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….

On Obama and Osama

So, after the better part of a decade the deed is done and the greatest manhunt in history is over. Finally, questions pertaining to whether bin Laden is dead or alive can cease and more substantive questions can be addressed.

How did the operation proceed? How could bin Laden have survived so long under the nose of Pakistani intelligence? What role did the Pakistani authorities play in the operation? What condition was bin Laden in when he was apprehended? Could he have been taken alive? Why the burial at sea? Expect answers to these questions in Bob Woodward’s next exposé.

No doubt the conspiracy theories will continue and be ramped up in the coming months. No doubt Donald Trump will be seeking publication Osama’s Death Certificate as he once sought Obama’s Birth Certificate.

This is a time for contemplation as to what this means on many fronts. It would be fantastic high upon which Defence Secretary Bob Gates could stand down. It does much to bolster the reputation of the US military and its Special Forces.

Domestically the timing is remarkable for President Obama. With numerous Republicans putting their toes in the water to test for a potential campaign in 2012, the timing could not have been better. This incident appears to have inoculated Obama against charges from the right that he is soft on Terrorism. How can they complain now that he has delivered what W. was unable to produce? With few Republicans focusing on domestic issues (except to overturn health care, something local courts will no doubt manage without them) there appears to be little incentive to run. As such the stage is set for a repeat of 1992, with potential opponents choosing to sit out the race in anticipation of an unbeatable incumbent. Clearly Bill Clinton proved that not to be the case, so it will be fascinating to see who chooses to enter the fray and who decides that Obama is a shoe-in.

Obama’s re-election odds are greatly helped by the news for another reason; it further removes any chance of a challenge from within his own party. The simple, salient fact is that incumbents who avoid a challenge from their own party go on to win re-election. Those who have to fight a rearguard action for their own party’s nomination, lose. What democrat could possibly challenge Obama now, having delivered Health Care and the head of Osama bin Laden? To do so would be to redefine the word ‘churlish.’

Let us be clear, however, this is not the end of the struggle against political violence. Bin Laden was the poster boy for international bad behaviour, but a bigger fish remains to be fried; Ayman alZawahiri. Incorrectly identified as bin Laden’s second in command amongst headline writers, alZawahiri’s capture would be far more detrimental to the operational capability of those who perpetuate political violence in the name of Jihad. For more on him and his place in the history of political violence, head straight to the work of Jason Burke. A potential down side to this is that with the death of bin Laden, interest in defeating proponents of political violence will wane until the next wake up call. Perhaps we should all heed the warning of history, that ‘Eternal Vigilance is the price of freedom.’

One death does not a victory make, but today’s news is a vital, symbolic step towards a goal that was established in the aftermath of the attacks of September 2001. Somewhere, George W. Bush can smile a little wider and sleep a little easier, as his legacy becomes easier to spin.

Obama’s Greatest Possible Gift: His Potential Opponents (Part One)

Ever since John McCain and his renegade running mate lost the presidential election in November 2008, vast sections of American society have been longing for redemption in the form of electoral defeat for their unloved and in their eyes un-Christian and un-American president. In the mid-term elections, the Democratic Party received a bloody nose from its opponents, losing its majority in the House of Representatives and their super filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Much attention was paid at the time to the rise of The Tea Party (as though such a single entity actually exists. It does not) and to the visceral loathing that President Obama attracts in many parts of the nation (which he does.) Parallels were rightly drawn between the mid-term election of 2008 and the mid-term election of 1994. In both cases the Democratic majority in the House was ended after the first two years of a Democratic Administration who had promoted a radical health care agenda. In 1994 that health care agenda had failed to even make it out of the committee hearings and the Republicans romped home, taking not only the House but also the Senate. For a while this made Newt Gingrich the seemingly most powerful man in Washington. His now famous Contract with America was credited with unifying the Republican Party after its defeat in 1992 and with delivering an historic result that ultimately allowed the party to impeach the president some years later.

That however, may be where the parallel ends, for what went less noticed last November was the total lack of a Gingrich-esque figure in the Republican Party. No one individual emerged to unite the party and the Tea Party Candidates as endorsed by the former Alaskan governor, former vice presidential candidate, former beauty queen, former mayor, former this, former that, failed to sweep the board as expected. Neither did the Speaker of the House-elect, John Boehner hardly inspired confidence or exhibited great signs of leadership by bursting into floods of tears at the drop of a hat.

