Hold your horses, everyone. Don’t pack your bags yet. President Rodrigo Duterte’s big plan to exit the Philippines’ alliance with the United States will need a massive rethink.
This whole dustup between our two governments is being driven by false issues and choices – principally by the fact that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is a lameduck President, who will no longer be in office by January. DU30’s continuous pummeling of Filipino-American relations may have been influenced by this reality. And Obama’s reluctance to engage him in an exchange of insults may be due to the same.
It’s not given that Obama will be succeeded by another Democrat in Hillary Rodham Clinton. Democrats are generally soft on security and foreign policy issues, compared with Republicans, who totally believe they won the Cold War and are tough-minded in foreign relations.
While Hillary at this point is given the edge by most polls in the US election next month, the race took a major turn yesterday in the second presidential debate in Missouri.
The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, took the verbal duel decisively, and in so doing has reset the race. With one month to go before the election, it looks like it will now be a tight contest all the way up to Election Day.
Trump lands more punches
At the debate in Missouri, Trump launched an all-out attack on the Clintons for their sexual past, as he said Bill abused women and Hillary ‘attacked those women viciously’ when they complained.
Before the debate, Trump held a press conference with women who have accused Bill Clinton of rape. The women sat in the front row for the debate – just feet from Clinton, the woman they earlier condemned.
The two candidates locked horns throughout the bitter debate, which Trump backers said he won. Clinton backers, like CNN, said Clinton won it.
Clinton opened the debate by saying that she is concerned about ‘some of the things being said and done in the campaign.’
Trump responded, saying the controversial remarks he made in 2005 that were revealed Friday were ‘locker room talk.’
Moderator Anderson Cooper tried to hold Trump to account for it, saying he ‘bragged’ about assaulting women. But Trump brushed him aside. He accused the moderators of being biased against him, saying it was a ‘one-on-three’ debate.
Sunday’s debate is likely to be discussed for generations in Political Science classes and Women’s Studies seminars. It apparently ended with Republican Donald Trump landing more punches than Clinton, and successfully deflecting attention away from the two-day-old crisis that threatened to derail his White House bid.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who has been among Trump’s most forceful defenders, summed up the real estate tycoon’s performance with two words in the post-debate spin room: ‘home run.’
Momentum could change
‘I think the momentum is going to switch, like that,’ Giuliani said. ‘It was one of the biggest victories in a presidential debate, ever.’
From limping into the debate because of the controversy stirred by his tawdry remarks about women he made 11 years ago, Trump emerged with an edge over Clinton on key policy issues.
In contrast, Hillary was battered into incoherence by Trump‘s accusations against her of criminal wrong doing, especially on her emails.
In most post-debate analysis and post-mortem, many said that Trump has positioned himself to win in November.
If he wins the third debate, as he seems likely to, it will be curtains for Hillary Clinton’s bid to become the first female President of the United States.
As vulgar and nasty as DU30
This prognosis will change dramatically the context for the making of Philippine foreign policy and the remaking of Filipino-American relations.
If Trump wins in November, Filipino- American ties will suddenly have two populists, and two loudmouths dealing with each other.
Instead of the soft-power policy team of the Obama administration, by January 20, the Duterte administration will be dealing with a team that is more hard-nosed on foreign policy and security matters.
America will have in Trump a president who can be as vulgar and nasty as President Duterte. Trump will not sit still while DU30 launches his trademark profanities and insults. The Republican party, which will govern with him, has a lot of history behind them. Republicans, led by President William McKinley, made the fateful decision to conquer and annex the Philippines in 1898. His successor, Theodore Roosevelt, rounded America‘s emergence as an empire and world power.
New calculus needed
The changed situation means that a new calculus must be considered in making the fateful and far-reaching decision to pivot away from the US, and toward China and Russia.
This requires more study and strategic analysis than has so far been undertaken. More senior leaders and experts have to be involved. And we, the public, must be invited to contribute our own thinking.
Nobody has seriously bothered to calculate what we Filipinos will gain by pivoting toward China and Russia, and what we will be losing by leaving America’s side. Administration officials have been more delusional than clear-eyed about the road ahead. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay appears lost in his rhetoric about “little brown brothers” and “America having failed us.”
With Republicans sitting across the table from him, his vocabulary and tone will change.
Third World leaders who pick on the US do not get to wave the dirty finger at Uncle Sam for very long. If outright US retaliation does not wipe away their insolence, economic forces in the new global economy, sooner or later, strangle them in crisis. The detested and demented Qadafi regime in Libya shut up quickly and ended his terrorist adventures when Ronald Reagan fired a missile at his desert home in 1986, killing among others one of his grandchildren.
The irrepressible Hugo Chavez of Venezuela also learned his lesson after calling George W. Bush the devil incarnate at the United Nations, but cancer proved much faster in striking him down.
Does President Duterte really intend to keep on taunting the CIA to oust him? That’s unlikely now.