Friday, March 29, 2019

Economist – Polis, a Libertarian Democrat?

In an interview in the latest Economist, Governor Jared Polis is profiled as a Libertarian Democrat whose success will depend on striking a balance between a progressive legislature and campaign agenda versus a state with a moderate and conservative fiscal disposition.

My citations were:

Last autumn’s election was the most significant for Colorado’s political realignment in more than 40 years, says Floyd Ciruli of Ciruli Associates, a political consulting firm.

The legislature, which is now in full session, will not share the sense of moderation and is likely to pull Mr. Polis further left than he wants, according to Mr. Ciruli.

The author, Alexandra Suich Bass, ends with placing the political burden on Polis

The state’s political transformation is still relatively new. Whether it lasts will depend in part on the success of Mr. Polis’s reign.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

John Ensslin is Back

It’s good to read a John Ensslin byline. Back on the Denver news scene, he covered the mayoral debate for Colorado Politics (March 26). The primary questions in the Denver mayor’s race have not changed in months: Can Mayor Hancock’s challengers force a runoff and is growth and its attendant affects the issue that frames people’s choices?

There are some similarities to the 2011 election when Hancock was first elected:

Continuity vs. Change. Hancock, a longtime city council member and president, represented continuity. Chris Romer was for change.

Insider vs. Outsider. Although Romer was an established businessman, he wasn’t considered a city insider. Hancock was.

Liberal vs. More Liberal. Hancock was the liberal candidate. Today, he would be considered center-left.

Growth vs. Less and Different Growth. The election in 2011 was still focused on recovery from the great recession. Eight years later, the costs and excess of Denver’s spectacular growth are the issue.

Read The Buzz: Denver Post: Construction Cranes Everywhere. Mayor’s Race as Referendum on Growth.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Congratulations Colorado. A Very Sharp Looking Logo.

Governor Polis just gave Colorado a new logo. Mountains, evergreen and the state flag’s “C.” Very modern Colorado.

DeGette Having an AOC Moment?

Incumbent congresspersons are usually not in serious primaries. Diana DeGette, in her twelfth term, is in a real fight. Federico Pena and Ken Salazar have endorsed challenger, Crisanta Duran. Expect more as the year proceeds. Like AOC in New York, big city Democratic incumbents (Anglo) are being challenged. Is DeGette ready for a fight or retirement?

Rep. Diana DeGette and Crisanta Duran

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

California’s Growth Stalls While Florida and Texas Boom

After decades of steady and often spectacular growth, mostly from migration from other states (augmented by other countries), California’s growth has been cut in half the last eight years from its recent trend. Out migration now exceeds new arrivals. Florida and Texas continue on their recovery from the Great Recession starting in 2008. Both are drawing many U.S. residents to their economies and lifestyles.

California’s attitude, especially in its high-lifestyle coastal region, is anti-growth, characterized by municipal and county restrictions on businesses and new housing. The cost of available housing has skyrocketed, pushing many Millennials to look for more affordable regions, mostly out-of-state. The Democratic single-party state government is also highly burdensome for new businesses and new housing development. Taxes are high and homelessness is now the top complaint in most communities.

The California dream has collapsed for many and other choices are being made.

No Collusion, No Impeachment – KOA and 9KUSA

The Mueller report finding of no collusion is very good news for the President. Trump’s mantra of no collusion is validated. In 9KUSA and KOA interviews, the politics of the Mueller report was dissected. The finding of no collusion means no impeachment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi already understood the politics and stated that for impeachment to be credible and not work to the Democrats’ detriment, it had to have the Mueller report outlining “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But, the Russians did interfere with the election by social media efforts to divide the U.S. electorate and help Trump and by hacking Democratic emails for distribution to damage Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. Did it make a difference? Not determinable, but the 77,000 three-state victory of Trump will forever be less legitimate. And, there is a host of contacts between his campaign associates and principals and the Russians to forever raise doubt that there was an, at least, unethical intent and action.