However, given the Democrat’s thumping at the recent mid terms, you would be forgiven for thinking that a whole host of credible candidates would be lining up to challenge for the right to contest the presidency in 2012. But you would be mistaken. Instead we have a roll call of the desperate, the deluded and the downright unelectable.

This group of misfits has started inundating the good people of Iowa in the hope of gaining the all important momentum that comes following the votes that occur there and in New Hampshire in the first days of the election cycle, which of course, don’t actually occur until January 2012. This, however, is the all-important pre-game, where the campaign is arguable won or lost, where the money game is decided and where reputations are made and discarded. Front-runner status can easily handicap candidates, perceived arrogance can derail favourites and unknown politicians from unheard of locations can emerge from, well, nowhere.

So who are these singularly unimpressive individuals who seek to challenge for the presidency? You may have heard of some of them. Indeed, when you look over the list you may be forgiven for thinking that I have made some glaring error and merely replicated the list of candidates from 2008. But again, you would be mistaken. What emerges is the fact that no one has emerged in the last four years to be a credible candidate and what makes these characters think that they will fare any better this time around, having been trounced by Maverick McCain in 2008, is anyone’s guess.

But anyway, here we go with a rundown of runners and riders and the handicaps that they face on the road to eventual humiliation at the hands of the man they view as being a Kenyan Muslim Socialist/Communist usurper yellow-belly president…

Sarah Palin

A no-show in Iowa recently, apparently replying on her front-runner status to leave an announcement to the last minute. Massive problems with this. This state is all about Retail Politics, meaning you have to press the flesh and meet the voters personally else they will think they are being overlooked. Front runner status can disappear over night here, and Palin is in serious trouble of overcooking her celebrity status.

Newt Gingrich

Sure, you remember him, famously tagged as The Gingrich that stole Christmas for forcing the last government shutdown, that led to federal employees not being paid, that led to interns filling vital roles, that led to Monica delivering pizza that led to you know what, that led to “I did not have sexual relations…” that led to “Indeed I did have a relationship that was inappropriate,” that led to impeachment, that led to a Bush victory in 2000….that led to war in Iraq. Now he’s back, with his 17th wife, umming and arring about whether to run or not. Mario Cuomo was once called the Hamlet on the Hudson for his inability to decide whether to run for the White House or not. We need a new name for Newt’s level of indecision….

Mick Huckabee

Mmm, slap that bass, Mick. With his hopes of making the bass guitar a sexy instrument about as realistic as his hopes of making it all the way this time round, Huckabee’s candidacy will make life interesting if nothing else. I mean, who wouldn’t want to vote for a creationist who believes in the threat of death panels?

Tune in next time for more on this non-event. Trust me Obama is beatable on paper, it’s just in practice that he seems so much more credible than anyone who could challenge him at this stage…

David Cameron: Blending modern conservatism with 1960s US Liberalism?

On a day when much will be said of David Cameron’s use of language and tone following his speech on radicalism and Islamic-extremism at the Munich Security Conference, it is perhaps worth considering the repeated use that the British Prime Minister makes of lines and ideas that originated in the United States of the 1960s.

Cameron is hardly the first politician to attempt to emulate a Kennedyesque picture postcard family, but he has been unusually brazen in his use of language and phrases that have their origins in the time period. Lest anyone wonder quite what I mean consider the following examples:

Long before he became Prime minister, David Cameron was referencing JFK in a speech that called for cleaner cars and lower fuel emissions. Speaking to environment leaders in June 2008, Cameron deliberately called for a Kennedy style focus on a new mission. “As John F Kennedy said of his vision of an American on the moon by 1970, a goal that at the time seemed impossible to achieve: ‘We choose to go to the moon in this decade not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills.’ We need a JFK vision for clean cars today.”

Cameron’s speech of March 31, 2010 revealed the central philosophy of his public policy; the Big Society. Cameron referred to Kennedy as having asked ‘the noble question’ as posed in his inaugural address: “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Quoting liberal Democrats is hardly a thing that British conservative Prime Ministers have made a habit of, but David Cameron would buck that trend . His speech also lauded the work of Barack Obama, the former community organiser turned Commander-in-Chief.

