2022: Trump’s year?

A year on from the Capitol riot which celebrated Joe Biden’s victory in the US electoral college, a lot has changed.

Then again, perhaps not so much.

So if you are keen to understand why half of America doesn’t fully share the orthodox media position you might ponder the concept of “sophisticated state failure” in the words of Holman W. Jenkins Jr writing in the Wall Street Journal.

Continue reading “2022: Trump’s year?”

Trouble on the North West frontier

It was back in 1982, when then-President Ronald Reagan said “freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history”.

Remind me again when that stopped being policy.

Certainly, there was a case for soft-pedalling the rhetoric and crossing fingers when Deng Xiaoping’s China was obediently joining the world economy and making pacific agreements on Hong Kong.

Continue reading “Trouble on the North West frontier”

Trumpism is back.  But what is Trumpism?

Because the Commonwealth of Virginia holds its elections one year after America’s federal elections, it can serve as a mid-term report card for the national government a few miles up the road in Washington DC. Message to Biden: must pay attention and try harder.

Virginia has been moving decisively towards the Democrats for more than a decade now.  But election night results suggest that the Republicans are going to make a clean sweep in both executive offices and the lower house.  Their candidate for Governor, the delightfully named Glenn Youngkin (truly – could Trumpkin ever have been elected President) defeated a well-funded aggressively-campaigning former incumbent for the job.

Continue reading “Trumpism is back.  But what is Trumpism?”

While Biden’s challenges grow, Christie shows signs of limbering up for a tilt at the Republican nomination

America spent the weekend commemorating the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC and at Shanksville, Pennsylvania where the fourth terrorist-commandeered aircraft crashed.

President Joe Biden led proceedings along with former presidents George W Bush, Barak Obama and Bill Clinton.  Donald Trump was conspicuous by his absence – intentional on the part of the White House.

The public mood appears pessimistic, reflecting the cost of 9/11, the loss of some 7000 US servicemen and women in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the resurrection of  the Taliban, aligned with a perception that the US has lost both respect and its way in the world.

Trump continues to tease supporters and opponents alike over whether he will run in 2024.  Most analysts and pollsters feel his decision won’t be made until after the mid-term elections in November 2022 – and how Biden and the Democrats rate in the polling.

Biden has had an awful August and early September. Even his own advisers agree the withdrawal from Afghanistan was botched, leaving many behind and unnerving allies around the world.

The South of the US suffered a hurricane which caused billions of dollars of damage from New Orleans to New York and caused several deaths.

California’s wildfires rage unchecked and the state is rapidly running out of electricity thanks to low hydro lake storage in neighbouring states and the state government’s decision to shut down nuclear, coal and gas-fired power stations. Continue reading “While Biden’s challenges grow, Christie shows signs of limbering up for a tilt at the Republican nomination”

Biden’s credibility goes down with Afghanistan’s collapse – and the NZDF scrambles to bring back Kiwi contractors

Afghanistan collapsed quicker than the Wallabies’ scrum and President Joe Biden now looks set to pay the price politically.

Kabul surrendered without a shot while the US departure from the benighted country’s capital was described by the Wall Street Journal as “Saigon on steroids.”

The New Zealand Defence Force has had to scramble to secure an RNZAF Hercules which will head to the United Arab Emirates tomorrow to help the allied evacuation.

There are as many as 40 New Zealanders in Afghanistan, all believed to be working as contractors, including security.

The last NZDF forces departed in April.

Biden defends the withdrawal of US forces as a policy set in train by former president Donald Trump. After 20 years, he says, this was enough.

But the US military has been forced to send in 6000 soldiers and marines to protect departing US nationals. Continue reading “Biden’s credibility goes down with Afghanistan’s collapse – and the NZDF scrambles to bring back Kiwi contractors”

PM’s foreign affairs speech – fortifying what Mahuta said – resonates strongly with the Biden Administration

 It has taken nearly nine months but finally the government has spelled out its foreign policy, much to the relief of neighbours, allies and friends.  Speeches by both Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and now Prime Minister Ardern have been followed closely in many capitals.

It’s no coincidence that President Joe Biden called PM Ardern this week. 

