GRATE(FUL) LEADERS

GRATE(FUL) LEADERS

On Thanksgiving Day, which always falls on the fourth Thursday of November, Americans gather with family and friends to overeat and give thanks for blessings large and small. Here's Willis Sparks with a few things others can be grateful for.


US President Donald Trump can be thankful that Democratic lawmakers and a (very large) pack of the party's presidential candidates will share the political spotlight with him in 2019. That will take some of the focus off the president and allow Democrats to take a bit more heat as the 2020 elections approach.

The Democrats can be thankful that they now have real power for the first time since Trump was elected president. Starting in January, they'll be able to set a legislative agenda, at least in the House of Representatives, and they'll have subpoena power to investigate the president. But beyond fierce opposition to Trump, can they offer voters a vision of the future worth voting for?

French President Emmanuel Macron can be thankful he has a five-year term and will remain on the job until 2022 no matter how deep his poll numbers dive. A recent survey put his approval rating at just 26 percent, and that was before one person died and 400 were injured in nationwide protests against new fuel taxes. Macron can also be thankful that pressure from Trump is driving Paris and Berlin closer together, though that rapprochement comes at a tough time: he's weak politically and Merkel is preparing to leave office.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May can be thankful that after a week of high Brexit drama and months of relentless criticism there's still no credible alternative to either her Brexit plan or her leadership. For now. Hardline members of May's party are scrambling to get enough votes to oust her in a no-confidence move, but it's a gamble: if they fail, she cannot face another leadership challenge for at least a year; if they succeed, Brexit negotiations will become even more tough—with the opposition Labor party waiting in the wings to pounce.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be thankful that Education Minister Naftali Bennett has decided to keep his Jewish Home party within Netanyahu's governing coalition. Following the resignation last week of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, it appeared Bennett might follow him out of government, undoing Netanyahu's coalition and forcing him to face fresh elections while he is plagued by multiple corruption investigations.

South Africans can be grateful that their governing institutions continue to hold their leaders accountable. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised to clean up corruption within the governing ANC party, agreed last week to repay about $35,000 given to his party leadership campaign by a firm accused of graft. It's an embarrassment for Ramaphosa but a step forward for his country from the administration of former President Jacob Zuma.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman can be thankful that even as he becomes ever more implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, his own father appears to have the last word in whether he stays in line to become king – and dad is on his side for now.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neil can be thankful that his small country benefits from economic and strategic competition between China, the US, and other regional powers. Not only did O'Neil pull off a smooth APEC Summit last week, the US and Australia agreed to invest in a major new military base on one of his country's remote islands. That could give an economic boost to the country of 7.5 million people, where 40 percent live on less than $1.25 per day.

The Italian town of Acquetico, home to 131 people, can be thankful that it recently set up a camera to catch people driving too fast. The camera reportedly nailed 58,568 speeders in just two weeks. We're hoping the fines imposed will raise Acquetico's per capita income by 28,000 percent.

Your Signal team—Kevin Allison, Alex Kliment, Gabe Lipton, and Willis Sparks—are grateful that so many of you around the world continue to read Signal. Thank you very, very much!

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal