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Volume VI, Issue VIII

April 18, 2011


ISSUE VIII, 4/18/11 Also in this Week’s Edition:


By Alex Clearfield, ‘14 -Page 3


By Anna Kochut, ‘13

-Page 4


By Daniel Roettger, ‘13 -Page 5


By Matt Varvaro, ‘13

by Eric Feinberg, ‘12 Staff Writer


t seems like only yesterday that Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, but it is election season all over again. Since sitting presidents almost never face serious primary challenges, the focus of the election thus far has been on the Republicans and on whom they will nominate to face Obama in November of next year. The GOP sees the president as vulnerable, with approval ratings in the mid- to low-40s and an energized opposition committed to unseating him. However, the reality appears to be that the Republicans are the ones exposed in this cycle, perilously divided between a centerright, conservative base and a more conspicuously agitated Tea Party



-Page 6

sect that is determined to oppose the administration at every turn. The former has been leaning towards establishment figures like former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, whilst the latter has been willing to embrace more unconventional prospects like the controversial former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The question remaining is which of these wings of the GOP will prove dominant come convention time. With the nomination wide open like this, one would think that this is the opening for any ambitious go-getters out there to throw his or her hat into the ring. Enter Donald Trump, the 64-year-

JOHNS HOPKINS’s Only WeeklyPublished Political Magazine

old billionaire real estate developer/celebrity/star of NBC’s The Apprentice. As Time noted in a recent article entitled “Donald Trump Begins Not Running For President,” this is not the first time Trump has publicly flirted with the prospect of a presidential campaign. “You may recall when he illustriously didn't run for President in 1988 after fanning much media speculation that he would,” the article quips. “He followed that up by dramatically not running for President with Ross Perot's Reform Party in 2000.” So another question arises: is Trump serious this time or is it all just an(Continued on Page 2)

Volume VI, Issue II

April 18, 2011




Joshua Ayal

Harry Black

Sam Lichtenstein

Staff Writers

Executive Editors

Randy Bell Alex Clearfield Rachel Cohen Rohit Dasgupta Eric Feinberg Becca Fishbein Conor Foley Cary Glynn Benjamin Goldberg Paul Grossinger Dan Hochman Jordan Kalms Anna Kochut Briana Last Hilary Matfess Daniel Roettger Ari Schaffer

Managing Editor

Will Denton Morgan Hitzig Hannah Holliday


Casey Navin Neil O’Donnell Faculty Advisor

Steven R. David JHU POLITIK is a student-run political publication. Please note that the opinions expressed within JHU POLITIK are those solely of the author. Please sign up for our e-mail list on our website,


(Continued from Page 1) other publicity stunt? It is possible that even Trump himself has not decided yet, which is what he asserts. But he is certainly laying the groundwork now in the event that he does, making his rounds in the media and testing his message with the masses. His actual positions remain undeveloped substantively, but they have clearly thus far been tailored to the Tea Party. For instance, in an appearance on CNN, Trump said he would institute a 25% tariff on all imports from China – which he bluntly referred to as an “enemy” of the United States – to spur domestic growth. Moreover, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump proclaimed his pro-life, anti-gun control, and anti-Obamacare stances to an enthusiastic crowd. Furthermore, though he has rejected being as such, Trump has embraced the “Birther” movement, which claims that Obama is secretly an illegal alien from Kenya and thus legally ineligible to hold the presidency. In an appearance on the Laura Ingraham Show, Trump went on to deride the “Certificate of Live Birth” that was released by the Obama campaign in 2008 as inadequate, and speculated that the president will ot release further documentation because it reveals him as a Muslim. Most politically entertaining has been Trump’s melee on the opinion pages of the New York Times with columnist Gail Collins, who criticized Trump’s Birther stance. “I have great respect for Ms. Collins,” Trump wrote in


his response, “in that she has survived so long with so little talent. Her storytelling ability and word usage (coming from me, who has written many bestsellers), is not at a very high level.” Most surprising for many has been Trump’s fanatical reception by some segments American people. An April 15th poll by Public Policy Polling found Trump leading the Republican field by an astonishing nine points with 26%, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 17% and Romney with 15%. Of course, these early polls should not be given too much weight, but they shouldn’t be given too little weight either – they indicate the issues that are moving the electorate and where the momentum is. Only time will reveal if this is indeed another of Trump's publicity-stirring diversions or a serious political shift among Republicans. s

