What's Behind American Decline: Domestic Dysfunction

By William Neuman

"The region was left with the feeling that the U.S. didn’t care," said AS/COA's Steve Liston on the United States' late Summit planning to The Atlantic.

As the golden light bled from the Los Angeles sky one evening last week, a mariachi band played at a rooftop cocktail party for corporate executives and government officials from a couple dozen countries. They had gathered on the eve of the Summit of the Americas, an every-few-years meeting that would begin in the city the following day. With a flare of trumpets, the band launched into “El Rey,” the Mexican ranchera classic of wounded machismo. “I don’t have a throne or a queen,” the lead mariachi sang, “or anyone who understands me. But I’m still the king.”

Or anyone who understands me. The song could have been the theme to President Joe Biden’s week. […]

“The administration did an own goal by its late planning, allowing this brouhaha about who came and who didn’t to be the dominant story,” Steve Liston, a former State Department official who was involved in organizing several summits and is now a senior director of the Council of the Americas, a lobbying group that promotes free trade, told me. “It was as it appeared to be: put together at the last minute. And the main significance of that is that the region was left with the feeling that the U.S. didn’t care.”…

Even U.S. warnings about democratic backsliding in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Brazil appeared to some to be driven by concerns over threats to democracy at home. “The way that officials talked about it,” said Liston, the former State Department official, “it was clear they were talking about January 6.”…

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