US Primary Elections-It is Getting Interesting…

The US presidential elections have turned out to be much more exciting than anticipated. Although many pundits early on asserted that this would be a coronation of Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, well, they were all proven wrong. The Obama phenomenon sweeping primary wins across the country suggests that this will not be a coronation, but a real political battle between the status quo and change in America. Obama has been able to shape his campaign to cast a wide net of appeal crossing income, race, and gender lines. His energetic style has captured the enthusiasm of Democrats across the country.

McCain, also is a worthy opponent. He is just right of center, is known to be moderate and known to cross the aisle on many occasions. He is a highly respected war veteran and very experienced. However, the Christian right, who helped both Bush Sr and Jr come to power are less enthused about McCain, which explains Huckabee’s ability to win more conservative states with little money in his campaign. The next few weeks promise to be interesting.

Keep your eye on the March 4th primaries of Texas and Ohio. Texas has a high Latino population, which Hillary is supposed to be able to win. However, exit polls in Maryland suggest that Latino voters favor Obama. After his series of wins, he is a candidate with momentum and that does count for something. Ohio, a battleground state in 2004 is also key to foreshadow what may happen in the general election.

Of course, what about Michigan and Florida, will they get included in the delegate vote? Will the super delegates end up deciding this primary? If the super delegates do get brought in, it will be very difficult for the Democrats and it could really polarize the party and the votes in a general election. For the time being the Democrats are not faced with that dilemma yet.

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French Elections Compared to US Elections

Do we have anything in common with the French?
Published in the Buffalo Evening News, April 18, 2007

Carolyn M. Dudek, Associate Professor of European Politics at Hofstra University

The disagreement over the Iraq War certainly caused a rift in US-French relations. Even the American public shared in the discord by dumping French wine and renaming French fries freedom fries. Americans are from Mars and the French are from Venus seems to be the perception of most Americans today. However, as the French approach their first of two rounds of presidential elections, it seems that maybe the French public isn’t so different than us after all.

Certain themes define each presidential election year in France, and this year’s is la defiance, the distrust of the main political parties on the left and right. French citizens seem undecided about the candidates running, and right now, with less than a week until the election, two out of five voters are still unsure for whom to cast their vote. At this point it is anyone’s guess which two candidates will make the cut to continue to the second round.

Sound familiar? As Americans face the 2008 presidential elections it is unclear who will win the primaries, and some early polls even suggest that once two candidates are chosen it may be a photo finish. Like the French public, Americans want change, and it seems that some candidates are too closely associated with the established parties, which no longer provide a coherent vision.

Even though this is the first time in French history a woman is running for president, it seems that Ségolène Royal, the Socialist Party candidate hasn’t been able to rally enough excitement around her candidacy to pull ahead of the pack. Nicolas Sarkozy, the Conservative party candidate and former minister of the interior, seems unable to disassociate himself from Jacque Chirac’s unpopular presidency. Chirac’s waning public support stems from, among other issues, France’s economic and immigration woes, which led to the suburb riots of 2006. François Bayrou, a third party candidate seen as an outsider, can’t seem to make much headway either. As much as people want change, the French, like the Americans, are not quite ready to give up the comfort and predictability of the status quo. At least political pundits seem to think Jean Marie LePen, the far-right candidate who upset the 2002 elections, won’t be causing any more surprises this year.

If one were to compare the French elections on Venus to the current American campaign on Mars, one could liken Royal to Hillary Clinton as first female presidential candidates; Sarkozy to John McCain by their association to an unpopular administration; and Bayrou to Barak Obama or Rudolph Giuliani as less traditional runners. Obama being a newer face on the national scene and Guiliani representing a more liberal viewpoint within the Republican Party could be an exciting change, but some are weary they might be too much of a gamble.