At the April 13, 2010 launch of his election manifesto, Cameron referred to Kennedy as “a great American president” and proceeded to repeat the fabled words, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” as a preface to his concept of getting people to aid their families and their community too. So, two things here; firstly the reference to JFK, a liberal Democrat as being “great,” and secondly the direct quote from Kennedy’s inaugural address of January 1961. When I was involved with the Tories in the late 1990s my efforts to consort with Democrats Abroad were forbidden. Now we have a conservative Prime Minister heaping praise on a Democrat President. I’d call that progress. This was too much to go un-noticed, of course, with the Telegraph referring to it as ‘Cameron’s Kennedy Moment.’ Missed, however, was Cameron’s distinctly American reference to “we, the people.”

The Conservative campaign manifesto document made reference to ‘the brightest and the best,’ a phrase that was identified with Kennedy’s cabinet before it was ironically inverted by David Halberstam in his Pulitzer Prize winning book on the drift to war in Vietnam. Cameron was not only paraphrasing JFK, but also being compared to him in political circles, to the detriment of Gordon Brown, of course, whose similarity to Richard Nixon could be the subject of a whole other posting!

At his first Party Conference speech as leader of the Conservative Party, Cameron deliberate made an effort to paraphrase JFK’s inaugural address, something the Observer picked upon immediately. 

Now, one need not be a particularly avid reader of American politics or history to notice that Cameron’s Big Society concept bears more than a passing resemblance to President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society.’ Designed by LBJ to complete the work of FDR’s New Deal, the Great society would ultimately come undone due toe the small but competing issue of the Vietnam War and the realisation that it really wasn’t wise to attempt to have guns and butter. At its core, however, the Great society was Johnson’s dream of reducing poverty and racial divisions. Worryingly, the American link was spotted, but incorrectly attributed. The Daily Mail was quick to suggest that Cameron was once more emulating not LBJ, but his predecessor, President Kennedy. James Chapman suggested that ‘David Cameron echoes Kennedy in crusade to empower communities.’ Nice try, but wide of the mark. I’ve always found that it helps to attribute the right polices to the right presidents. 

Lest anyone think that Cameron is ignoring his Republican cousins across the Atlantic, he is not about a Nixon reference when the occasion serves. As the general election was launched Cameron declared he was fighting for “the great ignored,” a phrase that immediately brought to mind Nixon’s Silent Majority. It will be intriguing to see which American president Cameron quotes next. I wouldn’t expect to hear many Bushism thrown in for good measure!

Rendition, Justice and the American Way…. (Extract from Research Paper)

The election of Barack Hussein Obama was equated to a political ablution, designed to purge the electorate of the policies that had so offended the world for the past eight years. Yet whilst the overriding sentiments of anti-Americanism have clearly subsided, this has had little to do with a change in policy. Obama may well be the world’s president of choice, but Obama has not expressly repudiated Dick Cheney’s view of the world. Indeed, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch has denounced the Obama Administration for adopting policies that “mimic the Bush Administration’s abusive approach.” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ben Wizner has lamented that Obama “has chosen to continue the Bush administration practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course.”

President Obama may have signed an executive order banning enhanced interrogation techniques, but his administration reaffirmed the rendition program, a move deemed to be ‘Extremely disappointing,’ according to the ACLU. The high rhetoric of Obama’s campaign, his inaugural address and first orders indicated a new direction for US foreign policy, but while this initially appeared to be the case, ‘there are a growing number of reasons to suspect that Obama will not be quite as liberal on these matters as his rhetoric might have suggested, his supporters might have hoped, or Dick Cheney might have feared.’ Indeed, all indications are that the Obama administration will try to find a middle road that will protect civil liberties without leaving the nation defenceless. The political risk is that it will leave Obama, as Clinton was before, fending off criticism from both the left and the right, for doing too little to change and for doing too much.

It is the former vice president who has done much to criticise the new administration. This is perhaps, not surprising since Obama ‘was elected partly to cleanse the temple of the Cheney stain, and in his campaign speeches he promised to reverse Cheney’s efforts to seize power for the White House in the war on terror.’ The reality, however, is not one of radical change, but rather of degrees. There have been more predator drone attacks in the first years of Obama’s presidency than under Bush; the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay remains open as of September 2010. Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel who has been consulted by the new administration on these issues, says the change on rendition “is not a seismic shift in policy. Rather, it is that the United States will send individuals to other states, and, if those states have a questionable record on human rights, then we will not only seek assurances as we have in the past, but that we will be more rigorous on following up on those assurances.” It’s change you can believe in, just not the sort that many wanted.

