The Telegraph

American Way: What We Didn’t Learn After Newtown – The Telegraph

Here’s the thing about shock. It fades. Certainly not for the families of the 20 children who were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago. But for the rest of us, who recoiled in horror at the evil enabled by semi-automatic weapons wielded by a monster of a young man, the shock fades.

The urgency over trying to ensure that such a slaughter “never happens again” – it fades. The calls for new legislation, reasonable restrictions which might make it just a little bit more difficult to kill as many people as fast as possible, grow stale and over time start to seem impractical and implausible. And so conventional wisdom congeals more or less where it was before the massacre.

And guess what? That was the obstruction strategy all along – a smart but cynical bet on civic amnesia, pushed by lobbyists who cajoled congressmen and advised them to resist the wishes of 90% of the American people. Read More…

Hell Week in Boston Shows How 9/11 Taught Resilience – The Telegraph

Monday’s bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day propelled America back to a 9/11 mindset. Tuesday through Thursday were pre-occupied with grief, manhunts and memorial services. Poisonous envelopes mailed to the president and two US senators, along with a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, only added to the low hum of anxiety.

Then on Friday, the manhunt culminated with the killing of one suspect and the capture of another – two Chechen brothers whose immigrant experience was twisted by radical Islam and turned into a nightmare for the citizens of Boston. The city’s lockdown turned into a spontaneous celebration, with the waving of American flags, applause for the SWAT teams, chants of “U-S-A” interspersed with the Boston Red Sox unofficial anthem “Sweet Caroline.”

It was “a tough week,” as President Obama said in a post-arrest press conference at the White House. But we emerged stronger, if sadder, and more united as a result of all we had experienced.. Read More…

Obama has Given Up Seeking a Solution to America’s Financial Woes

Without a bang or a whimper, all hopes of striking a so-called “Grand Bargain” to put America’s public finances on a sustainable track died a quiet death this week.

And because cynicism passes for wisdom in Washington, the passing was little lamented. But its death is a loss to the cause of putting America’s house in order, and all-but-officially marks the moment the Obama administration gave up trying to bridge the political divide on this most fundamental issue.

The death notice itself was printed in the pages of the Obama budget, which quietly rescinded the offer of long-term healthcare and pensions reform by withdrawing the offer of what Capitol Hill policy-wonks call “Chain-weighted CPI” from their budget blueprint. Read More…

Hating Kennedy – The Daily Beast

This week, America was fixated on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Grief nourishes myth and a new CNN poll registers JFK as our most admired ex-president from the past half century.

His brief 1,000 days in the Oval Office loom large in American memory because of his abrupt loss; a psychic wound that shaped a generation, symbolizing a collective loss of innocence.

Perhaps inevitably, we buy into the idea that President Kennedy was as beloved in life as he has been in death. Of course, this was not the case. Read More…

American Way: Can Jim Messina Do for David Cameron What He Did for Barack Obama?

The incumbent was underwater. Low poll numbers and a still-sluggish economy, soaring campaign promises of hope and change that never quite materialised. The opposition attacked him; so did some of the ideological absolutists in his own camp.

That’s the situation Jim Messina inherited when he took the helm of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2011. And it applies to the thicket of problems he’s going to confront as the newly announced senior adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2015 re-election campaign.

On the surface it is an odd-couple pairing – the University of Montana Democrat and the Oxford-educated Conservative. But Mr Obama and Mr Cameron are both pioneering members of Generation X, indulging in modest relatable rebellion before reaching the highest elected office in their land. Both men campaigned as candidates of generational change, presenting themselves as post-partisan coalition builders and rapidly rising to prominence on the strength of their speeches. Neither man entered office with much executive experience and the old political aphorism that “you campaign in poetry but govern in prose” quickly hobbled sky-high expectations.
Read More…

Don’t Call Obama Racist – The Daily Beast

Race remains a fundamental fault line in American life. That’s why the Trayvon Martin murder trial drew wall­ to ­wall coverage on cable news and why the jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman drew outraged cries.

And on Friday afternoon, a day before planned nationwide protests, President Obama weighed into the fray with a remarkable, unscripted 17­-minute address from the White House briefing room.

But by trying to use the bully pulpit to turn this national paroxysm into what he might call a “teachable moment,” President Obama reignited conservative criticisms that he is an advocate for identity politics rather than for national unity. Read More…

American Way: Don’t Impose Watergate on the Scandals Facing Obama – They Stand on Their Own – The Telegraph

Somewhere Richard Nixon is smiling. Four decades after Watergate and two decades after his death, we still can’t stop talking about the dark anti-hero of American politics. His five-o’clock shadowy visage remains too convenient a metaphor for lazy critics looking to lacerate a president from the opposing party.

