Chapel Hill Political Review
October 2012 studentorgs.unc.edu/thehill
Election Season in America The Candidatesâ€™ Views on: Energy Policy, Social Issues & Deficit Reduction
2 From the Editor
To our readers: Without exaggeration, the 2012 presidential election provides the starkest choice in recent memory, so naturally, that is the focus of this issue of The Hill. Our goal was to present that choice to our readers in the clearest and most objective terms possible. We strongly believe that it is in these hyper-partisan election seasons that nonpartisan news sources like ours are most important. To this end, we feature a detailed contrast of the candidates’ tax plans, including their impact on deficits and the economy. In another piece, The Hill analyzes the candidates’ different positions on energy, as well as an in-depth examination of the new drilling technique known as fracking. We also discuss the role of social issues (or lack thereof) in the campaign, and how they could end up affecting the election. Another reason this election is so significant is the urgent business facing the winners. Of course, Congress appears hopelessly gridlocked and our analysis doesn’t predict a breakthrough anytime
soon. Critically, the so-called fiscal cliff goes into effect in January, and if our leaders do not take action it would probably throw our economy back into recession. The stakes are high indeed. Increasingly, foreign policy has been a focus of the election. There has been a deluge of campaign rhetoric about getting tough on China and about our relationship with Israel. Furthermore, we include a discussion on the tragic attack on our diplomats in Benghazi and the larger risks posed to ambassadors. Other prominent issues in foreign affairs featured in this issue are the state of AlQaeda and the ongoing rebellion in Syria. Finally, The Hill evaluates the two biggest question marks hanging over the world economy: the never-ending Euro crisis and the leadership transition in China. Thanks for reading this issue of The Hill. We hope it clarifies some of the important issues in this election and around the world. Enjoy. Sam Hobbs & Radhika Kshatriya
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Our Mission: The Hill is a medium for analysis of state, national, and international politics. This publication is meant to serve as the middle ground (and a battleground) for political thought on campus where people can present their beliefs and test their ideas. A high premium is placed on having a publication that is not affiliated with any party or organization, but rather is openly nonpartisan on the whole. Hence, the purpose of The Hill is to provide a presentation of both neutral and balanced analysis of political ideas, events, and trends. This means that, on the one hand, the publication will feature articles that are politically moderate in-depth analyses of politics and political ideas. These articles might be analytical, descriptive claims that draw conclusions about the political landscape. On the other, The Hill will feature various articles that take political stances on issues.
MANAGING EDITORS Sam Hobbs Radhika Kshatriya SECTION EDITORS Brian Godfrey Alex Jones WRITERS Alex Blair Jon Buchleiter Ellis Dyson Brian Godfrey Sam Hobbs Alex Jones Radhika Kshatriya Katlyn Moseley Keith Pulling Avani Uppalapati Richard Zheng DESIGN Radhika Kshatriya HEAD OF ART Robert Bridgers TREASURER Christie Blazevich FACULTY ADVISOR Ferrel Guillory
This magazine was paid for, at least in part, by Student Activities Fees at a cost of approximately $0.89 per copy
Volume XII Issue I
Contents Domestic 6
Gridlock in Congress
Are We Heading for a Fiscal Cliff?
Election Season in America 9
The Impact of Israel on US Elections
Tax Plan Comparisons
Election Rhetoric on China
Syria: A Status Update
State of Al-Qaeda
Chinaâ€™s Leadership Transition
Swing State Analysis Sam Hobbs
he candidates are running neck-and-neck according to the most recent national polls. Governor Romney’s bump following the first debate has reset the race back to the close election most observers expected before President Obama took a clear lead after the party conventions. However, the national vote, while important, does not decide the election; the states cast the electoral votes that push a candidate past the 270 threshold. By most estimates, Obama has 237 “safe” electoral votes (measured by states who have consistently polled strongly in favor of one candidate) and Romney has 191. For this reason, Obama has a much easier path to 270, unless Romney can bring an Obama state into his camp such as Michigan or Pennsylvania. Here is a closer look at the nine battleground states that are considered toss-ups:
The big three: Ohio, Virginia, & Florida If Romney loses just one of these states, he would have to sweep nearly all of the other swing-states to win the election
(18 electoral votes): Obama has a two to three point lead in the most recent polls in Ohio, the traditional kingmaker in presidential politics. The economy is better in Ohio than in the rest of the country and the auto bailout is very popular here. No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio, and Romney has never lead in the polls.
(13 votes): Obama leads by one point in this state, well within the margin of error, and forecasts actually give Romney a slight edge in the final vote. Virginia was a reliable red state before the 2008 election and Republicans are desperate to win it back.
(29 votes): This perennial swing-state is anywhere from a tie to a two point advantage in Romney’s favor in the polls. Florida was hit hard by the housing bust, but its sizable elderly population disapproves of Romney’s plan for Medicare even more than they dislike Obamacare. Voter turnout among the growing Hispanic population will also have a significant impact on Florida’s election outcome.
The rest: Colorado
(9 votes): Polls in Colorado range from a one point lead for Obama to a one point lead for Romney, a virtual tie.
(6 votes): Obama leads here by two to three points. Iowa’s population is an important sample because it provides a fair representation of many undecided and independent voters – white, educated and middle class.
(6 votes): Polls give Obama a three point lead in Nevada, but unemployment and foreclosures are among the highest in the country here, which might give Romney an opening.
(4 votes): Obama’s lead has shrunk to between one and four points in this famously independent state that Romney claims as something of a second home.
(15 votes): The latest polls indicate Romney has a two to four point advantage in the Tar Heel state. North Carolina was Obama’s smallest margin of victory in 2008, and, despite demographic shifts in his favor, Obama alienated many voters when he announced his support for gay marriage just days after this traditionally conservative state voted overwhelmingly to ban it.
(10 votes): Obama maintains a two to four point advantage in Wisconsin. However, the Romney campaign has devoted considerable resources to winning this state, and his selection of Wisconsinnative Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate has narrowed the gap significantly. If Romney loses one of the big three, winning Wisconsin will become imperative.
