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El País, Spain

The Laundry List


By Lluís Bassets

Translated By Esther French

17 February 2013

Edited by Rachel Smith


Spain - El País - Original Article (Spanish)

This is an expression that comes to mind for the annual State of the Union address, when the president of the United States gives a speech before members of Congress about his chief proposals for the future. “Laundry list” is an English phrase that indicates a long and tedious assortment of mixed topics — socks with the towels, shirts with the handkerchiefs; some things lost in the wash, others lost in the lightness of the words that the wind carries away.

As a good cliché should, it holds both a truth and a lie. Every speech, including the one Obama gave this past Tuesday, ends with adding in various topics, many of them as obligatory as they are idle and empty. But not everything that the president said belongs to the jumbled and insignificant political laundry of Washington. Obama outlined some proposals as ambitious as they would be difficult to achieve, and that mark a horizon and a potential legacy. Obama will probably be able to crown his efforts with a successful immigration policy, although this is less likely to happen with gun control, the environment or balancing the deficit.

The laundry list items that most interest Europeans are the international ones, headed by a free trade agreement between the EU and the United States that could stimulate our depressed economies and strengthen trans-Atlantic ties, at the same time as emerging countries are showing their ambition, with Beijing at their head. There are more items of European interest on the list, such as the case of drones and their selective assassinations, into which Obama has entered on tiptoes, but with clarity of purpose: He will continue ordering executions that are in the security interests of the United States, but he will work with Congress to legislate his activity. If this is not done, China and Russia, as well as other military powers with less to recommend them, will want to set the pace in this new type of war, to the detriment of Europeans, who are always attentive to international legality and rule of law, as is fitting.

Obama supports a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program, which interests the Europeans, but he will do all that is necessary; that is to say, he will resort to force the moment that the Iranians are about to obtain [a nuclear weapon]. He also supports the Arab democratic transitions, although he will not dictate “the course of change in countries like Egypt,” and he will limit himself to maintaining pressure on Syria over the ongoing civil war. He barely had a word for the international press on something that will put his presidential legacy at stake: “We will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.” In the spring, he will visit the Jewish nation for the first time as president, and he will also include Palestine in a trip with enormous expectations riding on it, right on the opposite end of his laundry list.



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