The aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting
The massacre of 27 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school in Newtown, has changed America’s discussion about gun control, but will it lead to legislative change? Ben Fenton, from the FT’s live news desk talks to US correspondent Ed Crooks and Richard McGregor, Washington bureau chief, about the steps President Obama can take to curb investment in the gun industry and why citizens so zealously guard the second amendment, which gives Americans the right to bear arms. Read more
Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel in Jordan in 2008. (Salah Malkawi/Getty)
The shadow boxing over the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next Pentagon boss intensified on Thursday when allies of the former Republican Senator leapt to his defence.
Mr Hagel has emerged as the clear frontrunner to take over from Leon Panetta as secretary of defence but has come under attack in recent days for comments he made several years ago about the “Jewish lobby”.
Amid a drip-feed of criticisms and insinuations about Mr Hagel, nine former senior diplomats released a public letter on Thursday describing him as an “impeccable choice” for the Pentagon. “Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency,” they wrote.
Given that Mr Hagel has been criticised by one pro-Israel group for views that they say “border on anti-Semitism”, one of the interesting features of the letter is that five of the signatories are former ambassadors to Israel – Daniel Kurtzer, Thomas Pickering, Sam Lewis, William Harrop and Edward Djerejian. “He has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two state solution,” they write. Read more
It may not be official. But it seems a fair bet that John Kerry will be the next US secretary of state. Susan Rice’s decision to withdraw her name from consideration – a supremely wise one given how much poison is in the air – leaves the Massachusetts senator somewhere close to being a slam dunk for the job. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
What is worse? Locking somebody up for years, without trial, while you try to find proof he is a terrorist? Or killing somebody whose name you don’t even know because his pattern of behaviour suggests to you that he is a terrorist? The first strategy, internment without trial at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, was a signature policy of the George W. Bush administration. The use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists has become a trademark of the Obama administration. Yet while Guantánamo attracted worldwide condemnation, the use of drones is much less discussed. Read more
Much to Moscow’s anger, the Senate passed the Magnitsky bill on Thursday, which places visa bans and assets freezes on a group of Russian officials accused of contributing to the death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
The law is part of a broader piece of legislation that normalises trade relations with Russia following its entry to the World Trade Organisation this summer. The Magnitsky bill has attracted huge attention because of the gruesome back-story that propelled it and because of the friction it has caused between Moscow and Washington. But there are two further important things to note about the bill. Read more
Alan Simpson (left) and Erskine Bowles Getty Images
If there is one thing at which Washington does not excel (an admittedly rich menu), it is self-deprecation. The city operates to a kind of Gresham’s Law in which self-importance drives out whatever humour is to be found. Which makes the latest intervention from Alan Simpson, the co-keeper of the nation’s fiscal conscience, along with Erskine Bowles, all the more enjoyable. At 81, the former Republican senator has made his fair share of gaffes – not least his remark in 2010 about the “lesser people” who rely on Social Security. He added: “We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310m tits.” He never really apologised.
With just three weeks to go before the US arrives at a deeply sobering fiscal cliff, Mr Simpson has developed a better line in humour since then. Last week, Mr Simpson said that he hoped that Grover Norquist, the keeper of the Republican anti-tax conscience, would “slip into” the same bathtub in which he famously wants to drown government. Then on Wednesday, Mr Simpson descended into the idiom of the lesser people – or at least the younger ones – with the releases of a “Gangam-style” video exhorting viewers to take to the social networks and campaign against the fiscal cliff . Read more
If I could be a fly on the wall, I would skip today’s White House lunch between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. I would rather be buzzing around the caddy when the president next plays golf with John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House.
For a start, no alcohol will be served. Mr Romney’s Mormon faith will forbid him from even accepting a coffee. This puts a ceiling on the potential for candid disclosures – convivial or otherwise. Any half-educated fly knows why the Latin phrase in camomile tea veritas was never coined.
But even if Mr Romney received some kind of a religious waiver and agreed to do a round of tequila shots with the president, this fly would still head for better walls in Washington. For all the White House’s piety about consulting Mr Romney on how to run the federal government better – the main topic of discussion according to Jay Carney, the White House press secretary – real business is unlikely to be conducted. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Anybody might think that Susan Rice is gearing up for a confirmation hearing. Last week, the US ambassador to the UN tweeted: “I condemn today’s cowardly terrorist attack targeting innocents on a Tel Aviv bus.” Yet trawling back through her Twitter feed over the previous week, there is no indication that innocents might be dying anywhere else in the Middle East. The word “Gaza” is noticeable by its absence – although the ambassador did find time to hail America’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Read more
Gen David Petraeus and his wife Holly walk into a Senate hearing, watched by amongst others PAula Broadwell (seated). (AFP)
It’s not everyday that serious newspapers get to combine sex, spies and the military into one story. But the escalating scandal surrounding the former head of the CIA David Petraeus over his extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell and the involvement of a growing number of other people, has provided just such an opportunity.
The saga has generated the full range of commentary. The serious questions are being asked: Why is the FBI so deeply involved in what essentially appears to be an email harassment case? Why did it take so long for lawmakers to be told? What does this say about military personalities? What are the implications for US national security? Read more