BritainAndAmerica is no more. By that we mean the website!
Please visit the successor site, launched today; AmericaInTheWorld.com. It has the clear mission of opposing anti-Americanism and American isolationism.
It's taken a lot longer than planned but the successor to BritainAndAmerica.com will launch towards the end of August - just ahead of the Democrat Convention.
The new website will have two very related aims:
The website will be updated on a daily basis from its launch but at its heart will be a set of fifty briefings that will help students, journalists and all interested people explore America's place in the world. Briefings will examine:
We have lots of special features planned for the website's first month and are very excited about possibilities. We have one big problem, however. We are struggling to find a good name for the project. Now that you know the broad outline of the project we would greatly appreciate any good ideas in the thread below...
It will restart in a couple of months in a very different format. If you would like to be kept informed about the restart please join our Facebook group.
Thanks for visiting BritainAndAmerica.com over the last eighteen months. We sincerely hope that you will enjoy our new site when it launches.
We didn't learn a great deal but it is good to see the White House acknowledging the importance of the BBC and in a two-way with BBCtv's Kirsty Wark, Matt Frei talked about the time he spent with the President after the formal interview. Frei reported that President Bush said that he hoped to conclude a settlement of the Palestinian question during his period of office and that it would be the most important thing that he hoped to achieve.
A must-read column from David Brooks in today's New York Times:
"Both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have seductively hinted that they would withdraw almost all U.S. troops within 12 to 16 months. But if either of them actually did that, he or she would instantly make Iraq the consuming partisan fight of their presidency.
There would be private but powerful opposition from Arab leaders, who would fear a return to 2006 chaos. There would be irate opposition from important sections of the military, who would feel that the U.S. was squandering the gains of the previous year. A Democratic president with few military credentials would confront outraged and highly photogenic colonels screaming betrayal.
There would be important criticism from nonpartisan military experts. In his latest report, the much-cited Anthony Cordesman describes an improving Iraqi security situation that still requires “strategic patience” and another five years to become self-sustaining.
There would be furious opposition from Republicans and many independents. They would argue that you can’t evacuate troops just as Iraqis are about to hold national elections and tensions are at their highest. They would point out that it’s insanity to end local reconstruction and Iraqi training efforts just when they are producing results. They would accuse the new administration of reverse-Rumsfeldism, of ignoring postsurge realities and of imposing an ideological solution on a complex situation.
All dreams of changing the tone in Washington would be gone. All of Obama’s unity hopes would evaporate. And if the situation did deteriorate after a quick withdrawal, as the National Intelligence Estimate warns, the bloodshed would be on the new president’s head.
Therefore, when a new Democratic administration considered all these possibilities, its members would part ways. A certain number of centrists would conclude that rapid withdrawal is a mistake. They would say that the situation had changed and would call for a strategic review. They’d recommend a long, slow conditions-based withdrawal — constant, small troop reductions, and a lot of regional diplomacy, while maintaining tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for the remainder of the term.
The left wing of the party would go into immediate uproar. They’d scream: This was a central issue of the campaign! All the troops must get out now!
The president would have to make a terrible decision."
Brooks goes on to discuss the nightmare tensions that might erupt between Democrats on federal spending. Read it all here.
This video suggests that he might. Although a registered Republican and George W Bush's first Secretary of State, General Powell speaks highly of the Illinois Senator's personal qualities. Powell also emphasises the need to restore America's standing in the world - a key Democrat theme.
John McCain was understandably in a good mood when he strode (at such a pace that I could only get a blurred photo!) through the entrance to the Omni Shoreham hotel this afternoon. His nomination as the Republican Presidential candidate is now assured.
His speech largely consisted of lots of references to the fact that some in the hall would have disagreed with him on things in the past, and of spelling out his "mainstream conservative record". Highlights:
Samuel Coates, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, reports on Mitt Romney's resignation speech.
Talk show host Laura Ingraham gave Romney a strong introduction, saying that he was a security conservative, a social conservative and an economic conservative and that she was proud to be the only introducer with the job of introducing the conservative candidate. She also spoke of how Reagan battled on to the convention when people were saying he should stand down for the good of the party (curiously, so did Mitt!). I wonder if she was told?
Romney walked on to the stage to mass placard waving and cheering. He spoke of the "unique" sacrifice America had made in the cause of
liberty in the 21st century - only taking enough land after its
victories to bury its dead - and that if it didn't change course it
could be the new France (crowd boos). There were several nods to Christians, he said the majority of
Americans believed in God or at least in "a purpose-driven life" (the
title of a bestselling Christian book), and criticised intolerance of such faith.
He spoke in particularly strong terms about:
He said he disagreed with John McCain on a lot of things but that he was absolutely right on doing whatever it takes in Iraq and the fight against radical, violent Islam. I half-expected a slight jibe to follow this concession, but it didn't come. He criticised Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for wanting retreat and defeat. Then, to a gasping crowd that had been giving him a rapturous reception, he said that continuing to stand made it easier for one of those two to win. That because he loved America and because he "cannot allow the next President to retreat in the face of evil extremism", he felt he must stand aside. If his candidacy was only about him, he went on, he would have continued.
In short, he did an Obi Wan Kenobi, and in doing so endeared himself to those who, like me, saw him as little more than a politician's politician. It was a great speech. If a British Conservative had said the things he said about the blend of issues that he focused on, I'd be right behind them.
He'll have his eyes on 2012 now. He's set himself up well.
There's lots of excitement in parts of the UK blogosphere (eg here and here) about John McCain cancelling a meeting with Gordon Brown. McCain was due to be in Europe this weekend for the Munich security conference. He was to have a meeting with Gordon Brown en route but, with his Republican rivals still campaigning, McCain decided that he would need to stay on US soil. Not a great snub to the British Prime Minister but a warning to all spin doctors that it's not wise to pre-brief meetings until you are really sure that they are going to happen.
A much more significant story gets much less attention from the blogs but is undoubtedly more important. The FT reports Senator McCain's disappointment at the UK's withdrawal from Basra:
"The Arizona senator, who has been a strong supporter of the surge, echoed the misgivings of the US military about the British move, telling reporters he “did not think it was a good idea”... “I understand the British domestic situation and I very much appreciate the service and sacrifice the British military made in Iraq and are making in Afghanistan ... Obviously we’d have liked to see them stay longer but the enormous contribution they made in Iraq and Afghanistan I have to just be grateful for.”"
Up until now newspapers have reported private White House and military disappointment at the British withdrawal but this is the first time that a very senior American politician has spoken publicly.
DEMOCRAT RACE IS TOO CLOSE TO CALL
Hillary Clinton did better than her team had begun to fear. Some of the polls giving, for example, Barack Obama's big leads in California were way out wrong. Senator Clinton's victory in California was a particular relief and her win in Massachusetts a delicious victory over Kennedy and Kerry - who couldn't even deliver their home state to Obama. There's a great quote in the Boston Globe on why Clinton prevailed in Ma: "The workhorses beat the show horses. Clinton won. In fact, that's probably an accurate description of the national Clinton/Obama battle, too."
The overall delegates count is close, however with Clinton leading Obama by just 900 to 824. Obama claims he won more delegates last night. Only a fool would predict who will eventually win this race. Rasmussen markets has Obama with a 49% chance of winning his party's nomination and Hillary Clinton a 51% chance. (The same source gives McCain a 93% chance of securing the GOP nod).
All the way to the Convention is a real possibility. Who will that favour? It will favour the Democrats if they win 75% of media coverage from now until then but the GOP could start benefiting if it starts getting ugly again between the two Senators. At the moment, says Washington Wire, the two parties are sharing media attention: "Overall Democrats were the focus of 46% of the election stories last week, while Republicans were close behind at 42%."
OBAMA DOES HAVE GEOGRAPHIC REACH
Last night's wins for Obama in GOP states like Kansas, Idaho, Utah and North Dakota, in the bellwether state of Missouri and last week's South Carolina primary underline his credentials as a candidate able to compete across the whole nation.