Gridlock in Congress Alex Blair
espite the media’s apparent shock over the inability of our current legislature to compromise, congressional gridlock is by no means a recent phenomenon. After the Civil War, divisions among lawmakers over the Reconstruction Acts were so extreme that it led to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Even in less divisive times, gridlock has been commonplace. For example, when the federal administrator of tire production attempted to increase production of rayon tire cord for the war effort in 1942, he was blocked by Congressmen from the south who feared that synthetic rayon would decrease demand for their states’ cotton. Even circumstances as dire as World War II could not eliminate gridlock. It seems that Congress’ default state is disagreement. Why would anyone expect a legislature evenly split between two parties who hold conflicting opinions on most issues to run like an efficient factory constantly churning out bills without incident? Occasionally, one party emerges victorious on any given piece of legislation through negotiating acumen, coalition building, or, increasingly more common, sheer stubbornness. However, compromise has always been necessary for government to function. The question then becomes: has gridlock become more prevalent recently as a tactic to be used in political combat? The short answer is yes. According to the Washington Times, 2011 was the most gridlocked year in Congress since 1947 with only 80 bills passed. Of course,
each party blames the other. Republicans, who have a majority in the House of Representatives, insist that they are doing their part by passing a number of bills that eventually become mired in the Senate. Democrats, on the other hand, claim that Republicans are knowingly moving bills into the Democratic controlled Senate that are unlikely to pass because of their partisan nature. However, the Democrats’ main criticism of Republicans comes from their abundant use of filibustering, in particular with regards to non-partisan matters like routine court appointments. The 112th Congress has seen the third highest number of cloture motions in history and it is only October. Republicans maintain that this strategy is necessary to counter Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s suppression of Republican introduced amendments. Considering the pervasiveness of gridlock in congressional politics lately, it is important to note the dangers of such an environment. The American populace became all too familiar with one such danger in the summer of 2011. The debt ceiling desperately needed to be raised before August 2nd to prevent the government from defaulting on its debts. Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling without addressing what they saw as the cause of the ballooning federal deficit: excessive spending. Democrats preferred to raise the debt ceiling without any conditions. Multiple attempts at a bipartisan “grand bargain” failed. It was
not until July 31 that an agreement was reached. This episode prompted Moody’s, the debt rating agency, to downgrade the US credit rating, citing the government’s startling dysfunction. According to Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, had brinksmanship prevailed and the debt ceiling remained in place, U.S. borrowing costs would have skyrocketed, resulting in a meltdown comparable to the 2008 financial crisis. More recently, Congress failed to reach consensus on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and Farm Bill of 2012 before the month long Senate recess. Should this level of gridlock continue into January when the approaching fiscal cliff comes into effect, there could be major repercussions. Failing to stop the combination of tax increases and spending cuts would almost certainly throw the fragile economy into recession. The risks of congressional gridlock are very real, yet it must be an effective political tool or it would not be used to such an extent. We can only hope as a nation that our representatives will be conscious of the severity of their actions and never let gridlock be taken past the point of tenacious strategy into disaster. Alex Blair is a senior majoring in Business.
To Drill or Not to Drill
ovember is rapidly approaching and the American public must start to seriously consider which presidential candidate they believe is right to lead America over the next four years. Unemployment, a staggering economy, and skyrocketing oil prices are all major concerns addressed in each candidate’s campaign and platform. An issue that has not been in the spotlight, but is highly relevant to all three of these major issues, is fracking. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks and to release the natural gas inside. This technique can produce up to 300,000 barrels of oil a day, leading some to argue that it is the key to creating a reservoir of domestic energy and to reducing the United States’ dependency on foreign oil. Regions in the US, such as Ohio, that have fallen on hard times during the economic downturn have seen a turnaround because of the jobs created by the drilling. Moreover, plans that call for a hydraulic fracturing tax will generate revenue and cut down on Ohioans income tax. Unfortunately, the matter is not quite so simple. Although, fracking could help decrease the country’s dependence on foreign oil as well as the woes of a weak economy, the potential environmental repercussions has generated debate over whether or not the costs outweighs the benefits. Each fracking job requires anywhere from one to eight million gallons of water and about 40,000
gallons of various chemicals. This becomes a major concern when methane gas and toxins leak during the process of drilling and contaminate groundwater. Concentrations of methane are as much as seventeen times higher in drinking wells near fracking sites than in normal wells. To date, there have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas of gas drilling as well as cases of sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to ingesting contaminants. Additionally, when waste fluid is left in open air pits, it evaporates and releases harmful volcanic organic compounds into the atmosphere, contaminating the air we breathe. Because of the pollution and contamination attributed to fracking, there are many advocates who support banning it altogether. They believe that any potential benefit is not worth the environmental cost. Dr. Trevor M Penning, Director for the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at the Perelman School of Medicine is on the skeptical side of the spectrum. The cost of fracking on the environment, as well as the impact fracking has on the community in which the actual drilling occurs means that there is still much research to be done in order to determine whether fracking is worth it. There are individuals who support the continuation of fracking. Negative environmental consequences can be prevented when the industry is committed to ensuring the process is done safely and responsibly. Sloppy enforcement of the regulations already in place, rather than the frack-
ing process itself, is what leads to contamination. With strong industry standards and strict federal and state oversight for oil and natural gas operations, the negative consequences can be controlled. There are still others who advocate for continuing to use the technique under loose regulations. These individuals believe creating domestic sources for oil and creating jobs in order to lift the economy is more of a pressing issue than the environmental concerns. Before the election, it is important for the voters to understand each candidate’s position on the issue of fracking. President Barack Obama and his administration are keenly aware of the environmental risks surrounding the drilling process; however, they are also concerned about jobs and the downtrodden economy. Therefore, he supports the continuation of fracking as long as the appropriate regulations are strictly enforced. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republican party are highly critical of this policy. They believe that such restrictive policies will hinder the ability to meet the country’s energy and economic needs. If Romney is elected, his policies toward hydraulic fracturing will likely favor looser regulations. The potential impact of fracking on the US economy and energy dependence warrants serious consideration amongst the voters this year regarding whether or not the risk is worth the reward. Katlyn Mosely is a Junior majoring in History and Political Science
Are we heading for a fiscal cliff? Richard Zheng
