Monthly Archives: March 2008

Gideon Rachman

It is not just the US that is holding elections. There is a Spanish general election on Sunday and the streets of Madrid are festooned with campaign posters.

Spanish political slogans have lost a little of their élan, since the civil war and the days of “No pasaran”. The main parties in this election have clearly run out of inspiration on the sloganeering front. Outside my hotel is a huge banner for the centre-right Popular Party, featuring its smiling, bearded leader, Mariano Rajoy. The line on the poster is “Clear ideas, with Rajoy it’s possible.” The main slogan being used by the governing Socialist Party translates as “We are the majority”. To which the obvious response is: well, we’ll see about that on Sunday, won’t we? Read more

Gideon Rachman

So the race goes on. Hillary’s victories in Ohio and Texas are both embarrassing and pleasing for political pundits. Pleasing because this is fantastically exciting election – and now we well get some more of it. It’s like being told there will be an extra series of The Sopranos. Embarrassing – obviously – because once again the conventional wisdom has been turned on its head.

I did a BBC Radio programme yesterday morning in which it was all but assumed that the race was over – and it was clearly going to be Obama v McCain. To his credit my fellow guest, Robert Kagan, insisted that Hillary had a good shot of re-opening the race by winning both of last night’s primaries.

Since Kagan was right about that, let me also quote him on the question of presidential character and foreign policy. This is something that both the Clinton and McCain campaigns are going big on. McCain last night insisted that he is by far the most experienced candidate to deal with a foreign policy emergency. And the Clinton campaign has been running TV ads, showing Hillary answering an emergency 3am call at the White House. Read more

Gideon Rachman

If you browse down my blogroll, you will see a link to the excellent and eclectic Normblog.

Norm has asked me to write a piece on a favourite book, which you can find here. Seeing my effort on screen, it seems extremely short and perfunctory. But some of the other efforts in Norm’s “writers choice” series are really good. I particularly recommend the essays by John Lloyd, Francis Wheen and Christopher Hitchens.

Gideon Rachman

In my earlier musings on the character of my fellow columnist, I left out one other abiding impression from our time at The Economist. It really is a big mistake to get into a prolonged argument with Clive. Once riled he is relentless. The conversation will only end when Clive has nailed your head to the floor (figuratively speaking, obviously).

So I’m going to accept his invitation. Let’s call it quits. History can judge whether Obama is an orator to be ranked alongside King, Kennedy at el. But I think we should take a broad view of what history means. Let’s wait at least 200 years before we form a definitive judgement.

While we’re waiting, can I offer some short-term predictions. Obama will win the nomination. Obama will win the presidency. Obama will then deliver an inaugural speech that is so brilliant and moving, that even I will be reduced to tears (without the assistance of an onion.) And within 18 months Clive Crook and many of Obama’s former fans will be bitterly disappointed – so it will be left to me to argue that he’s not so bad really.

Meanwhile, I was amused by this analysis of my relationship with my present and former colleague that appeared on the comments section of the Crook blog: Read more

Gideon Rachman


Nikita Krushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union in 1956, told the western world: “We will bury you.” Now Dmitry Medvedev, the newly elected president of Russia, has come back with a revised offer: “We will buy you.” Read more

Gideon Rachman

I’ve always felt a bit queasy about columnists who debate with each other on the pages of their own papers. It can seem a bit vain and self-referential. On the other hand, the whole phenomeon of blogging is vain and self-referential. So here goes.

Clive Crook has given me a bit of a going over because of my critique of Obama’s speeches. Here is my response; Read more