John Derbyshire notes its arrival: "I have just logged (here) a third occurrence, in about 24 hours, of the phrase "suicide voters" — i.e. people who will vote Democrat in November to prevent a McCain presidency. It's not an original idea, of course, but I don't recall it from previous campaigns. It's not very tasteful, either; but in the age of South Park Conservatism, that probably won't stop its spread, if it's going to spread."
LAST NIGHT'S VICTORY SPEECH FROM JOHN McCAIN WASN'T TO THE WHOLE NATION BUT TO CONSERVATIVE AMERICANS
“I am a Republican because, like you, I want to relieve the American people of the heavy hand of a government,” he said. “I am a Republican because, like you, I believe government must defend our nation’s security wisely and effectively…I am a Republican because I believe, like you, that government should tax us no more than necessary, spend no more than necessary… I am a Republican because I believe the judges we appoint to the federal bench must understand that enforcing our laws, not making them, is their only responsibility…” Byron York at National Review has more.
HUCKABEE MAY BE HURTING McCAIN MORE THAN ROMNEY?
Some things get repeated often enough that they become conventional wisdom. That doesn't mean that they're true. Exit polling data casts doubt on the now popular theory that Huckabee is hurting Romney. Here's Gallup Guru's view: "McCain wins over Romney as the second choice of Huckabee voters by more than a 2 to 1 margin, 64% to 28%. Indeed, McCain beats Romney 42% to 24% with Huckabee in the race (Huckabee gets 18% of the vote, Ron Paul gets 5%, and Alan Keyes gets 2%). With a narrowed-down ballot focused just on McCain and Romney (forcing Huckabee voters to choose between the two front-runners), McCain wins 53% to 30% -- a slightly expanded margin." Gallup Guru is a great site btw.
Toby Harnden reports that Barack Obama's daughters aren't that keen on a move to Washington DC but the Illinois Senator has promised to buy them a dog if his presidential bid is successful.
The polling shows McCain and Obama surging. McCain now enjoys an average 18.4% lead over Mitt Romney. Given that the Republican primaries are winner-takes-all in terms of delegates, Senator McCain should wrap things up tonight. The Democrat race is much more nail-biting Hillary Clinton's large leads in national polls have evaporated to no more than a couple of digits. Even if she wins states she will have to share delegates with Barack Obama. He may win California and bellwether Missouri. Victories in both of those two states will be very bad news for Hillary's White House bid. If Obama wins New Jersey, too - in Clinton's backyard - he'll be the overwhelming favourite to secure the nomination. The next few primaries favour Obama and so he might start to enjoy real momentum.
Clinton has been written off before, however. Her voters tend to be more reliable and we've yet to see if Team Obama's inspirational videos (like this one) are producing frothy or real support.
OPINION POLLSTERS ARE NOT HAVING AN EASY TIME
UK opinion polling was humuliated by the 1992 General Election result. All the pollsters got the result badly wrong. This year US pollsters have struggled to keep up with the ebbs and flows of the race. They were spectacularly wrong in New Hampshire when Mrs Clinton pulled off a surprise win. Some pollsters will have some explaining to do after tonight, too. Zogby, for example, has Obama ahead in its final California poll by 49% to 36%. Survey USA has Clinton ahead by 52% to 42% in the same state (source). Both can't be right!
BARACK OBAMA IS A LIBERAL
Cal Thomas urges Republicans to wake up to the fact that Barack Obama is a very left-wing candidate - favouring higher taxation and endorsed by the most left-liberal powerbrokers in the Democratic party - including Ted Kennedy and MoveOn.org. As James Forsyth has noted, Barack Obama's reassuring rhetoric is effectively disguising the fact that he is the most liberal of America's one hundred senators and that's not liberal in the classical understanding of the term. He's a big state interventionist, opposed to the war on terror.
McCAIN'S PROBLEMS WITH CONSERVATIVES ARE GROWING
We already know that Ann Coulter has promised to campaign for Hillary Clinton rather than John McCain. She (ridiculously) asserted that Mrs Clinton is more hawkish that McCain. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh has also junked McCain:
"If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit . . . rather than a Republican causing the debacle," he said. "And I would prefer not to have conservative Republicans in the Congress paralyzed by having to support, out of party loyalty, a Republican president who is not conservative."
