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'The train is running' on Covid vaccines despite transition delay, Warp Speed adviser says

Politico -

The delay in the presidential transition process won't impact the work of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership to develop coronavirus vaccines, the operation's chief adviser said Sunday.

"Frankly, the operation has been isolated from, from the administration, from the political environment and the political context," Moncef Slaoui said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We worked very hard to make sure that’s the case. And therefore, all decisions are made, the train is running, whether one administration or the other doesn’t, frankly, make a difference. I hope there is no disruption in any way."

President Donald Trump has protested President-elect Joe Biden’s election, breaking tradition by not conceding. And despite election results, the General Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for beginning the formal presidential transition process, has not yet certified Biden's victory, leaving his team unable to access federal resources.

Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines department, said he's "highly supportive of the program, and if it means I work with the new administration, I'll be very happy to."

It's unclear whether Slaoui can begin briefing the Biden transition team. Though he said he would provide the information he made public to the new administration, he's "been informed that I should not be saying anything that's confidential to anybody, including, you know, anybody that's not part of the administration, and therefore I'll act according to what legal requirements are."

Two companies have announced they have developed effective coronavirus vaccines.

Pfizer, the first company to seek emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration, says its vaccine is 95 percent effective after Phase III trials. Moderna, which is also expected to seek FDA authorization for its Covid-19 shot, announced its vaccine was similarly effective in preliminary data.

The federal government cannot move doses of the vaccine until it's approved for emergency use by the FDA.

"Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving and located in the areas where each state will have told us where they want the vaccine doses," Slaoui explained. "And then it is each state that will decide specifically, based on the guidance from the [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] who they will vaccinate."

While federal agencies will issue recommendations on which segments of the population should get the vaccine first, the decision lies with states themselves.

Priority populations are "very likely to be maybe health care workers, maybe first-line workers, maybe individuals who are at very high risk, elderly, people with comorbidities," Slaoui explained.

"Frankly," he said, "I don't see that the federal government will intervene on a state decision."

First Biden Cabinet picks coming Tuesday, top advisers say

Politico -

Top advisers to President-elect Joe Biden said Sunday he'll announce his first Cabinet picks on Tuesday.

"We will be making our first Cabinet announcements on Tuesday of this week, and I would say the president-elect is very excited about this team and looks forward to introducing them to the country," senior adviser Kate Bedingfield said on "Fox News Sunday."

Biden's incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, also confirmed the Tuesday announcement on ABC's "This Week," saying the Democratic president-elect's transition team would "beat the pace" of both the Obama-Biden and Trump transitions.

"But if you want to know what Cabinet agencies they are, who's going to be in those Cabinet agencies," he added, "you'll have to wait for the president-elect to say that himself on Tuesday."

Appearing separately on CNN's "State of the Union," senior adviser Jennifer Psaki spoke about the diversity of Biden's Cabinet picks, following calls from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), among others, to include progressive voices in the process following the progressives' role electing Biden.

"President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect (Kamala) Harris were elected by a coalition of people across the country and that included people who are progressive and moderate and Republican, although most Americans don't think of themselves by those definitions," Psaki said on CNN. "Their Cabinet and the team will look like America, so that means diversity of ideology, and he wants to have a range of views of people at the table."

"I would encourage people to wait who he sees and announces and nominates in the weeks to come," Psaki added. "Of course, there will be some this week and more in the weeks following, but he wants to have a diversity of voices at the table because he fully understands that is how he is going to move an agenda forward."

Last week, Biden said he had made his selection for Treasury secretary, but he's keeping his choice under wraps. “You’ll find it is someone who I think is — will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic Party, from the progressive to the moderate coalitions,” he said.

Several Senate Republicans have indicated they will confirm most of Biden’s Cabinet picks in January, but Psaki pointed out the transition faces a roadblock when it comes to the required FBI background checks.

The General Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for starting the formal presidential transition process, has not yet certified Biden's victory — meaning Biden's team can't access federal resources.

"FBI background checks cannot happen unless there's ascertainment," Psaki said. "And I expect not just Democrats but Republicans in the Senate to be outraged that they don't have access to that information. It could take weeks for that to happen, so that's another pressure point we could see in the coming days."

Biden chief of staff says inauguration ‘not going to be the same’

Politico -

Ron Klain, President-elect Joe Biden’s chief of staff, said Sunday that the inauguration ceremony will be altered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as cases continue to spike across the country.

“It's going to definitely have to be changed,” Klain told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on "This Week." “We've started some consultations with House and Senate leadership on that. Obviously this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration we have had in the past.”

While Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were attacked by President Donald Trump for maintaining social distancing and wearing masks on the campaign trail, Klain said, their inauguration ceremony will likely see similar precautions being taken. Methods used at the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention may also come into play, he added.

“We ran a very effective and I think engaging Democratic Convention this year in August, in a way that was safe for the people to participate and watch it in a way that communicated with the American people,” he noted. “I think we'll have some mix of those techniques, some mix of, you know, scaled-down versions of the existing traditions.”

