A tale of two losers

By Jay Kuten

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Based on their most recent behaviours, the US, last week, missed two bullets in the form of Mitt Romney and David Petraeus.

Mitt Romney, who lost the election because of issues of trust and and reliance on outmoded economic theory - trickle-down economics - blamed his loss upon "gifts" that Obama supposedly gave to select groups, Latinos, young people and moderate income workers.

Romney's assertions were only tangentially true. He claimed a non-existent amnesty for children of illegals versus a two-year deferral of deportation to complete schooling. Romney's claim that college loans were being forgiven to entice young voters fails to mention that exorbitant interest on those loans was being lowered. And a claim of free healthcare for people making $35,000 is mythical.

It's not the reliance on fantasy that illustrates Romney's failing as a candidate. It's the whining.

There's a grain of truth in these pathetic rationalisations. The Republican party has lost the plot even with its "most electable" candidate because its long time "Southern Strategy", designed to play to the fears of white people is running smack into the reality of demographics.

The older white males who gave Romney 69 per cent of their votes are becoming a minority as women, young people and Latinos become the majority.

Credit the US with good sense in rejecting Romney but also good luck. He belongs to one of two groups whose ascent to presidential power has lead to serious failure. One group is made up of the entitled sons of rich and accomplished men.

A stark example would be the Kennedy and Bush Jr. administrations. It is true that Kennedy had a truncated presidency and can be credited with avoiding nuclear war. But he is partly responsible for getting us there in the first place and it was after October 1962 that he and his advisers ramped up a little proxy war in a small country called Vietnam. The failings of the George W. Bush years are well known. There was the wasting universal goodwill toward the US after 9/11 - never mind the failure to heed the warnings. The wasting of American and Iraqi lives in the Iraq war resulted in America's greatest strategic blunder as it empowered Iran's unopposed regional threat. The wasting of a half-trillion surplus in tax cuts grew to a deficit of three trillion. The financial crisis and its residue, while not solely Bush's doing, were aided by his policies of deregulated market economy. The world is still paying for Bush's need for the appearance of power.

It's that appearance that marks the second group of the disaster prone in presidential office: Former generals. The US has had a history of romance with generals and elected 12 of them to its highest office.

Unfortunately, like many a love affair, the pursuit turns out to be of greater moment than the accomplishment. Only the first president, General Washington ranks among the greats, chiefly for his adroit shift from commander to accommodator in recognition of the limits the Constitution placed on presidential power. Of 11 others, one, Grant, ranks among the worst and most of the rest were mediocre at best. Jackson, remembered for his populism and founding the Democratic Party, was an ardent slaveholder and practiced ethnic cleansing on the Cherokee.

Petraeus's meteoric rise came from his appearance as the general who could win in Iraq. A man who carefully cultivated his public image, he brought the principles of counter-insurgency from his Princeton Ph.D thesis on Vietnam to Iraq, buying off the Sunni opposition to give breathing room for an American withdrawal. The same principles have yielded poor results in Afghanistan. His acceptance of the CIA directorship represented a stepping stone toward presidential ambitions. While America's quaint Puritanism has dashed his hopes because of an extramarital affair, for my money any top spy who thinks the drafts folder of a Gmail account is a privacy zone should be fired for incompetence.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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