Monthly Archives: November 2008

Gideon Rachman

I blame it all on Dean Acheson. The long-dead American statesman was a big figure at the original Bretton Woods conference in 1944 and later helped invent Nato. Acheson gave his memoirs the modest title Present at the Creation and, in so doing, he inadvertently fed the grandiose fantasies of the leaders of the Group of 20 leading economies who will assemble in Washington next weekend. Perhaps they too can achieve near God-like status by reordering the institutions of the world? Read more

Gideon Rachman

I was irritated to see that Arthur Laffer has just published a book called “The End of Prosperity”. It’s not that I have anything in particular against the curvaceous Mr Laffer. But calling your book, “The End of” something or other, is perhaps the worst cliche in publishing.

This is confirmed by a brief search on Amazon, which yielded the following books – most published within the last ten years. “The End of Poverty” by Jeff Sachs, “The End of History” by Francis Fukuyama, “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris, “The End of Food” and “The End of Oil”, both by Paul Roberts, “The End of Lawyers” by Richard Susskind, “The End of Fashion” by Teri Agins, “The End of Days” by Zacahria Sitkin, “The End of Human Rights” by Costas Douzinkas, two books called “The End of Globalisation” – one by Harold James and one by Alan Rugman, “The End of Nature” by Bill McKibben, “The End of Work” by Jeremy Rifkin, “The End of Medicine” by Andy Kessler, “The End of Memory” by Miroslav Wolff, “The End of Science” by John Horgan and “The End of the Poem” by Paul Muldoon. Read more

Gideon Rachman

During the presidential election campaign Joe Biden warned rather injudiciously that world leaders would test Barack Obama’s mettle within six months of him taking office. Well, it doesn’t seem to have taken them that long. On the very day of Obama’s election, the Russian government announced plans to deploy cruise missiles in Kaliningrad, a tiny Russian enclave that borders Poland.

The Russians deploying missiles in a way that threatens American strategic interests and poses a test for a new, young, charismatic American president – what does that remind you of? JFK and Cuba, of course. A few months ago I heard Robert Kagan, an adviser to McCain, argue that inexperienced and liberal presidents are more likely to end up in dangerous international confrontations because hostile foreigners are more likely to put them to the test, and the new president is going to feel the need to show that he is tough. Eisenhower got through eight years without a truly dangerous confrontation with the Russians. But Kennedy had the Cuba missile crisis Read more

Gideon Rachman

It is just a few hours since Obama was elected – and already events are taking on a retrospective aura of inevitability. The election of the first black president is a historic moment and so it is tempting to believe that it was somehow written in the stars. Obama himself liked to suggest to supporters that “we have a righteous wind at our back”.

The fatalists argue that Bush was so unpopular, the economy so bad, the McCain campaign so confused and the Obama campaign so brilliant, that the Democrat was simply bound to win. I don’t believe it. Don’t forget that shortly after the Republican convention, McCain was actually briefly in the lead. A Republican victory was far from inconceivable.

So what happened? It was not fate that intervened – it was Katie and Dick. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Once I thought I’d write books. Then I became a newspaper columnist. Then I began to blog. Now I have discovered a form of communication that uses even fewer words: Twitter. I will be trying it out tonight here – and it will appear on a sidebar in the blog once the US election results come in.

As I understand it Twitter is a kind on online text-messaging, which allows you to react to events as they unfold. But it doesn’t allow you to react at much length. The maximum post is 140 characters long. Read more

Gideon Rachman

We are on the brink of history. On Tuesday the US could elect its first ever blue president. Read more

Gideon Rachman

John McCain doesn’t sound bitter. Of course, he can’t afford to since he must still base his campaign on the idea that he is poised for victory – “the Mac is back” and all that.

But take a look at some of the rhetoric of McCain supporters and you get a sense of just how bitter the backlash will be – if and when Obama is elected. I think it will make the “vast, right-wing conspiracy” aimed at Clinton look pretty teeny by comparison. Read more

Gideon Rachman

 

Meeting somebody for lunch does not usually make me nervous. But I feel slightly on edge as I wait for Alastair Campbell. Once Tony Blair’s closest aide, Campbell, a 51-year-old former journalist, makes no secret of the fact that he despises most journalists. He is a big, burly man with red hair and a short temper. Read more