“They're going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moments but also does not result in the spread of disease,” Klain said. “That's our goal.”

The president-elect’s chief of staff also spoke on the difficulties of the transition, without acknowledgment of the election results by the General Service Administration’s Emily Murphy and Trump’s willingness to concede.

The team has been able to move ahead with White House and Cabinet picks and build policy plans, but several things are still at a standstill as a result, he said.

“The president-elect and vice president-elect are not getting the kind of intelligence briefings they're entitled to,” he said. “Our transition isn't getting access to agency officials to help develop our plans, and there's a lot of focus on that vaccine rollout plan that's going to be critical in the early days of a Biden presidency … There are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day.”

CDC recommends pre- and post-flight testing for international air travel

Politico -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising air travelers get tested before and after flights to help stop the spread of the coronavirus ahead of the holiday travel season.

Those planning to fly should get tested 1 to 3 days prior to the flight and again 3 to 5 days after traveling, according to new agency guidance on international air travel released late Saturday. CDC also is recommending people stay home for 7 days following their trips, even if they test negative. They should stay home for 14 days, if they aren't tested after travel, the agency said.

"Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when paired with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations," according to the guidance.

The agency recommended that travelers with known exposure to the virus postpone their trips entirely, get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

The context: The updated travel recommendations come days after the CDC advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and to limit gatherings to people within the same household. The advisory has put the struggling airline and travel industry in the tough position of trying to assure the public of the safety of flying while trying not to openly encourage it.

Trade groups like Airlines for America and U.S. Travel Association have locked in on pre-flight testing as a potential way to drum up travel demand. They been pushing DOT, HHS and DHS to develop state-level and international protocols for replacing quarantines and other travel restrictions with pre-flight testing but, so far, plans to establish safe travel corridors between the U.S. and some international destinations have stalled.

Meanwhile, many Americans are still expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, despite warnings from health officials. More than 1 million people passed through TSA airport security checkpoints Friday, agency spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said. That is only the second time the agency has screened more than 1 million people since the pandemic started, she said.

What The U.S. Election Meltdown Looks Like to Other Countries

Politico -

Nearly three weeks after a presidential election plagued by long lines and even longer ballot-counting delays, President Donald Trump still hasn’t conceded the race to Joe Biden, his administration is refusing to help with an orderly transition and his supporters are pulling every lever they can to drag out, block or even overturn the results.

Never before has the basic machinery of U.S. democracy looked so dysfunctional. And the rest of the world has been watching almost as closely as Americans themselves.

The United States has set itself up as a global model for democratic elections, impressing many people with the longstanding stability of its system, but also fostering some annoyance with its high-handed efforts to promote its own style of democracy worldwide.

Now, with its system in a public meltdown under the stress of its own presidential election, how do people overseas see what’s happening here? And how will it affect America’s standing going forward? We asked writers from a range of countries, either watching from overseas or from their jobs in the US, what they thought of this recent election, and how it made their fellow-citizens feel about the United States.

Some described a sense of comeuppance, as the self-appointed democratic beacon turned out to be flawed after all; others were disappointed to watch their own autocrats or regional strongmen already capitalizing on the US’s domestic chaos. European allies, though surprised at the confusion, are largely taking it in stride as they await a better relationship with the Biden administration. China and Russia, officially, couldn’t be happier. And the former British ambassador asks what many Americans were asking just a couple of weeks ago: Why can’t the United States just hire more ballot counters? Their responses are below.

Negar Mortazavi is a journalist and political commentator based in Washington, D.C. She is a columnist for The Independent and host of the Iran Podcast.

Because of the crippling sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy, U.S. foreign policy has an enormous impact on the lives of Iranians; more than it has on Americans themselves. One tweet about Iran from Donald Trump impacts the Iranian market and the value of its currency. For that reason, Iranians have been following U.S. politics very closely. Ordinary Iranians now know the number of electoral votes in Wisconsin and Michigan, and the latest status of counts in Arizona and Georgia. And this election, like Trump's presidency itself, has been shocking to many Iranians who have followed U.S. politics over the years.

Iranians have been making fun of every unusual event in this election with jokes and memes, while impatiently waiting for the outcome. Ruhollah Nakhaee, an Iranian journalist in Tehran, tells me that the Iranian state TV is having fun with images of chaos in the United States, and the Ahmadinejad camp is supporting Trump and repeating his conspiracies about election fraud. Abdolreza Davari, former advisor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been a vocal supporter of Trump on social media and in interviews on diaspora television channels, echoing Trump's claims of election fraud and praising Trump for standing up to the “Satan of globalism.”

Trump’s uncommon rhetoric against his rivals, his attacks on the media and his allegations of fraud have damaged the image of the United States around the world. Iranians are not unfamiliar with this kind of politics, as they have had their own share of populism over the decades. But seeing the same trends happen in the United States has been a big surprise. Many Iranians compare Donald Trump to former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both in rhetoric and in action, and now in their handling of their re-election.