ith all the attention paid to the upcoming presidential elections, many other looming political concerns are being overlooked. One such concern is the so-called “fiscal cliff” that is scheduled to trigger in January of 2013. Reaching back to the debt ceiling crisis of the previous year, the fiscal cliff has developed into a serious dilemma that must be resolved if the United States wishes to avoid slipping into a doubledip recession. Over a year ago, Congress was in turmoil over the debt ceiling crisis and a possible default on debt. This would have been the first time in history that the United States had failed to pay off its loans, and, considering that the dollar is the de facto standard for international trade, chaos and disruption in the world economy seemed certain. Thankfully, politicians were able to cobble together the Budget Control Act of 2011 and avoid this crisis, and the United States merely suffered a downgraded credit rating. But the raised debt ceiling also came attached to a ticking time bomb: tired of the partisan bickering and gridlock that led to the crisis in the first place, Congressional leaders on both sides of the political spectrum implemented an “enforcement mechanism” that would trigger severe reductions in both defense and domestic spending if agreements over budget cuts could not be reached. These budget cuts were delegated to a bi-partisan “super-committee” of twelve Congressmen that ultimately failed to achieve anything. Thus, across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to happen at the beginning of 2013 coincide
with the expiration of Bush-era and President Obama’s recession induced tax cuts (such as the payroll tax cut). In fact, according to an August report from the Congressional Budget Office, if no changes are made and the fiscal cliff is allowed to occur, the U.S. would be sent into another recession. The CBO predicts that GDP will decline by 0.5 percent while unemployment will rise from the current level of 8.1% to 9.1%. Compare those numbers to an “alternative fiscal scenario” in which most tax cuts will be extended and the automatic spending restraints will be prevented: in this case, the CBO predicts that the GDP will actually increase by 1.7% and the unemployment rate will stay at an even 8.0%. Unfortunately, not only are the macroeconomic effects significant, but the expiration of tax cuts will also result in an increase in taxes for 80% of the general population. With investor and consumer confidence still weak from the Great Recession of 2008, a continuation on the current path will severely hinder any progress towards a healthy economy.However, some economists argue that marching off the fiscal cliff is not the worst
scenario that could occur. Chad Stone, a chief economist from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, recently stated that allowing the drastic measures to go through may be the push policymakers need to finally work together and draft a fiscally stable budget. He worries that Congress will be driven by fear to bandage on a short term solution that will not address the long term problem of deficit reduction. Stone’s analysis of the fiscal cliff concludes that there will not be an immediate recession and instead the economy will have a gentler slope down, thereby giving Congress more time to take action. But will this really end the political deadlock? A macroeconomics professor at UNC is doubtful, and warns that the immediate backlash following the fiscal cliff would be catastrophic. There would still be no guarantee of a resolved budget, and the political deadlock may even worsen. Fortunately, these automatic spending cuts do not appeal to liberals or conservatives; the former cannot suffer cuts to social welfare spending while the latter refuse to accept cuts to the defense budget. As such, both sides have incentives to compromise and avoid a full-blown budget overhaul in which they have no control over which programs are cut. But the upcoming presidential election prevents either side from proposing any serious solutions for fear of political reprisals. Ultimately, if Congress puts aside its petty squabbles, they have the power to avert another economic crisis. Richard Zheng is a sophomore majoring in Business.
Israel’s Impact on US Elections
ith election season now in full swing, violence breaking out in the Middle East, and Iran racing toward accumulating weapon-grade nuclear materials, Israeli leaders have dealt President Obama an unenviable political hand. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has recently made headlines by demanding that the US draw a line in the sand concerning Iran’s nuclear proliferation. Last week Netanyahu urged President Obama and other world leaders to make clear at what point Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons would warrant a military attack. The nature and extent of Netanyahu’s remarks, a Catch-22 of sorts, will make the President look weak no matter the path that Obama chooses: if Obama takes a more hawkish stance toward Iran, it will appear that he’s succumbing to Israel’s pressure, but if the US continues to allow Iran to pursue nuclear materials, it will look like Obama is unwilling to stand up and stop Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons.
wouldn’t be casting his vote for Obama come November. The timing of the remarks, increased in intensity, is of particular importance, as Netanyahu may be using the upcoming election as a way of convincing Obama to acquiesce to Israeli demands for a “red-line” concerning Iran. Obama may very well take Netanyahu’s advice and decide to issue a verbal ultimatum of sorts, deciding to come up with a firm limit on Iran’s nuclear development, which, if passed, would warrant military action. There is, however, a more likely outcome: Obama decides to keep all of his options open and refuses to set a clear limit on Iran, instead continuing to pursue economic sanctions and diplomatic avenues. But no matter what the White House chooses to do, by making his demands public Netanyahu has put Obama between a rock and a hard place. If Obama chooses to go along with Netanyahu’s Iran recommendations, he risks looking weak on foreign policy.
But no matter what the White House chooses to do, by making his demands public Netanyahu has put Obama between a rock and a hard place. Netanyahu’s impassioned requests for international action come in the midst of a heated election season here in the states. And while Netanyahu claims that he is not supporting one candidate over the other, it does seem clear that he is visibly frustrated with Obama’s handling of the Iran situation. Romney’s friendship with the Israeli Prime Minister also suggests that Netanyahu
Regardless of what his initial plan was, because of the nature of Netanyahu’s suggestions, it will look like Obama caved and finally gave into Israel. No President wants to look like he or she is bending to another nation’s leader, and if Obama gives in, that is exactly what it will look like. This is especially true in the wake of what The Daily Mail calls Netanyahu’s “humiliating public lecture” given
“at the White House last year.” At this point, if Obama decides to set bounds on Iran’s nuclear program, it will inevitably be seen as finally succumbing to Israel’s notso-private suggestions. And even if President Obama decides to stay the current course, he risks being labeled as weak on national security, something the Republicans are already accusing him of. The recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East only exacerbates this problem. At a campaign stop in Florida last week Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan declared that, “If we project weakness, they come.” This criticism will only increase as instability in the region continues and the election inches closer. Further resistance to a hard-line stance on Iran will surely contribute to these sorts of critiques. Thus, it appears, regardless of the route that he takes, Obama is open to the charge of weakness on national security and Iran. On the one hand, if he decides to issue an ultimatum to Iran, it will look like Netanyahu is dictating US policy. On the other hand, however, if Obama refuses to take such a stance, he could be painted as being “soft.” At a time when the United States could use all the help it can get in the Middle East, Israel, our greatest ally, is the source of one of Obama’s biggest headaches. Ironically, by aggressively seeking US intervention, Israel may actually end up alienating its closest friend. Keith Pulling is a Junior majoring in History and Philosophy.
