Monthly Archives: August 2008

Gideon Rachman

John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate is bold. But it is also dumb.

At a stroke, McCain has negated his most powerful argument – that Barack Obama is too inexperienced to be president. Sarah Palin has been governor of Alaska for less than two years. Six years ago, she was the mayor of a town of 9,000 people.

Her personal story is interesting and has a certain charm. But I winced as I heard her describe the valuable experience she had gained as a member of a Parent Teachers Association. And this is the person who might end up having to deal with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao. And remember, McCain turned 72 today. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Here in Denver there are two Georgias. There is the state of Georgia, which looks like it is going to go Republican. And there is the nation of Georgia, which has been invaded by Russia. The Obama people are worried by both situations.

As far as the conflict with Russia goes, one Obama fan worries that – “This is not a good issue for us. McCain has been so tough on Russia that if we harden our position, it just looks like me-tooism. But if we don’t, it looks weak.” Needless to say the Obama people think that this is terribly unfair – and with some reason. They can point to reams of Obama statements issued well before the crisis, which were prescient and tough. But impressions are everything. Read more

Gideon Rachman

The music at party conventions is very carefully selected to tailor with the message. So last night in the hall, we were all serenaded with the disco hit “We are Family”, as the Biden grand-children and grandparents cavorted on stage.

That left me wondering who selected the music for Bill Clinton. The former president gave a brilliant speech, totally overshadowing Biden. But whose bright idea was it to play the Hall and Oates hit, “Addicted to Love” as he left the stage?

Gideon Rachman

Barack Obama shot to national prominence four years ago at the Democratic Party convention with a ringing and patriotic appeal for national unity. In its most famous passage, Mr Obama lambasted the idea that the US is bitterly divided between red (Republican) and blue (Democratic) states and declared: “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes.”

Senator Obama would be well advised to hit the same themes tonight, in his speech accepting the party’s nomination for the presidency. For one looming threat for the Democrats is that their convention in Denver might come across to voters watching on television as a gathering of sectional, grievance-bearing, liberal interests. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Barack Obama may or may not make it to the White House, but he is already contributing mightily to the world of conspiracy theories. My colleague Peter Barber pointed out to me months ago that Obama might match certain Christian fundamentalist descriptions of the Anti-Christ. And indeed if you put the words Obama and Anti-Christ into Google, you come up with a startling number of matches. In fact, the theory is now so popular that CNN has even run an item on it.

The massive popularity of the fundamentalist “Left Behind” series of novels has put Americans on the look-out for the Anti-Christ. In the Left Behind series, it is suggested that he will appear on earth as a charismatic, but unknown, politician. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the series, has repudiated the Obama as Anti-Christ theory – but hardly in ringing terms. He is quoted as saying: “I can see by the language he uses why people could think he was the Anti-Christ.” But he adds re-assuringly: “There is no indication in the Bible that the Anti-Christ will be American.” So that’s a relief.

All the same, Christian fundamentalists are out in force here in Denver – in particular anti-abortionists. A van is circulating around town, with absolutely repulsive photos of aborted foetuses, dripping blood – emblazoned on its side panels, alongside the slogan – Obama-nation. (Abomination, get it?) In fact, all sorts of crazies are in town – from anarchists to the Aryan nation. If Denver wasn’t such a laid back place, it might seem vaguely threatening. Amidst all the mayhem, however, I found one group whose purpose was no more sinister than to hand out cold water to passers-by. They turned out to be Episcopalians, who were eager to have a civilised conversation about the latest Anglican synod at Lambeth Palace.

The big event tonight is Hillary Clinton’s speech. I’m just back from seeing her give a small warm-up speech at the Sheraton Hotel. She said all the right things about electing Obama and Biden, but sounded desperately subdued. But apparently her mood is positively upbeat compared to that of Bill Clinton, who is grumbling to all and sundry and “behaving like a complete idiot” – and that’s according to one of his friends. Read more

Gideon Rachman


The Democratic party will whip up some euphoria in Denver this week. But a dark cloud of anxiety hovers over the party convention.

A horrible truth is beginning to dawn on the Democrats. Barack Obama is not the “once in a generation” political genius they thought they had discovered. On the contrary, he is a weak candidate for the presidency. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Such is the crush of people here in Denver that the FT, in common with many other media organisations, has had to rent a house for an exorbitant sum of money.

There are five of us here in the FT house: me, Ed Luce, Clive Crook, Andrew Ward and Stephanie Kirchgaessner from the Washington office. As the last arrival, I got the last pick of bedrooms. There was much sniggering as I was ushered to my boudoir. I do not use the word lightly. My bed has satin sheets decorated with a leopard-skin motif. I have never slept on satin before and I can say that it is a truly revolting experience. But Clive says that I will come to love it – and that by the end of the week, I will be unable to sleep on anything else. Read more

Gideon Rachman

The ritual of selecting a vice-presidential candidate is part of the fun of an American presidential election. Now that Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden, we all have a new character and life story to pick over – and a new tactical gambit to analyse.

There will be huge amounts written about the difference that the vice-presidential choices might make to the dynamics of the race. But – without wishing to spoil the fun – it seems to me that history suggests that the choice of vice-presidential candidate makes almost no difference to the outcome of the presidential election. Read more

Gideon is returning from holidays and will be blogging again next week, when he’ll be at the Democratic convention in Denver. Expect a first post late Monday.

Gideon Rachman

There are two things to say about the fighting in Georgia. First, the Georgians had every right to try and take control of South Ossetia – it is part of their country and there is no doubt that the Russian-backed separatists had been acting in a highly provocative fashion.

But second – the Georgians have made a terrible mistake. In a post on May 16th, I argued that Georgian threats to shoot down Russian planes buzzing their airspace would be self-defeating, giving Russia an “excuse to launch military operations against Georgia”. Attacking South Ossetia was an even worse error. By becoming (apparently), the first to shed blood the Georgians lost the moral high ground and gave Russia the causus belli it sought. Read more