In 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the incumbent president and also in charge of holding the presidential election. He rigged the election in his own favor, which prompted massive protests against him across Iran that lasted for months. Dozens of protesters were killed, hundreds were arrested and Ahmadinejad's election rivals were ultimately put under house arrest. Ahmadinejad remained president for a second term.

Back then, the United States condemned irregularities in the 2009 election. Now Iranians keep asking if a similar situation is happening in the United States, as Donald Trump refuses to concede and is trying to use everything in his power to remain in the White House. The situation is of course very different, since Trump is not in charge of holding elections in the United States and cannot put his rival under house arrest. Nevertheless, his refusal to respect the democratic process or accept defeat has diminished the credibility of the United States to weigh in on elections in other countries.

Lord Kim Darroch served as the British Ambassador to the United States (2016-2019). Prior to Washington, he was National Security Adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron (2012-2015). He is the author of Collateral Damage: Britain, America and Europe in the Age of Trump.

The British public never took to Donald Trump. A recent YouGov poll reported that a mere 15 percent of them thought positively about him, while 74 percent thought negatively about him. In this, Trump was a mirror image of the wildly popular Barack Obama (76 percent positive, 11 percent negative); and even rated a touch behind one Vladimir Putin ( 16 percent positive, 68 percent negative). And the dislike took public form: In the huge demonstrations accompanying Trump’s visits to the United Kingdom; in the endless mockery from cartoonists, satirists and comedians; and in the evident reluctance of most of Britain’s political classes, including, belatedly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, to appear too close to him.

So how were the U.S. elections seen over here? American politics are so much more glamorous than the British version. British election campaigns are brief—six weeks or so—and tend towards the gray: politicians addressing a few dozen punters in a shopping mall, or canvassing door-to-door in drab, rainswept, housing estates. American elections are technicolor marathons: the soap-opera reality show of the primary season, sweeping “from sea to shining sea”; the hoopla of the Conventions; and the endlessly recycled “gotcha” moments of the presidential debates. And nowhere is the contrast more marked than on voting day itself. In the United Kingdom, a few hundred local government figures get their Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame announcing results in dusty community halls; in America the TV networks carry the running totals of votes until the dramatic moment when they “call” a state for one candidate or the other.

There was, however, one big difference this time around. Election Day turned into Election Week—and more. Even our most remote constituencies, like the Scottish Islands, declare results within about 24 hours. But those of us gripped by these U.S. elections found ourselves trapped in Groundhog Day: switching on the TV every morning to find that Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arizona were perpetually “too close to call.” The TV stations eventually called Georgia for Biden on November 14, 11 days after the vote. Guys, you’re a rich country; can’t you just employ a few more ballot counters?

But there was a sideshow to this tediously slow walk to the Biden victory, in the form of the president’s reaction. This most unpredictable of Presidents for once did exactly as expected: He proved to be the world’s worst loser. Americans should be in no doubt about how bad this looks to allies, friends and admirers around the world; the more so given how many senior Republicans have provided cover for the President. It makes the world’s only superpower seem irretrievably divided, and American democracy, once a model, look broken.

Is the damage permanent? No, it doesn’t have to be. Joe Biden, a transparently decent man, is promising a reset. If he can quickly take the United States back into the Paris Climate Change Accord, reaffirm U.S. commitment to NATO, and rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, he will both revive multilateralism and provide some reassurance to European public opinion. But though this will be important, it may not be sufficient. Over on this side of the Atlantic, we have noticed that, notwithstanding the experience of almost four years of Trump in office, more than 70,000,000 Americans voted to give him a second term; that more than 80 percent of Republican voters think that the election was rigged; and that, according to multiple media reports, Trump is discussing a run again in 2024. So it might just take a little longer than four years of President Biden to restore America’s reputation as the strongest, staunchest and most dependable of allies.

Meanwhile, here in the United Kingdom, times may also be a-changin’. A recent opinion poll reported that the majority of the British public—54 percent to 46 percent—now think Brexit was a mistake. Too late: It’s done. But the future relationship with the EU has still to be decided. The negotiations are in the final stretch, with both options, a constructive free trading future or an acrimonious and economically ruinous no-deal, still possible. In the last few days, two “hard Brexit”-supporting senior advisers of the prime minister, Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, have made sudden, enforced, exits from No. 10. Just coincidence? Or evidence, as some are speculating, of a cleansing Bidenesque wind sweeping westwards across the Atlantic, bringing moderation and compromise in place of confrontation and culture wars? As President Trump was fond of saying, “Let’s see what happens.”

Patrick Gathara is a strategic communications consultant, writer and award-winning political cartoonist in Kenya.

From Kenya, the 2020 election in the United States seemed both familiar and strange. Familiar because it looked very much like the last two Kenyan presidential elections, in 2013 and 2017, which witnessed problematic and delayed vote counts, allegations of rigging and were both eventually decided by the Supreme Court (the first was upheld and the second was annulled). It was strange for the same reason it seemed familiar. A Kenyan election in the United States is not something one sees every day.

It is important to make a distinction here: by Kenyan election, I do not mean an African election. Many African countries hold much better polls than either Kenya or the United States. It is however undeniable that my country has distinguished itself in its bizarre inability to count particular votes, specifically those cast for president (the syndrome does not seem to affect lower races).

The United States, on the other hand, has been marketed to us since childhood as the model democracy, the shining city on a hill. And it is true that many of us did drink the Kool-Aid. Despite its many hypocrisies abroad—the United States was the country that loudly supported my generation’s struggle against autocracy in the 1990s but had also helped prop up murderous dictatorships across the African continent—at home, it was believed to be largely accountable to its citizens.

Donald Trump’s shock win in 2016 amid allegations of Russian interference, followed by four norm-busting years where the White House became associated with nepotism, corruption, the public embrace of white supremacy and a lack of accountability, severely undermined the notion of America as a paragon of democratic governance. At the same time, the continuing rise of China and, more locally, Rwanda, seemed to suggest better models.

2020 has delivered the coup de grace. There are positives —America has not dissolved into violence despite the dispute. Still, the attempt by Trump to cling on to power despite losing the election by most counts, his discrediting of the electoral system, and the prospect, however remote, that the Republicans may still find a way to overturn the election at the Electoral College, have turned the United States into a laughing stock across the continent.

It is a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, an entitled, boastful, self-righteous bully is getting his comeuppance. On the other, this will do real damage to those who look to the United States to support them in their own democratic struggles. Already, in countries like Tanzania, Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire, autocrats have basically ignored concerned statements from the U.S. State Department. Joe Biden may try to re-establish U.S. democratic hegemony with his proposed Summit for Democracy, but there’s probably no going back to the status quo. The only path left is one where the United States demonstrates it can take the medicine it has long prescribed to others—democratic reform.

Catherine Kim is an editorial intern at Politico Magazine.

A growing number of South Koreans see the United States as a country past its glory days due to Donald Trump’s presidency. It’s evident in how the voting in the U.S. primaries was portrayed in Korea: Broadcasters delivered shocking images of long lines wrapped around polling stations where masks and sanitizer were scant. The contrast was particularly striking to South Koreans who had just voted in their April national election, including me. Lines moved quickly. The government checked temperatures at the entrance, then handed out hand sanitizer and plastic gloves. No sparks in cases could be detected afterward in a country that has been hailed throughout the pandemic for its contact-tracing efforts.

And the election itself has made some South Koreans question whether the United States is truly a democracy. Koreans themselves use a popular vote. It’s simply unfathomable for many of them to think that some people’s votes outweigh others or that a candidate can win the popular vote and still lose. It’s why the results of 2016 were shocking to many, and explains the confusion some felt with the United States’ fixation on a few states. Following Election Day, newspapers ran headlines like “The surprising election system that make you wonder ‘Is the U.S. actually a democratic country?’” and “’Winner takes all’: the U.S.’s weird democracy,” questioning the uncertainty surrounding the race despite Biden’s lead in overall votes.

The president’s rampant claims of voter fraud and refusal to concede are now being seen as an act of desperation, and one that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Many newspapers have already moved on to highlighting the potential of a strong U.S.-South Korea alliance under Joe Biden. Biden himself got a start on that when he launched a first-of-its-kind column in Yonhap News Agency—the AP of South Korea—on October 30. “Words matter—and a president’s words matter even more,” he wrote in one column. “As President, I'll stand with South Korea, strengthening our alliance to safeguard peace in East Asia and beyond, rather than extorting Seoul with reckless threats to remove our troops.” He ended the column with “Katchi Kapshida,” the slogan for the U.S.-South Korea military alliance that means “We go together” in English. Partly as a result, the president-elect is already a favorite among many who are tired of Trump, who has bashed the country for its military spending.

If anything, the U.S. election will likely be another reason for Koreans to show support for their own government, which has dealt with both the pandemic and elections far better than the United States. Social trust in public institutions has risen in the country over the past few months for these very reasons, despite Koreans being notoriously distrusting of their government. The same cannot be said for the U.S.

Maxim Eristavi is a Ukraine-based journalist and the founder of Hromadske International, an internet TV station.

I come from a part of Europe that is the most invested in American politics and election cycles. It always astonishes me how average Eastern Europeans can casually jump into debates about politics across the Atlantic, yet are barely aware of what’s happening in their own backyard.

Take my dad, a truck driver from eastern Ukraine. While America counted the votes in presidential elections, he spent hours with me on the phone theorizing whether Philly suburban votes and the Wisconsin flip would be enough to land Biden the victory. Just a week before that, my dad was utterly uninvested in who was running for city council in the Ukrainian local elections.

But the 2020 election campaign in the U.S. was a much-needed reality check for us. Some conclusions were dark. Looking at America openly playing with authoritarianism made us realize that no democracy is immune to collapse. Watching severe polarization in the United States and seeing the same happening in our region made us realize that we face a much bigger global challenge than just bridging a national divide.