But, Mueller was less definite on obstruction of justice. Attorney General Barr’s letter states:

Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Hence, there will be a demand for the evidence “on both sides of the question” and for Congress and the public to make their own judgement. According to Barr, the lack of finding collusion was fatal to the charge of obstruction as it undermined the “evil intent” requirement.

Trump will, of course, argue he’s exonerated and any further inquiries are partisan harassment. Democrats will demand the evidence and continue at least some investigations. And, of course, the President’s re-election effort is benefited by the lifting of the cloud and endless stories of subpoenas, raids, testimonies and pleas. Although Trump was harmed by the investigation, and would have been possibly fatally damaged by a finding of collusion or obstruction, the success of his re-election is based on other political factors.

The midterm result and recent polls, including from his preferred FOX News, show that he starts from behind in voter approval and head-to-head face-offs because of his unpresidential demeanor and many unpopular policies on health care, immigration and taxes. Historically, incumbent presidents get re-elected. Both Trump and the Democrats are now back to the real task of convincing voters they should lead the country after 2020.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Honeymoon is Over

The National Popular Vote (NPV) law was not in the State of the State. As the tweet reports, the NPV is partisan, controversial and little understood. A new poll confirms the tweet. As Colorado Politics, Complete Colorado and the Denver Post report, a new Magellan Strategies poll shows a quarter of the population has no opinion on the law, and the remainder are divided about equally on its favorability (34% favorable to 37% unfavorable).

If Republicans manage to get it to the ballot, today, the vote is equally divided at 47 percent. It would most likely lose and Democrats own it. As expected, it’s a partisan decision with 81 percent of Republicans opposed to it and 77 percent of Democrats for it. Currently, unaffiliated voters lean against 44 percent to 48 percent, another sign proponents rushed the law through with little explanation.

Democrats will be playing defense on a law that will produce national attention, but that is peripheral to their state agenda. The honeymoon for Democrats is over, and one of the governor’s and legislature’s least important initiatives may also be the least defensible.

See Colorado Politics: Colorado voters evenly split over “National Popular Vote” law, poll shows

Friday, March 22, 2019

Are Democrats Overreaching? Will There be a Backlash?

The commentary is rising, especially outside the Boulder, Denver confines that the Democratic legislature is rushing its full agenda through in breakneck speed – snow cyclones be damned. Does their behavior constitutes overreach and will it lead to a backlash similar to 2013, the last time Democrats were in command?

Democrats argue that the liberal agenda they’re passing were issues they were elected on. They are reassured by their political strategist that, as opposed to 2013 when Democratic control and legislature behavior was judged as overreach and political punishment followed with recalls, subsequent loss of the State Senate and a more difficult re-election for then Governor John Hickenlooper, 2020 will be another Trump blowout in Colorado, leaving the Democrats intact, if not enhanced, regardless of their rushed agenda in 2019.

Gov. Jared Polis | Photo: Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images 
But, opponents are not sitting it out. A ballot initiative challenge has been mounted to the Democrats’ National Popular Vote law, which opponents claim will diminish Colorado’s clout in presidential elections and make it a subsidiary of California and New York voters. If it gets to the ballot, the Democrats and especially Governor Polis will have a busy time defending it since almost no time was spent explaining it and it appears blatantly partisan.

Also, a couple of political committees have been formed specifically targeting Polis, advocating a recall (highly unlikely) and simply opposing his re-election. But, clearly the honeymoon is over and Polis and fellow Democrats will be dealing with an increasingly hostile environment.

Opponents argue that the 2018 election was mostly about sending Donald Trump a message and not the far left agendas of the legislature and Polis. In fact, they point out that when voters actually dealt with state ballot issues, they said no to new oil and gas regulations and no to more taxes for schools and roads. They also believe that, beyond overreaching on policy, Democratic leadership is avoiding transparency and accountability; i.e., rushing bills to avoid study or reading them and calling meetings to avoid opponents’ participation.

