David Rothkopf

On intimacy, a “W” shaped recovery for the Republicans and Latin relations heading south…

I can’t be sure, not being a neuroscientist, but I have this theory that the brain works kind of like a Dustbuster. It sucks up all sorts of stuff and then every so often you have to dump it out or it gets clogged up and stops working. Here are some of the bits and ...

US President Barack Obama (L) escorts Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to his waiting motorcade on the South Lawn after meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 14, 2009. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

I can’t be sure, not being a neuroscientist, but I have this theory that the brain works kind of like a Dustbuster. It sucks up all sorts of stuff and then every so often you have to dump it out or it gets clogged up and stops working. Here are some of the bits and pieces that came out this morning:


When Does Lack of Intimacy Mean You’re Almost Certain to be Screwed?

I spoke with a friend yesterday who is a real live foreign policy professional. We were discussing the fact that my two daughters are heading off to college in a few days and that I would be an empty-nester soon. (Or as I like to call it: “Crawling under the bed and curling up in a fetal position.”) He said it was a great opportunity to get to know one’s wife again, recounting his experience of having his kids depart and then looking up and asking himself, “Who the hell is this woman in my living room?”

I responded that with the kind of skills he seems to have developed he could have become a marriage counselor and then added, “come to think of it, given your current line of work, that probably comes in handy.” He then told a story about how a lack of what he called “intimacy”…of the diplomatic sort…was a challenge in one international context with which he was dealing. 

I couldn’t resist pointing out that in marriage, a lack of intimacy usually means you are not getting fucked… but in diplomacy, it means you almost certainly will be.

The Republicans’ W-Shaped Recovery

America’s Republican leadership is almost giddy with the turbulence they are causing for the Obama Administration on health care.  After the political death march of the Bush years and the drubbing by Obama, they are desperate for signs of life in their party.  But frankly, after some examination, my death panel votes “do not resuscitate.” 

The problem is that despite the media’s delight with covering nutsy women with Obama-as-Nazi posters, great retorts to them like that of Barney Frank who to his great credit does not suffer vile imbeciles lightly, Kansas congresswomen musing aloud about the G.O.P.’s need for a “great white hope”, porn-star-named Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell joking about “hunting” Obama, and the like, stirring up hatred is not enough to bring even the Republican Party back to life. 

There is almost zero possibility that some form of health care legislation will not be signed into law this year.  It may not be everything Obama wanted, but the reality is it will probably big the biggest set of reforms in decades.  Recent polling covered in today’s Washington Post also shows growing support for Obama’s climate and energy proposals which are the next big item in the pipeline. And on the one issue that the Republicans probably had a good positive case to make, regarding deficit reduction, statements from Tim Geithner and others in the administration make it clear that as we move into recovery, they are going to begin cutting making reducing the deficit a top priority. Given that the Republican Party’s actual record on the deficit is so woeful, this too will make their lives much more difficult.

The result: after hopes of a rebound on the back of their health care opposition, the Republicans could be faced with the same “W” shaped scenario economists like Nouriel Roubini are worried about re: the economy.  Further, leaderless and in disarray, they won’t even be in a good position to take advantage of that if it happens. The result might be picking up only a modest number of seats-below historical norms-in the 2010 mid-term elections and leaving a more experienced Obama team with very substantial majorities for the second half of his first term.

How do you say “plus ca change” in Spanish?

I’m sure there are those on Capitol Hill who think depriving the administration of senior officials has little or no effect. Most don’t think about the consequences of their actions at all, of course. But perhaps if they would direct their attentions southward they might benefit from the case study that is unfolding.

When President Obama left the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago there was much hope for a new era of north-south relations in the Americas.  Now, just a few months later, with Antonia Valenzuela, Obama’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, cooling his heels while there is a hold on his nomination, things have taken a turn for the worst. In rapid succession, the countries of the region, some very well disposed toward Obama at the outset, have been disappointed by the U.S. failure to aggressively promote the restoration of a democratically elected president in Honduras, its not-so-deftly managed announcement of a military basing deal with the Colombians and its too-quiet response to moves to by Colombia’s President Uribe to revise his country’s constitution so he can seek another term of office. This turn of events has resulted in some tough talk publicly and, apparently, in private exchanges such as that Obama recently had with Brazil’s President Lula, a man with whom the new U.S. president has established a very good rapport.

To many in the region, the new U.S. President is starting to look, as they might say down on the estancia, to be all hat and no cattle. Maybe, they are murmuring…well, some are murmuring, some like Hugo Chavez are shouting it from the rooftop…nothing really has changed with the U.S. 

With a little more bandwidth devoted to these issues the U.S. could easily have managed all of them to a better outcome. They could have done more to pressure the interim regime in Honduras to enable the return of the elected president and they could have addressed his efforts to rig Honduran democracy in his favor by helping to ensure a transparent election this Fall. As for the Colombian bases, that shouldn’t have been a big issue. The U.S. has had a presence in the region for years. Coordination and communication could easily have been handled better. And as for Uribe, a more forceful public message that he should pursue his distinguished public service career in a new role would have been appropriate.

Instead, whenever Valenzuela is confirmed (in September, one hopes), he is going to find he has some repair work to do in the region, which will be an unfortunate distraction from some of the bigger issues on the regional agenda like: working with Mexico on our shared security concerns, helping to combat the shift of drug transshipment to Central America which could have a very destabilizing effect, working to shape a new partnership with Brazil, dealing with climate, with economic recovery issues, etc.  

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

 Twitter: @djrothkopf

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola