Sat November 26, 2011
Week In News: Pakistan Rift, Egypt Protests, GOP Debate
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
With more on this story and the rest of the week's news, we're joined now by Doyle McManus. He's the Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and he has graciously agreed to stand in for our regular news analyst, James Fallows. Doyle, thanks so much for being with us.
DOYLE MCMANUS: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So I want to ask you about this apparent NATO attack along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. We just heard from Quil Lawrence in Kabul, Pakistan has closed the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to U.S. supplies. There are also reports that Pakistan could be forcing the U.S. to leave an airbase in Pakistan. Is this a more aggressive kind of response than we've seen in the past to U.S. action?
MCMANUS: It is. It is a tougher response, and it started right away. It was remarkable that the first official statement from the Pakistani military called this an unprovoked act of aggression by NATO and American forces. Didn't even stop to consider whether it was an accident or not. And this is worse than the earlier incidents both because of its scale — as Quil Lawrence said, this is much bigger than anything previously — but also really because of the context.
Pakistan and the United States are like two countries that are trapped in a bad marriage right now. They may have loved each other once, but they don't love each other anymore. And everything adds to the resentment. So this relationship really has been going from bad to worse for quite some time.
MARTIN: And will surely take other twists and turns. I want to stay overseas, Doyle, and get your take on what we're seeing happening in Egypt. Protesters are again in Tahrir Square, this time demanding the end of the military regime, which took the reins after President Mubarak was ousted. Was this predictable, to some degree, that the Egyptian public would eventually have to push the military out of power?
MCMANUS: Well, the conflict was predictable. It wasn't predictable how - what turns it would take. But, yeah, we have sometimes forgotten that the great revolution of Tahrir Square in February wasn't actually concluded by the people pushing Hosni Mubarak out. It was concluded by the Egyptian military deciding that their own status in Egyptian society could best be protected if they forced Mubarak into retirement.
And so they seized power. They said there would be elections. But in the months since, the military has continued to exert executive power and then most recently had said that they might delay a presidential election until 2013. So what's really remarkable in the last few days is that this standoff has now pushed secular modern Egyptians who were part of that revolution together with the Muslim Brotherhood. That's quite a powerful coalition. So the military really does have a big problem on its hands.
MARTIN: I want to switch gears a little bit now and move over to domestic politics here in the U.S. There was yet another GOP debate this past week. Republican presidential hopefuls squared off over national security issues. And usually when this topic has come up, the field of nominees has used it really as a chance to collectively criticize President Obama. But in this debate, Doyle, we saw some potential fault lines open up.
MCMANUS: We did see a couple of fault lines, Rachel. Mitt Romney was sticking to his cautious mainstream Republican themes all the way through. But now he's fighting off a new co-front-runner, if you like, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
And Newt Gingrich, unlike some of the others in this race, knows a heck of a lot about foreign policy and wasn't going to concede anything to Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich took a notably assertive and nationalistic tone on foreign policy. Mitt Romney has said that, for example, he would make sure Iran didn't get nuclear weapons by sending more Navy ships to the Persian Gulf. Newt Gingrich said never mind Navy ships, what we need to do is more aggressive covert action and sabotage, a much more adventurous foreign policy.
MARTIN: Finally, Doyle, it wouldn't be a Black Friday weekend without a story about some sort of violence. We don't want to make too light of this, but, you know, apparently, a woman in Southern California got the drop on other shoppers, doused them with pepper spray. She has since surrendered herself to authorities. Putting aside shopper-on-shopper violence, I suppose it's always good for the economy when consumers go out and spend money this time of year.
MCMANUS: Well, you know, our economy has been enormously dependent on consumer spending, and there are some encouraging signs that consumer spending is picking up a bit. But actually, if you dig deeper in the numbers, the news isn't so good. Income is flat, and savings have gone down. So it looks as if people are, in effect, taking money out of their savings budgets to pay for the new television set, the new video game. The economy isn't really healthy yet.
MARTIN: Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Doyle, thanks so much.
MCMANUS: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.