The Democratic agenda is wide and deep. Along with a major overhaul of oil and gas regulations, including making clear that Colorado doesn’t promote but just regulates the industry, it includes spending state and business revenue in prodigious amounts. Full-day kindergarten is a more than $200 million annual price tag, a new annual commitment that gives pause to fiscally-conscious Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee. There is also a paid leave requirement being pressed on businesses, which is cited by the state’s chambers of commerce to add $1 billion in costs. Democrats are also taking on guns, the death penalty, TABOR limits, sex education and a host of other divisive topics that they have been waiting to pass for years.

The oil and gas regulations could provide the most potent political fight if the industry can identify and unite on an effective strategy. Although some New England states have banned fracking, no state with an industry as large and well-developed as Colorado has passed legislation that would allow specific bans and regulations against the industry. In an article in the Washington Times Valerie Richardson reported:

Colorado “is going to do something that hasn’t been done, and that is: a state with a very significant pool of gas and oil is going to make it a lot more difficult to mine it,” said Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli.

“There is really now ample warning that the way this legislation is drafted, it’s essentially going to allow some level of a ban,” he said. “The public is clearly divided on this.”

Climate change has been the top issue for many Democrats, especially from Boulder, which includes Governor Polis and House and Senate leadership (House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader).

“When you look at the demographic changes in the state and the fact that climate change has now become a civic religion with a significant number of people, it’s hard for gas and oil to compete in that environment no matter how good their PR is,” Mr. Ciruli said.

If the economy should deteriorate as expected next year, Democrats could be held liable for both busting the state budget and driving one of Colorado most important industries to reducing activity and hence, employment and tax payments.

“If this turns out to be as economically devastating as talked about, mainly because it allows for actual banning, or incredibly draconian regulations, the oil and gas industry has choices. We’re not the only place they can drill, although we’re a good one,” Mr. Ciruli said. “And I think the Democrats will be vulnerable if that turns out to be true.”

Democrats need to be especially concerned if a cutback in Colorado’s oil and gas industry coincides with a recession next year. Someone will get blamed.

See the Washington Times: With Hickenlooper out, Colorado’s empowered environmentalists target oil and gas industry

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Can Hickenlooper Answer the Main Questions?

After months of testing the water, John Hickenlooper gets a debut on CNN’s town hall. But, he faces formidable challenges to achieve a sustainable campaign. A myriad of new competitors are entering the race – Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden – on a weekly basis. He still appears to lack a clear constituency or a stimulating message besides his quirky personality and desire to bring people together to do good things.

Hickenlooper polls below one percent, has no superior source of funds, such as the new online sources used effectively by Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders, or big donor gifts that seated senators, especially from politically rich states like California and New York, have. Although he raised $1 million at his announcement, it’s not clear if he has a stream of donations beyond his initial introduction.

Hickenlooper is not the favorite of activists in any of the major Democratic primary constituencies. Liberal issue activists have Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; minorities have Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Julian Castro; Millennials have Beto O’Rourke; there is a surfeit of women; and establishment Democrats are likely to have Joe Biden. Hickenlooper is more of an independent than a Democrat, which in Colorado is a political asset, but not so much in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states.

His successful political career in Colorado has largely been accomplished as an independent businessman. His first and only contested election for Denver mayor was on a non-partisan ballot. A combination of an activist civic reputation, superior financing for Denver city races and creative advertising got him in the race. The endorsement of the businesses community and the conservative editorial page of the Rocky Mountain News gave him frontrunner position.

His ascension to the governorship was largely by appointment of the Democratic political establishment after the sudden retirement of Bill Ritter. Hickenlooper was the ranking Democrat from the largest political jurisdiction interested in the job. He had no primary. His two partisan elections for governor produced modest victories never more than 51 percent.

Although it’s not necessary to be a Democrat to win a Democratic Party presidential caucus or primary – witness Bernie Sanders – it helps to locate a constituency.

