The Moustache of Wisdom is disturbed, and has decided to lecture President Morsi of Egypt. In “Morsi’s Wrong Turn” he tut-tuts that the new president of Egypt should understand that his visit to Tehran is helping the Iranian regime. The fact that President Morsi pretty much had to be there as the outgoing chair of the Nonaligned Movement and Iran’s Ahmadinejad is the incoming chair is nowhere to be found. Mr. Kristof, in “The Secret Weapon: All of Us,” says behind every successful business stand the American taxpayers. Here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
I find it very disturbing that one of the first trips by Egypt’s newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, will be to attend the Nonaligned Movement’s summit meeting in Tehran this week. Excuse me, President Morsi, but there is only one reason the Iranian regime wants to hold the meeting in Tehran and have heads of state like you attend, and that is to signal to Iran’s people that the world approves of their country’s clerical leadership and therefore they should never, ever, ever again think about launching a democracy movement — the exact same kind of democracy movement that brought you, Mr. Morsi, to power in Egypt.
In 2009, this Iranian regime literally killed the Green Revolution. It gunned down hundreds and jailed thousands of Iranians who wanted the one thing that Egyptians got: to have their votes counted honestly and the results respected. Morsi, who was brought to power by a courageous democracy revolution that neither he nor his Muslim Brotherhood party started — but who benefited from the free and fair election that followed — is lending his legitimacy to an Iranian regime that brutally crushed just such a movement in Tehran. This does not augur well for Morsi’s presidency. In fact, he should be ashamed of himself.
“The Iranian regime has offered Morsi a sanitized tour of its nuclear facilities” noted Karim Sadjadpour, the Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment. “As a former political prisoner in Mubarak’s Egypt, Morsi should also request a visit to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. It will remind him of his own past, and offer him a glimpse of Iran’s future.”
Egyptian officials say Morsi is only stopping in Tehran for a few hours to hand over the presidency of the Nonaligned Movement to Iran from Egypt. Really? He could have done that by mail. It would have sent a powerful democratic message. By the way, what is the Nonaligned Movement anymore?
“Nonaligned against what and between whom?” asked Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy specialist at Johns Hopkins. The Nonaligned Movement was conceived at the Bandung summit in 1955, but there was a logic to it then. The world was divided between Western democratic capitalists and Eastern Communists, and developing states like Egypt, Yugoslavia and Indonesia declared themselves “nonaligned” with these two blocs. But “there is no Communist bloc today,” said Mandelbaum. “The main division in the world is between democratic and undemocratic countries.”
Is Morsi nonaligned in that choice? Is he nonaligned when it comes to choosing between democracies and dictatorships — especially the Iranian one that is so complicit in crushing the Syrian rebellion as well? And by the way, why is Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, lending his hand to this Iranian whitewashing festival? What a betrayal of Iranian democrats.
This has nothing to do with Israel or Iran’s nukes. If Morsi wants to maintain a cold peace with Israel, that is his business. As for Morsi himself, I’d like to see him succeed in turning Egypt around. It would be a huge boost to democracy in the Arab world. But what Egypt needs most will not be found in Tehran. Morsi’s first big trip shouldn’t have been to just China and Iran. It should have been all across Europe and Asia to reassure investors and tourists that Egypt is open for business again — and maybe on to Silicon Valley and then Caltech to meet with Egypt’s Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Ahmed Zewail, to signal a commitment to reviving education in Egypt, where half the women are illiterate.
If Morsi needs a primer on the democracy movement in Iran (whose Islamic regime broke relations with Egypt in 1979 to protest the peace treaty with Israel) he can read the one offered by Stanford’s Iran expert, Abbas Milani, on the United States Institute of Peace Web site: “The Green Movement reached its height when up to 3 million peaceful demonstrators turned out on Tehran streets to protest official claims that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the 2009 presidential election in a landslide. Their simple slogan was: ‘Where is my vote?’ … Over the next six months, the Green Movement evolved from a mass group of angry voters to a nationwide force demanding the democratic rights originally sought in the 1979 revolution, rights that were hijacked by radical clerics. … As momentum grew behind the Green Movement, the government response was increasingly tough. In the fall of 2009, more than 100 of the Green Movement’s most important leaders, activists and theorists appeared in show trials reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s infamous trials in the 1930s.” By early 2010, the regime had quashed all public opposition.
