Republican Turmoil Following Florida Straw Poll

Across the United States, party members are turning out for non-binding but nevertheless influential ‘straw polls,’ designed to provide an indication of voting intent and overall levels of support for the various candidates seeking to challenge President Obama for the White House next year.

So far the only pattern that has emerged is one of chaos, with no single individual emerging to dominate the crowd, ensuring that Republican divisions continue unabated.

Reputations are being made, lost and recast on a weekly basis, as the would-be candidates crisscross America searching for the magic moment that will propel them to the nomination in 2012. Thus far voters have singularly failed to coalesce around any single candidate.

Last night’s big winner was Herman Cain, the Godfather Pizza king, in an indication of how bizarre this race threatens to become. He romped home with 37% of the vote, leaving second placed Rick Perry feeling stuffed crust with just 15%. Moderate Mormon, Mitt Romney managed a mere 14%, despite having been in the race as long as anyone can recall….

The biggest loser however appears to have been Michelle Bachmann who managed a pitiful 1.5%. That’s not a typo. The woman portrayed as the next Sarah Palin failed to register in a state that will be central to any Republican efforts to secure the White House. 

This is, of course, all window dressing until the voting begins in the new year, but such events have a big impact on the direction of funding at this stage.  Money follows success so failure at this stages is a harbinger of hard times ahead financially. It will be fascinating to see who is left standing when the polls open in Iowa and New Hampshire next year, and whether the lack of a leading candidate draws other candidates into the race… 

US Governmental Shutdown Looms Large Again

Earlier in the summer the threat of a government shutdown loomed large in Washington with wild predictions in some circles that President Obama would be forced to implement the 14th amendment to the Constitution to keep the government ticking over. That didn’t happen of course. Instead, as I suggested on Sky News, the politicians in DC merely kicked the problem into the long grass in the hope that the issue would be resolved. It hasn’t been and the issue is back once again as the end of the fiscal year arrived on Friday. Continuing resolutions are no way to run the United State’s government.
At a time when world markers are plummeting and investors and citizens are looking for signs of confidence in the market, politicians in Washington are doing their utmost to worsen the situation. Blame can be spread around and suggestions that this is simply a Tea Party roadblock are misleading, if for no other reason than that such a party doesn’t really exist as a single entity. Leaders from both sides of the aisle need to unite for the long term interests of the nation.
Policymakers and lawmakers need to recognise the damage that is being done not only to markets but also to the long term reputation of the United States by their actions. Critics enjoy analysing American hegemonic decline. Their work is made easier by the very individuals sent to Washington to prevent such an event.  

JDB interview with Mearsheimer and Walt

On Friday evening I had the pleasure of recording an interview for KPFK radio with John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby.

I had the good fortune of meeting the host of the show on which the interview will air, Maria Armoudian, in LA yesterday.

Click Here for JDB interview with John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt Sept 2011

The show lasts for an hour, our discussion last for 45 minutes and begin 15 minutes ino the show.

JDB at the International Studies Conference in Pasadena

If it’s Saturday then it must be Pasadena! Following my delivery of a paper in Oxford on President Bush’s emotional reaction to the events of 9/11, I am in California to address the ISA conference on the International and the Individual, on my evolving work examining the life of Robert S. McNamara. 
My paper addresses the price that McNamara paid for his access to power from 1960-67 at the height of the Cold War and is derived from my inquiry into Robert McNamara and the American century.
My follow up paper, ‘Virtual McNamara’ has been accepted for inclusion at the ISA annual conference in San Diego in April 2012, granting me a platform to continue my work on this fascinating individual.

JDB live on The Scholars’ Circle,KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles with Mearsheimer & Walt

I’m here among the dreaming spires of ancient Oxford at the BISA US foreign policy group conference. Tomorrow I present my paper on the lost opportunities that the United States squandered after 9/11

Before that, however, I will be appearing live on KPFK 90.7 Los Angeles to discuss foreign policy developments with host Maria Armoudian and fellow guests Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, famed authors of The Israel Lobby.

