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Week in Review


This week we continued our series on the failures of the Bush Administration and looked at where the Republican Party needs to go in the years ahead:

American political parties are constantly reinventing themselves. Bill Clinton ran as the un-Carter and un-Dukakis. President Obama ran as the un-Clinton. In 1968 Richard Nixon ran as the un-Nixon or, as he put it, the “new Nixon.” Calvin Coolidge didn’t run as the second coming of Warren Harding; Franklin Roosevelt didn’t run as the second coming of Woodrow Wilson. General Eisenhower didn’t run as Herbert Hoover redux. Hilary Clinton appears to be positioning herself to run as an un-Obama.

Unless President Obama so thoroughly trashes the Democratic brand that the two parties are in a race to the bottom, the next Republican nominee will need to be an un-W—even if the nominee’s own surname happens to be Bush. That doesn’t mean saying that everything W did was wrong, but it means that a successful presidential candidate needs to speak for and embody a future-focused vision and set of policies calibrated for 2016 rather than 2001 or 2004.

Senator McCain might have helped his campaign by doing more of this in 2008. Senator Obama’s camp believed the Bush record was an anchor to be wrapped as tightly around McCain as possible in order to sink his campaign; Senator McCain’s team sometimes seemed to be trying to help make that happen.

Without declaring war on the Bush legacy or insulting the leader of his party, Senator McCain could have developed a message that was more clearly distinct from his predecessor’s.

News from Asia was, as usual, dominated by reports of conflict between China and Japan. It began early this week when a group of nationalist Japanese politicians made a controversial visit to a shrine honoring the country’s war dead. China wasted no time in responding, sending a fleet of patrol ships into disputed waters near the Senkaku Islands. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe struck back, delivering a speech question whether Japan’s wartime actions amounted to an invasion of its neighbors. The tension with Japan wasn’t China’s only conflict this week: Beijing also got into a spat with India over the presence of troops in disputed territory between the two countries. Meanwhile, all the ASEAN countries besides China agreed to put up a united front against Beijing at the organization’s next summit. And they aren’t the only ones getting tougher with China: The US is beginning to get serious about countering Chinese hacking.

Elsewhere in Asia, tensions are rising on the Korean peninsula as South Korea withdrew all its workers from the jointly-run Kaesong factory and North Korea unsuccessfully petitioned the US for official recognition as a nuclear power. In Pakistan, a group of extremists and charged terrorists are on the brink of election to Parliament. In Burma, religious violence continued as police allowed a massacre of Muslims by Buddhist mobs.

The big news from the Middle East this week is the growing consensus that Assad did, in fact, use chemical weapons. One Israeli general is convinced that he has evidence the Syrian Regime has used chemical weapons, and the Qatari PM has claimed the same. And as the Syria conflict gets worse, Iraq is being dragged into sectarian conflict of its own, leading to disillusioned voters and low turnout in the recent elections. Meanwhile, the US is trying a different tactic in its negotiations with Iran by selling weapons to Israel and its Gulf allies.

Europe continued its painful disintegration, as Grecian demands for German WWII war reparations heightened tensions in the already fraying EU. The EU’s handling of the Cyprus banking fiasco has soured Iceland on idea of potential membership. And the great unraveling continued in France and Spain, as both countries posted record joblessness numbers.

On the home front, Calpers’s asset price has rebounded to its pre-recession peak, David Petraeus opted to continue his public service at CUNY, and a new boom in “professional princesses” has opened up a new avenue for creative entrepreneurs. In more depressing news, young Americans still want homes as much as their parents did, but will have serious trouble affording them.

This was an exciting week for education. Coursera opened the first-ever Asian MOOC, spreading the new technology into a massive new market. Meanwhile, Obama called for more STEM initiatives in his new budget, while the Department of Education approved financial ad for a new college that aims to be the first to “completely decouple from the credit hour,” emphasizing “stuff learned” rather than “time served.” Elsewhere, we questioned whether top-tier schools are really worth the extra money, and asked what exactly the goal of a college education should be. And on a more distressing note, we’re beginning to see early signs that student loans may be turning into junk bonds.

The impending implosion of the plug-in hybrid sports car maker Fisker Automotive is reminding many of the 2011 Solyndra disaster—taxpayers are on the hook for $171 million in government loans extended to the company that has only sold 2,000 of its $100,000 sports car. But it’s not all bad news on the green front: The corn ethanol lobby is joining the chorus of voices calling for a reform to the broken ethanol mandate. If we want to keep that momentum going, we should support telework, because bad traffic cost the US $121 billion in lost time and wasted gas in 2011. $121 billion. With a b.

Another week, another flurry of bad news for Obamacare. As states scurried to educate consumers on the impending effects of the new insurance plans, Congress mulled exempting itself from mandates to enroll in the ACA’s health insurance exchanges. Overall, health care spending slowed down, possibly as a result of employers shifting the burden of insurance payments onto individual employees, making health care something of a luxury. No wonder that the trickle of Democrats getting nervous about Obamacare is quickly becoming a flood.

[George W. Bush image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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