So as the French step out to vote on April 22nd, disimpassioned with the main parties and wanting change, it seems that they share similar sentiments with the American public. Americans, too, have grown skeptical about the war in Iraq, and even though it is not the top issue of the presidential campaign in France, citizens on both sides of the Atlantic share concerns over economic stability, immigration, pensions and healthcare costs. Maybe we aren’t that much different from the French after all. The French, however, are fortunate that their misery will be over May 6, whereas the American public will have to suffer much longer under the bombardment of campaign rhetoric.

US-Argentina-Venezuela

Why Should the US Care About Argentine-Venezuelan Relations?
Published online, Foreign Policy Association (fpa.org), fall 2007

Carolyn M. Dudek, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Political Science, Hofstra University
Fulbright Scholar to Argentina 2006–07

Historically, the US has maintained strong influence, for better and worse, in Latin America; however, US focus on the war on terror has resulted in disengagement from its southern neighbors. Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, has benefited from America’s detachment and has used the opportunity to promote anti-American policies while trying to assert his own dominance in the region. Recently, Argentina has forged closer ties to Chávez in order to solve their economic and energy crisis. Many Argentine’s would prefer a US or European solution and are concerned how relations with Chávez will impact foreign investment. The US seems to prefer to ignore what Chávez does, however, his links to Iran and Iran’s involvement in terrorist attacks on Argentine soil should make the US take notice.

In 1992 the Israeli embassy in Argentina was bombed, killing 29 and injuring more than 250. Although this attack was devastating, the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association AMIA, a Jewish community center, was even more devastating, killing 85 and injuring an estimated 300 people, making it the largest terrorist attack on Argentine soil. It is believed that both bombings are linked. Carlos Menem, then president of Argentina, did not ensure a thorough investigation and the case was mishandled at all levels. Under current Argentine President Nestor Kirchner’s administration the case was re-opened recently and with help from Israeli and US intelligence found former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani and other members of his cabinet, as well as members of Hezbollah, responsible for the bombings.

Why, you may ask, would Iran want to bomb a Jewish community center in Argentina? Argentina had signed a nuclear-technology-transfer contract with Iran in the 1980s. In the early 1990’s Argentina suspended the contract. In retaliation Iran bombed the AMIA. At a community forum Alberto Nisman, one of the newly appointed prosecutors for the case, was asked why Iran would bomb a Jewish center and not an Argentine government building. He bluntly responded, “They took advantage of the high level of anti-Semitism in this country [Argentina] .” Moreover, it seems that in order to get Hezbollah to participate too it needed to be a target that was also of interest to them.

How was this terrorist act carried out? Argentina has a significant Middle Eastern and, in particular, Lebanese immigrant population. Members of this community were able to take advantage of the “Triple Frontier,” a highly permeable border area shared among Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil that has served as a conduit for drugs, terrorist funds, and supplies. It is through these permeable borders that Iran was able to move funding and organize the operation with the aid of Hezbollah using members in Latin America. Today the “Triple Frontier” remains an area of concern for US security.

Yet, why should the US care about a bombing that took place thirteen years ago, well south of the border, or whether Chávez is forging closer ties with Argentina—and Iran? History surrounding the AMIA bombing is eerily all too relevant to the current problem of Iran’s aiding terrorism and their desire to create a nuclear program. In the face of this looming threat, the US Congress took action on July 30, 2007, passing a resolution through the House of Representatives to request Interpol capture the six Iranian functionaries and members of Hezbollah being investigated for their participation in the AMIA bombing. Congress’s action demonstrates the recognition of the links among terror, Iran, Hezbollah, and South America.

Our focus on the war on terror has resulted in US’s disengagement from our South American neighbors. This war is a global battle, and it is imperative the US re-focus its efforts to maintain our old allies and sphere of influence. America needs to demonstrate to countries like Argentina that we take them seriously and that the US can be a useful and trusted partner. President Kirchner is not a “leftist” like Chávez but is really quite moderate; yet he is willing to negotiate with someone more radical like the Venezuelan president to keep the Argentine economy from tumbling into another economic crisis. The US should engage in dialogue with leaders like Kirchner, and also address issues of poverty and instability in South America. Not only would this help stave off Argentine dependence on Venezuela, and with it the possible influence of Iran, it may also address the core problem of the immigration conundrum: why people leave their homelands.