Another influential figure - James Dobson - has now said that he won't back the maverick Republican Senator. James Dobson, a leader of American evangelicals said the following:
"I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language."
Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard urges conservatives to "grow up" and lists some of the reasons why Senator McCain is preferable to any Democrat. At the same time he urges John McCain to do more to reach out to conservatives - beginning this week with his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. BritainAndAmerica's Samuel Coates will be at the speech and will report back on these pages.
Last June ConservativeHome.com found that Rudy Giuliani was the overwhelming favourite of UK Tories to be America's next President. The race has changed a lot since then and here are the preferences today. Over 1,600 Conservative members took part in the survey. A number of leading UK Tories have outed themselves as Obamacons. This poll suggests that rank-and-file members remain decisively Republican-friendly.
Related link: Tories debate whether they are closer to the Democrats or Republicans
Not so long ago Britain's David Cameron was something of an exception in global conservatism but that's changing fast. Two more traditional conservatives - John Howard and George W Bush - have either left the stage or are about to depart. In Australia John Howard has been replaced by a more centrist leader, Brendan Nelson. If Super Tuesday votes as the polls predict, Senator John McCain will become the Republican Party's nominee and the de facto leader of America's conservatives.
THE NEW CONSERVATISM OF CAMERON AND McCAIN
Greener: Both are of one mind on global warming, supporting government action to force reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Both see the European Union taking a lead on the issue. John McCain has said that “Americans should welcome the rise of a strong, confident European Union." He continued: "The future of the transatlantic relationship lies in confronting the challenges of the twenty-first century worldwide: developing a common energy policy, creating a transatlantic common market tying our economies more closely together, and institutionalizing our cooperation on issues such as climate change, foreign assistance, and democracy promotion.”
More civil libertarian: Both McCain and Cameron have been very critical of Guantanamo Bay. Both have more sympathy for protecting civil liberties than George W Bush or Michael Howard. They have both criticised aggressive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.
Less impressed with tax relief: Both emphasise fiscal conservatism over supply-side tax relief. John McCain twice voted against President Bush's tax cuts and David Cameron has pledged to limit promises of tax cuts to only those that can be fully funded by commensurate tax increases or by spending reductions. Recently, however, John McCain has vowed to extend Bush's tax cuts and has demanded a tough approach to public spending. UK Tories are pledged to match Labour on spending.
More welcoming of immigrants: Both men have antagonised elements within their parties who have wanted very hardline positions on immigration. John McCain almost lost any chance of the Republican nomination when he sided with George W Bush on immigration reform and a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. David Cameron has substantially softened Tory rhetoric on immigration and towards asylum seekers, in particular.
Pragmatic on controversial medical research: Both men support embryonic stem cell research.
More gay-friendly: David Cameron has moved the Conservative Party decisively in favour of gay rights issues and favours tax relief for same-sex couples who enter civil partnerships. John McCain's position is less clear although he has described attempts to secure a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as "un-Republican". That opposition stems more from a respect for state rights than social conservatism, however. He is thought to be sympathetic to civil partnerships.
Zero tolerance of ethical lapses: Both men take a low tolerance approach to ethical indiscretions by politicians.
Peter Cuthbertson challenges the British media's notion that the Republican's Christian base is putting off voters.
In the New York Times, former Bush speechwriter David Frum last month played sock puppet in turn to economic conservatives, social conservatives and foreign policy conservatives, giving the perspective of each on the disappointments of the Bush Administration. Of course, the reality isn’t nearly as simple as dividing them into three discrete categories - most people on the right will sympathise with all three. But it is a piece worth reading particularly for the second perspective, an argument many British observers will never have heard.
