Certainly you can expect to hear plenty of suggestions that it is as the campaign for next year’s US presidential election starts to take shape.
First, of course, the Republicans will need a candidate, and so far at least things have been a little slow to get going on that front. The only three candidates to have officially declared they are running are, to put it kindly, outsiders – Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent is Too Damn High Party (who is apparently a registered Democrat trying to avoid a Democratic primary); gay rights activist Fred Karger and ‘birther’ activist Andy Martin (a birther being one of those who still insist that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and so isn’t eligible to be president).
But on April Fools Day, a couple of stronger likely candidates took a step closer with their respective announcements – former Pennsylvanian Sen. Rick Santorum and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Santorum announced Friday that he intended to take part in the first official Republican debate, which is scheduled to take place on May 5 in South Carolina, and urged other rumoured candidates to throw their hat in the ring too. If foreign policy does come up in the debate, expect Arab world unrest to take centre stage. But expect China to come up too.
Where does Santorum stand on China? It’s clearly still too early to say for sure, but he did manage to take some gratuitous whacks in his op-ed response to Obama’s State of the Union address in January. In an article entitled ‘From Obama, the same old liberalism’ (what does that even mean?) Santorum was keen to paint China as a threat to the United States and its values.
‘The glitz and glamour of a state dinner could do nothing to improve our nation’s ability to apply leverage to the Chinese on a wide array of issues — ranging from currency manipulation to trade and human rights — when it is China holding all the cards, or should I say all our debt,’ he wrote.
China was the only country that got a mention in the piece, which lamented Obama’s ‘repackaging of the tried and true Washington-knows-better-than-you liberalism he has tried to force on the American public for the first half of his term.’
Setting aside the fact that liberalism as defined by the dictionary is a movement emphasizing ‘intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity’ and ‘individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition’ (it’s a shame the word has been hijacked and used as a negative label) the fact that China got a mention above Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt is an indicator that candidates will have to set out their positions on the country.
Rabble-rousing likely candidate Michele Bachmann, who CNN reported Friday is planning on setting up an exploratory committee, also took up the China debt issue in her speech last month to the Conservative Political Action Conference.
‘They’re not worried about this. You may know that the President of China is named Hu. His name is President Hu,’ she told the largely young audience gathered in Washington. ‘And with all the money that we owe China, I think we might rightly say “Hu’s” your daddy. Right. “Hu’s” your daddy.’
She must have been proud – her little joke was used in numerous headlines.
Let’s hope that the quality of the discussion on China improves as the field solidifies. Still, with China basher and potential candidate Donald Trump still harping on about Obama’s birth certificate at every opportunity, I won’t be holding my breath just yet.