Volume VI, Issue VIII

April 18, 2011

NATIONAL REPORT The Debate over Entitlements by Alex Clearfield, ‘14 Staff Writer


Last week’s budget standoff and the resulting Congressional budget vote last Thursday, although a watershed moment for President Obama and his relationship with the 112th Congress, was merely an appetizer to a much larger fight: the upcoming battle over entitlement reform. The three major entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – composed 43% of the federal budget in 2010, and those percentages will only get larger with the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. The budget deal cut over a week and a half ago, which will be voted on by the Senate in the near future, covers only the rest of fiscal year 2011, which ends on September 30. Given the difficulty with which the current deal was passed, and the anti-government spending stance of the Republican Party, it is nearly certain that there will be another standoff over the 2010 budget. The three entitlement programs, the bête noire of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) would be on the chopping block in a proposed budget. Ryan, who unveiled his 2012 budget proposal earlier this month, envisions fundamental changes to Medicare and Medicaid. Under his plan, Medicaid would be converted into block grants for individual states, which would then administer the program on the state level. At the same time, Medicare would be completely altered. Under Ryan’s plan, those eligible for Medicare would be able to choose from a range of private plans that would be partially subsidized by the government, or enroll in a private plan not associated with Medicare.


Ryan’s plan would also increase the minimum eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65. Ryan’s entitlement plan has attracted much attention from all sides. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has endorsed the idea of Medicaid block grants, which he proposed while Speaker during the Clinton administration. However, there has been much negative backlash from Democrats, with many calling it “irresponsible.” President Obama said that Ryan had “a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit.” The president’s plan would not privatize Medicare or devolve Medicaid to the states. On Friday, Ryan’s budget proposal was passed by the House in a partisan 235-193 vote, with no Democrats in support. It is nearly certain that the bill will die in the Senate. This statement bill seems to signal that the House Republicans will not go down easily on the budget issue, and also shows that the Republicans are prepared to take a unified step to the right and support the Ryan plan. Two days before, on Wednesday, President Obama gave an address at George Washington University regarding the deficit. Obama pledged to save $480 billion on Medicare over the next 12 years, as well as keep Medicare spending increases to a maximum of 0.5% per year adjusted for inflation. Obama also promised to not renew the Bush-era tax cuts that apply to families earning over $250,000 per year. Congressional Republicans predictably did not react well to Obama’s address. After some early trepidation, Speaker John Boehner said he now “fully supports” Ryan’s budget plan, which Obama claimed would “chang[e] the basic social compact in America.” Obama took some inspiration from the SimpsonBowles Commission, a Presidential Commission he created last year to study the deficit. The Simpson-Bowles plan, which was not ratified by the 15-member group and was viewed by many as advisory, calls for raising the early retirement age with reduced Social Security benefits to 64 from 62, and raising the standard retirement age with normal benefits to 69 from 65. Make no mistake: the president’s speech was both a partisan rally and a policy proposal. Obama and the Congressional Democrats are attempting to take control of the debate from the Republicans. Deficit reduction is often seen as an area where the Republicans have more control over the message, and Obama is attempting to shift the debate to fixing government programs. Obama (Continued on Page 4)

April 18, 2011

Volume VI, Issue VIII

NATIONAL REPORT/ INTERNATIONAL REPORT (Continued from Page 3) has made the debate not about whether the budget should be cut, but about the right amount to cut. The deficit issue could be the defining moment of Obama’s first term. If he is able to strike a long-term deal, he will be living up to the appealing promise of bipartisanship he first made during his first campaign. If he cannot reach a long-term deal with the Republicanled House, there will likely be much fiscal uncertainty, which would not be good for the president or the country at large. There is no doubt that the big three entitlement programs will be a large part of the next budget deal, but common political wisdom holds that these programs are here to stay. Almost 60 years ago, during the relative infancy of Social Security (and before Medicare and Medicaid existed), President Eisenhower said, “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things...their number is negligible and they are stupid.” While not abolishing these programs, Paul Ryan’s budget proposal does aim to fundamentally alter them. On occasion, political wisdom has not held true; if Ryan and the budget hawks have their way, this would be one of those cases. This 43% of the budget will be the battleground on which the 2012 budget battle is waged; only time will tell which side cuts the right amount to both reduce the deficit and appeal to voters. s

The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy by Anna Kochut, ‘13 Staff Writer On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude underwater earthquake 67 miles offshore triggered a massive tsunami which struck and devastated much of mainland Japan. Included in the wave’s massive area of destruction was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, located 170 miles north of Tokyo. The plant lost power and the emergency generators failed to keep the cooling systems working. As a result, one containment vessel cracked open and a spent fuel rod container caught on fire, releasing dangerous amounts of radioactive gas. Last Tuesday, the Japanese nuclear safety agency raised the severity of the accident from Level 5, an “accident with off-site risk,” to Level 7, “a major accident,” ad the high-


est on an international scale. The change puts the accident on par with that of 1986 Chernobyl disaster, though far less radiation has been released from the Japanese plant. When struck with the news of this tragedy, observers wondered about the safety of nuclear reactors located on the volatile Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a string of volcanic islands that popped up due to the movement of tectonic plates. This disaster brought the risk inherent to nuclear power to the forefront of international minds. The benefits of nuclear power are clear: nuclear reactors provide cheap, clean energy, which in turn reduces dependency on oil. However, the leakage of radioactive gas is a fatal risk. The March nuclear disaster in Japan caused many nations to turn inward and reconsider their nuclear policy, making changes where, and if, necessary. Take the case of Germany, where nuclear power provides over 22% of its electricity. Germany has always been suspicious of the idea of nuclear power, preferring other methods of renewable energy. The country’s legislation passed a law in 2002 that planned to close all German reactors by 2022. However, conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the business sector’s fervor for nuclear power and agreed to keep the German nuclear power plants running until 2030. The plan was to keep them operational until the country’s renewable energy sector was sufficiently developed. The disaster in Japan reignited the country’s debate, and pressure mounted from the opponents of nuclear energy. As a response, Merkel ordered that all 17 of the country’s nuclear reactors undergo safety checks. Some of the oldest, and most unsafe, nuclear plants might remain closed permanently. At the same, India, a country that has long debated whether or not to invest in nuclear energy, has stalled in its considerations as a result of the Japanese disaster. Four years ago, the Indian government sought to forcibly acquire 2,300 acres of coastal land to build six nuclear reactors. The Indian government, in governing a rapidly developing nation, thought that nuclear power would be a good way to sustain an ever-growing country with cheap energy. Observers agree that this heated debate is an interesting example of how the Japanese nuclear disaster is causing a reactionary movement in the future of nuclear power. Developing nations, such as India, arguably need nuclear energy more than do wealthy nations such as the United States and Germany. However, the fact that the protests against nuclear power in India (Continued on Page 5)

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April 18, 2011

INTERNATIONAL REPORT / OPINION (Continued from Page 4) are ever escalating signifies that the future of nuclear power might not be as bright as many proponents of clean energy would hope. There are many more examples of shifts in nuclear policy than there is room to describe them in this article. However, if observers can learn one thing from these examples, it is that the nations of the world have taken a couple of steps back where nuclear energy is concerned. The future of nuclear power, while questionable a year ago, is even more so now. One concern in observers’ minds is how to ensure the safety of future, and current, nuclear power projects. While Germany and Italy have slowed down their projects, other countries have just gotten started. South Africa, for example, is continuing with their nuclear power plan, even after the Japanese disaster. Engineers have been working hard on new ways to ensure the safety of nuclear reactors, and countries like South Africa have been implementing these new(AP) developments, such as the requirement to build nuclear reactors on the coastline. As observers would love to see the development of safe, foolproof use of nuclear energy, they pressure engineers to come up with the perfect design for harnessing the benefits of nuclear energy without suffering the risks inherent in nature. Muna Lakhani, branch coordinator of Earthlife Africa’s Cape Town office, says, “I don’t think you can engineer for Mother Nature.” Environmentalists and other observers agree with her skepticism. Nuclear power comes with huge risks. Observers agree that it is nearly impossible to engineer a nuclear plant that is free from these risks. Therefore, observers are faced with a familiar dilemma: is nuclear power worth it? s