The Candidates’ Tax Plans: A Comparison Sam Hobbs
axes are a central issue in this election. President Obama and Governor Romney spend as much time talking about taxes as any other issue, and no other issue better illustrates the differences between the candidates and their parties. Their respective tax plans will impact virtually every American, and they will have direct consequences for both the economy and the debt – the two issues routinely placed at the top of the list of voter concerns. There is almost unanimous consent that our tax system is in need of serious reform. The tax code is so complex and inefficient that it actually holds back our economy, potentially costing us hundreds of billions of dollars. As a result, both candidates have vowed to overhaul the tax code. There is a rough bipartisan consensus on how to do so, embodied in the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction committee, a mantle both candidates have tried to claim though neither truly adopts its plan. President Obama comes closer to the Bowles-Simpson plan for the sole reason that he raises additional revenue. In its most basic form, his vision is to help the economy with targeted investments in infrastructure, energy and education, paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy. Obama believes that some taxes will have to go up to deal with the yawning deficit, and he argues that the wealthy are the only Americans who can afford an increase. For this reason, he would extend the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers, and allow
the cuts to expire for individuals making more than 200,000 dollars and families making more than 250,000 dollars per year. This proposal would return the top two income tax rates from 33 to 35 percent and 36 to 39.6 percent; in other words, a return to the Clinton-era level. Obama would also implement the Buffet Rule, named for billionaire investor Warren Buffet who revealed that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, which would require all Americans making more than one million dollars a year to pay a minimum income tax of 30 percent. President Obama also targets the wealthy through taxes on investment income. He would raise the capital gains tax from 15 percent to 20 percent, and he would tax dividends and carried interest as ordinary income instead of as capital gains, subjecting them to higher rates. In addition, his plan lowers the exemption for the estate tax from the first five million dollars in inheritance to the first 3.5 million dollars, and he increases the estate tax rate from 35 percent to 45 percent. Collectively, these policies represent a substantial tax increase on the top two percent of American earners. However, Obama’s plan does include some measures intended to help American businesses. He would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, and decrease it further for manufacturers who would pay a rate of 25 percent. His plan would institute a minimum tax for profits made overseas and end tax breaks for companies who outsource jobs to other countries. Fi-
nally, Obama would make permanent tax breaks for clean energy and research and development, and he would end tax subsidies for oil and gas companies. Republicans characterize Obama’s plan as a typical tax and spend liberal agenda, arguing that raising taxes will undermine an already weak recovery. In their view, the president’s proposals would stifle investment and job creation, placing an unnecessary burden on job creators. Indeed, some conservatives suggest that his singling out of the wealthy amounts to class warfare. They claim his ideas would suppress the private economy instead of unleashing it. Obama’s supporters respond that some tax increases are necessary if we are serious about reducing a 16 trillion dollar debt, countering that spending cuts alone would devastate the economy. They stress that taxes will not go up for 98 percent of Americans, and insist that the wealthy can afford the increase. The income gap is wider today than at any point since the 1950s, and yet the wealthiest Americans face their lowest tax burden in decades, with many paying a lower effective rate than those in the middle class. From the Democrats’ perspective, it is not about bringing the rich down; it is about sparing those Americans who are struggling the most. Romney’s plan is to spur investment and job creation by easing the tax burden. He would cut all income tax rates by 20 percent lowering the top income tax rate from 35 to 28 percent and the
lowest rate from ten to eight percent. For those making less than 200,000 dollars, Romney would eliminate the capital gains and dividends taxes. Furthermore, he promises to eliminate the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the estate tax for all Americans. For corporations, Romney would lower their tax rate from 35 to 25 percent. He has also proposed a territorial tax system that would exempt business profits made overseas and maintain tax breaks for outsourcing. In reverse of Obama’s position, he would end tax breaks for clean energy and preserve subsidies for oil and gas. The former governor has called for ending the Obama administration’s tax relief program, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit for higher education and the expansion of the earned income and childcare credit taxes. Romney made three promises about his tax plan: it would be revenue neutral, it would not raise taxes on the middle class,
and it would not decrease the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans. However, according to Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan organization that did an in-depth study of Romney’s plan, it will be “virtually impossible for him to keep all three promises.” The Romney plan would cut taxes by almost five trillion dollars, and while he has promised to offset the cuts by closing loopholes and deductions, he has refused to identify which ones he would close until he is in office, saying those are details he would work out with Congress. In an interview with The Hill, Williams explained that two of the only loopholes big enough to close the gap are deductions for mortgage rates and charitable giving, overwhelmingly popular programs that benefit the middle class. Williams insists there are two options: “either Romney’s plan will add hundreds of billions if not trillions to the deficit, or he would raise taxes on
Cover 11 the middle class by an average of two thousand dollars.” Democrats complain that Romney’s tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy, citing evidence that shows tax cuts for the wealthy are the least likely to benefit the economy. However, most economists agree that while the cuts do favor the wealthy, they will also spur investment and provide a moderate boost to the economy, though not as large as Romney has suggested. In the end, Obama’s plan hits the wealthy hard, but it also takes serious aim at the debt. Romney’s plan does more to help the economy, but it also leaves major questions unresolved that could change its effects. On the other hand, at least Obama’s plan adds up. In a fiercely contested election, both candidates can agree on one thing – the choice is very real, and it is very stark. Sam Hobbs is a senior majoring in History
Side by Side
- make Bush tax cuts permanent for - make all Bush tax cuts permanent incomes less $250,000 - cut all income rates by 20% - return top two income brackets to - eliminate capital gains and divi35% and 39.6% dends tax for incomes less $200,000 - Buffet Rule: millionaires pay mini- eliminate the alternative minimum mum income tax of 30% tax and estate tax - raise capital gains tax to 20% - lower corporate rate from 35% to - increase estate tax rate to 45% for 25% inheritance over 5 million - end tax breaks for clean energy - lower corporate tax rate from 35% to 28% (manufacturers 25%)
The Choice on Energy Policy Alex Jonees