But there were upsides, too. Americans overcoming voter suppression and taking time to count all the votes resonated with so many Eastern Europeans who still struggle to defend their votes [. Booting out an autocratic-leaning demagogue through a peaceful election resonated, too. There are several local tyrants on whom we wish the same fate.

In Eastern Europe, we keep naming our streets after American politicians for a reason. Having the last-standing colonial empire armed with nukes as a neighbor is a source of constant existential fear. When Moscow invades or interferes with former Russian colonies, the show of solidarity from the rest of Europe often comes too late or doesn’t come at all. Before Trump, United States would fill that gap. After a four-year break, we would like to welcome that ally back, but on an equal par this time. These elections proved that the frontlines of European democracy are not so much different from the United States, after all.

Amir Tibon is U.S. news editor for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and until recently the paper’s correspondent in Washington.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Biden on November 8 and emphasized the fact that he and Biden have known each other for decades. He stopped short of referring to Biden as “president-elect” at the time, probably out of fear of angering Trump, who still has two months left in the Oval Office. But Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, who is Netanyahu’s closest adviser, publicly spoke on Monday of a future “Biden administration” as a given fact—ignoring Trump’s insistence that he, not Biden, had won the election.

Sadly, Trump’s denial of the election results, and his attack on the integrity of the election, could ultimately become a larger feature of his legacy in our part of the world than any policy decisions he made as president. His behavior in the face of defeat is a gift to bad actors in the region, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the mullahs in Tehran, who have their own history of undermining and even overturning elections results that threatened their hold on power. However, it has been encouraging to see at least some Republicans, such as President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney, acknowledge Biden’s victory and call for an orderly transfer of power. If American democracy will successfully overcome this current crisis, it will send a clear message all over the world—including in the Middle East.

Donald Trump will be remembered by most Israelis as a friendly and supportive president, who moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and paved the way for Israel to sign normalization accords with several Arab countries. But even among Israelis who were saddened by his loss, there isn’t a great sense of fear with regard to the incoming Joe Biden administration. Biden is seen as a moderate Democrat with a long history of support for Israel, and Israelis who follow the news more closely are also aware of the fact that Republicans had a successful election in Congress, increasing the likelihood that Biden, in a divided Washington, will have to govern from the center.

Maria Lipman is senior associate at Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia at George Washington University.

The 2020 presidential election has hardly been a turning point in the perception of the United States in Russia, where 70 percent consider the U.S. their country’s worst enemy. The Russian people’s animosity toward the United States may be the result of Kremlin propaganda, but this propaganda falls on fertile ground. Public responsiveness to the Kremlin’s position on the United States is sharply different from the late Cold War perception, when the United States had great appeal for millions in the Soviet Union, despite condemnations of America by Communist propaganda.

The infatuation with America that peaked during Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika gradually gave way to resentment, as the U.S., now the sole superpower, pursued policies, such as NATO enlargement or the bombing of Yugoslavia, in full disregard of Russia’s interests and concerns. The 2014 annexation of Crimea was a turning point: As the West condemned and punished Russia for the very act that made its people feel strong and proud, Russians overwhelmingly shared the Kremlin’s anti-American sentiment. During the Trump presidency, when the U.S. mainstream media engaged in persistent Russia-bashing and in digging up “secret schemes” aimed at installing a “Kremlin’s candidate” in the White House and undermining American democracy, America was progressively losing its luster, even among westernized and liberal-minded Russians. “The way the American press writes about the topic, it’s like they’ve lost their heads,” one Russian journalist told the New Yorker in 2017.

The Russian state media coverage of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign mostly focused on imperfections of the American electoral system, on the accusations of fraud, the prospect of endless lawsuits and threats of violence. According to pollsters, both Kremlin loyalists and critics expressed highly negative views of the U.S. election. Some surely gloated over the American “beacon of democracy” failing to manage a democratic election.

Bruno Maçães is a non-resident senior fellow at Hudson Institute and a senior advisor at Flint Global in London. He was the Portuguese Europe Minister from 2013 to 2015.

EU governments coordinated a speedy and collective response to the election results. They moved early to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory and they did it simultaneously (with two or three expected exceptions). This was unusual, a sign of much greater coordination in foreign policy, but also a way to put pressure on Donald Trump and to avoid becoming entangled in the legal and political morass everyone knew would follow.

No one in Europe was surprised by Trump’s reaction, but there is little alarmism. The European establishment has no illusions about Trump, but still believes in the U.S. political system and is confident the process will work in the end.

So there has been a focus on substance—what will follow in a Biden presidency but also how to think about 2024 and especially what is happening with the GOP—and little interest in the political circus. We have enough on our plates right now.

Peter Sparding is a transatlantic fellow in GMF's Europe Program in Washington, DC, where he works on issues related to the transatlantic and global economy.

The Trump era has led many Germans to question the overall stability of American democracy. According to a poll for the public TV station ARD taken the day after the election, while 85 percent of respondents welcomed a Biden victory, 77 percent were worried about developments in the United States in the ensuing weeks and only 38 percent expressed confidence in U.S. courts to adjudicate disputes fairly.