Nor has Hickenlooper identified any issue or bundle of issues that can excite primary voters, which appears especially important in 2020. He tends to be too balanced and reasonable to jump onto the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, or the host of economic and social populist positions, from attacking billionaires and banks, to reconfiguring ICE or supporting sanctuary cities. In many pictures from the primary states, Hickenlooper is shown drinking beer, relating his background as a brew pub entrepreneur presenting his folksy personality. But being pragmatic and hospitable may not be enough in 2020.

Will Hickenlooper start to answer the questions tonight? Who are his constituents? What’s his platform?

Hickenlooper Hits 1% in CNN Poll. Good News? KOA Interview

John Hickenlooper just moved from an asterisk to one percent in the latest CNN poll. Out of the ten declared candidates (or highly rumored) listed, Hickenlooper was tied with three others in the bottom 40 percent (Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee). But, Hickenlooper was finally registering a few mentions among the 436 Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents CNN interviewed. And, one percent is good news since it’s the threshold in three reputable national polls needed to gain entrance to the first debate.

As discussed on KOA this morning, Hickenlooper makes his CNN debut with an hour town hall tonight. Can he translate that appearance into 5 percent by June to make it into the top tier of candidates? (John Kerry, who got 4 percent, was not listed due to no evidence, yet he’s mounting a campaign.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Why Japan is U.S.’s Strongest Ally Today

With flickering lights, one out two elevators operating and a limited sound system, the Korbel School hosted 80 stout participants for a discussion of Japanese-American relations the day after the bomb cyclone. Fortunately, Maglione Hall was up to the challenge.

Prof. Toshihiro Nakayama
Japan may be America’s strongest ally in the Trump era. Professor Toshihiro Nakayama of Keio University described the factors that distinguish Japan from most of Europe and its leaders in its embrace of President Trump and the alliance with the U.S. Professor Nakayama (called Toshi by colleagues and friends) attributed much of the recent steadfast affection for the alliance and President Trump to the rise of an expansive China and the lack of an alternative to America’s deterrent power.

New Consul-General in Denver, Midori Takeuchi, described Japanese relations with the region and specifically with Korea. She highlighted the government’s commitment to women’s positions in the economy and government, including the foreign ministry.

The audience stayed until 7:00 pm asking questions for twenty minutes. It was clear that people, including a number of students, were interested in the relationship with Japan, had concerns about the strength of the alliance, and the strategies to address the rise of China and its ambition in the Pacific.

The event was sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Office of Global Engagement and the Denver Japanese Consulate-General. I moderated the event, and based on my recent trip to Japan, a host of recent blog posts have been published.

Denver Has a Sister City With Pure Mountain Springs Water

Denver’s sister city, Takayama, is in the foothills of the Japanese Rockies. It is a 300-year-old samurai-founded city famous for its sake breweries, with a national reputation similar to Coors. It has high mountain spring water, cool weather (it snowed during my recent visit) and the highest quality rice. Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the sister city relationship with Denver. Numerous celebrations are planned in each city. It will be a giant year for tourism as Japan will also be hosting the summer Olympics. Much of Tokyo is now in construction projects with signage, tee shirts and Olympics marketing everywhere.

Takayama is known as “Little Kyoto,” with a historic city center built hundreds of years ago. It has numerous shrines and temples, and one of the county’s most renowned festivals with floats built by leading artisans in the seventeenth century with extraordinary wood work, gold leaf and Japanese mystical imagery.

The city has a host of artisans, with lacquerware the most sought after. One can eat a traditional Japanese meal in the many restaurants, one, the Susaki, has a 200-year pedigree. The ingredients are locally sourced and served beautifully in multi-course meals. Its Ryokans are of high quality, many with hot water spas.

Takayama has a long-serving mayor, Michihiro Kunishima, who, like Mayors Hancock and Hickenlooper, is known to be dedicated to hospitability and encouraging tourism. In a three-hour multi-course meal, he and a team of city officials hosted dinner at Susaki with flights of local sake.

The city attracts many day hikers, backpackers and skiers with its abundant mountains, trails and nearby ski resorts. The rivers run toward both the east and west, with numerous hot springs that attract Japanese, Americans and worldwide visitors.

