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2010年11月 6日 (土)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 4
EDITORIAL: U.S. midterm elections

U.S. President Barack Obama's electrifying victory two years ago, when Americans enthusiastically welcomed a liberal president, now seems like an event in the distant past.

The American voting public delivered a harsh verdict on Obama in the midterm elections.

The Democratic Party led by Obama lost its majority in the House of Representatives, handing over the legislative leadership to the opposition Republican Party. Democrats managed to maintain control of the Senate, but allowed Republicans to expand their strength sharply.

The results of the midterm elections don't necessarily foreshadow the outcome of the presidential race in two years. But it is clear that Obama needs to reinvent his strategy for re-election.

In pre-election polls, about 60 percent of the respondents cited the economy and unemployment as their issue of primary concern.

The United States avoided the worst-case scenario in the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. But the nation's economic recovery has been on a shaky footing despite huge government spending to stimulate growth. The country's unemployment rate has been staying above 9 percent.

Deep discontent about the economic situation caused a big shift away from the Democratic Party.

The health-care reform Obama has pushed through by staging a high-stakes political campaign became a main target of campaign attacks before its benefits began to be felt.
Republican candidates criticized Obama's health-care legislation as a symbol of big government.

A major contributor to the Republican resurgence was the Tea Party, a new grass-roots, conservative political movement that began in 2009.

The civic movement derives its name and spirit from the Boston Tea Party, an iconic American political incident during the period of the American Revolution. On Dec. 16, 1773, a group of colonists opposed to the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament sneaked into British East India Company ships and destroyed shiploads of taxed tea by throwing them into Boston Harbor.

The Tea Party movement succeeded in uniting conservative groups of various stripes through a focused campaign against big government spending, generating a wave of anti-Obama anger.

The Obama White House now faces tough political dickering over key legislative initiatives with a divided Congress.

A swollen federal deficit is restraining the government's ability to take additional measures to stoke economic growth, such as tax cuts.

The health-care reform could be rolled back, depending on how Republicans deal with the issue.

A political gridlock at home would have serious repercussions on U.S. diplomacy.

That would be unfortunate because there is a long list of challenges confronting the international community that could not be dealt with effectively without leadership from the United States.

Such international challenges include how to end the war in Afghanistan, how to break the impasse in negotiations over a post-Kyoto Protocol climate treaty to stop global warming and how to promote international cooperation to deal with the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran and push the world toward a nuclear-free future.

Washington also needs to figure out a way to rebuild its relations with Japan, which have been strained by the Futenma air base issue, under a new diplomatic strategy for East Asia, where China is rising as a leading power.

U.S. Congress, with enhanced Republican ranks as a result of the Tea Party boom, holds the key for efforts to tackle tough challenges on both the domestic and diplomatic fronts.

There are some extreme arguments within the Tea Party, such as a call for complete liberalization of health care without any government intervention. The movement disagrees with the Republican mainstream on many important issues.

It is also doubtful whether lawmakers supported by the Tea Party will pay serious attention to international issues.

The United States still remains the biggest pole in an increasingly multipolar world and must fulfill the responsibility that status entails.

Neither Congress nor the president should adopt an even more inward-looking attitude.

We hope U.S. political leaders will debate various important policy issues with the kind of international sensibility they are expected to have in this age of globalization and demonstrate their expected problem-solving abilities.


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