Britons learned the hard way with Brexit the costs of a hasty decision by ill-informed voters. Great Britain is now simply a Britain fraught with troubles, and there is no going back. Imagine the incalculable impact of an Amerexit.
If November elections go badly, the United States will likely be an ex-democracy mired in pachyderm plop, too self-absorbed and mean-spirited to help turn down the heat in an increasingly bellicose and autocratic world.
In a book titled “The Bill of Obligations,” seasoned statesman Richard Haass lists 10 requisites for citizens in a free society. The first says it all: “Be Informed.” That is no easy task in a nation befuddled by lies and lunacy that spread at the speed of light.
The following column by contributing editor, journalist and author Mort Rosenblum is from his regular comment The MortReport. Global Insights Magazine/Global Geneva Group are supporting Mort’s insightful and frank reporting from different parts of the world. If you can donate to his journalistic endeavour – based on decades of unique reporting experience across the globe – please do so.
This is a hard look at what is going on beyond the oceans that insulate America from a reporter who has watched the world fall on its axis since the 1960s.
Democracies require a common set of truths, and Americans are all over the place. Polls show “foreign affairs” rank low in priorities. Yet they take in most everything: inflation, immigration, climate, pandemics. In today’s world, borders are only lines on a map.
“Legacy” news organizations and a wide range of new ones disgorge each day an almost infinite torrent of words and images. Unless people fit them together into a comprehensive worldview, they confuse more than they inform.
My vantage point is France and parts beyond. America is not so much hated as ridiculed, scorned and pitied. Now on a trip to my Tucson home, friends abroad pepper me with versions of the same question: What in hell is going on?
The answers are anyone’s guess. Some are obvious: dumbed-down schools that teach neither “civics” nor critical thinking; tower-of-babble “social” media; big money and bigger egos in politics; apathy among voters obsessed with their own narrow issues.
For me, it is fascination with celebrity and the belief that a de-facto CEO of the free world can take on the job as an apprentice. Too many Americans, with a thin grasp of history, miss out on wisdom acquired since those ancient Greeks and Romans.
Rejecting out of hand “two old men” is preposterous. We are all individuals. A 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy would be a better president than Donald Trump, a criminal sociopath who values no human life but his own.
Multiple indictments obscure the picture. Trump cultists simply dismiss them all as partisan piling-on, as if he did not lead the first armed assault on Washington since the British in 1812. Or attempt to “find” those ballots in Georgia.
Focus on those purloined top-secret documents strewn around Mar-a-Lago, a magnet for foreign spies. They revealed military contingencies in case China declares war, the names of intelligence agents and compromising personal details about allied leaders.
Hindsight makes plain the result of Trump’s extortion of Volodymyr Zelensky for dirt on Joe Biden. Republicans refused to hear evidence in the most serious impeachment in U.S. history, and they ignored solid proof of Russian election meddling.
Nikki Haley is no alternative. A shameless opportunist, she says it is a “fact” that all people veer into dementia after 80. At the United Nations, she thwarted climate action and hardened Iran as a bitter foe. She opposed aid to Palestinian families, feeding the hopelessness behind sympathy for terrorism as a last resort.
Biden’s long life is a plus, not a minus. His statecraft, empathy and well-chosen aides are, as promised, building back better. Compared to Trump’s disjointed boasting and babbling, he is a silver-tongued orator. Should he falter, Kamala Harris, a fast learner who is earning respect abroad, could effectively complete his term.
In the White House, integrity matters most. Trump sees volunteer troops as suckers and losers. He mocks John McCain’s disabled arm, the result of torture after being shot down over Hanoi. Biden comforts families who lose sons and daughters in combat.
The contrast sickens. Beau Biden paused a political career to serve in Iraq and died after exposure to burn pits. Trump dodged the draft. His partisans mercilessly hound Biden’s surviving son for allegations that pale to insignificance against Trump family malfeasance.
Trump took over a booming economy from Barack Obama and Biden. He let Covid kill off Americans in droves, which doubled the jobless rate to 6.7 percent. He added $8 trillion to the national debt yet produced none of the infrastructure he had promised.
Under Biden, inflation is dropping toward 3 percent as wage levels climb above 4 percent. The economy, at 2.5 percent annual growth, leads the G10, far ahead of Europe and Japan. Supply chains are restored. Despite global turmoil, gas prices are down again.
Biden champions massive efforts to develop alternative energy. At the same time, in transition, America remains the world’s largest petroleum producer, far more than Saudi Arabia, at 13.5 million barrels a day.
Yet a fresh NBC poll on who would better handle the economy shows Trump ahead of Biden by more than 20 points. Trump has a 16-point lead on being “competent and effective,” a sharp reversal of Biden’s edge of nine points before 2020 elections.
Biden seeks consensus but is stonewalled by crazies in Congress. Many Democrats expect the impossible, as if he were their personal genie in a bottle. An influential Michigan pastor complains that, unlike Obama, he has no Jay Z on his playlist.
Skewed reality gets worse in the wider world beyond Americans’ line of sight. Domestic issues are important to today’s daily lives. But climate collapse, conflict and impoverished people on the move are existential threats to global tomorrows.
“The media” is often faulted as the culprit for all this, but it is hardly that simple. A smart editor friend offered an explanation as we sat on a boat in Paris watching the Seine surge past.
