Commentary

Regional Observers not Excited by U.S. Presidential Candidates

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

Views from the Region

The impending U.S. presidential elections are finally coming into stark focus, with Democrat Hillary Clinton claiming her party’s presidential nomination and squaring off against the Republican presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. Regional media observers have been considering Mrs. Clinton’s chances for winning the White House, as well as the implications a Clinton presidency could have for the Middle East. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando much of the commentary is also focused on Mr. Trump and his anti-Muslim rhetoric. It appears that, for many in Gulf and beyond, neither of the candidates presents an exciting choice, although many have been quick to recognize the historic nature of Mrs. Clinton’s achievement.

The Peninsula editorial, like many other regional papers, has been careful not to show its hand in terms of the preference for a U.S. presidential candidate, but it was quick to highlight the historical nature of Clinton's nomination and the possibility of making further history by being elected president of the United States: " after becoming the first women to clinch a presidential nomination, she has created history....It’s no looking back for Hillary and the lawyer and former diplomat is likely to become bolder to fend off the maverick Trump’s wayward moves. She will exploit the real estate tycoon’s propensity to go back on his own words as he did yesterday by claiming his remarks on a district judge were misconstrued. Hillary has an arsenal to keep shooting at Trump who doesn’t have much to say against the Democratic nominee except harping on the email issue. Hillary will pull no punches because what is at stake is the Oval Office of the White House, and a chance to make history by being the first woman president of the United States.”

The Khaleej Times editorial, on the other hand, echoes some of the debates that are taking place in the United States, cautioning against drawing any conclusions at this stage in the presidential race, considering the cloud of legal uncertainty surrounding Mrs. Clinton and the possibility of a third party challenge: “History was created, to the sound of thunderous applause, because, in the 240-year-old history of the United States, she is the first woman to secure the nomination of a political party....but let this not be a case of counting the eggs before they are hatched. Even if we weren't to factor in the matter of the FBI indictment over Clinton's private email server controversy, a new study shows up interesting stats.... With a lot of political pundits in the world's second-largest democracy now suggesting Bernie Sanders run as an Independent candidate, this is going to be interesting game of watch-and-watch for the whole world.”

Mrs. Clinton’s vulnerabilities are also the subject of a recent Gulf Times article, drawing attention to her alleged credibility deficit with the voters: “She even quoted herself in a 1995 speech she gave in Beijing, where she said ‘women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.’ But in a direct duel with Trump, her focus on women may change. While many women are put off by Trump’s disparaging rhetoric and his macho attitude, most voters for whom women’s rights are important already vote Democratic. In other words, Clinton doesn’t have much to win with this subject. Clinton’s weaknesses present another hurdle....Many people see Clinton as a part of an entrenched establishment, a political machine uncomfortably close to big money interests. On top of that, she is battling for credibility amid a still-unresolved controversy over e-mails she sent from a private, unsecured account she used as secretary of state.”

Mrs. Clinton’s victory has the potential for setting an example for other women seeking office or simply a greater say in decision making in the United States and around the world. For that reason, the Saudi Gazette’s editorial commentary is intriguing: “But it would be too much to expect that Clinton’s election as president would further open the door to female leadership in every sphere or it would improve women’s rights, which, as she noted years ago, are human rights. This has not happened in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines where women have been elected president or prime minister. Obama’s record is relevant here...Although he is the first black president, he is not a black people’s president. In the same way, Clinton, if elected, will be president for all America, male and female.”

Many of the commentaries have also reflected on the political rhetoric coming in the aftermath of the tragic Orlando killings, in particular from Donald Trump. Al Jazeera’s Hamid Dabashi, in a recent op-ed, suggests that Trump is not likely to benefit from any anti-Muslim sentiment: “Soon after the news of this horrid crime came out the ever-vulgar and unfailingly rude Donald Trump congratulated himself in a tweet for having been proved right that Muslims must be barred from entering the U.S. ...Donald Trump is now presumed to be the single most loutish beneficiary of this dreadful crime. But that is a false assumption. Only those who were already convinced by his Islamophobia will now be confirmed in their bigotry....Their only chance in this election comes from his chief competition, from Hillary Clinton, a deeply despised candidate who has thrown an entire nation into the traumatic stupor of trying to convince themselves how tightly to hold their noses to vote for her only to prevent Trump from becoming the next U.S. president.”

Jerusalem Post’s Peter Wehner is likewise less than complimentary toward Mr. Trump, taking aim at the Republican electorate for having given him the nomination: “The Republican Party’s politically lethal embrace of Donald Trump is very nearly complete....The argument is that even if you don’t particularly like or trust Trump, he will not redefine the Republican Party....But he already has. Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, is waging an open attack on the party’s core views....The stain of Trump will last long after his campaign. His insults, cruelty and bigotry will sear themselves into the memory of Americans for a long time to come, especially those who are the targets of his invective. Trump is what he is — a malicious, malignant figure on the American political landscape. But Republican primary voters, in selecting him to represent their party, and Republican leaders now rallying to his side, have made his moral offenses their own.”

Finally, the Saudi Gazette editorial team, which has been quite critical of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, offers the U.S. president a compliment (of sorts), while taking direct aim at Mr. Trump: “Trump has condemned Obama for refusing to use the term ‘radical Islam’ in his condemnation of the Orlando massacre. But he has then gone on to accuse Obama of being unpatriotic, which he has followed up with the demand that the president resign....Now that Trump is breaking the rules and showing disrespect, if not indeed contempt, for the president and the presidency, he may encounter his first serious pushback. Obama may have proven to be a weak, indecisive and deeply disappointing American leader, but he has demonstrated, like the equally weak and unsuccessful Jimmy Carter before him, that he is a basically decent man overwhelmed and flummoxed by the political challenges he had to face. Demonstrating scathing disrespect for this man may not be one of Trump’s better moves.”


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