news and events of my new surroundings in Southeast Asia.

Then people here in Singapore starting tell me they were so sorry for what was happening in the U.S. Alarmed, I started Skyping and emailing family and friends and checking the newscasts. Sure enough, I was wrong to tune out. Soon my daughter would be fleeing her apartment in Brooklyn for safer ground; a college friend in lower Manhattan lost power as we Skyped. The deadly “superstorm” was to wash away much of my childhood stomping grounds on the Jersey Shore, and has my adopted hometown of Boston feeling like it dodged a bullet but may not be so lucky next time. (A friend from high school, Kevin Coyne, a journalist who teaches at Columbia, wrote a moving piece on the storm’s aftermath here).

This was a week before the presidential election. Up until then, the issue of climate change and what to do about it never came up in the three presidential debates, nor the vice presidential debate, nor the campaign in general. This despite 2012 seeing one of the hottest summers and worst droughts on record, leading to deadly wildfires and crop damage that cost the American economy billions of dollars. Continue reading