In earlier days, less was more. Fewer news purveyors mostly tried to get the story straight. People saw the world as a figurative lake; they could see its shores and fathom its depths. When something splashed, they followed the ripples to make sense of it.
That lake is now a river. Most people notice only what floats past if they happen to be looking. Current moves it along, and something else captures their attention. Fragments of “news” with neither historical timeline nor broad context make a society ignorant.
As a result, Trump gets away with blatant lies. His cultists cheer when he, the worst president in U.S. history, blames “the Biden crime family” for calamitous chaos he left behind. And many others, looking only at their own daily problems, are easily swayed.
Self-serving politicians fall in line. According to Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney, among others, legislators who privately excoriate Trump nonetheless vote his way in fear of reprisal — even gruesome death threats — by his extremist supporters.
No “crisis” is more cynically exploited than the U.S.-Mexico border, which shines harsh light on Trump’s depraved indifference to others. In fact, his administration’s draconian crackdown created that buildup of refugees and migrants.
A bipartisan Senate panel agreed in January to a solution: faster processing of asylum claims while families wait safely in temporary housing near ports of entry.
Biden accepted Republican demands, including a limit to how many asylum-seekers can cross in on peak days. He is desperate to unblock aid Ukraine needs to blunt Russia’s onslaught, which Republicans hold hostage for a border agreement.
It was all that Speaker Mike Johnson and his slapstick faction had insisted upon. But he pronounced it dead on arrival in the House because a self-appointed shadow president opposes it. Trump wants unconscionable suffering and death to continue until elections so he can blame it all on Biden.
The president reacted in a televised speech. “Every day between now and November,” Biden said, “the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends.”
Not nearly enough people believe him.
In the end, Gaza and the West Bank may tip the balance against Biden. Yet more bitter irony. An effective president who is making progress against all odds to defuse explosive conflict may be replaced by the ham-handed imbecile responsible for it.
Michigan is among the few states likely to determine the Electoral College outcome. Biden won the state by 154,000 votes in 2020. But it has 200,000 registered Muslim voters and an Arab American population that tops 300,000.
One chant at a recent rally set the tone: “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.”
No story I’ve covered approaches the unholy land for misconceptions based on differing interpretations debating back to Moses’s Exodus from Egypt. Rights and wrongs come from every direction.
Herman Wouk’s novel, “The Glory”, captures intricate U.S.-Israel relations in the 1970s. Richard Nixon armed the Israel Defense Forces to repel attacks, but he stressed the “defense” aspect. He wanted solid relations with Arab states, crucial to the Cold War.
Egypt and Syria, with Soviet support, nearly won the Yom Kippur War. Golda Meir begged Nixon for aircraft. But Israel then captured the Golan Heights and occupied the West Bank, determined to stay. Soon it was a regional power, vital to America.
Jimmy Carter’s peace process lasted until 2017, off and on. While backing Israel, the United States pushed for a separate Palestine. Trump’s plan was different. Palestinians would live under Israeli control while Jewish settlers streamed into the West Bank.
Benjamin Netanyahu, like Trump, faces corruption charges. He is waiting for regime change in America to fortify his power. Meantime, Biden displays public warmth, essential to pro-Israel voters at home, but bears down hard in private.
He blunted Netanyahu’s worst impulses while opening humanitarian aid channels and exit corridors. U.S ships delivered enough wheat to supply 1.4 million Gazans with bread for five months. Diplomacy and measured military action keep Mideast embers from bursting to flame. At every chance, Biden insists on Palestinian statehood.
Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Senate hothead with combat experience, called Biden an inept coward for not attacking Iran after a Hezbollah drone killed three American reservists. Rather than start yet another unwinnable war, U.S. forces tracked down the commander believed responsible. An airstrike killed him in downtown Baghdad.
“Sleepy Joe” is all over the map, meeting allies and adversaries face to face. He knows “foreign affairs” is a blend of chess and poker. Both require strategy, with a grasp of human nature. Trump plays checkers and solitaire. And he is prone to cheat at both.
To pick a president in perilous times, voters need thoughtful expert analyses. Richard Haass and the Council on Foreign Relations he presided over for 20 years, are a good start. The CFR publishes Foreign Affairs, books and elaborate free online briefings.
Haass hobnobs with actual “influencers” — presidents and professors, tyrants and tycoons — and writes with firsthand authority. Just before the 2020 election, he banged alarms in Foreign Affairs.
“Four years…is plenty long enough for things to change irreversibly,” he wrote, adding that no restoration of the past could fix the damage. America needed new catch-up approaches to China, Russia, North Korea, the Middle East, Latin America, climate change and more.
“…And if Trump is reelected? Buoyed by an electoral victory that he would interpret as a mandate, he would likely double down on the central elements of the foreign policy that has defined his first term. At some point, disruption becomes so far-reaching that there is no turning back.”
That was before Jan. 6 and all the rest. The only course now seems blindingly clear: A thundering rout of Donald Trump and the elephants he rode in on.
Global Geneva contributing editor Mort Rosenblum is a renowned American journalist, editor and author currently based in France and Tucson, Arizona. He has travelled and reported the world more years than he can remember. His regular column, The MortReport, is available online and by email. Also see Mort’s most recent book: Saving the World from Trump.