Ostensibly, the call preceded the PM’s Zoom meeting with APEC leaders.  The real reason seems to be that – at last – Washington DC has heard the policy, in person, from NZ ministers.

According to Washington and Wellington the call went well and was cordial. Continue reading “PM’s foreign affairs speech – fortifying what Mahuta said – resonates strongly with the Biden Administration”

G7 – the view from the top is fine, if a bit fuzzy

The omens were good for the G7 summit at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.  Untypical blazing sunshine and a victory for England’s footballers in the Euro Championships put the hosts in fine fettle (qualified only slightly by the NZ cricketers’ series win).  

The first and most important objective was achieved: the world leaders managed to agree not to disagree. Even better, no one called the host, Britain’s PM Boris Johnson, “weak and dishonest”, no matter how much they might have been tempted.

But despite the 25 page summit communique, direction and leadership was a little harder to find.

Continue reading “G7 – the view from the top is fine, if a bit fuzzy”

Alarm bells start clanging in the White House as Biden struggles with his legislative programme

President Joe Biden has passed his first 100 days in office, generally popular, but facing increasing challenges. He commands a bare majority in the Congress – six seats in the lower house and 50-50 in the senate.

On the international stage he has restored much of America’s prestige and reputation, certainly in Europe and Asia.  But there is no movement on trade. Even close friends like Britain can make no progress. 

Biden is unlikely to engage with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) either. 

All this can be put down to strong opposition within the Democrats and the union movement which heavily backed Biden’s campaign.

Nightly television screens are flooded with advertisements “explaining” how Biden will restore the US economy, install a new green energy campaign, by building strong union jobs. In reality, his arguments are not too different from Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign pledge. Biden continually pushes a “buy American” line. Continue reading “Alarm bells start clanging in the White House as Biden struggles with his legislative programme”

Thinking big – Biden’s spending programme signals shift in thinking about role of the state in the economy

Here’s a Think Big project of which even Rob Muldoon would have been proud.  US President Joe Biden has launched a $US2.3 trillion infrastructure plan designed to fix roads and bridges, replace pipes, expand broadband internet access and boost funding for research and development.

Might we need something similar here rather than tinkering with light rail and broadcasting?

The infrastructure plans would water the eyes of an old Minister of Works. There’s $US621 billion to modernise transportation infrastructure, for starters.  But then there’s $US400 billion to help care for the aging and those with disabilities, $US300 billion to boost the manufacturing industry, $US213 billion on retrofitting and building affordable housing and $US100 billion to expand broadband access, among other investments

There are plans to modernise 20,000 miles of roadway, build 500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations, replace the country’s existing lead pipes and service lines, repair aging schools, fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction, repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, and provide critical linkages to communities.  And plans to replace thousands of buses and rail cars, repair hundreds of stations, renew airports, and expand transit and rail into new communities.

Home care for the elderly and disabled will be expanded. Billions of dollars will go into semi-conductor manufacturing. More of the country’s electricity will be generated from low-carbon sources, with a goal of eliminating carbon emissions from the power grid by 2035. Continue reading “Thinking big – Biden’s spending programme signals shift in thinking about role of the state in the economy”

US gets in behind vaccine campaign for S-E Asia as Biden reverses Trump’s foreign-policy settings

The United States is quickly making clear it has returned to the world vacated by Donald Trump with President Joe Biden joining Australia, India and Japan to launch one billion doses of anti Covid19 vaccine across South East Asia.  Already he has spoken with European leaders, calming fears over disengagement and NATO.

Next month he will greet Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga at the White house, his first official guest.  The White House is carefully managing the 78-year-old president’s timetable and he is expected to accept few foreign leaders in Washington DC.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine campaign has been crafted with his three partners in “the Quad”. This group  emerged in 2004 when the countries co-operated on disaster relief after a tsunami badly damaged Indonesia. US officials insist it is not anti-China and has no strategic implications.

Japan and the US will pay for the vaccine which will be made in India and distributed by Australia.  US officials say the decision has taken the Quad to a new level and it will now work on other issues including climate change and emerging technologies. Continue reading “US gets in behind vaccine campaign for S-E Asia as Biden reverses Trump’s foreign-policy settings”