Monthly Archives: August 2012

José Manuel Barroso (R), who is set to unveil plans for a "banking union" on September 12, shown here in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in June.

In times of crisis, a fast-forward button can be pressed on decisions that would usually take years of discussion and planning. So it is with the creation of a European ‘banking union’, which analysts at the Bruegel thinktank describe as an endeavour “in some respects no less ambitious and complex than the creation of monetary union itself”. The aim is to brace eurozone banks against future shocks by bringing them under a common regulatory and supervisory structure, introducing common deposit insurance and a shared system for crisis resolution. In June, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, told the FT he’d like to enact a banking union as soon as 2013. But is that really feasible? And what hurdles stand in the way?  Read more

These articles caught our eye today:

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (R-WI) with their families on the final day of the Republican National Convention (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After three hours of the Republican convention on Thursday night in Tampa, I was all but convinced that the party is on course for victory in the presidential election. And then Mitt Romney gave his speech. The Republicans have some powerful themes to hammer away at. But the fact is, they are stuck with a wooden, dull and charmless candidate. In fact, it seems almost incredible that the anti-charismatic Romney is the best they could come up with – until you remember the motley crew that he ended up running against: Gingrich, Cain, Bachmann, Santorum.  Read more

The Republican convention and the future of the GOP
This week’s Republican Convention has been showcase for a strong next generation of potential leaders for the party, but is Mitt Romney’s campaign also the last throw of the dice for a party that may need to adapt to a rapidly changing electoral demographics? Richard McGregor and John McDermott join John Aglionby to discuss the indications from Tampa.

According to the New Zealand Herald, it is Tim Groser, New Zealand’s trade minister, who has ambitions to replace Pascal Lamy as director-general of the World Trade Organization, when the Frenchman steps down next summer.

In Mr Groser’s favour, he is smart and experienced. Formerly New Zealand’s ambassador to the WTO, he chaired the agriculture talks in the Doha round, which is not a job for the easily-frustrated or detail-averse. Read more

Condoleezza Rice at the Republican National Convention (Stan Honda/AFP/GettyImages)

Every few years someone takes a convention by storm. At Bill Clinton’s convention in 1992 it was Mario Cuomo, the Hamlet-like governor of New York, who gave delegates a taste of what could have been. In 2004 it was the unknown Barack Obama, who comfortably outclassed John Kerry.

In Tampa in 2012, that moment was expected from Chris Christie, the generously-girthed New Jersey governor. Alas, Mr Christie belly-flopped. Instead, it was Condoleezza Rice, the only prominent former Bush official to be given a speaking slot, who delivered the best speech of the convention – and probably of her career. It was all the more impressive because it was unexpected.

Most people assumed that Ms Rice was invited for two reasons – she isn’t white (a big plus for a Republican nominee who recently got zero – yes zero – per cent rating among African Americans), and because her presence would “validate” Mr Romney. The content of her speech would be neither here nor there. In her short address, Ms Rice pretty much inverted expectations. Read more

We selected these articles for you today:

Much wonkery is going on as academics pore over the Republican platform for November’s elections, adopted by the convention on Tuesday.

Given Mitt Romney’s sharpish turn towards China-bashing on the campaign trail, the section on trade is worth a detailed look. Scott Lincicome does a thorough number on it here - but I’m also thinking, cynically, about how much of the frothy combative stuff a Romney presidency (and a Republican Congress) could execute in the least trade-warmongering fashion possible – i.e. keep to the letter but not the spirit of the platform. Read more

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

If there was a word observers most repeated about Barack Obama’s convention in Denver four years ago, it was “soaring”. For Mitt Romney in 2012 it would be “humanising” – making him seem like he is flesh and blood is the key deliverable from the Tampa convention.

By that yardstick there is still some way to go.

On Tuesday night, Ann Romney cleared the low bar the media sets for political spouses by bringing to life a husband who, after 43 years of marriage, “still makes me laugh”. She gave a plausible description of a man who would outwork any other applicant for the job. “He will not fail,” she said to the biggest applause line of the night.