My Impressions of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Daniel Roettger, ‘13 Staff Writer My first encounter with Ayaan Hirsi Ali came when a family friend gifted me with her first book, Infidel. I loved it. It was thoroughly engaging and provided an insight into a culture about which I was largely ignorant. Ali’s candid ‘rags to riches’ story was engaging, informed and – yes – appalling. To me, it came off as wholly organic and authentic. So, when I learned that

the Foreign Affairs Symposium was hosting Hirsi Ali, I was excited and determined to go. But, on the whole, boy, was I disappointed. With that said, as an aside, she did give a line that has become among my favorite: “You can't bomb bad ideas out of people.” I left Mudd 26 wondering how the author I had admired could become the speaker that I had heard. On Tuesday evening, Hirsi Ali was guilty of oversimplification and under-analysis; large parts of her argument lacked nuance. She demonized Islamic countries and beatified the West – and particularly the United States. Taking liberties with history, she implied that the U.S. was free of discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Granting that the U.S. fares well by comparison with the Gulf States (for example, in Dubai, one can get up to ten years in prison for having consensual sex with a member of the same gender), it remains the case that the U.S. Labor Department reports that women made about 21% less than men in 2008. Similarly, according to the Human Rights Campaign, “it remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.” Of course, I do not think that the West is less progressive than the Gulf States are on issues of equality, etc. But an admission that the West has its own flaws and divisions would have been appreciated. Further, Hirsi Ali treated the Western – and by extension, American – society as thoroughly secular. I don't buy that. If you examine the American perception of our Middle East military endeavors, you will find that it frequently boils down to Christianity versus Islam. This “God is on our side” mentality extends to the highest levels in the U.S. government. For example, President George W. Bush is quoted by former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath, as saying: “I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did." So he did – with God on his side, apparently. To be certain, Ms. Ali offered a number of stories that supported her position that Islamic societies simply ignore the basic rights of women and children. For example, she cited the case Nujood Ali, a 10-year-old Yemeni girl, who was wedded off to a man nearly three times her age. Though illegal under Yemeni law, this is acceptable under Sharia law so long as the child bride is not ‘sexually touched’ until she reaches maturity. Nujood Ali was not so fortunate: her new husband raped her. She fled to a courthouse, where she pleaded to a judge for a divorce. (Continued on Page 6)


Volume VI, Issue VIII

April 18, 2011

OPINION (Continued from Page 5) Human rights lawyer and feminist Shada Nasser, who is Yemeni-born and Czech-educated and who Hirsi Ali described as a “Muslim aid worker,” took her case. Some weeks later, Ali became referred to as the “youngest divorcee” in the world after a case that captured a global audience. A second example recounted the travails of an Afghan child, Bibi Aisha, who was offered at 12 and married 14 to settle a familial ‘blood debt.’ Her husband, a Taliban fighter, was abusive. She fled, but her neighbors turned her in, and she was briefly jailed. Her father retrieved her and returned her to her husband’s family, with promises that her treatment would improve. It didn’t. Rather, in 2010 her husband and brother-in-law did the unthinkable: while his brother held her down in a mountain clearing, her husband cut off her ears and nose. They left her, passed out from the pain. She awoke, disfigured and bleeding profusely, and managed to find her way to her grandfather’s house. She was taken to a American-run medical facility, where she received treatment and later underwent substantial reconstructive surgery. Her story was told in – and she was featured on the cover of the August 9, 2010, cover of Time. What bothered me most was what Hirsi Ali said after this second story: ““But again, it illustrates that different attitude toward women in the West and in Islam. There was no outrage in Muslim countries. All the Muslims in L.A. , whose attention it came to, in America, elsewhere, all said 'yes, yes, it's wrong' and then punctured their outrage with 'but.' And it's just that three-letter word that tells you where the difference lies. There is no Westerner to that story who says 'but.' There is no 'but.'” Ali sought to use these stories to dramatize the difference between West and Middle-East, claiming that, while every Westerner would disavow Aisha’s mutilation, “no Muslim’ would fully do so. This, I think, flies in the face of the compassionate behavior of the ‘Muslim aid worker” from Yemen, Shada Nasser. Ms. Ali gained nothing from these overstatements and exaggerations. Instead, she forces her listener to question her credibility. Make no mistake: her experience was horrific. But her refusal to be defined by her culture and experience was inspiring, and it resulted from rationally questioned the “received truths” of the society in which she was raised. By tilting away for critical analysis and toward oversimplification, she did much to undermine the reputation as a highly respected international figure she had so carefully built. s

