John B. Judis

Speak No Evil

The lines most cited in Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech were those about evil: “Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism--it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.” These lines won approbation from both liberals and conservatives.

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Washington Post writer Michael Leahy has an excellent report on the war within California’s G.O.P. The latest episode was an unsuccessful Republican attempt to recall a fellow Southern California Republican legislator, Anthony Adams, who had the gall to vote for Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state budget, which, in the face of a projected $42 billion deficit and unpaid state worker salaries, included modest tax increases.

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In the wake of Barack Obama’s speech in Oslo, there has been much talk--some of it based on intellectual hearsay--about the influence that theologian Reinhold Niebuhr had on Obama.

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Obama's Tough Love

The bailout of the auto industry was “throwing bad money after a bad cause,” television talk show host Larry Kudlow warned in National Review. Kudlow’s opinion was shared by conservative economists and politicians. And Tea Party types continue to cite the auto bailout as an example of the Obama administration’s unwarranted largesse toward big business and big labor.  But if you compare how the Obama administration handled General Motors and Chrysler with how European leaders dealt with a similar crisis in their industry, Obama’s approach looks tougher and more realistic. That’s at least the ve

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The Chinese Century?

As someone who fell under the spell of declinism in the late 1980s – I wrote a book, Grand Illusion: Critics and Champions of the American Century, dedicated partly to the thesis --  I am reluctant to embrace the current version of the theory of American decline, with China playing the role that Japan and West Germany formerly played.  On that score, I recommend a column, “Why China Won’t Rule the World,” by Minxin Pei, my former colleague at Carnegie, to whom I defer on these matters. Minxin cites the fragility of China’s economic recovery, based on risky loans many of which will not be repai

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Bull in China Shop

Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf has a particularly good summary today of the danger that China’s undervalued currency poses to the world economy. As Wolf points out, China’s “real exchange rate is … no higher than in early 1998 and has depreciated by 12 per cent over the past seven months, even though China has the world’s fastest-growing economy and largest current account surplus.” That means, in effect, that China is levelling a large, uniform tariff on imports (whose price is higher than they should be relative to China’s goods) and granting a large subsidy  to its own exports. That

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My eye was drawn to the provocative headline, “Alcoa head says weak dollar is bad for US industry.” How could that be? Aren’t American manufacturing firms being hurt by an overvalued dollar that increases the price of their goods made here relative, say, to imports from China? That may be true, I learned, but that is not what bothers Klaus Kleinfeld, the CEO of Alcoa. He is worried because a weaker dollar makes the products that Alcoa manufactures outside the United States more expensive inside the United States. “It is actually hurting us substantially,” Kleinfeld told the Financial Times.

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My colleague Noam Scheiber has parsed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony about the power of the Federal Reserve, but Bernanke also commented in hearings yesterday about government fiscal policy; and what he had to say was, to say the least, disturbing. Echoing the charges of economic conservatives and Wall Streeters like investment banker Peter Peterson, Bernanke took aim against what these folks call “entitlements,” but which are known popularly to be social security and Medicare. Republicans can be expected to cite his comments in the current debate over the Democratic health

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I want to add a few things to Richard Just’s excellent comment on Obama’s speech. I think there are two reasons why Obama soft-pedaled nation-building and human rights (not even mentioning the fundamental rights of women that the Taliban deny). The first, which Richard notes implicitly, is a desire to appease Americans who think the administration is neglecting the U.S. in favor of Afghanistan.

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I don’t oppose what Barack Obama plans to do in Afghanistan. I don’t know enough, and from what I know, I don’t have an alternative to propose. I would have preferred he find a way to achieve American objectives without escalating the war, but I agree with his objective of denying al Qaeda a home in Afghanistan through a Taliban victory, and I hope that his strategy will achieve it.

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