Voice

If you skip that first paragraph, Condoleezza Rice gave a great speech

Based on my Twitter feed -- and the act that it's true -- former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave far and away the best speech of the 2012 Republican National Convention to date. As someone who had the privilege of taking courses from Dr. Rice, this makes me personally very happy. As someone who likes to see the United States vigorously participate in an open global economy, I thought her emphasis on trade and immigration were spot-on. And as someone who thinks the term "loyal opposition" has meaning, I thought Rice did an excellent job of not criticizing President Obama directly but nevertheless drawing interesting contrasts between Obama and Mitt Romney. 

So it was a great speech -- so long as you skipped the opening paragraph: 

We gather here at a time of significance and challenge. This young century has been a difficult one. I will never forget the bright September day, standing at my desk in the White House, when my young assistant said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center – and then a second one – and a third, the Pentagon. And then the news of a fourth, driven into the ground by brave citizens that died so that many others would live. From that day on our sense of vulnerability and our understanding of security would be altered forever. Then in 2008 the global financial and economic crisis stunned us and still reverberates as unemployment, economic uncertainty and failed policies cast a pall over the American recovery so desperately needed at home and abroad

The problem with this paragraph is that, vague language aside, it reminds the listener that two of the three greatest negative foreign policy shocks of the last decade happened while Rice and the GOP ran the executive branch. Oh, and the third is Iraq, which also happened on their watch. 

Whatever foibles and errors the Obama administration has committed on foreign policy -- and they've had a healthy share -- nothing they have done has been remotely close on the clusterf**k scale to the events Rice mentions in her first paragraph. 

Once you skip that, though, it really is a great speech. 

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Daniel W. Drezner

Stephen Roach's new nightmare

For the past decade, Stephen Roach has been the Eeyore of global economic analysis -- gloomy about the U.S. economy, gloomy about Chinese economic policy, and in yesterday's Financial Times, very, very gloomy about what would happen to the Sino-American relationship if Mitt Romney became president. Here's how he closes:

By the autumn of 2013 there was little doubt of the severity of renewed recession in the US. Trade sanctions on China had backfired. Beleaguered American workers paid the highest price of all, as the unemployment rate shot back up above 10 per cent. A horrific policy blunder had confirmed that there was no bilateral fix for the multilateral trade imbalance of a savings-starved U.S. economy.

In China, growth had slipped below the dreaded 6 percent threshold and the new leadership was rolling out yet another investment stimulus for a still unbalanced and unstable Chinese economy. As the global economy slipped back into recession, the Great Crisis of 2008-09 suddenly looked like child’s play. Globalisation itself hung in the balance.

History warns us never to say never. We need only look at the legacy of U.S. Senator Reed Smoot and Representative Willis Hawley, who sponsored the infamous Tariff Act of 1930 – America’s worst economic policy blunder. Bad dreams can – and have – become reality.

Like Roach, I think Romney's stated policies towards China have been a wee bit over the top.  And it's certainly true that China hasn't reacted terribly well to Romney. The key word here is "stated," however.  In Roach's analysis, this is how things escalate: 

Feeling the heat from [plummeting] financial markets, Washington turned up the heat on China. Mr Romney called Congress back from its Independence Day holiday into a special session. By unanimous consent, Congress passed an amendment to [a 20 percent tariff on Chinese products] – upping the tariffs on China by another 10 percentage points.

Call me crazy, but if a brewing trade war triggers economic contraction, which then triggers rising financial discontent, I don't see any president responding by accelerating the trade war. I certainly don't see bipartisan support for such a trade war. 

If the 2008 financial crisis failed to spark a renaissance in protectionism, then Mitt Romney ain't gonna be able to do it all on his own. Stephen Roach's yarn is entertaining but not persuasive. 

Am I missing anything? 

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