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Week in Review

This week, we turned our attention toward the failure of the GOP to deal with the mistakes of the Bush Presidency, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. The next generation of Republican leaders need to get better at convincing the American people that the party knows what it’s doing overseas:

The Republican Party like all parties in modern democracies doesn’t need a narrow orthodoxy on foreign policy or on anything else; it needs a rich discourse among competing schools of thought and visions. But the reality that cannot be avoided today is that those voices must be able to explain to the public why the choices they recommend will lead to different results than the ones that Bush got. More, the failure of more internationally minded Republicans to advance credible foreign policy approaches based on lessons learned from the Bush years opens the door to the neo-isolationists. If those within the GOP who believe in an active and global American foreign policy don’t distinguish themselves from the Bush approach, and offer a convincing critique and revision, they will inexorably lose ground within the party even as the party itself loses ground with the public.

Fluency in discussing the disasters of the Bush years is going to be a job requirement for Republican candidates and mandarins for some time to come. This doesn’t mean GOPers need to harp incessantly on the subject, but the sooner individuals and the party as a whole can embrace and project a message of rethink and change, the sooner the country will be ready to listen to what else they have to say.  The charge that the Bush administration was a disaster and that Republicans haven’t changed is the strongest weapon in the hands of Democratic politicians; Republicans must either wait for the public’s memories of the Bush administration to fade or they have to think about how they can distinguish themselves from the past.

Many Republicans will instinctively reject this approach and recoil from the thought of a public washing of the party’s dirty linen. Fair enough, but one has to ask whether the party as a whole really wants to pay the heavy political price of this kind of reticence.

News from Asia this week was dominated by North Korea, whose bellicose rhetoric is facilitating America’s pivot to Asia, much to China’s dismay. This wasn’t the only bad news for China, which is currently dealing with a bird flu outbreak in addition to a downgrade from Fitch. China is also coping with a mass exodus from cities due to deadly smog, which we tracked in this handy infographic. India dealt with bad news of its own, as the economy is growing at its lowest rate in a decade. Elsewhere in the region, Japan and Taiwan made a bilateral deal over the use of the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, and Japan’s bond-buying program may be buying some time for crisis-torn countries in Europe.

Speaking of Europe, the main news from the continent this week surrounded the death of former PM Margaret Thatcher. We weighed in with our own take here. Elsewhere in the region, Russia’s economy is sputtering to a halt, damaging Putin’s “national greatness” agenda.

In the Middle East, Egypt’s slow death spiral continued, as religious violence between Copts and Muslims broke out in Cairo. Meanwhile, Egypt has been drastically overstating its wheat crop, suggesting trouble ahead for the world’s largest wheat importer. And all the while, the army is gaining power in the behind-the-scenes struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood. Elsewhere in the region, nuclear talks with Iran broke down again, while Ahmadinejad brazenly declared that Iran is already a nuclear power. In the West Bank, the Obama Administration took a new, smarter approach to the peace process, looking to develop the Palestinian economy, only to see an early setback with the resignation of Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad.

America’s pension crisis continued apace this week, as Calpers sticks to its recklessly optimistic assumptions about future pension payments. Meanwhile, a number of union pension plans are running out of money quickly, and the NYT is quietly warning many pensioners that they may not get all the money they were promised. On a more positive note, Rahm Emanuel is finally beginning to take on Chicago’s chronically underfunded pension program.

We had more bad news for California this week: Google announced that red tape has prevented it from bringing Google Fiber to the state, a federal court ruled that California’s prisons are still in violation of the eighth amendment. There was, however, one positive sign, as the legislature moved to limit capital appreciation bonds, which have caused fiscal crises in a number of municipalities. Elsewhere in the country, a number of New York cities are nearing bankruptcy, Obamacare is corroding the employer-based health insurance system, and the coverage of the Gosnell abortion trial is a sign of the rise of alternative media vis-a-vis the MSM.

It was a big week for education news. Blue California is looking to make it easier to fire bad teachers, while Texas is looking to build on its recent success by giving teachers more freedom over what is taught in their classrooms. Cornell University has added some practical business education to its computer science programs, while an education commission is taking steps to make it easier to offer MOOCs across state lines.

On the environment, Congress may finally end America’s biofuel boondoggle, ending one of the most disastrous policies in recent memory. We had more good news from North Dakota, where ground was broken on America’s first new refinery since the 1970s. It was also a bad week for green alarmism: One energy expert suggests that failing to build new pipelines actually increases the chance of dangerous spills, while a US government report found that recent weather-realated disasters were not a result of global warming.

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