Editorial voices from elsewhere
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad as compiled by the Associated Press:
State of the Union addresses are about big ambitions, and Tuesday night’s didn’t disappoint. Barack Obama’s many priorities – job creation, middle-class earnings, infrastructure spending and all the others – are the unfinished business of a president aware (and no doubt uneasy) that, in three years, he belongs to history.
How many of those aspirations can he achieve? Of 24 proposals in last year’s address, Washington Post fact-checkers rate five as accomplished, four as partially complete and 15 – notably gun control, immigration reform and a minimum wage hike – as dead letters.
Tuesday night, Obama didn’t dwell on his lost 2013. There was an oblique nod to his gridlock with Congress last year: “Let’s make this a year of action.” The subtext: He has to wonder whether, if his signature health overhaul doesn’t succeed, his presidency totals one year of managing through a financial crisis, followed by a biblical seven years of lean.
That’s why his staffers have been broadcasting the message that Obama will try to circumvent Congress by marshaling his powers of office. Presidents of both parties have done that although it’s often a frustrating way to rule: Congress can thwart (or refuse to fund) executive orders that lack the force of law. And subsequent presidents can undo those orders as breezily as they were written.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan seems to have decided there is nothing lost, and maybe something to be gained, in destroying his relationship with the United States. While such behavior may serve his interests, it does not serve that of his long-suffering country.
Karzai has long been at odds with the United States. In the last week, his government distributed an inflammatory, falsified dossier to try to document accusations the American-led NATO coalition caused great carnage, including civilian deaths, when it conducted airstrikes in Afghanistan Jan. 15.
Karzai – like most citizens of his country – is fed up with airstrikes and especially civilian deaths, an understandable frustration after a dozen war-torn years. But, according to the United Nations, most civilians are killed by the Taliban. Instead of dealing with the issue honestly, Karzai is increasingly using it to demonize the United States.
The candidates running to succeed him owe voters a vision of how they will improve governance and work more productively with the United States and its allies, who have spent billions of dollars to underwrite Afghanistan’s economy and will be asked to do more in the years to come.
Three years ago this week, vast crowds gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to bring about the end of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. That they were able to do this owed much to the support of the Egyptian military, which kept its authoritarian instincts in check after presiding over a state of emergency that lasted for 30 years.
It is extraordinary, therefore, that many of the demonstrators gathered in the same square to celebrate the third anniversary of the “revolution” want a military hard man as their next leader. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s defense minister, who last summer helped engineer the removal of Mohamed Morsi, the elected Muslim Brotherhood president, is now favorite for the post himself. He is hailed as the heir to Gamal Abdel Nasser, a comparison he is anxious to promote.
The country has, then, come full circle these past three years: from military regime to short-lived democracy and back again.
True, 98 percent of Egyptians (on a 38 percent turn out) voted in favor of a new constitution earlier this month, but this offered just the veneer of popular choice since dissenters were arrested. Several journalists remain in prison under vague charges of “falsifying information”. It is repression as usual.