It remains too much for Cheney, of course. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, he accused the new Administration of making “the American people less safe” by banning brutal C.I.A. interrogations of terrorism suspects that had been sanctioned by the Bush Administration. Ruling out such interrogations “is unwise in the extreme,” Cheney charged. “It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness.” It would be wrong, however, to imagine that this White House is staffed by, or under the guided by, those with an extreme liberal ideology. Many are from the tough political machine of Chicago politics, whilst others have returned to the White House having served as New Democrats under Clinton.

A prime example is DCI Leon Panetta. As the former Chief of Staff who brought a modicum of discipline to the Clinton White House, Panetta had a reputation as a leg breaker. When asked about Rendition at his confirmation hearing, he noted that suspects would no longer be kidnapped, sent overseas and tortured. However, he added, ‘Renditions where we return an individual to the jurisdiction of another country, and then they exercise their right to try that individual and to prosecute him under their laws-I think that is an appropriate use of rendition.’ Clearly the Obama administration has chosen to return to a public stance on rendition that is akin to the previous model exercised by the Clinton White House, where it began, ‘in a more carefully monitored form,’ before being ‘transformed into what John Radsan, former C.I.A. lawyer, called “an abomination.”’ Panetta says the Obama Administration will take precautions to ensure that rendered suspects are treated humanely; “I’ve talked to the State Department, and our people have to make very sure that people won’t be mistreated.” The Obama administration will sharply restrict “extraordinary renditions” in which the United States sends terrorism suspects to foreign countries for detention and interrogation. Of course, the Bush Administration professed to be taking similar precautions.

These issues raise serious questions pertaining to the American sense of mission and of exceptionalism. It is hard to ascertain how they do anything but undermine such aspirations. Obama entered the Oval Office with great hopes and aspirations and with the expectation of world opinion. It is hard to see how much of this remain intact on the world stage with so few major alterations from the Bush Strategy, regardless of stated intent. This is not necessarily Obama’s fault. As president, there is, paradoxically, only so much that he can do, but the world expects so much more. There is in addition the two great double standards at work: The double standard to which great nations are always held, of either interfering too much or not often enough; and the contradictory nature of American foreign policy, of oscillating between imperial designs and latent isolationism. Solving these dilemmas will not be rectified anytime soon.

How will D.C. be received in DC?

With the new British government now having issued its much vaunted Emergency Budget, eyes will no doubt start to turn towards the Prime Minister’s imminent visit to Washington to meet President Obama. The first visit by the PM to the White House is always an important event and this will prove to be no exception.

The meeting comes at a delicate time for UK/US relations. With troops serving together in Afghanistan the room for disagreement is slender, yet focus will no doubt be concentrated upon any potential rift caused by the BP oil disaster.

The media will no doubt be looking for any sign of division caused by the events in the Gulf of Mexico, the may even go so far as to stress division where none exists. What they will miss, no doubt, is the change in fortune that the Conservatives are experiencing in Washington and the implications that this may have for the Special Relationship.

It is standard diplomatic practice for the American president to grant an audience to the Leader of the Opposition. Even Ronald Reagan extended this courtesy to Neil Kinnock despite his obvious (and stated) support for Prime Minister Thatcher. Recent events have been somewhat more problematic, however. William Hague met George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, prior to the election of 2000, but one wonders if the Texan governor thought that perhaps he was due to see former Secretary of State Al Hague?

In the years that followed the debacle of 2000 the leaders of Her Majesties’ loyal opposition were effectively given the cold shoulder in DC, so close was Bush to Blair. Michael Howard was considered persona non grata in Washington following his calls for Blair’s resignation and Ian Duncan Smith failed to make an impression in his 2002 visit.

Of course it is also true that the Conservatives have sought to gain access whilst still maintaining a low profile. David Cameron met Bush at the White House in a meeting in 2007, but images are hard to come by. Clearly there was a desire to be received in official Washington, but less of a desire to distribute images of Cameron with an unpopular president. Cameron’s visit in 2007 followed a 5 year absence from Washington for a leader of the Conservative Party, the longest since the advent of the jet engine.

When Prime Minster David Cameron returns to DC he will do so in a very different capacity and with a very different occupant of the White House. Barack Obama was the first foreign leader to congratulate Cameron upon becoming PM and the Foreign Secretary’s first overseas foray was to Washington and a meeting with Hillary Clinton.  This meeting was important as it presented the opportunity to reset official relations between London and Washington that has been waning for several years.

When Gorden Brown became PM he was eager not to become tainted by his relationship with George W. Bush, whose time in the White House was drawing to a close. Accordingly, Brown set a very different tone for the Special Relationship than had Tony Blair. However, it would appear that President Obama adopted a similar stance to Gordon Brown, not wishing to be seen as being to close to an unpopular British PM who was rightly expected to lose office at the earliest possible occasion.