The overall sentiment in Germany can thus be summarized as one of relief at the apparent outcome of the election, while worries about the long-term stability of German-U.S. relations remain. Trump’s refusal to concede the election are viewed with great concern in this regard. Given the unique importance its relationship with the U.S. has for Germany, the introduction of significant doubt and potential instability into the transatlantic partnership is a major problem for policymakers in Berlin. If the U.S. political process remains as unpredictable as it currently is, then allies and partners will have little choice but to hedge against potential future shocks. Yet for Germany, which has relied on the United States for so long, that would entail major efforts, especially regarding security policy, that have thus far seemed difficult to achieve. For now, the Biden presidency offers an opportunity to revive the German-American partnership and, hopefully, to put it on a more mature and stable footing for the future.

Arturo Sarukhan is a consultant based in Washington, non-resident scholar at Brookings, and former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. (2007-13).

Over these past four years, many in the United States seem to have forgotten the lessons 20th century history has taught us about what happens when xenophobic demagogues get elected via the ballot box. Donald Trump has been trolling democracy and political norms for the past four years, and he is now trolling the Constitution of the United States. And what happens to democracy here has a domino effect for liberal democracies elsewhere around the world, particularly at a time when the United States—and Trump’s diplomatic vandalism and havoc, and his Sinatra Doctrine of “my way or the highway”—has created a vacuum in terms of its geopolitical engagement and constructive leadership.

For the Americas, a region of the world that has painfully and sometimes awkwardly—with a few notable exceptions and some more recent reversals—moved towards democratic consolidation over the past several decades, what’s happening today in the United States is scrutinized with a sense of bewilderment, concern and, in some cases, derision, in capitals across the hemisphere. And of course, characterizations regarding the “bananization” of U.S. democracy and electoral processes naturally abound in a region where O. Henry’s coined term of banana republics was first applied.

There’s no doubt that if what has happened here in the runup to the elections—with a sitting president stating that fraud is being perpetrated against him, refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power and to acknowledge and recognize the winner, and stating that the only way he would lose the election was via an electoral fraud—were happening elsewhere in the Americas or the world, for that matter, it would be branded by U.S. media as an attempted coup. That U.S. institutions—mainly the courts and the electoral system, albeit with its imperfections and growing need for reform—and the media continue to check and balance the executive is of little solace to those of us who see this country painfully polarized and tribalized, with the real and troubling weaponization of disinformation and lies feeding the tectonic and sociodemographic fractures that are tearing its social contract asunder.

Shen Lu is a contributor to Politico’s China Watcher newsletter. She has written for ChinaFile, Columbia Journalism Review and the New York Times, among other outlets.

In 2020, America’s mishandling of Covid-19 had fueled a dismissive attitude from many Chinese toward democracy. The contested presidential election just further validated the sense of “Chinese exceptionalism,” especially among nationalists.

The U.S. presidential election garnered huge interest in China. Even though state media is prohibited from covering the U.S. election closely, social media discussion about the election was widespread. While Donald Trump refused to concede, Chinese web users created a slew of memes and jokes portraying Trump as untrustworthy and petulant. One recent meme showed Trump with a credit score of 116 out of 950—a dent in his reliability that came after he refused to accept the election results.

What will it mean for the U.S.-China relationship? While many in China are still baffled by how Trump became president, he has his share of supporters in China, who root for him for a wide range of reasons, including some nationalists who believe he would accelerate the decay of American democracy. Many in China believe a Joe Biden presidency won’t be able to restore the relationship between the two world’s biggest economies. Believing that the United States will continue to take measures to contain China’s rise, they are ready for a rocky, if not rockier, U.S.-China relationship in the four years ahead.

Rasha Al Aqeedi is an Iraqi researcher and analyst based in Washington D.C. and a fellow at Center for Global Policy.

Iraq’s thoughts on America are hardly the making of Donald Trump or the recent elections. The complicated relationship dates back several decades and significantly soured 30 years ago following the U.S.-led campaign to expel the invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Then, much like today, the Iraqi people have had no say on their government’s choices and actions but have consistently been on the receiving end of often unwanted American attention. From the strangling economic sanctions of the 90s and bombing campaigns during the Bill Clinton administration, through the invasion and failure of state building of President G.W. Bush’s two terms, and to the Obama era indifference, Iraqis do not exactly have the rosiest perception of American messaging on democracy.

This year has to an extent shown a different America in the eyes of many Iraqis. The pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests portrayed the United States in ways that were unfamiliar and unexpected to Iraqi watchers. America has long been perceived as invincible, but 2020 showed Iraqis that even the United States does not always have everything figured out. For those who followed the elections closely, there were apparent reasons to cheer for one candidate or the other. The pro-Trump crowds in Iraq were hoping for a Trump re-election believing that Iran’s influence in the country would be contained and omitted. Meanwhile, the Biden hopefuls were hoping that no additional drones would attack any Iranians or militia groups, sparing Baghdad a showdown between the United States and Iran on Iraqi territory.

As a result, Iraqis watched closely for election results, but there was little interest in Donald Trump’s accusatory tweets and the claims of fraudulent elections beyond creating a few social media memes, such as one comparing him to an Iraqi clerical politician refusing to give up power. However, both groups are monitoring how the new administration would approach an Iraq that is far more complicated today, after years of brutal conflict with ISIS, than it was a decade ago. And many Iraqis aren’t hopeful: President-elect Joe Biden’s record in Iraq from his days as vice president are as controversial and unpopular as that of his predecessors.

The last few weeks have seen Afghans, perhaps more than any other non-U.S. nationals, followed the developments on the U.S. elections very closely. After all, the results of these elections have a direct impact on the future of Afghanistan—a country where the United States has been fighting its longest war in history.

The political spectacle of the ballot-counting and disputed results came across to many Afghans very amusing and deeply familiar. Not too long ago, and not for the first time in this decade, Afghanistan found itself dealing with its own election dispute with political rivals refusing to give up their claim of the presidency. Each time this happened, a U.S.-brokered deal or intervention helped the disputing parties reach an agreeable compromise of power-sharing. One such coalition, dubbed the National Unity Government and set up in 2014 with the help of then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, created a new position of “CEO of Afghanistan” to assuage Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who claimed victory alongside President Ashraf Ghani.

And so Afghans, who consider themselves well-versed and experienced in issues of political deadlocks and elections dispute, took the liberty of offering to intervene and broker similar deals between President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden in 2020. Others offered to send Dr. Abdullah, who is currently the Chairperson of the High Council for National Reconciliation, another position: mediator. Many Afghans on social media platforms seemed to take a dark pleasure in these jokes, which reflected the widespread displeasure among Afghans of the extent of U.S. influence on their elections.

But despite the sarcastic humor, Afghans remain deeply concerned over the ongoing political dispute that could have strong ramifications on the ongoing Afghan peace talks with the Taliban insurgency. Already, the country has seen a steady rise in insurgent violence since the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban earlier this year. The ongoing exit of U.S. forces—in keeping with the promise made by Trump—has emboldened the Taliban. A political dispute in the United States, even as it reduces its support to Afghan forces, could be detrimental for security in the country.

Nevertheless, Biden’s victory has infused a sense of calculated and cautious optimism in Afghans who hope that the new head of state is far less impulsive as the previous leader and does not make a hasty and unplanned departure, leaving Afghanistan—a long-standing ally in the war against terrorism—in a state of chaos and rising violence.

Trump threatens to wreak havoc on GOP from beyond the White House

Politico -

President Donald Trump has spent the three weeks since he lost the election savaging a pair of GOP governors for not backing his claims he was robbed.

Republicans are worried it’s just the start of what’s in store from the soon-to-be-ex-president.

Trump’s attacks on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine — both of whom are up for reelection in 2022 — has led to broader concerns within the party that he will use his post-presidency to exact revenge on perceived enemies and insert himself into races in ways that are not helpful.

While the 2022 midterm elections are a ways off, the president’s broadsides are giving fuel to would-be primary challengers in both states — raising the prospect that Republicans will be forced into ugly and expensive nomination fights that could jeopardize their hold on the two governors’ mansions.

Trump’s intrusions into Georgia and Ohio provide an early test case for how he might use his stranglehold on the conservative base to control the party long after he leaves the White House. Never mind that Trump will no longer be in power: Cross him, and you will pay.

“The president’s jabs at Govs. Kemp and DeWine could invite primaries, and that’s exactly the chatter he wants to start,” said Republican strategist Mike DuHaime, who oversaw Chris Christie’s successful New Jersey gubernatorial campaigns.

“The power the president holds over elected Republicans is due to his strength among GOP primary voters in every state and district right now. He may be able to make or break candidates in GOP primaries for years to come,” added DuHaime, who formerly served as a senior adviser to the Republican Governors Association.

Trump lashed out at DeWine following the governor’s appearance on CNN last Sunday, when the Ohio Republican called Joe Biden the president-elect and said that for “the country’s sake it’s important for a normal transition to start.”

Trump responded on Twitter, writing: “Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!”

The president has repeatedly gone after Kemp, imploring him to intervene to stop what Trump has baselessly claimed are irregularities in the state’s vote count. Trump complained on Twitter that “the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless,” adding: "Where is @BrianKempGA?"

He also retweeted polling showing Kemp’s approval rating taking a hit. “Wow! Governor Kemp will hopefully see the light before it is too late. Must finally take charge!" he wrote.

Then he tagged Kemp in a tweet in which he demanded that Republicans “get tough.”

Trump allies have joined the pile-on. Fox News host Sean Hannity said Kemp is “cowering in fear,” and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz accused the governor of failing to ensure the integrity of the election.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, meanwhile, devoted part of his podcast on Thursday to blasting Kemp.

Trump’s influence in Republican primaries could extend beyond Georgia and Ohio. He has already vowed to campaign against Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a sometimes Trump critic who said in June that she was “struggling” with the question of whether she supported Trump.

“Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski,” Trump tweeted at the time.

He added: “Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”

Republicans view Kemp as more vulnerable to a primary challenge than DeWine, noting that the Georgian has seen an erosion in support among conservatives.

He came under fire over his decision to appoint Kelly Loeffler to Georgia’s Senate seat over a Trump favorite, Rep. Doug Collins. And after endorsing Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial contest, Trump has openly clashed with Kemp over his handling of the coronavirus. During an April news conference, the president said he was “not happy with Brian Kemp, I will tell you that.”

Trump allies have already begun to encourage Collins to challenge Kemp in 2022. When Hannity raised the idea during an interview on his radio show, Collins, who is leading Trump's recount effort in Georgia, chuckled in response.

Kemp has seen his approval rating dip to 37 percent, according to a survey released last week. Republicans worry that a damaging primary could leave him hobbled in a potential general election rematch against former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, whom he narrowly defeated in 2018.

Kemp on Friday certified the state's 16 electoral votes for Biden, though he offered an olive branch to the president's supporters, saying it was "unacceptable" that "thousands of uncounted ballots" were found in a post-election audit.

Trump, meanwhile, has long regarded DeWine as insufficiently loyal. During his 2018 race, the Ohio governor frequently skipped the president’s rallies in the state. It did not go unnoticed at the White House.

While DeWine has high approval ratings, he’s drawn opposition from Trump supporters over coronavirus restrictions he’s implemented. The 73-year-old governor was booed during a September appearance at a Trump rally.

Among the names being mentioned as a potential primary opponent is Max Miller, who’s played key roles in the Trump White House and on the reelection campaign. Miller, who’s from Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, and hails from a prominent Ohio political family, declined to comment.

Rep. Jim Jordan, another staunch Trump loyalist, has also been floated as a potential challenger to DeWine — though many Ohio Republicans think he wants to remain in Congress. Still, the congressman has drawn attention for his pointed criticism of the governor's coronavirus response.

Former Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, who aligned himself with Trump during an unsuccessful 2018 Senate bid, said he was open to challenging the incumbent governor. He criticized DeWine for calling Biden president-elect.

“I believe the least he should have done is allow the president to work through the legal process afforded to him under the law and assure all legal votes are counted,” Renacci wrote in a text message.

Trump has shown himself to be a powerful force in GOP primaries. His endorsements of Kemp and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018 vaulted them to statewide office. The same year, he turned his fire on then-GOP Rep. Mark Sanford, sinking him in his primary contest.

And against the wishes of party leaders, Trump endorsed Kansas Republican Kris Kobach over a sitting Republican governor. Kobach defeated the appointed incumbent in the primary, then lost to Democrat Laura Kelly in the general election.

Trump’s deep base of conservative support virtually ensures that he’ll remain a force once he leaves office. And the fact that many of his backers are convinced the election was stolen from him could intensify their loyalty.

But party strategists worry that could spell trouble in upcoming elections.

“In the short term, President Trump’s attacks on these governors serves his interest in casting doubt on the election results. But if it invites serious primary challengers, it could hurt Republicans in the long run and drain valuable resources that would be used for a general election,” said Jon Thompson, a former top RGA official.

It isn’t the only way Trump could handcuff the GOP. The president’s flirtation with a 2024 comeback bid threatens to freeze out other would-be GOP candidates who’ve begun laying the groundwork for a national campaign.

All of which has heightened GOP fears that Trump’s post-White House political activities will make it impossible for the party to turn the page.

“I’d be thinking in terms of how do you help reelect Republican governors. Donald Trump doesn’t think that way. His worldview starts and stops with his own personal interests at the exact moment he’s typing out a tweet,” said Tucker Martin, who was a top aide to ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

It’s an open question how involved Trump will get in future Republican primaries. People close to the president say he’s keenly interested in down-ballot races and expect him to play a kingmaker role.

Former Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) was skeptical that Trump would target Kemp. But who knows, he said.

“The president,” Westmoreland said, “is pretty unpredictable.”

Officials Must Resist Ordering Winter Shutdowns

Real Clear Politics -

As we move toward winter and eagerly await access to a vaccine, discussions about how to address potential new spikes in COVID-19 cases are occurring around the country. In framing these responses, it is critical that leaders at every level of government take stock of all we have learned about this virus and avoid actions that risk putting hard-working Americans in a precarious economic position going into the new year.

Joe Biden: Iran's Economic Savior

Real Clear Politics -

No nation will gain more from the apparent election victory of former Vice President Joe Biden than Iran. Its gloating response to that event sounds a lot like a gangster selling protection.

Madison Cawthorn, Face of Republicans' Hateful Future

Real Clear Politics -

When Madison Cawthorn was elected to represent North Carolina in the House of Representatives last week, he made history. The 25-year-old Republican, a motivational speaker who campaigned on a message about overcoming adversity, became the youngest person elected to Congress in nearly 200 years. He marked the momentous occasion with a simple tweet, encapsulating both his congressional run and this moment in national politics: "Cry more, lib."


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