Daily Archives: October 3, 2012

Notes from the Heartland

I’m in Springfield, Missouri, the second stop on my tour through the American heartland. Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the headquarters of the local Republican party, trying to understand what its members think about the upcoming election and about the future of the country. In advance of the first presidential debate, which takes place tonight in Denver, one thing in particular struck me amid the electoral regalia and kind-hearted atmosphere of this Christian, conservative and friendly town.

The idea that America is polarised is a given across the political spectrum. There is a lot of truth in this, but often it gives rise to caricature. Read more

Here’s today’s menu for you:

Good morning and welcome to the round up of news coverage of the US presidential election and today’s campaign calendar from Politico.com just about says it all. It’s all about the debate, and the debate is: do debates make any difference?

A dress rehearsal, featuring students, is held in Denver for Wednesday's presidential debate (Getty Images)

Received wisdom is that debates rarely win an election, but they can lose one. For every candidate’s bull’s-eye, such as the great Ronald Reagan “There you go again”, there are a dozen awkward moments or barely-avoided catastrophes.

At the weekend, the New York Times told us that Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger was in possession of “a series of zingers that he has memorised and has been practising on aides since August”, but on Wednesday Dana Millbank in the Washington Post points out that a Zinger is in real life an item of confectionery stacked high in trans-fatty acids and other ingredients guaranteed to clog the arteries.

In an article making reference to “sugar rushes” and lack of fibre, Millbank writes:

At a time when even his fondest supporters are pleading for more substance, Mitt Romney is giving them the political equivalent of junk food. His has been the Zinger candidacy — all sugary platitudes, no protein.

In the Chicago Sun Times, Steve Huntley says President Barack Obama is open to being exposed as an emperor with no clothes in the Denver debate on Wednesday night. Read more

In today’s dead-tree version of the FT, we have a front-page story on an eight-page “draft guidelines for the conclusions” for this month’s EU summit, a document that includes some bold new ideas, like requiring eurozone countries to sign “individual contractual arrangements” with Brussels on their economic reform plans.

We thought we’d post the document (see it here) for Brussels Blog readers to get a fuller view. The parts we found most interesting begin on page 7. Senior officials caution the draft is being used to stimulate debate so that Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, can come up with a more concrete consensus heading into the summit about what can be achieved.

Indeed, the cover sheet of the draft calls it a “state of progress regarding the various topics on the agenda”; still, since it was cobbled together after Van Rompuy’s series of meetings with eurozone leaders over the past month, it reflects the thinking of a lot of national leaders, particularly in the bloc’s largest countries.

Here are some annotated thoughts on the sections worth focusing on:

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If Greek citizens aren’t angry enough at the condescending and ignorant manner in which northern Europeans discuss their plight, I invite them to inspect the opinions of Jürgen Ligi, Estonia’s finance minister.

An interview with Mr Ligi appeared on Monday on the extremely handy European affairs blog that is published by the London School of Economics.

In answer to the question “Do you think that austerity measures in countries like Greece have gone far enough?”, here’s what the Estonian minister said:

“I honestly haven’t seen any austerity in Greece. It’s a rich country with a high level of consumption, and the present situation in Greece is far better than what we experienced in Estonia in the early 1990s. They are spending a lot – much more than they earn – so it can’t be called austerity.”

Let’s think about that.

Greece is projected next year to endure its sixth consecutive year of deep recession. By then, economic output will be 25 per cent below the peak of the boom years that marked Greece’s initial experience of eurozone membership. Read more