n late August of 2008, John McCain’s presidential campaign felt it had finally gotten some traction. After trailing then-Senator Obama for months, McCain was quickly gaining on the Democrat and even overtook him in some polls. Commentators attributed this turn-around to two factors: the introduction of an exciting running mate and high gas prices, the latter of which strengthened the campaign that had pushed for increased fossil fuel production. At the same point in the 2012 election season, the Republican ticket found itself in similar conditions. Petroleum prices have risen to nearly $4 per gallon, and the selection of Representative Paul Ryan has made Mitt Romney’s previously unimaginative candidacy much more provocative. Nonetheless, Mr. Romney never overtook President Obama in the RealClearPolitics electoral polling average, and high prices at the pump have not resulted in a sustained reduction in the president’s favorability rating. Despite the approval rating of President Obama’s energy policies falling in Gallup polling from 79% in 2009 to 42% in August 2012, Mr. Romney has gained nothing in head-to-head matchups. Why? The simplest answer is that voters are preoccupied. The weak economy is the first consideration in most voters’ minds. A long series of unexpected events has further obscured the energy debate. Each campaign has scrambled to make inroads on these issues, leaving less time to devote to lower-profile disagreements. In
addition, the media environment is even more fast-paced and more focused on frivolous matters than was the case in 2008, so there is less demand for candidates to debate all the aspects of their platforms. Consequently, Mr. Obama has been able to get away with his poorly perceived record on energy policy with limited pushback from the Romney campaign. At one point, Mr. Romney did attempt to make hay of Mr. Obama’s perceived weaknesses on energy policy. During his campaign for the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney attacked President Obama for delaying the approval of a pipeline to transport Canadian shale oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. The Keystone XL pipeline would have created several thousand American jobs, and the delay in its construction has caused a heated dispute between America and Canada. One foreign policy writer accused the Obama Administration of “losing Canada” by not approving the pipeline. On the other hand, constructing the pipeline would actually raise gas prices in the Midwest by sending the bottleneck of oil supply out of the region, onto the global market. In addition, like all energy policies, the Keystone Pipeline will have an effect on the environment—in this case, a possibly dire one. The climatologist James Hansen warned that approving Keystone XL would be “game over” for the global climate system. With so many complexities, it is not too surprising that the Keystone controversy dropped off the political map. Besides approving the Keystone Pipeline, there are arguably few high-profile differences between
the two candidates’ proposals for U.S. energy policy. Mr. Obama has even embraced the longrunning Republican slogan that calls for an “All-of-the-above” policy focused on maximizing the production of all energy sources. Mr. Obama no longer contests expanding fossil fuel production, although this may be because recent changes in the sector have given him no choice but to support increased output. Mr. Romney has been more vocal in his support for expanded oil and gas production, but his statements have been refreshingly reticent for a politician. He has claimed that greater domestic energy exploration can bring about “North American energy independence,” not an outright end to oil importation. There is one difference between the candidates’ plans, however, that is of genuinely historic significance. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, Mr. Obama promised that fighting climate change will be a top priority if he wins a second term. By cutting funding for solar energy and disallowing EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Romney’s proposals would push the United States’ economy in the direction of greater carbonintensiveness. Given the profound impact scientists believe climate change will have on the world, it is a pity that the most powerful nation on earth is barely debating the way it uses the commodity that contributes so much to the disruption of the climate system. Alex Jones is a Sophomore majoring in Public Policy.
Election Rhetoric Towards China
ough talk on China has been a hallmark of candidates’ rhetoric since Bill Clinton running in 1992. Yet not a single president has stood by declarations from the stump. The economic and political ramifications of such action makes it especially difficult to envision any incoming president whose popularity is tied ball and chain to the economy taking a hardline stance. The Obama administration has essentially contented itself with China’s slow progress to floating the Yuan. Is the recent harsh rhetoric directed at China of any significance? If elected would Mitt Romney deliver on his promise to declare China a currency manipulator? Romney established a hard line stance against China early on. Vowing in 2011, that, he would label China a “currency manipulator” and issue an executive order to the Department of Commerce to impose duties on Chinese imports. Romney realizes cutting trade is impractical but added China must “play by the rules.” He has criticized the President for his failure to do this during his term despite a pledge to do so during his 2008 campaign. Romney’s criticisms of China are not limited to currency manipulation, but also to Chinese disregard for the intellectual property of American firms. Romney believes that Obama’s efforts to deal kindly with Beijing and expect reciprocity through cooperation are naïve. China’s refusal to float its currency indicates this goodwill won’t achieve the same monumental breakthroughs as Nixon and Kissinger’s approach in the midst of the Cold War.
Rhetoric from the campaign fails to translate itself into policy more often than not. President Obama initially assumed a more conciliatory stance, stating in January 2011 he “welcomed China’s rise.” In an interview with senators in March 2012 he remarked, “China is going to be one of our biggest markets, and Asia is going to be one of our biggest markets. And for us to close ourselves off from that market would be a mistake.” While conceding China is keeping its currency valued below the natural exchange rate, he remained noncommittal on declaring them a currency manipulator. The President ostensibly claimed willingness to enact tariffs to compensate for the undervalued Yuan; however, he voted against a similar amendment in 2005 as a Senator. As president, he has expressed a desire to maintain cooperation and work with China step by step, yet a disparate gap is forming between his initial statements and his “pivot” of U.S. focus in the region. He has stepped up military focus in the region, a move China perceives as an attempt to contain their rise. Actions speak louder than words, and expanded military operations hold more weight than vague expressions of friendship. China may respond with shows of force similar to actions directed at Japanese nationalization of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. Rhetoric from the campaign fails to translate itself into policy more often than not. However, this rhetoric may further fuel Beijing’s mistrust of our intentions and may prove damaging. Fears of China’s rise as a military and economic power are not unfounded,
but current policies to address it appear unlikely to improve relations. A hawkish approach deepens US-Chinese tensions, but sweeping Chinese transgressions under the rug encourages them to continue committing them. U.S. acquiescence affords China too much wiggle room. According to Thomas Oatley, professor of political science at UNC, given the laxity towards China over the past decade we now “lack the leverage to induce Chinese cooperation.” It may be unpopular but they may not be able to simply scold a power set to eclipse the U.S. in GDP by 2017. Perhaps the key to improving relations is expressing willingness to meet in the middle by creating a framework explicitly linking concessions in U.S. military operations to meaningful steps by China to meet economic demands. Jon Buchleiter is a first year majoring in Political Science and Peace, War and Defense.
Social Issues in the Presidential Race Radhika Kshatriya
espite the slow recovery of the American financial sector, social issues are taking up a significant amount of media space in this election. Recently, Obama has been polling ahead of Romney (for example a new Bloomberg poll gives Obama a 6 point lead). According to the polls, Mitt Romney, who has been touting his business acumen as the cornerstone of his campaign, is faltering in convincing the American public that he can resurrect the economy better than Obama can.
ney’s business experience. Picking Ryan as vice president makes it clear to voters just which Mitt Romney they are voting for on Election Day. But social issues have come up again and again in this election cycle. First, there was the President’s declaration of support for same sex marriage. This could alienate some voters in swing states like North Carolina, Virginia or Ohio; but the move might still energize members of the Democratic base. It could
According to the polls Mitt Romney is faltering in convincing the American public that he can resurrect the economy better than Obama can. And Romney realizes just how important the economy is; back in June, his senior strategist Eric Fehrnstrom said “This is not a social issue election… this is going to be about the president’s handling of the economy.” Fehrnstrom went on to say that the primary reason Mitt Romney entered the race was “because he didn’t believe that this economy was headed in the right direction.” And the selection of Paul Ryan for Vice Presidential candidate also highlights the importance of the economy in Romney’s (and the voters’) minds—Ryan’s name is linked to his controversial budget plan, which privatizes Social Security and cuts funding to many government programs including Medicaid. Choosing Paul Ryan raises the stakes and makes the choice between Romney and Obama just that—an actual choice. It shows the importance the Romney camp places on government efficiency and Rom-
also bode ill for the president by disheartening Black and Latino voters, who vote in overwhelming numbers for Obama, but also tend to hold more socially conservative positions than white Democratic voters. Romney’s religion has also been mentioned as a cause of strife with evangelical conservatives; but perhaps it might give him more grief with independents than with his base—the fact that much of the base despises the incumbent works in Romney’s favor. The current administration’s stance on many women’s issues, particularly relating to health care, has also cropped up again and again. It seems pretty clear that the White House won the public relations war on the independent women’s vote in the debate over the “contraception mandate,” and that the Romney campaign has had to work double time to win some of it back. The
mandate was criticized by Republicans for its requirement that even religiously-affiliated institutions include contraception in their health care plans, which was later changed by the administration so that insurance companies and not the institutions would pay for the coverage. Throughout the campaign, especially during the primaries, Romney embraced many of the same views as Rick Santorum on women’s issues, like terminating all Planned Parenthood funding or overturning the contraception mandate. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life, the frequency of attendance at religious services was the second best predictor of how Americans voted, after race. Religious belief won out over education, age, gender, or wealth—a surprising fact. Regardless, the voters who tend to feel strongly about social issues are also either strong liberals or strong conservatives, while the foremost issues on independents’ minds are the economy. Perhaps social issues will not make voters change parties, but they could affect voter turnout, especially in key battleground states. And if this is an election that will be decided by independent voters, the economy is still the most important issue. Radhika Kshatriya is a senior majoring in Philosophy.
Syria: A Status Update
n July the Red Cross officially declared the Syrian conflict a civil war. Unfortunately, this declaration does not seem to mark a peak in the violence gripping Syria eighteen months after the rebellion erupted there during the Arab Spring in 2011. The casualties continue to mount at an ever-increasing rate with violence directed towards civilians by both the rebels and the forces of President Bashir Assad. These offenses complicate any sort of intervention because it is increasingly difficult to identify either side as “good.” The religious divisions are deeply seated and evident 11 year old refugee daughter of a rebel fighter who explained, “We are going to kill them with our knives, just like they killed us,” indicating any coalition of rebel groups in power would simply turn and become oppressive against minority comprised of Alawite Muslims and other groups. These underlying religious divisions means “peace will elude Syria for generations” according to Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in an interview with The Hill who went on to add “what we see as random violence on television is often directed sectarian cleansing.” The conflict is a tale of two terrors with rebels making great gains on the ground often entailing mass destruction of homes and villages in their assaults. Assad’s air force has matched these ground attacks with mounting air attacks and expanding its use of explosives. Assad’s increased use of air tactics immediately drew attention from the international community and has continued to roll
Now, the issue of central concern for most outside powers may be to contain the conflict within Syria while allowing the opportunity for refugees to leave the country. on despite condemning rhetoric from outside forces. Rubin is convinced “Assad believes the American bark is worse than its bite.” Assad does not fear the potential of a Libyan-style intervention ultimately directed to facilitate a regime change. Rather, the most influential outside intervention comes in the supply of arms flowing from Iran through Iraq and into Syria. Given the difficulties in diplomacy between Iran and the international community and the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq Rubin believes there is no feasible way to stop this flow of arms and support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to Assad’s forces. Rubin warns we may “face the reverberations” from our withdrawal from Iraq “for years to come.” Without the a new way to deter Assad or stop this flow of weapons it may be difficult to contain the expanding violence.
Syrian rebel forces, notably the Free Syrian Army (FSA), remain convinced they can defeat the government forces. In September they moved their headquarters into Syria after managing operations from within Turkey for most of the rebellion. It is unlikely rebel forces will lay down their weapons and submit once again to the rule of President Assad’s minority Alawite regime. Lt. Col. Maan alMansour expresses the opposition’s grim determination when discussing an assault on a large airfield, “We are going to destroy the place that causes all this destruction.”
With both sides determined to keep fighting Syria will likely be trapped in conflict for a long time to come. Now, the issue of central concern for most outside powers may be to contain the conflict within Syria while allowing the opportunity for refugees to leave the country. Fighting between the rebel forces have spilled over the border into both Turkey and Lebanon. While no direct attacks have struck Turkey the threat of a misfired missile cannot be discounted. Lebanon is “a different story” says Rubin, Syria has never recognized Lebanese independence and direct interference in Lebanon by Assad s a possibility. Given no clear way to resolve the conflict in Syria avoiding expansion into a larger regional war may be the best to be hoped for. Jon Buchleiter is a first year majoring in Political Science and Peace, War and Defense.
US Ambassadors’ Security Abroad Avani Uppalapati
mong the various concerns that arise in the wake of U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens’, death, the security of U.S. officials abroad is of high concern. Conditions in the Middle East became unstable after a film that disparages the Prophet Mohammad and Islam, titled “Innocence of Muslims,” gained attention via YouTube and angered many Muslims in the region.