That is the regime that Morsi will be helping to sanitize. One at least hopes he read the letter sent to him by an Iranian democracy group, Green Messengers of Hope, urging Morsi to remind his Iranian hosts “of the fates of the leaders who kept turning their backs on the votes of their people, and to urge them to govern their country relying on the support of the Iranian people rather than military forces.” Morsi might want to even remind himself of that.
Here’s Mr. Kristof:
The Republican National Convention opened by smacking President Obama with the theme “We Built it.”
To pound that message, Republicans turned to a Delaware businesswoman, Sher Valenzuela, who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor. Valenzuela and her husband built an upholstery business that now employs dozens of workers.
Valenzuela presumably was picked to speak so that she could thunder at Obama for disdaining capitalism.
Oops. It turns out that Valenzuela relied not only on her entrepreneurial skills but also on — yes, government help. Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, documented $2 million in loans from the Small Business Administration for Valenzuela’s company, plus $15 million in government contracts (mostly noncompetitive ones).
In a presentation earlier this year, Valenzuela described government assistance as an entrepreneur’s “biggest ‘secret weapon.’ ”
Someone has set up a parody Web site, using the name of Valenzuela’s company, First State Manufacturing, to mock the Republican message. The site, FirstStateManufacturing.com, declares, “Thank God government was there for me.”
In short, the Republicans are inadvertently underscoring the point that President Obama was expressing in his “you didn’t build that” comment in July. Obama noted then that “if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” He pointed to public investments in roads and bridges that enable businesses to flourish, and then he inelegantly added, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”
Fox News erupted in outrage, selectively editing the clip to confirm Republican prejudices that Obama doesn’t understand the private sector. This fits into the Republican narrative that business executives are heroic job creators when they aren’t held back by regulations and taxes imposed by quasi-socialist Muslims born in Kenya.
Democrats tried to highlight a flaw in that narrative when they released a new ad pointing to Mitt Romney’s outsourcing of jobs and telling him, “You didn’t build that — you destroyed it.”
Yet to me, that Democratic line of attack on Romney as a serial job destroyer feels unfair. Sometimes the way to save a company is to cut labor costs or outsource jobs, and almost nobody wants to ban trade or overseas production even though they can cost jobs.
What is fair is to observe that the Republicans’ claim that they are the great job creators is a fiction.
Prof. Robert S. McElvaine of Millsaps College examined employment data for the 64 years from the beginning of Harry Truman’s presidency to the end of George W. Bush’s. He found that an average of two million jobs were created per year when a Democrat was president, compared with one million annually when a Republican was president.
More pointedly, and unfortunately for Romney, business executives have only a mediocre record when transferring their skills to government. In the last great economic mess, this country was led by a Republican who had been stunningly successful in business: Herbert Hoover. Hmm. More recently, President George W. Bush staffed his cabinet with C.E.O.’s who had been stellar in the private sector — and that didn’t work out so well, either.
Obama’s point about our shared undertaking was made last year, more eloquently, by Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat running for Senate:
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody!” she said. “You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you all were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. …
“You built a factory, and it turned into something terrific or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
In short, taxes don’t just smother. They can also fuel growth — when they’re invested in highways or the Internet, in colleges or early childhood education. They can create opportunities, as they did for Sher Valenzuela.
Or for Romney himself. He built his Bain empire partly because he was smart and hard-working, but also because of a great education and because of tax breaks for debt financing. Tax loopholes helped him build his fortune, and other loopholes gave him the low tax rates to retain it.
If the Republican convention wishes to highlight and explain Romney’s success, it should have a moment of silence to honor our infernal tax code.
Who built this country? Entrepreneurs, yes. But so did schoolteachers and railway construction workers. Doctors and truckers. Scientists and soldiers. You didn’t build it, Mitt Romney — we all built it.
Well, Nick, some of us built more of it (proportionately) than others. I certainly pay more than 13% in taxes…