If you plan a trip to Japan, don’t miss visiting the historic countryside and stay in Takayama. My skilled guide, Nami Tsushima, recommended a high quality Ryokan called Kachoan and a high quality sake brewery, Funasaka.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Discussing the Youth Vote With Top Japanese Parliamentarian

Floyd Ciruli and Shintaro Ito
Representative Shintaro Ito is one of Japan’s most influential leaders on foreign affairs. He attended Harvard and is a close observer of U.S. politics. In a recent conversation, the topic turned to the longevity of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s premiership and the changing techniques of communicating to the electorate.

Ito pointed out that it was an advantage to have a long-serving prime minister during a period of considerable disruption and danger. Japan has had a succession recently of briefly serving premiers.

Concerning support for Abe, a recent article observed that the Abe government was stronger with younger than older voters, a surprise for most observers. The conventional wisdom is that the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) is most supported by older and less urban voters.

Ito was aware of the support of voters in their 30s and under. He felt it was related to the government’s support for programs to help parents and younger voters, such as with more nursery space, free preschool, and subsidies for high schools and college tuition.

But, he felt the most important aspect of the LDP’s success was using the internet to communicate to younger voters. A major effort has been mounted to use websites, videos, infographics, blogs and Twitter to engage voters in their 20s and 30s. Abe, in particular, is active in using social media to describe his vision and programs.

One of the major challenges has been reassuring the public that the economy is growing, tourism is up, jobs are available for graduates, and major problems, such as the aging population, are being addressed.

Prime Minister Abe is about to become the longest serving prime minister, and Ito points out that the future of the party must rest on support among new generations of voters. So true.

Cory Gardner Loses Denver Post Endorsement

Cory Gardner’s defeat of incumbent Democrat Mark Udall was considered a major upset in 2014. Gardner ran a superb campaign, Udall’s was less so, and 2014 was a good year for Republicans nationally, winning the senate and making Mitch McConnell the Majority Leader.

Still, it was considered a major accomplishment in a state that was clearly drifting to the left.

The salient event that provided major momentum to Gardner and staggered Udall was the Denver Post’s endorsement of Gardner on October 10, 2014 (see my blog “Denver Post Endorsement: Game Changer?" Oct. 14, 2014). You know it was important by the blowback from Democrats, including Gary Hart writing a scathing criticism.

Today, he lost the endorsement. The retraction will be national news. Gardner is considered, along with Susan Collins of Maine, one of the two most vulnerable senators. His latest approval rating is below the national average and much below Senator Collins.

Gardner is a victim of the Trump phenomena. Whatever his preference concerning the President’s obsession with the border wall and his use of an emergency declaration, Gardner has to worry about the Trump base offering a primary or not showing up in November 2020. He has tried to balance loyalty with some independence, for example, opposing the shutdown, but Trump provides new unattractive choices regularly.

The Denver Post just demonstrated how hard finding that balance will be in Colorado in 2020.

The Denver Post: Editorial: Our endorsement of Cory Gardner was a mistake
Morning Consult: America’s Most and Least Popular Senators

Talking Polling With Top Tokyo Political Commentator

Floyd Ciruli and Hiroyuki Akita
In a recent trip to Japan, sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the most interesting conversations was with Hiroyuki Akita, a regular columnist on foreign affairs and international security for a leading newspaper, Nikkei Shimbun.

We compared presidential and prime minister popularity. He had two recent polls that asked if the public supported the Abe administration. Abe received 53 percent in the Yomiuri newspaper poll and 43 percent in the Asahi newspaper. Both were improvements over the November 2018 rating. (The latest Kyodo News survey had support for the Abe government at 43 percent. The average of the three polls is 46 percent.)

Donald Trump’s latest polling average from RealClearPolitics is 43 percent, also an improvement over late 2018 and early 2019. The U.S. question asked approve or disapprove of president’s job performance.

In today’s political environment, it is not surprising for leaders in democracies to have less than 50 percent support. Theresa May in Great Britain, Emmanuel Macron in France and Angela Merkel in Germany are all below 40 percent in support for their governments.

