The surprises in politics

Sometimes truly strange things happen in life. For those of us in America’s West Coast, who would have thought that Jerry Brown would become Governor of California again? His first time out as our chief state executive (in his thirties, and full of rather unconventional ideas), they called him “Governor Moonbeam.” This was not meant as a compliment.

By Tom Plate

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Published: Sun 21 Nov 2010, 9:59 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:29 AM

The Brown precedent suggests: Don’t be surprised by a surprise. Here is our short list of possible unexpected developments.

Don’t be surprised if….

China is actually in serious trouble: This amazing economic success story has been flying along for two decades now like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. But its first serious mid-course atmospheric disturbance is long overdue. Almost nothing else (save a power-grab by the huge People’s Liberation Army) can explain the extreme up-tightness and excessive crackdowns, the government’s ugly response to a jailed dissident writer receiving the country’s first ever Nobel Prize, and the testosterone pushiness of its military in the surrounding high seas. This is a country—we say here, though regretfully — that suddenly seems to be in trouble. Japan won’t take too much more of China pushing it around: The Japanese public was appalled by the government’s recent cave-in to Beijing on the Senkaku (Chinese version—Diaoyu) Island crisis. A Chinese fishing ship was pushed into a Japanese ship guarding the island whose sovereignty is claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing. If I were China President Hu Jintao, with all my domestic headaches, I’d gently handle disputes with Japan for the foreseeable future. Those who study the history of the 19th and 20th century remind us that Japan, when pushed into a corner, will come out fighting. China may have more ships and planes, but Japan has better ships and planes. Think of Lexus when you think of Japan’s military. Cool it, Beijing: You may be cruising for a bruising.

North Korea has to do something dramatic — and soon: Here’s our main economic beef with the “geniuses” in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital: When will they wake up? Decades ago, China threw out the Communist economic playbook because it just wasn’t working. So did Vietnam, previously more Marxist-Leninist than Marx and Lenin combined. Now even Cuba looks to be waking up and hammering out a new economic model. Dear Comrades in North Korea: Don’t you get it? You cannot continue like this or you all wind up like Gorbachev: Out of power. That’s fine be me — but by you?

Don’t bet against the US president being Democratic again in 2013: For starters, Barack Obama is far from finished. As Karl Rove, legendary Republican strategist, argued in The Wall Street Journal recently, sitting Presidents are not that easy to unseat.

For one thing, the Republicans would have to nominate a figure that doesn’t scare half the country to death. That should eliminate Sarah Palin. Besides, if Obama falters, don’t bet against the Presidential resurrection of Hillary Clinton, now performing so skillfully as Obama’s Secretary of State. Maybe the nomination should have been hers two years ago. Maybe it will be in 2012. And don’t put it past this determined woman to beat the brains out of anyone the other guys put up. The former First Lady and US Senator from New York is aging with unusual political grace. Don’t be surprised by a surprise re-emergence.

Watch that South Korean diplomat Garner a second-term: Until recently, journalists in New York were having such a fun time beating up on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. But the quiet, self-effacing foreign minister of South Korea is showing people that sheer hard work and sincere commitment can mean a lot in public life. At the moment, he is almost a shoo-in to win a second five-year term. If it happens, it couldn’t happen to a nicer man. So—don’t be surprised!

Prof Tom Plate is the author of “Conversations With Kuan Yew”

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