If we want to win hearts and minds and fight a war on terror, we need to step up more-positive relations with Latin America: Not the kinds of relations we saw in the 1970s and 1980s, toppling democratically elected officials and supporting repressive authoritarian regimes, but those whereby US capital can make profits and Latin American countries can reap some of their developmental benefits.

If the US would make greater strides in supporting development in Argentina, perhaps President Kirchner wouldn’t need to look to Chávez, and Iran would have a more difficult time sneaking in the back door to influence the Western hemisphere. Argentina has three choices to solve their economic and energy crisis: European capital, US capital, or Chávez. Thus far European capital hasn’t solved the problem, and in the eyes of Argentina the apathetic and often haughty attitude of the US makes our country a less likely option—unless we can come up with a more enticing offer. In order to keep Iranian influence out of Latin America and to curtail Chávez’s influence in the continent, it is essential that the US seize the opportunity to re-engage itself with our southern neighbors. The stakes are too high not to.

La lección de España para EE. UU

La lección de España para EE. UU

Publicado en La Voz de Galicia, 2004

Carolyn M. Dudek, Ph.D.

     La reacción ciudadana hacia los terroríficos y trágicos hechos de Madrid el pasado Jueves demuestran que la democracia está viva y en buen estado de salud en España. Las manifestaciones pacíficas demostraron a la comunidad internacional la unidad y compasión del pueblo español hacia las víctimas y sus familias. A este lado del Atlánticos, ha llamado la atención de los norteamericanos no sólo los trágicos hechos, sino también la reacción publica española. El sábado, los ciudadanos españoles han demostrado para mostrar su descontento hacia el gobierno del Partido Popular por no mantener la seguridad de la seguridad nacional, y lo que es más importante, por no ser transparentes en relación a la información sobre la responsabilidad y autoría de los atentados.

Muchas fuentes han sostenido que el gobierno mantendría la hipótesis de ETA como principal sospechoso aún cuando la evidencia demostrase lo contrario. La rotunda victoria del PSOE y el alto índice de participación muestran la inquebrantable determinación del pueblo español a reclamar la verdad y a hacer al gobierno responsable de sus acciones. Fue bajo el gobierno “popular”  de Jose Mª Aznar cuando España se implicó en la guerra contra Irak, a pesar de que la ciudadanía mostró una fuerte oposición hacia tal implicación. Los estadounidenses pueden aprender una importante lección de España, uno de los miembros más jóvenes del club de las democracias.

Para España, los ataques terroristas no sólo amenazaron la seguridad de los españoles, sino que han sido interpretados como una ataque hacia la democracia española. De ahí la idea de la ciudadanía de tomar las calles como una forma pacífica y constructiva de demandar respuestas a su gobierno. ¿Debemos nosotros, en Estados Unidos, esperar a que ocurra otra atrocidad para empezar a cuestionarnos seriamente las razones que justifican la guerra en Irak y para mantener a nuestros líderes responsables de sus acciones? ¿por qué no exigimos respuestas antes de que sea demasiado tarde? Si a ello añadimos las bajas militares americanas en la guerra de Irak, los iraquíes civiles fallecidos,  todos los fallecidos en Bali, Turquía y en los recientes atentados en España, el conjunto de bajas será probablemente tanto o más alto que el del 11-S. Por lo tanto, debemos preguntarnos, ¿cómo está yendo la guerra contra el terror? ¿Ha tomado la dirección adecuada? Abrumadoramente, la ciudadanía española salió a las calles y manifestó que no se ha tomado la dirección adecuada. Ello significa que necesitamos encontrar mejores estrategias para tratar adecuadamente con la raíz del problema y preguntarnos cuál es esa raíz,.