Two big questions facing Abe’s government concern revising Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which outlaws the use of war to settle international disputes, and a possible consumption tax increase from 8 to 10 percent. Neither proposal has majority support.

Polling is important to the Japanese government and its parties as there are upper house (Councillors) elections this summer.

Japan has a strong newspaper establishment that does considerable polling. Akita, who received a master’s degree from Boston University, is a close observer of national politics and uses both local and international polls in his analyses.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Japanese Foreign Minister Kono’s Georgetown Speech a Hit

Taro Kono
Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister and a Georgetown University graduate (SFS’86), outlined Japan’s commitment to a global presence to promote democratic values in a policy address at his alma mater on September 28, 2018. The drafting of the speech, which was well-received, was assisted by top officials in the Foreign Ministry. Kono, who speaks fluent English, described his years at Georgetown as formative of his interest in government service and foreign policy. He answered student questions after the presentation.

In his address, he outlined Japan’s major goals and strategies in an era of disruption with a rising China and America’s shifting foreign policy. He described his country’s interest in maintaining the rule of law and norms as it affects navigation, trade, human rights and security in the Western Pacific. He agreed with the need for burden-sharing with the U.S. and said Japan’s goal is to do so. But, he also emphasized that globally, nations with democratic values must remain united. Japan’s interests have become more global and include relationships with Russia, Europe and the Middle East

It is clear that Japan is becoming a global influence to both support democratic values, but also counter authoritarian regimes if they seek to coerce or flaunt the rules.

Japanese foreign minister urges international support of Democratic values
Foreign minister of Japan Taro Kono (SFS’86) returns to Georgetown to deliver Lloyd George Centennial lecture

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bannon Tries Recruiting in Japan

Steve Bannon, the nomadic nationalist guru, brought his lecture program to Japan looking for allies interested in joining his anti-China jihad (“expansionist, predatory” China). Speaking to a group of Japanese conservatives, he asserted that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was a nationalist who shares his viewpoints – “Abe was Trump, before Trump.”

Abe, who is moving into his seventh year as prime minister, could do without the help. Although Abe is clearly a nationalist, his strategy in the Far East has been the opposite of Trump’s. Under Abe, opinion of Japan has improved in many Asian Rim countries. His vision is a multilateral trading coalition that supports the rule of law, free markets and freedom of navigation. Although his goal is to counter Chinese expansion, he wants to do it with cooperation, not confrontation.

Trump’s America First has been a disaster for America’s soft power (see blog: “America First” is Toxic to Soft Power), and like the U.S.’s European allies, especially difficult for Japan and Korea. Trump ended TPP, casually threatens unilaterally removing U.S. troops, wants full compensation plus a 50 percent bonus for bases, imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, and is threatening tariffs on cars. That Abe has been able to maintain a strong relationship with Trump shows his diplomatic skills.

In fact, Trumpism, as conceived by Bannon, has undermined America’s ability to offer any alternatives to China’s model or influence.

Steve Bannon | Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Read The Japan Times: Ex-adviser Steve Bannon says Abe was 'Trump before Trump,' urges him to play hardball with China

The Art of No Deal

The Hanoi summit spectacularly failed. Most foreign policy analysts believe it was clear weeks before the planned summit that North Korea was not going to offer more than a shutdown of Yongbyon nuclear facility and demand significant sanctions relief. Although President Trump tried to lower expectations a few days before the event, his approach to diplomacy, particularly with Kim Jong-un, implies that he can by pure force of personality and economic incentives deliver a deal. And, there’s no doubt he thought he would get a photogenic signing ceremony as an event was scheduled and had to be cancelled. Of course, Kim, writer of romantic letters, also had reason to believe a smitten Trump would bend in his direction.

