New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has set his sights on what he — and many others — see as the provincial, insular nature of American politics, and he has unkind words for the country’s current crop of legislators.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal carried out during a trip to Hong Kong, Bloomberg warned that US Congress members’ ignorance of the outside world could end up harming the US and dragging the country into a trade war.
“If you look at the US, you look at who we’re electing to Congress, to the Senate — they can’t read,” he said. “I’ll bet you a bunch of these people don’t have passports. We’re about to start a trade war with China if we’re not careful here … only because nobody knows where China is. Nobody knows what China is.”
Bloomberg pointed to the anti-Chinese sentiment in the recent election cycle as evidence that the US is taking the wrong approach.
“I think in America, we’ve got to stop blaming the Chinese and blaming everybody else and take a look at ourselves,” he said.
Bloomberg’s concerns were highlighted Saturday when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned an international security forum of a “confrontation” between the US and China. AFP reports:
Graham also warned of a forthcoming “period of confrontation” with China over its “cheating” currency manipulation.
US and European lawmakers have called for a stronger Chinese currency as their economies struggle to recover from the global financial crisis. US lawmakers claim the yuan is grossly undervalued and causes global trade imbalances.
Graham also pushed President Obama to support military action against Iran.
If President Barack Obama “decides to be tough with Iran beyond sanctions, I think he is going to feel a lot of Republican support for the idea that we cannot let Iran develop a nuclear weapon,” he told the Halifax International Security Forum.
“The last thing America wants is another military conflict, but the last thing the world needs is a nuclear-armed Iran… Containment is off the table.”
The South Carolina Republican saw the United States going to war with the Islamic republic “not to just neutralize their nuclear program, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime.”
Graham’s focus on foreign policy stands in stark contrast to the just-finished election cycle, which was notable for its lack of debate on foreign policy issues.
“Unresolved wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking their toll in American lives and capital, nuclear tensions are simmering with North Korea and Iran. But voters weren’t asked to either approve or reject President Barack Obama’s view of the United States’ role in global affairs,” AP reported Saturday. “It wasn’t on the ballot.”
“I can’t think of an instance in recent times in which foreign policy was less prominent,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.
There was little discussion during the campaign of a landmark arms control deal with Russia, which the Senate must ratify to take effect. Nor was there serious debate about the wisdom of withdrawing remaining U.S. forces from Iraq or starting the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan next July.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank, said “foreign policy hardly mattered” in the campaign and election. “The principal reason,” he said in an interview, is that “most Americans are preoccupied with their economic circumstances. People voted on the basis of butter, not guns.”
Some lawmakers took offense to Bloomberg’s characterization of them.
“I have a summa cum laude degree from Princeton, and I do read and I have a passport and I use it,” Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) told the New York Daily News. “I’ve always had great respect for the mayor — I think that all of us have to be careful about attributing traits to others. It runs two ways, obviously.”
“I agree with him to some extent,” Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told the News. “Too many members of Congress in both parties don’t pay attention to foreign policy generally including trade issues.”
The News notes that King “has traveled to Taiwan and has a passport.”