US politics

Gideon Rachman

At the end of every year, I attempt a first draft of history by listing what seem to me to be the five most significant events of the past twelve months. Some of my picks for 2013 also featured in 2012. I hope this is not because of intellectual laziness, but simply because the war in Syria, and the turmoil in Egypt remain defining events of our era. I probably should also once again include the tensions between China and Japan – but they are still simmering and have not yet boiled over. So I’ll give the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands a rest this year.

So let me start the list for 2013 with a genuinely new event that has global significance: Read more

By Gideon Rachman
I executed a personal pivot to Asia this year, with separate trips to South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and China (twice). There was certainly plenty to write about – new leadership in China, Abenomics in Japan, Sino-Japanese confrontation, nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula. Yet, on more than one occasion, I found myself sitting in a hotel room in East Asia – but writing about the Middle East.

By Gideon Rachman

What defines the west? American and European politicians like to talk about values and institutions. But for billions of people around the world, the crucial point is simpler and easier to grasp. The west is the part of the world where even ordinary people live comfortably. That is the dream that makes illegal immigrants risk their lives, trying to get into Europe or the US.

Gideon Rachman

Marco Rubio in Washington DC (Getty)

Marco Rubio is running for president. Or, at least, that is the conclusion I drew from watching him give a speech on foreign policy at Chatham House in London, on Wednesday. The senator from Florida has not actually declared his candidacy yet. But giving “statesmanlike” speeches on world affairs in London is the kind of thing you do, if you want to burnish your credentials as a potential commander-in-chief.

So how did Rubio go down? Well, the audience was satisfyingly large – people were literally standing in the aisles. The senator himself gave a performance of two halves: a terrible speech, but a confident performance in the Q&A. Read more

By Luisa Frey

Back-channel conversations between the US and Iran paved way for the historic nuclear agreement and broke 34 years of hostility, writes the FT’s Geoff Dyer. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
For Barack Obama, striking a nuclear deal with Iran may turn out to be the easy part. The president’s biggest struggle now is facing down Israel and its supporters in the US as they attempt to rally opposition to the deal. The administration knows this and it is quietly confident that it can take on the Israel lobby in Congress – and win.

President Barack Obama’s nominee for Federal Reserve chair appeared before the Senate banking committee on Thursday. She mounted a vigorous defence of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy as she faced lawmakers in her first big test of political and communications skills.

Gina Chon and Shannon Bond reported from New York with James Politi in Washington.

 

Spying scandal spotlight moves from US to UK
As the scandal around spying and surveillance continues, Gideon Rachman is joined by James Blitz in the studio and Geoff Dyer down the line from Washington, to discuss the latest developments. Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the activities of the US National Security Agency, but this week it was the turn of the British intelligence chiefs to give evidence in an open session of a Parliamentary committee, the first time that has ever happened. Did they say anything interesting? And are the intelligence agencies being held to account in the US?

Bill de Blasio (Getty)

By Luisa Frey

On Tuesday night 52-year-old Bill de Blasio won the New York mayoral election in one of the largest victories in the Big Apple’s electoral history.

De Blasio beat Joseph Lhota by a 49-point margin (73 per cent to 24 per cent), which is the widest in a mayoral election since Edward Koch won a third term in 1985 by 68 points. De Blasio is also the first Democrat to win in nearly 25 years. Read more

John Aglionby

Bill de Blasio celebrates his election triumph with his family. Reuters

Three months ago, Bill de Blasio was trailing in fourth place in the crowded Democratic race to become the party’s candidate in the New York’s mayoral election. Yet on Tuesday night the 52-year-old public advocate swept to one of the largest victories in the city’s electoral history. This is how he managed it.

1) He played the the “Tale of Two Cities” card – the wealthy and less well off – to great effect. He promised to raise taxes on those earning more than $500,000 a year to pay for pre-school education – a policy President Barack Obama supported. Despite this, according to an exit poll in the New York Daily News, he still won among voters earning more than $100,000. Read more