The latest non-Watergate to be labelled its second coming is actually a combination of three separate scandals afflicting the Barack Obama administration.

The collective weight of this scandalabra threatens to derail the president’s ambitious legislative agenda, dragging him to premature lame duck status. But it doesn’t represent outright criminality emanating from the Oval Office or promise to provoke a constitutional crisis, however fervently Obama’s critics might wish it. Read More…

Connecticut School Shooting: Standing Up to the Gun Lobby is the Best Way to Honour the Innocent Victims – The Telegraph

America’s deadliest school shooting occurred one day before the 221st anniversary of the adoption of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to bear arms.

Our gun laws might look strange across the Atlantic, where murder rates are small compared to the 10,000 people per year who die here from gunshot wounds.

Because our civic debates over gun laws are rooted in the constitution, they have a fixed foundation. Conversations get heated when the founding fathers are invoked and to some extent this elevation of gun rights keeps debates decidedly abstract. This tendency is reinforced by American culture and mythology, the settling of the West by pioneers and the centrality of guns in American movies ranging from John Wayne to the Godfather. It is a symbol of independence. Read More…

Newtown Shooting: Now Is the Time for Gun Law Debate in America – The Telegraph

Newtown, Connecticut, is where families move to keep their children safe.

Only an hour from New York City, the town was founded well before the Revolutionary War. It’s where Scrabble was invented, a stop on the Underground Railroad, home to antique stores, picturesque libraries and good schools.

Now it will be known as the site of the deadliest school shooting in American history.

Evil visited this bucolic town on an otherwise quiet Friday morning, two weeks before Christmas.

Twenty children and six adults were murdered in the halls of the Sandy Hook Elementary school at the hands a 20-year old former student named Adam Lanza whose mother was a teacher there. Read More…

Senate Vote on UN Disability Convention Shows Pitiful State of US politics – The Telegraph

“It needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people.” So said John Kerry in a fit of frustration after the Senate voted against ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This was the sort of pro-forma vote that would have passed with broad bipartisan support a decade or so ago – a symbolic signing on to a UN treaty that aimed to raise international standards on the treatment of the disabled, not to some dizzying new height but to the level the US achieved more than 20 years ago under President George H W Bush.

America, it was hoped, would add its weight to the push to extend disability rights around the world. Read More…

They Failed to ‘Buy’ the US Election in 2012: Will Conservative Donors Ever Open Their Wallets Again? – The Telegraph

An unprecedented amount of money was spent in the 2012 election — some $6 billion in total. But the real slumbering scandal was how much of that was an infusion of cash from Super PACs – supposedly independent “political action committees” exercising their right to free speech on the election – and of so-called “dark money” into the campaign.

Thanks to a combination of the Supreme Court’s controversial “Citizens United” decision and an abuse of tax-exempt status by political groups allegedly dedicated to “social welfare” despite party affiliations, corporations and unions could flood the airwaves with negative advertisements without disclosing their names.

Republicans had a huge advantage, aided by the almost pathological hatred of Obama felt by many big-money boys, who see him as a socialist despite a doubling of the US stock market since March 2009, soon after his watch began. Read More…

Video Defaming Prophet Mohammed is a Con Job That Pits Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims Against Freedom – The Telepgraph

More than 100 years ago, Mark Twain said: “A lie will go round the round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

The world received a chilling 21st century update of that aphorism last week, as a plot that would have stretched credibility in a satire unfolded across the globe, leaving embassies attacked and an American ambassador dead, and sending shockwaves through a US presidential election just 51 days away.

At issue was an amateurish 13-minute series of video clips – part high-school play and part porn production, it seems too much to call it a “movie” – posted on YouTube. Read More…

US Election 2012: Why Mitt Still Needs to Polish His Sales Pitch – The Telegraph

The Republican Convention in Tampa ended after three days of frenzied networking and made-for-television speeches, all against a backdrop of American flags.

This is now Mitt Romney’s Republican Party, even if it is more unified by intense dislike of President Obama than love for their nominee. The cavalcade of speakers was designed to present an inclusive Republican vision while reaffirming the party’s core positions.

Watching the show-flow from inside the arena on the final night offered a look at the strategy Team Romney believes will win back the White House. Read More…

US Election 2012: Barack Obama, China and a Fight for Ohio – The Telegraph

China and Ohio are on opposite sides of the globe. But when Air Force One touched down in Toledo, Ohio on July 5, President Barack Obama had China on his mind.

