The Big Questions: Japan, the Middle East and Deficit


Mark Halperin’s answers this week in TIME.

Why is the Japanese government so secretive about the details of the nuclear accident?
Historically, government officials in Japan have taken a paternalistic, we-know-best posture toward their constituents [EM] and the nation’s citizens have rarely objected. Its leaders have a propensity to put self-preservation and caution ahead of bold action and open dialogue. Plus, reliable information from the damaged reactors has been sketchy and can change frequently.

What, in the Middle East, is the Obama Administration really worried about?
Iran. Amid continued turmoil from Libya to the Persian Gulf, there is no higher priority in the White House than halting the expansionist dreams of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That’s why the Obama team didn’t squawk very loudly when the Saudis moved into Bahrain on March 14 to help quell a Shi‘ite rebellion there, while warning other governments in the region to butt out.

When is Obama going to step up and show some actual risk-taking leadership on deficit reduction?
Most of the President’s men and women expect a few more acts to play out before the climactic scene in which their boss fulfills his promise, breaks partisan gridlock and tries to rescue the nation from huge deficits. Some senior Republicans and more than a few congressional Democrats think a grand bargain isn’t going to get any easier after the fights over this year’s budget and federal debt ceiling bloody the halls of Congress. But the White House is being guided by an old Washington truism: Nothing happens on Capitol Hill one microsecond before it must.

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