The Republicans are OK
ÜMİT ENGİNSOYIncumbent presidents of the United States are usually fortunate in elections for their second term. Former Republican president George Bush senior was an exception: He was defeated by Democratic candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 despite the success in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq one year earlier. But most other recent presidents won in re-election polls.
Despite his dubious score on the economy, Democratic President Barack Obama has fared quite well on international relations. Again, despite subsequent failures to progress on the Israeli-Palestinian question, how the United States was seen throughout the world improved considerably after former Republican President George W. Bush tarnished the U.S.’ image terribly with the Iraq invasion.
The U.S.-Turkish relationship also improved greatly in the wake of Turkey’s (probably unintended) moves against Iran – including a decision to host a special radar for NATO’s planned missile defense shield and U.S.-Turkish rapprochement to back a Sunni awakening in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. So I can safely say that a continuation of the Obama administration in Washington would be best for Turkey.
But still, the remaining two-and-a-half Republican candidates for the nomination, who have a considerable chance of winning the presidency, are not bad for Turkey or the world. Let me start with the “half,” the Texas congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian and a non-interventionist, who tacitly agrees with the theory of an American decline in the 21st century (in line with my own understanding of world affairs).
Accused by his rivals of being an isolationist, Paul supports a smaller role for the United States in world affairs. On matters related to Turkey, he backs an American non-role on the “Armenian genocide” matter – which got him an “F” grade from the Armenian National Committee of America, the largest and most influential Armenian-American group. But still, he remains largely “unelectable,” because he, 76, is old, not tall, not particularly good-looking, and he doesn’t have a presidential haircut.
That brings me to probably the most electable Republican contender, Mitt Romney, the former governor of the northeastern state of Massachusetts, normally a Democratic stronghold. Romney, 64, is reasonably young, tall, good-looking and does have a presidential haircut. But he has a great sin: He is a Mormon. Protestant right-wingers and evangelists of any sort, which form the Republican grassroots, view the Mormons as a perverse sect.
At the same time, Romney is very mainstream; he deplores the Occupy Wall Street movement and has called for mainstream solutions to international matters. He’s likeable. But he’s also boring and does not address the wills of the Tea Party, a radical right-wing Republican sect. And that brings us to Newt Gingrich, 68, a former speaker for the U.S. House of Representatives. A controversial politician, he is also reasonably young, tall, arguably good-looking and has a partially presidential haircut. The non-Romney Republican front, which is composed of all sorts of right-wingers, has long worked to find someone who can stand against Romney.
Earlier such candidates included Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who made Bush Jr., who held the same post as him, look like Einstein; and Herman Cain, a black businessman (I can never understand why a black person should or could seek a major Republican post). All these three people sought to present their ignorance on international matters as a virtue. Not prominently intelligent, they had to practically or effectively quit the competition.
Anyway, back to Gingrich. He was in office when he spearheaded efforts to impeach Bill Clinton when he himself was also involved in an extra-marital affair. But he voiced his respect for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, in 2006, winning the Atatürk award from the Atatürk Society of America the same year.
Anyway, Obama is good for Turkey. But a potential victory in the presidential elections by a reasonable Republican candidate in November 2012 would not be really bad for Ankara. The Turkish-U.S. relationship is on the mend.