At the opening event of his Rust Belt Bus Tour – awkwardly-billed as “Betting on America” – the president was quick to announce his administration’s latest effort to level the trading field with China: a formal WTO complaint against tariffs imposed on US autos.

“Americans aren’t afraid to compete,” Obama said, sweating in the stifling summer heat.

“As long as we’re competing on a fair playing field instead of an unfair playing field, we’re going to do just fine. We’re going to make sure that competition is fair.” Read More…

The Hispanic Challenge for Obama and Romney – The Telegraph

America is a nation of immigrants with an illegal immigration problem — a dilemma for both the presidential candidates

America is a nation of immigrants with an illegal immigration problem. For the past four decades, immigration has been a political football, the subject of liberal pandering and conservative demagoguery in the culture wars.

But now the calculus has changed — courtesy the fact that 16 per cent of Americans are of Hispanic descent, making them the largest minority community in the country. Politicians in both parties understand that there are pragmatic as well as principled reasons to deal with immigration, legal or otherwise. That is why President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both made pilgrimages to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Orlando, Florida, last week. Read More…

American Way: Wisconsin Recall Vote Shows Union Power is Problem for Democrats – The Telegraph

The biggest election before November took place last week in Wisconsin – and it didn’t go the Democrats way.

Incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker had polarised the state by taking on public sector labour unions, rolling back their collective bargaining rights as part of an effort to close a $3 billion budget gap after he took office.

In doing so, he provoked a confrontation with big labour and progressive protestors, who pronounced the move a “war on workers.” The state capital was swarmed with demonstrators and accompanying drum circles for weeks. Read More…

American Way: Why Barack Obama Now Has a Battle on His Hands for the 2012 Election

There are storm clouds on the horizon for Barack Obama’s re-election.

Democrats indulged in over-confidence during the Republican primaries. It was an understandable reaction to the chaos that came with all the pandering to the far-Right and the rise of frankly laughable candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain in the search for an alternative to Mitt Romney.

After that debacle, the Romney campaign manager’s promise of an “etch-a-sketch” moment to re-shake and re-shape public perception about their candidate seemed a dose too hopeful.

But only a month after the Republican primaries all but officially ended, we have a real horserace on our hands.

President Barack Obama holds an edge when it comes to personal qualities – questions about not just likeability but more meaningful measures like “more likely to stand up for what he believes in” and “has the personal character to be president”.

But when it comes to the number one issue of the economy, it is another issue entirely. Read More…

American Way: Why Barack Obama’s Support for Gay Marriage is a Huge Political Gamble by the President – The Telegraph

It was a “profile in courage” moment from the American president, but one loaded with political risk.

Consider the fact that just the previous day the citizens of North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriage and all forms of civil unions by a 20-point margin, enshrining unequal treatment in their state constitution.

This has not been an unusual result when it has been put to the voters — more than 30 states have taken the same step, while in the half a dozen states where marriage equality is legal it has been achieved via state legislatures or judicial decision. Read More…

Barack Obama, the Unlikely Hero of War on Terror – The Telegraph

It’s been one year since Osama bin Laden was killed. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be as happy again to hear that someone was shot in the face.

Revenge, justice, call it what you will, but it felt good, like a hinge of history finally closing, a bookend to a decade spent with images in our minds of the twin towers imploding.

I was three blocks away in New York on 9/11, working as a speech writer at City Hall and spent the next three months writing eulogies. So yeah, this was personal. But the horror was personal to everyone with a heart and a head. Read More…

US Election 2012: the Ugly Republican Nomination Race is Only Helping Obama – The Telegraph

President Obama’s re-election strategy is focused on portraying himself as the defender of the forgotten American middle class. And, writes John Avlon, there are signs that this strategy is succeeding.
For the first time since the short-lived boost after the death of Osama bin Laden, a majority of Americans now approve of Obama’s job performance. He is beating the battered, but still presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney in a new Washington Post/ABC poll. Read More…

American Way: Florida Battle of Strip Malls and Swamps May Decide Republican Nomination Contest – The Telegraph

Much of Florida is swampland covered by strip-malls – and in a similar attempt to impose order over chaos, Mitt Romney is blanketing the Sunshine State this weekend with negative advertisements bashing his chief rival Newt Gingrich.

Romney, the establishment candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has money and organisation on his side. But in the wake of a strong South Carolina victory, the insurgent conservative candidate Newt Gingrich has momentum and plenty of grassroots Tea Party activists trying to upset the coronation of King Mitt. Read More…