Restoring the Role of Congress in War by Matt Varvaro, ‘13 Managing Editor

In the wake of the Obama administration’s decision to initiate a military campaign against the Libyan government, there has been much debate surrounding the wisdom of this intervention and its implications for American foreign policy. Far less debate, however, has been devoted to perhaps an even more fundamental issue, namely, the very authority of the President of the United States to make such a decision. A couple of days after the American-led air strikes in Libya had begun, President Obama issued a letter to Congressional leaders in which he formally notified them of his decision and the humanitarian and foreign policy reasons behind it. In this letter, the president cited the authorization of the United Nations Security Council, as well as the support of “European allies and Arab partners,” as justification for his commitment of American military force to the Libyan conflict. Noticeably absent from this letter, however, was any mention of authorization from the United States Congress, the only body both constitutionally- and statutorily-authorized, in almost every instance, to actually initiate American military intervention. In fact, the only mention of Congress in the president’s letter came in the last two sentences, which read, “I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.” (Continued on Page 7)


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OPINION (Continued from Page 6) The president’s belief – a belief shared by many, if not all, of his recent predecessors – that the War Powers Resolution (WPR) gives the president the power to unilaterally initiate military force and simply notify Congress of his decision afterward, is simply a misinterpretation of the actual text of the statute. Congress, overriding a presidential veto, passed the WPR in 1973 in an attempt to limit the president’s ability to initiate military action abroad. As it has been recently interpreted, the act permits the president to initiate military action, notify Congress within 48 hours, and then orders the termination of the military engagement after 60 days in the absence of a Congressional authorization of military force or a declaration of war. The notion that the WPR grants the president what has been called a sixty-day “blank check” is indeed the most widely accepted interpretation of the document, but upon examining its text, it is clear that this interpretation egregiously violates both the spirit and the letter of the WPR. The WPR, contrary to popular belief, does not simply authorize the president to commit military force at his discretion, but actually calls for one of three very specific criteria to be met prior to the use of force: “(1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” Once again, regardless of the threat that Muammar Qadhafi posed to his own citizens and arguably to American national interests in the Middle East, it is virtually impossible to argue that any of these three criteria were met. The first two clearly were not, while the third describes a situation that simply did not exist, specifically a national state of emergency in which Qaddafi threatened in any way to attack American territory, possessions, or armed forces. Thus, it can very reasonably be argued that the American military intervention in Libya was carried out illegally. Of course, as was already mentioned, similar interventions have been initiated numerous times in recent years by presidents of both political parties. Neither impeachment efforts nor a defunding of the operation midway through its execution – both of which have been suggested by various members of Congress – would be responsible, as they would both have unwise political and foreign policy implications. However, Congress should immediately begin crafting reforms that would help to return the power to initiate war to the American people’s representatives, where it rightfully belongs.


One obvious reform would involve clarifying and strengthening the WPR and punishing its future violations far more aggressively, perhaps with presidential censures. Ideally, Congress should once again offer formal declarations of war (a practice that was abandoned after World War II) instead of rather flimsy resolutions or authorizations of force, which fail to adequately hold Congress accountable for its actions. Ultimately, diminished role of Congress in the initiation of war represents an unfortunate disrespect of Congress as an institution and a blatant disregard for the law of land, both on the part of Congress and the president. Indeed, consistent with the quintessentially American ideals of balanced power and representative government, the decision to go to war should not be placed in the hands of one individual, but should reside in the Congress of the United States, as the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution call for in no uncertain terms. s

Hopkins This Week Girl Up at Johns Hopkins & United Nations Foundation present

KIM PERRY CEO Global Advisors

ON CIVIC ENGAGEMENT 7:30 pm, April 19th Shriver Hall

FOREIGN AFFAIRS ESSAY CONTEST Prize of $1,000 One undergraduate's essay to be published on the Foreign Affairs website

ESSAY TOPIC (1,200- 1,500 Words) Is the decline of the West inevitable? Entries must be submitted by July 1, 2011.

Volume VI Issue VIII  

Volume VI Issue VIII

Volume VI Issue VIII  

Volume VI Issue VIII