In addition to both leaders’ belief in their personal chemistry was the assumption that since only Trump and Kim can make the decisions, why waste time with preliminary negotiations? But, that assumption was also overstated. Kim has to deal with elite opinion from his party and military. Trump also has constituents, such as defense hawks in Congress and the party. And, of course, allies Japan and South Korea have a vital stake in the outcome. Although, Trump’s major constraint may be that he has been so critical of previous efforts at negotiations with North Korea under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama and the Iran nuclear agreement that anything that looks only partial would be judged a failure.

Although Trump clearly deserves credit for ending North Korea’s testing and the general tone of the relationship, there are clear limits to his top down, “I can do this alone with charisma and economic promises.” Frankly, there was a widespread sense of relief the summit did not produce a flawed agreement that the U.S. was going to have difficulties describing, as Trump did after the Singapore summit: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un shake hands at Hanoi summit,
Feb. 27, 2019 | The White via The Australian Institute of International Affairs

Major Differences: Europe and Far East

Mike Pence was all but booed by European allies at the 2019 Munich Security Conference at the mention of Donald Trump, while the news from South Korea and Japan was that Trump deserved the Nobel Peace prize for his North Korean negotiations.

The difference in leadership views of Trump mirrors differences in European and Asian publics. Respect and approval of Trump and the U.S. could hardly be lower in Europe, even by today’s tough standards, but public opinion in South Korea and Japan is substantially more favorable.

The latest Pew Research poll of October 2018 shows Japan and South Korea are much more favorably disposed toward the U.S. than Germany and France. And, although the publics of the four nations have low levels of trust for President Trump, they have collapsed in Germany and France.

Trump’s behavior toward European and Asian allies explains some of the differences as do the responses from top leaders. In Europe, Trump, with his usual undiplomatic behavior, has criticized the EU and praised Brexit, promoted withdrawal from NATO and his hostile approach toward immigration. After more than a year and several meetings of Trump’s boorish behavior, President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel have dropped the usual language of diplomacy used with allies and criticized Trump and U.S. policy with harsh language and increasing volume. Whereas in Japan and South Korea, facing many of the same controversies with Trump, such as tariffs and trade deficits, commitment to stationing forces and the cost, and multilateral agreements, such as TPP, leaders have maintained a friendly demeanor.

Of course, the nearness of the threats in terms of time and space and the lack of an alternative deterrent to America’s are important factors shaping elite and public opinion.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Abe Offers Stability in Era of Disruption

In a week of foreign policy discussions with leading Japanese scholars, media commentators, Foreign Ministry officers and members of the Diet, the consensus view was that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, as he approaches being the longest serving post-WWII prime minister, is a significant and timely asset for Japan and the Far East in a moment of considerable turmoil.

In an effort to maintain continuity, Abe has centered his foreign policy around keeping a close and friendly relationship with Donald Trump, something that has eluded European leaders Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. He traveled to Trump Towers during the transition and was the first to play golf at Mar-a-Lago. Rumor has it that Trump and Abe spoke during the recent Hanoi summit with Kim Jong-un. Trump primarily relates to leaders at a personal level and claims to be close to Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Abe may be the only non-authoritarian leader in the club.

The alliance is critical to Japan’s security and foreign policy goals. Abe spends considerable energy making sure Japan’s interests are represented in the North Korean negotiations, continuing to promote the benefit of a TPP-type, multilateral agreement, and arguing against tariffs and more payments related to hosting American troops.

Just as important as playing defense with the Trump administration is the Japanese effort at organizing the Pacific Rim to counter China’s expansion, while maintaining as positive a relationship with Xi Jinping and China as possible. Trump’s apparent discomfort with key elements of the 70-year old alliance has made clear to Japanese leadership that their own multilateral initiatives are needed and Abe’s longevity in office is a strategic advantage.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe Mar-a-Lago, Florida, April 17, 2018 | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Hickenlooper Gets Good Start – KOA Radio