En New York, hemos visto noticias el fin de semana pasado declarando que “todos somos madrileños”. Si eso es verdad, Espero que como los madrileños cuestionemos a nuestro gobierno y le exijamos responsabilidades ¿No es eso la democracia? Cuestionar al gobierno no significa “odiar a  América”, sino que la sientes cercana y querida, así como sientes cercanos y queridos los valores sobre los que se fundó.

¿Diría alguien que los millones de españoles que el pasado domingo se acercaron a las urnas a votar o protestaron en las calles odian España? No. En cualquier caso, han mostrado su solidaridad y su creencia en la democracia española, ganada después de 40 años de dictadura. La emergencia de la participación política ha mostrado al mundo lo que la altamente desarrollada y sofisticada España ha desarrollado en un corto espacio de tiempo.

¿Y qué pasa con Estados Unidos, el “faro” de la democracia y la libertad? Alguien nos ha hecho creer que cuestionar la gobierno es “anti-americano” y “anti-democrático”. Quizá tenemos unas cuantas cosas que aprender de  los españoles y su memorable demostración d e solidaridad en los días pasados. ¿Es quizá el momento de que también nosotros cuestionemos y exijamos respuestas? El riesgo de no hacerlo es demasiado grande.

Welcome to my blog!

Do we have anything in common with the French?
Published in the Buffalo Evening News, April 18, 2007

Carolyn M. Dudek, Associate Professor of European Politics at Hofstra University

The disagreement over the Iraq War certainly caused a rift in US-French relations. Even the American public shared in the discord by dumping French wine and renaming French fries freedom fries. Americans are from Mars and the French are from Venus seems to be the perception of most Americans today. However, as the French approach their first of two rounds of presidential elections, it seems that maybe the French public isn’t so different than us after all.

Certain themes define each presidential election year in France, and this year’s is la defiance, the distrust of the main political parties on the left and right. French citizens seem undecided about the candidates running, and right now, with less than a week until the election, two out of five voters are still unsure for whom to cast their vote. At this point it is anyone’s guess which two candidates will make the cut to continue to the second round.

Sound familiar? As Americans face the 2008 presidential elections it is unclear who will win the primaries, and some early polls even suggest that once two candidates are chosen it may be a photo finish. Like the French public, Americans want change, and it seems that some candidates are too closely associated with the established parties, which no longer provide a coherent vision.

Even though this is the first time in French history a woman is running for president, it seems that Ségolène Royal, the Socialist Party candidate hasn’t been able to rally enough excitement around her candidacy to pull ahead of the pack. Nicolas Sarkozy, the Conservative party candidate and former minister of the interior, seems unable to disassociate himself from Jacque Chirac’s unpopular presidency. Chirac’s waning public support stems from, among other issues, France’s economic and immigration woes, which led to the suburb riots of 2006. François Bayrou, a third party candidate seen as an outsider, can’t seem to make much headway either. As much as people want change, the French, like the Americans, are not quite ready to give up the comfort and predictability of the status quo. At least political pundits seem to think Jean Marie LePen, the far-right candidate who upset the 2002 elections, won’t be causing any more surprises this year.

If one were to compare the French elections on Venus to the current American campaign on Mars, one could liken Royal to Hillary Clinton as first female presidential candidates; Sarkozy to John McCain by their association to an unpopular administration; and Bayrou to Barak Obama or Rudolph Giuliani as less traditional runners. Obama being a newer face on the national scene and Guiliani representing a more liberal viewpoint within the Republican Party could be an exciting change, but some are weary they might be too much of a gamble.

So as the French step out to vote on April 22nd, disimpassioned with the main parties and wanting change, it seems that they share similar sentiments with the American public. Americans, too, have grown skeptical about the war in Iraq, and even though it is not the top issue of the presidential campaign in France, citizens on both sides of the Atlantic share concerns over economic stability, immigration, pensions and healthcare costs. Maybe we aren’t that much different from the French after all. The French, however, are fortunate that their misery will be over May 6, whereas the American public will have to suffer much longer under the bombardment of campaign rhetoric.