We will be discussing the question of Palestinian statehood, foreign policy, ethics and leadership. We will also address the impact of current events on President Obama’s re-election chances. It should be a fascinating show! Live from 17:00 EST.

JDB at BISA US Foreign Policy Working Group Annual Conference

I am kicking off a whirlwind of activity this autumn by attending the British International Studies Associations’s US Foreign Policy Working Group Annual Conference at the Rothermere Centre in Oxford this week. The conference is focused upon United States Foreign Policy Ten Years After 9/11. The Keynote Address will be delivered by Christopher Preble,  Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous and Less Free.

The BISA group aims to promote the study, research and teaching of US Foreign Policy in Britain. Last year I attended their conference in Leeds, which was a great success and saw the delivery of my paper on rendition that was turned into ‘What’s So Extraordinary About Rendition,’ reproduced in the International Journal of Human Rights.

This year I will be delivering a paper entitled Twin Towers and a Singular Opportunity that will seek to address the opportunity for greatness that President Bush squandered in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and contrast his reactions to those that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The work feeds into and is a direct result of my ongoing research into the US reaction to terrorist activity and acts of political violence that were initiated during my time as a Visiting Fellow at the University of North Dakota’s Centre for Human Rights and Genocide Studies.

Once the paper is delivered I will be making my way rather rapidly to Heathrow for the Friday afternoon flight to Los Angeles, where my academic adventures will continue….

Still Paying off ‘The Debt’

Last night I attended a pre-release screening of The Debt, the new movie starring a host of famous faces, including Tom Wilkinson (still in purgatory for his turn as Joe Kennedy in my book), Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Ciaran Hinds.

Based upon a small, never before heard of Israeli film, the debt tells the tale of three Mossad agents ordered into east berlin to snatch (dare i say ‘render’?) a former nazis back to justice in sunny Tel Aviv. Needless to say all does not go to plan, or it would have been a far shorter, though perhaps more satisfying film.

It’s not a sentiment that will gain much traction at cocktail parties, but if there is a message to take away from The Debt, it is surely this: if you have a crazed nazis doctor under lock and key, don’t bother with legal niceties. You may not live to regret it.

I had been expecting an improved version of Munich, and certainly the signs were good; great cast and director and from Miramax. Hang on, you are no doubt thinking, Miramax went the way of the dodo years ago.  Exactly. Welcome to the last gasp from a dead studio. It is a rule of thumb that films that sit in cans for years should probably stay there.

A film with great potential has some serious flaws at its dark heart. A major flaw in this case is that the fine cast are playing the wrong characters. Ciaran Hinds’ younger self is a buttoned down square, whilst Tom Wilkinson’s younger self is something of a swinger. Yep, right actors in the wrong roles. Think Harrison Ford playing Luke Skywalker. Exactly.

The producer (who introduced the screening) was at pains to note how director John Madden had insisted on filming in Israel. Well it could be Israel, or anywhere else with a beach. There was little else of this fascinating country on the screen.

The production had a ‘made for tv’ feel to it and this contributed to a rather underwhelming reaction.

As a friend of mine noted, the film is a treatise on the failure of the liberal mentality. Quite right as usual Tim.

This is ultimately a film about secrets. It supposes that three secret agents can’t cope with the guilt over keeping sect the details of a botched mission. The flaw is perhaps in sipping that theses are normal people asked to keep stum. Not top Mossad agents. Not sure how much you know about the Mossad but I wouldn’t mess. The film turns into one complicated love triangle (how original) when it would have been far mire interesting if it had focused on the moral implications of rendering justice.

The film’s climax ultimately feels like a tacked on ending as the grandmother secret agent heads off to do what the two men cannot, namely face down their nemesis is a Ukrainian asylum. I wonder if Helen Mirren realised she had already played this role in RED?

So, points for effort, and hugs and kisses from the lovies for reminding us that lying is bad, but killing ageing Nazis in cold blood is worse, but if push comes to shove, I’ll call the real Mossad, not the Hollywood variation, if I really want a job doing properly!