With the departure of Brown and Bush and the emergence of Obama and Cameron, therefore, the slate has effectively been wiped clean, allowing for a new era in Transatlantic ties. Having met previously on Senator Obama’s trip to London in 2008, the PM will be eager to forge a new working relationship that is businesslike and balanced, avoiding the pitfalls that Blair fell into time and again for pandering to the White House with little or no derived benefit.

The Special Relationship is about far more than the chemistry between the two leaders, but when so much attention is focused upon their dealings, it has a disproportionate impact upon all other elements; politically, culturally and militarily. With this trip, the PM will be well placed to begin a new and positive era in US-UK relations and to put to rest overblown tales of Obama rejecting a bust of Churchill (which had only been lent to the Bush White House as W. was a known admirer) and of DVD gift sets. The past can be overcome. How the BP situation is dealt with, may well be another question…

What Would ‘W’ Do?

So here we are now, several weeks on and the BP situation is going from bad to worse. What started out as an environmental disaster is heading for something far worse. At risk now is the future of an organisation employing thousands of people around the world (including the United States) the pension funds of untold individuals whose portfolio managers have invested in the blue chip company, the immediate future of the Special Relationship and an American presidency.

Of these, the latter is worth pondering in some detail.

Some eighteen months ago, Barack Hussein Obama came to power in a barrage of good will and even better press. Gone it appeared, were the dark days of W and knee-jerk reactions to events and people. Here, it was believed, was an intelligent and thoughtful individual who would articulate wisely the thoughts and beliefs of a nation to a wider world in such a way as to reinvigorate the United States on the world stage.

Yet in this escapade, one finds the new boss, much like the old boss. With attacks coming from all sides, Obama appears to be asking only one salient question, “What would W do?”

His answer, alas, appears to be to find an easily identified foreign enemy and blast away in an effort to divert attention from American failings. In this he has been aided by a flawed response from BP that has done little if anything to help the situation. Content to put short-term domestic political considerations ahead of long-term international relationships, Obama is falling into a well laid trap that has now seen him equate the incident in the Gulf to 9/11.

All of which will be red meat to the Republicans, who can now say either that Obama is exploiting both tragedies to aid his political ends, or that in so doing, Obama reveals an ignorance of the impact that 9/11 had on the American people. And in both claims they would be absolutely correct. Keep an eye on this and see how it plays out. My guess is that you are going to be hearing this quote over and over again in attack ads in the fall. It is a major mis-calculation by the president and it could well be his undoing in the fall elections.

Obama’s willingness to say and do anything to divert attention away from any debate to do with oversight of the oil business, any discussion concerning the ownership of the platform and the casual ease with which he suggests that private individuals should be fired, is woeful behaviour that would be slammed if it were muttered by any Republican president. It would appear that Obama is still benefiting from a media-love-in that carried this untried, unqualified Senator to  the White House.

The effort to prove that this is not Obama’s Katrina is backfiring in ways that could never have been imagined. During Katrina, it simply appeared that Bush could care less about certain elements within American society and that the federal government was inept when it came to dealing with a natural disaster.

Now it appears that Obama could care less about relations with America’s oldest ally, and that the federal government continues to be inept at regulating the oil industry or at responding to environmental disasters. As each day passes, Obama is looking less and less like the great hope, and more and more like a previous Democratic president who came to know the impact that an oil crisis could have on a presidency and paid a heavy price: Jimmy Carter. Unless he is able to find the voice and the direction that propelled him to victory in 2008, Obama risks repeating Carter’s abbreviated occupation of the Oval Office.

Blood and Oil in the Water

Make no mistake, the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is a serious one for all concerned; for the local fishing industry, for the wildlife, for residents and for those who make a living from the local region. For two groups, however, there is far more at stake: The White House and British Petroleum. For both, this has become a poker game with the highest possible stakes, an all or nothing scenario with everything to lose and only equilibrium to retain. In a situation that has come to dominate the airwaves in the United States, both parties are under fire, with political opponents seeking the opportunity to add blood to the already polluted waters.