Following the discovery of the film, a mob attacked the compound of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, and killed four American officials, including Ambassador Stevens. Stevens was sent to Libya in 2011 as the U.S. envoy to the rebels and was later appointed an ambassador in May 2012. Stevens’ met with locals often and immersed himself in the Libyan culture. Some say that in doing so, he risked security for personal contact. Former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said to NPR that “we [ambassadors] do business in dangerous areas. We can manage risk, but we can’t prevent it if we
do our jobs.” Ambassadors must interact with local people in order to effectively carry out U.S. policies, but it is important for them to balance that necessity with their security. Dr. Tim McKeown, a UNC political science professor, said that in times when safety concerns are more salient, ambassadors are generally more careful about their travel outside of protected areas. In those circumstances, other embassy personnel are even more important in interacting with the host country and outside contacts. At the time of the attack, Ambassador Stevens was within the walls of the consulate, where he should supposedly have had adequate security. Security for U.S. embassies consists of U.S. Marine Corps Security Guards and officers from the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. However, Crocker states that there are often not enough Marines to protect all the consulates in a country; therefore, the local government bears security responsibility for ambassadors as well. Dr. McKeown says this is because “consulates contain fewer people and far less sensitive material.” But, in situations where the situation is more dangerous, the US would often request more protection. Dr. McKeown said that getting additional protection from local forces is much easier on paper, which is why many governments resort to that security instead of sending in their own forces, such as the Marines. Within days of the attack on the Libyan consulate, protests also
erupted in other countries in the Middle East, including Egypt and Yemen. In Egypt, police used tear gas to dispel the protestors outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Egypt’s president, Mohammad Morsi ,condemned the film but said “it is our duty to protect our guests and visitors from abroad.” Security measures are different in every country, though. It depends on the level of risk associated with the area and the ability of the local government. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad, for example, has high security and is like a small city behind walls. However, this makes it seem even more foreign and unapproachable, which may breed more hostility toward the U.S. In light of recent events, the U.S. has increased security measures at embassies throughout the Middle East and has sent 50 marines to Libya. In situations like these, Ambassador Crocker said, it is important to have an understanding of the local atmosphere. Ambassadors are an important link in US foreign policy, and it is evident that their work can be extremely dangerous. The balance between security and safety is clearly not easy to obtain, and the ways of achieving that balance are different in every situation. Avani Uppalapati is a Junior majoring in Public Policy and English.
The Euro Crisis’ Impact on the US
n October 2011, when convulsions in European politics were sending shockwave after shockwave through the stock market, a conflict-hungry press began speculating that an escalation of the Eurozone crisis could end President Obama’s chances of being re-elected. At the time, the narrative made sense. Years of political science research have found a correlation between economic conditions and electoral outcomes, and an incumbent presiding over a plunging economy would have faced a much harder climb toward re-election. Subsequent events in the American campaign have exposed fallbacks of models that tie election results too closely to the performance of the economy, but the concept basically persists. Thus, The Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore may have been right to suggest that Angela Merkel, not Barack Obama, held the most power over whether Obama would be reelected. If one accepts the premise that a severe economic crisis in Europe would have crippled President Obama’s campaign, then Kilgore was wrong only in a semantic sense. The name of the person who allegedly held so much power was not Merkel, but Mario Draghi. Draghi is the president of the European Central Bank. His recent promise to buy Greek debt, thus preventing that nation from defaulting on Euro-denominated bonds, has, according to most experts, kept the “Euro-crisis” from boiling over for now. Arguably, however, Mr. Draghi’s decision did not eliminate the importance of the European economy in determining the outcome of Amer-
ica’s 2012 presidential election. In fact, Europe looms larger over this election than any other in recent memory. Campaigns run first-and-foremost on talking points, and a key Republican talking point of this cycle relates to the Euro crisis itself. Many Republicans appear to think that comparing America to the embattled Greeks is an effective strategy to persuade voters that America needs to severely reduce outlays on social insurance. On intellectual grounds, this is a dubious argument. Most economic experts, including longtime Republican adviser Martin Feldstein, disagree with the Republicans’ view of the crisis in Greece. The commentator Fareed Zakaria flatly rebuked the Republican analysis by explaining that Greece’s problem is not really excessive debt but, rather, an inability to export goods at prices that are competitive within the Eurozone. Regardless, Republicans persist in making their case. For their part, Democratic strategists seem to think their party could not effectively refute the point in the eyes of swing voters, who do not even follow the news in their own country very closely. The importance of Europe goes beyond one talking point and even beyond our time period, however. Again, it is the Republicans who have driven Europe to the fore. They invoke Europe in broad, philosophical arguments over both domestic and foreign policy. They frequently insist that, in the words of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, President Obama is bent on transforming America into a “European-style entitlement state,” in which so-
cial welfare programs take precedence over entrepreneurial initiative. On foreign policy, Romney and other Republicans claim that Obama has “abandoned” our democratic allies Europe. This argument is somewhat incoherent, as it simultaneously asserts that Europe’s values are repugnant to America’s and also fully congruent with them. However, Romney’s position on alliances has resonated among some Europeans, including the esteemed Polish statesman Lech Walechsa. Other Europeans, most famously the English, do not believe Romney would make such a great statesman. Democrats have preferred to position their counterarguments on this side of the Atlantic, refuting the notions that Obama has undermined the free market and weakened America’s standing in the world. Explicit references to Europe seldom appear in their arguments. In a way, it is appropriate that this year’s debate over America’s future has been based in part upon a debate over Europe’s legacy. Ever since President Thomas Jefferson imposed an embargo on French and British goods and saw his presidential legacy besmirched in the process, the European economy has been deeply intertwined with public life in the United States of America. However this election turns out, the back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans over Europe suggests that the transAtlantic relationship will remain vital well into what many have already proclaimed the “Pacific Century.” Alex Jones is a Sophomore majoring in Public Policy.
Al-Qaeda: Weakened, but Still a Threat Ellis Dyson
s Americans commemorated the 9/11 attacks for the 11th time this year, one thing became very clear –11 years after the attacks, the memories stand much stronger than al-Qaeda itself. As more and more years pass since the 9/11 attacks, the potential threat of al-Qaeda has weakened. While the weakness of al-Qaeda is a relief to some, governments must recognize that al-Qaeda has not completely vanished. When al-Qaeda first began making waves in the political spectrum, it was regarded as more of an unpredictable bother than a worldwide threat. Unfortunately, many nations (most notably, the United States) faced the consequences of discrediting this landmine terrorist organization. Now, as al-Qaeda’s stature amongst nations is on the downturn, a new threat faces world leaders – complacency. Al-Qaeda was once regarded as a dire threat to the United States and nations around the world because it represented the idea of a total Muslim revolution. As a result, governments on a global scale began finding and killing al-Qaeda members, choking their incomes, and guarding against their attacks, leaving behind a terrorist organization hanging on by a thread. The fear associated with al-Qaeda,11 years since the 9/11 attacks, has been greatly reduced. As larger nations begin again to discredit the group, al-Qaeda is seeking to reestablish itself in countries outside of Afghanistan. Bands of al-Qaeda militants have established themselves in countries like Yemen, Somalia, and, most notably, Libya, where a re-
As al-Qaeda’s stature amongst nations is on the downturn, a new threat faces world leaders – complacency. cent attack killing four Americans is being linked to al-Qaeda terrorist groups. Al-Qaeda still maintains strong roots in Pakistan, and the turmoil in Syria provides the perfect backdrop for al-Qaeda mobility. These are all warning signs that an al-Qaeda uprising may be on the horizon, but they do not completely reverse the tremendously weakened state that al-Qaeda is currently in.
ernment. As funds and membership dropped dramatically, al-Qaeda had to attack wherever they could. This often led to local attacks on public places. These local attacks caused al-Qaeda to lose local support from nations all over the Middle East. Killing local civilians instead of foreigners weakened al-Qaeda’s platform and discredited the institution as a whole.
At a time, al-Qaeda posed a daunting threat to nations all over the globe, but their reputation as a power harnessing terrorist organization has been offset. This is mainly a product of two major events that caught al-Qaeda in a powerless position. The first event was the Arab Spring. As governments in Egypt and Tunisia are influenced and even run by Muslim fundamentalists, al-Qaeda becomes a nearly negligible extremist movement. The heart of al-Qaeda strife in the Middle East was the presence of government forms that excluded Muslims. AlQaeda’s argument is now watered down by the Arab countries that are opening their doors to Islamic politicians. It is much easier to argue against Egypt’s military dictatorships than it is to argue about Egypt’s government with Muslim centerpieces.
Al-Qaeda’s weakness does not, however, mean the end to violence. And though these smaller factions seem to pose a very small threat compared to the group that attacked the World Trade Center, the grim reality is that al-Qaeda is still a terrorist organization that can run up death counts and damage costs despite their lack of income.
The second event that swayed the power of al-Qaeda was 9/11. While these attacks may have demonstrated the capabilities of the terrorist organization, they also caused a suffocating response from the American gov-
Ellis Dyson is a Sophomore majoring in Journalism and Political Science.
The Other Big Election: Brian Godfrey
China’s Leadership Transition
would be set whereupon the Party Congress would facilitate the transition of power. However, no date was declared for the Party Congress to convene—possibly pushing the event back into November. Reports from the meeting pointed towards serious disagreements and rifts between the Party’s political factions, presumably over future government policy and leadership.
China’s elections are won by the controlling Communist Party, which Mr. Hu has headed for over the last decade in his two fiveyear terms in office. But over the last several years, Mr. Xi has been appointed to important positions and politically groomed to make the transition of power as smooth as possible. In addition to Vice President, he currently serves as Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, ViceChairman of the Central Military Commission, and member of the Politburo Standing Committee. The son of a revolutionary leader, Mr. Xi rose to power through his elite family connections and as a provincial leader in China’s economically powerful eastern regions.
To make matters even stranger, in early September, Mr. Xi dropped out of public view. Rumors about his disappearance range from issues surrounding Party divisions to potential heart problems for the politician. On September 15th, a normal-looking Mr. Xi reappeared with an official explanation of having sustained a swimming-related back injury.
ith seemingly every moment of the American media’s focus devoted to this November’s election, little has been said about the fascinating transition of power about to take place in China. If all goes according to plan, this fall, the superpower’s current President, Hu Jintao, will hand power over to his successor, current Vice President Xi Jinping.
Interestingly for a government that normally exercises painstaking organizational controls, Mr. Xi’s scheduled ascension to power has been far from systematic. Although China’s internal government procedures remain secretive, it seems that this process has had problems. In early August, senior Communist Party officials convened to set the date for the 18th Party Congress. Normally, this is a fairly formal, standard procedure—and all expectations were that a date in September
This all occurs during a particularly aggressive land-claim dispute with Japan, which stems from a small group of islands in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. Although both countries claim territorial rights over the islands, Japan extended military control when it purchased the land from a private owner in September. This prompted waves of anti-Japanese protests at the country’s embassy in China. Japanese businesses were targeted as well, forcing major companies like Toyota to shut down across the People’s Republic. It is possible that the island dispute is related to the transition to power. Organized demonstrations are tightly controlled in China—meaning that the antiJapanese protests have been sanctioned by the government. The
protestors often sport Chinese flags or pictures of Mao Zedong. It is possible that China’s aggressive response has been stoked by Mr. Hu. Some political insiders have suggested that Mr. Hu is not ready to relinquish power, and will use this conflict as a source of legitimacy for retaining control. “A reasonable speculation is that Hu Jintao may have reason to escalate the conflict,” said Xi Chen, assistant professor of comparative and Chinese politics at UNC. “The general expectation is that he will transfer all titles to Xi Jinping, but there is a possibility that Hu Jintao will retain control of the military for two more years.” Such an action would follow in the precedent set by Mr. Hu’s predecessor, President Jiang Zemin, who remained as Chairman of the Central Military Commission for two years after leaving the presidency in 2002. Still, much remains unknown. China’s government is still attempting to maneuver through last spring’s politically sensitive scandal, which lead to the removal of a prominent Politburo member, Bo Xilai. Questions remain about which direction Xi Jinping will take the country over the next decade. And while one can expect the American media to be focused on Democrats and Republicans up to November—perhaps the Chinese election will turn out to be just as interesting and significant. Brian Godfrey is a sophomore majoring in Political Science and Global Studies.