British newspapers which aren't vehemently hostile to Republicans still tend to report on the party from one of the other two points of view. The Economist is perhaps the worst offender. Time and again it has mixed accurate accounts of how GOP support has fallen as events in Iraq turned sour with its own complaints about an overly influential religious right and about excessive government spending. Economist articles invariably conclude that when it comes to domestic policy, pork barrel spending and social conservatism are hurting the Republicans in the polls, and so they need to take a step back so that cuts in federal spending can be the priority. The casual reader, not noticing where the opinion poll data stops and the Economist's own axe-grinding begins, would come away believing this unargued position.
If Bush had in fact inflicted significant amounts of unpopular government spending on Americans, it would be a problem suspiciously easy for conservatives to solve - simply cut the spending, as they are wont to do anyway, and the electoral benefits will flow. But this is not the case. The Economist complains all the time about pork barrel spending (politicians earmarking spending for their own parts of the country) and Medicare Part D (free prescription drugs for the elderly) under President Bush. But informed fiscal conservatives should know that pork is a tiny proportion of overall spending. On the other hand, the prescription drugs plan was anything but cheap. But it was also massively popular, with opposition to it usually in the single figures. As Al Gore had similar proposals, it is difficult to see how Bush could possibly have won the 2000 election without the plan. In other words, the actual meat of the increased spending is often exactly what pulled Bush through - not what hurts the GOP in elections.
This site has regularly noted the growing impact of the UK media on American politics. Millions of Americans read British news websites every month. Left-leaning Americans are particularly keen on the BBC and Guardian America - the two UK media outfits with the biggest levels of penetration into the US domestic market (and with ambitions for deeper penetration). Gateway sites like Drudge, The Huffington Post and RealClearPolitics also help to ensure that articles written for UK markets are read widely in the States. Why then does Hillary Clinton keep snubbing British reporters? Hillary Clinton barred foreign journalists from her Iowa campaign party and she won't even talk to The Telegraph now. The Telegraph's Toby Harnden writes:
"In the hubbub of the spin room after last night’s Democratic debate in Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, I introduced myself to Mandy Grunwald, Hillary Clinton’s media strategist, and prepared to ask a question. “Hi – you’re going to violate my I-only-speak-to-American-journalists…”, she said as I shook her hand... Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy platform states that “cooperative relationships have to be deepened and strengthened” across the globe while our “increasingly interconnected world demands an interconnected strategy”. I guess that doesn’t include the media."
So Hillary gets written down and Obama gets articles from Toby Harnden like this: "I'll see the world through your eyes". BritainAndAmerica knows of one of the Guardian group's most senior commentators who cannot even get Team Clinton to return his phone calls. If the election gets very tight Mrs Clinton may regret putting the Smallville Gazette ahead of the BBC.
A few months ago it looked like Hillary Clinton had the Democratic race sown up. All of the uncertainty was on the GOP side. Times have changed. McCain is now the overwhelming favourite for the GOP nomination - leading in all five recent Super Duper Tuesday polls - and Obama is gaining on Mrs Clinton. The extent of Obama's momentum is discussed by Dick Morris in a special post for Rasmussen polling. Most notable is a reduction in Clinton's California advantage to just 3% from 20% a few weeks ago. The overall national lead for the former First Lady in the RCP moving average is 8.5%; although the most recent poll - for Gallup - put Obama just 4% behind.
...AND HE HAS THE MONEY TO DRAW CLOSER
Obama has the money to contest every Super Tuesday state. He raised $1m every day in January and is planning a $10m spending campaign over the next few days.
One of the other big differences between the GOP and Democrat contests is that the GOP is running a number of winner-takes-all votes. Second-placed Democrats, notes The Economist, still get delegates in key states which reduces the chance of a Super Tuesday wipeout.
THE IRAQ FACTOR
John O'Sullivan worries that Iraq - although better - will still hurt the Republicans:
"Whether we like it or not, Democrats are closer to the majority view on Iraq. The success of the surge has reduced the salience of Iraq as an issue damaging the GOP but that has not made it an issue that wins votes for the GOP. So it did no damage for Hillary and Obama to discuss it endlessly and their disagreement—who is most reliably determined to leave — will not anger their supporters or most uncommitted voters."
BEST JOKE OF THE DAY
From Hillary Clinton during the Democrats' debate: "It did take a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush." Okay; it wasn't that funny.