This is about far more than pollution and environmentalism. At the heart of the story are two organisations that simply cannot be seen to lose. It is, and will continue to be, a tale of spin control. In one corner stands British Petroleum, the mighty organisation that generates vast fortunes of revenue year in and year out. In the other corner is the White House, occupied by everyone’s favourite Nobel laureate, President Obama. Under fire from political opponents for doing seemingly little about the disaster, the president has now made three trips to Louisiana in the past six weeks, in an effort to be seen to be doing something. This has involved holding meetings with local officials and taking photo-opportunity trips to beaches, staring out at the ocean and sifting through the polluted sands.

What does this achieve, one may ask? Well it presents the impression of pro-activity if nothing else. Alas, presidential visits do not simply occur, they are vast exercises in organisation and security. Marine One does not simply deposit POTUS on a beach and then deliver him safely back to the White House. The very business of placing Obama on a beach in Louisiana requires a security detail and planning that will have vastly impacted the ability of those involved in conducting the clean up from simply getting on and doing their job. Instead of working, they will be required to adhere to security restrictions put in place to accommodate Obama’s visit. Instead of getting on with the clean up, they will be required to meet with Obama, whilst the president looks stern and resolute for the evening news.

Which is to say that the situation is now simply a political football. The White House is clearly concerned that this will become seen as Obama’s Katrina, and the way to avoid this is to lay the blame squarely on BP. Thus far, BP’s response has been to attempt to plug the leak in oil, if not in its reputation. Once the oil flow has been stemmed it may be in a better position to explain the complex ownership issues that exist in the oil industry and how it came to be drilling at that time and place and the role of Halliburton in the whole process. Until then, the White House will continue to portray this as an example of greedy (and foreign) investors ruining the American environment. Such a lament is inappropriate, of course, as the American coast is ringed with drilling platforms, merrily pumping away, be it at oil or gas reserves. When Piper Alpha exploded off the British coast, no one was arguing that it was an American disaster and pointing the finger across the Atlantic.

The deregulation that has  contributed to this crisis is not unlike that which accompanied the financial market, and neither is the result. When times are good, deregulation has a thousand fathers. Now it is an orphan. BP and the Obama Administration now face the Poor House. There is only room for one and both will fight to avoid this most ignoble of ends.

Gored by the Supremes

So after 40 years together the Gores are to separate…. This is intriguing. Whatever one makes of the couple, to divorce at this stage in life appears to be somewhat unusual, especially if there are no other parties involved. One wonders if the Gore marriage is the final (hopefully) victim of the decision by the Supreme Court to hand the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000. Had that not occurred, one doubts that this decision would have been announced today. Had that not occurred, Gore would have presided over at least four, if not eight, of the past ten years and have been a worthy occupant of the Oval Office…an Oval Office that he had discussed installing a web-cam in to allow Americans to see what was going on there in the aftermath of Bill Clinton’s shenanigans, only for his wife to suggest that it may have to be turned off from time to time…. So with a response like that one wonders where everything has suddenly gone so very wrong?

The saltines of this remark spoke to the warmth of the relationship, captured perfectly (if not a little too vividly) in the embrace and kiss that she received from her husband at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

Of course many leading politicians lead lives that would appear to be somewhat removed from reality and the former VP is a prime example of this. The former “next President of the United States,” has traveled the world presenting his Inconvenient Truth documentary, picking up an Oscar and a Nobel Prize along the way. Alas it seems to have cost him his marriage.

How odd that this once golden couple of Washington politics should part like this. The double irony is that for much of his vice-presidency, it was the marriage of his boss that came under most scrutiny, with many speculating that Hillary would leave Bill Clinton once they left the White House.

Such speculation of course, ignored the fact that they are stronger together and arguably need and understand one another more than most would give credit for.  With her career having now moved to the State Department, Hilary clearly has a path to follow, something that Tipper appears to have lost.

Her early advocacy of mental health issues had its origins in her own bouts of depression, though many are unaware that this fun-loving and at times irascible women was also the driving force behind the Parental Advisory labels that now adorn music products like a badge of honour.  Yep, no Republican twin-set and pearls at work, but a Democrat stay at home mum, appalled at the idea of her teenage daughter listening to Prince’s ‘Darling Nikki’ from Purple Rain. Check out the lyrics, they are worth it for they provide insight into the mindset of the individuals involved and the spirit of the mid-late ’80s.

So as the Gore marriage disappears over the horizon, one can only speculate as to what comes next. One can hardly image the multimillionaire Oscar winner staying home polishing his awards and lamenting his receding hairline. Time surely to bury the hatchet with his old boss and dig out Clinton’s Little Black Book. After all, Gore still has the best pick up line going; “You can call me, Al…..”