In a KOA drive-time radio interview on Thursday, John Hickenlooper’s Colorado announcement day, April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz hosted an analysis of Hickenlooper’s first week as a presidential candidate. Some points:
  • Hickenlooper’s video announcement got top coverage earlier in the week. It was picked up by all the major national and some international (BBC) news outlets, which was impressive since he’s the 14th candidate to announce. It demonstrates that all the advanced work with the media is making him the most viable of a big list of longshots. Of course, the Monday national announcement made Thursday’s Colorado rally a local story.
John Hickenlooper speaks during rally to kick off his presidential
campaign in  Civic Center Park, March 7, 2019 | Andy
 Colwell/Special to The Colorado Sun
  • The campaign claimed it raised $1 million in its first two days of operation, another sign of a good organizational effort. Hickenlooper joined Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, and the ever prolific fundraiser, Bernie Sanders, on the top of the quick turnaround list. But, it takes massive amounts of money to compete effectively in the early states while building a national profile.
  • Hickenlooper has a good start, but joins a group of candidates at one percent or below in name recognition with Democrats. And, although he joins other successful Democratic governors with low early name identification that went on to be the nominees and some became president – Carter (1976), Dukakis (1988) and Clinton (1992) – it’s still a serious handicap. Can Hickenlooper go from less than 1 percent to 5 percent by June so as to be taken seriously in the first debate?
  • Hickenlooper’s so-called “moderation” is not so much about Democratic issues as he has sufficiently liberal positions on all the litmus test issues, such as health care, climate change and guns. Hickenlooper mostly offers a different tone, more reconciliation and pragmatic problem-solving. It may be too Pollyannaish for today’s environment, but there is hunger for less polarization and endless warfare.
  • The Democratic Party is divided between those who want an issue activist, pure in their positions and a winner against Trump. Hence, there is room for a Hickenlooper or a Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke, but they must appear capable of handling the barrage of demeaning and disparaging attacks from Trump and put Trump on the defensive sufficiently to convince Democrats they are a fighter and a winner – a challenge for Hickenlooper and his mild demeanor.
  • One strange fact about Hickenlooper’s start is that, after several months of effort, it’s not clear he would win Colorado Democrats today – in fact, he probably wouldn’t. Also his support among the leadership of the state party is thin, to put it mildly. In fact, Michael Bennet, the senior senator, is still campaigning.
This interview was conducted at 11:20 pm in Takayama, Japan, Denver’s sister city, for live broadcast at 7:20 am on KOA drive-time. The wonders of the internet and cellphones.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Foreign Policy News Pivots to Asia

After a week in Japan with local political and policy experts, it’s clear foreign policy news and challenges have shifted to Asia. A small sample of news stories (print papers are still very powerful in Japan) highlighted a few of the hottest issues.
  • “China’s exports plunge – trade worries grow”
  • “Xi still in charge, ardent nationalist and foreign policy hawk”
  • “US pushes Pyongyang to explain rebirth of rocket site”
  • “Trump demands full cost of troops stationed in Asia plus 50%
Join DU and the Crossley Center Thursday, March 14 to examine the U.S. and Japanese relations and politics in the Far East. Featured presenters are Japanese top political analyst, Toshihiro Nakayama, professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at Keio University; Ambassador Christopher Hill; and Denver Consul-General of Japan, Midori Takeuchi.

Japan-U.S. Foreign Policy Implications

Please join the Office of Global Engagement and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research for a discussion on the future of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Professor Toshihiro Nakayama will present a keynote speech pertaining to his expertise on Japan-U.S. relations, followed by comments from Consul-General Midori Takeuchi, Ambassador Christopher Hill, and Professor Floyd Ciruli, as moderator, and a question and answer session.

Find Consul-General Takeuchi's bio here
Find Ambassador Hill's bio here
Find Professor Nakayama's bio here
Find Professor Ciruli's bio here

Thursday, March 14, 2019

5:00 pm Reception- hors d’oeuvres and beverages
5:30 pm Introduction followed by Keynote speech by Prof. Nakayama
6:10 pm Panel comments
6:30 pm Q&A

Maglione Hall
Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex
2201 S Gaylord Street
Denver, CO 80208

Note: Parking passes will be sent out prior to the event