Most tellingly, she described a generous philanthropist who did not like people to know about how generous he is: “This is important. I want you to hear what I am going to say,” she said, lowering her voice. “Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he helps others, because he sees it as a privilege, not as a political talking point.”

Leaving aside the fact that Mr Romney has authorised others to talk about his charitable record (from whom we will hear during the rest of the convention), his wife’s words are not as straightforward as they seem. They contain two messages that Mr Romney will be hoping avoid further scrutiny. Read more

The FT’s Anna Fifield took this photo in Tampa yesterday, of delegate Todd Tiahrt, a former congressman who attended the Republican convention dressed as Wyatt Earp. Apparently, fancy dress is not all that unusual at US political conventions. Check out our slideshow which includes a few other snaps of costumed delegates, as well as some general scenes from this week’s Florida shindig, as photographed by Anna and Stephanie Kirchgaessner.

These are the pieces that kept us reading today:


Ann Romney on stage during the Republican National Convention on August 28 (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The convention speech by the candidate’s wife is a strange – and not altogether savoury – American political tradition. I come from Britain, where all that is expected of a leader’s wife at the party conference is to not look too bored and to clap in the right places. But here in the US, the candidate’s wife has to take to the rostrum at the party convention.

She has two jobs. First, she is auditioning for the role of first lady. Second, she has to persuade voters that her husband is not just a suitable president – but a marvellous human-being.

Ann Romney’s task last night was particularly onerous. She is not in perfect health: she has multiple sclerosis and has had breast cancer. And Mitt Romney is a tough sell: remote, robotic, chilly. Read more

Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, has suggested it would be wrong to use the terrible fire at PdVSA’s Amuay refinery to political advantage before the October 7 presidential election. After all, the fire has killed more than 40 people. Nonetheless, politicking is inevitable. Name-calling has already erupted on both sides. Read more

Back in the golden age of the convention, Walter Cronkite may have been the American public’s principal source of news about their candidates. Today, everyone is Walter Cronkite. Read more

These are the pieces that interested and amused us today:

Ok, well, those political pundits had to talk about something when the first day of the Republican convention got cancelled. So on what have they focused their searing analytical eyes? The news that Glamour magazine, the elephant (yes, the Republicans have a creeping influence on our linguistic sub-conscious) in the Conde Nast stable, has snagged an interview with President Obama.

It’s to run in their November issue – which means it is out in early October, perfectly timed in influence lots of voters — and was written by editor in chief Cindi Leive.

 Read more

The good news for the Republican Party is that “hurricane” Isaac has not hit Tampa. The bad news is that it might hit New Orleans. If that happens, the Republicans might still have to abandon or curtail their convention. The “optics” of Republicans partying, while New Orleans drowns, might just be too disastrous.

Needless to say, this is all frightfully irritating for the Republicans. Monday was meant to be the red-hot launch of the convention – a full day of Obama-bashing had been lined up. Instead, the GOP symbolically opened the convention; only to close it again 10 minutes later – which just seemed bizarre.

Since Isaac has chosen to blow right by Tampa, the weather here is nothing worse than mildly unpleasant. It is sultry, wet and blowy. But this – plus the heavy security which means large parts of Tampa are cut off by roadblocks – has given the city a slightly strange and sinister feel. The central streets are empty – save for gun-toting police and soldiers and sopping-wet delegates, trudging through the rain. As one  friend put it – “The place looks like the set of a climate-change disaster movie.” Read more

By Gideon Rachman

The most significant political story in America this year had nothing to do with politics. It was an article in The New York Times headlined “Whites account for under half of births in the US”.

Tobias Buck, our esteemed Jerusalem correspondent, dropped into my office the other day. He told me (tactfully) that I was probably wrong, in my recent blog post, to give such credence to the idea that Israel is on the point of bombing the Iranian nuclear programme. I should return to my previous scepticism.

As it happens, I had already reconsidered, after reading this analysis by Shai Feldman. Feldman stresses the significance of the recent public opposition to a strike, voiced by President Shimon Peres. Read more

Some of the stories that have sparked debate on the world news desk this morning: