Tuesday 27 Sep 2022 | 18:51 | SYDNEY

American Interpreter

News cycles: The shifting narratives of presidential campaigns

Covering a presidential campaign is at once the most thrilling and mind-numbing of journalistic experiences. Reporters are subjected to the same stump speech so often, many are able within a few weeks not only to ventriloquise its wording but also to identify the lines at which the candidate's

US politics: A return to reason?

More so perhaps than landmark pieces of legislation, milestone Supreme Court rulings have a tendency of defining eras. Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the 1954 ruling calling for desegregation of southern schools, has come to symbolise the civil rights revolution, even though it took the

Obama: Whither hope and change?

Brendon O’Connor is Associate Professor in American politics at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney. His recent presentation with Michael Fullilove on the US mid-term elections and the Obama administration can be heard here. Hope and change are the words most

Getting inside Dick Cheney head

It's great fun watching conservative commentators write about Barack Obama these days. His election victory and his continuing success presents his foreign policy critics in the media with an exquisite dilemma: do they maintain their rage against him, thereby dealing themselves out of

Obama announces venue for Islam speech

So, it seems Barack has ignored my advice – and after all I’ve done for him! During last year’s US presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised that in the first 100 days of his administration he would travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine the West’s

Obama: 'I was with Kevin Rudd today...'

For those who are not so pointy-headed as to watch Barack Obama’s press conference live from the East Room of the White House, the president just gave Kevin Rudd a nice little shout-out: QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. President. Thank you. Taking this economic debate a bit globally,

Kagan can't spare any change for Obama

So Robert Kagan believes Barack Obama's election heralds no change to US foreign policy. Under the new administration, he argues in The Washington Post, 'the basic goals and premises of US policy have not shifted.' He ends his article with the ironic cry: 'Viva la revolucion!'

Is Obama a cheapskate?

Some readers have invited me to be as outraged as they are about the fact that President Obama's gift to visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a collection of classic American movies on DVD. I certainly agree with reader Anton that the gift was thoughtless, given that what remains

McCain: Austerity begins on the South Lawn

Last year I raised my eyebrows at the price Washington is paying for a new fleet of helicopters for carting around POTUS, or the President of the United States. At Barack Obama's fiscal responsibility summit today, Senator John McCain, who has a long record of being a budgetary hawk as well

Obama looking good on trade, so far

A few days ago, I wrote a short entry wondering whether President Obama would criticise the 'buy American' elements of the Senate’s fiscal stimulus package, elements that were hotly and loudly opposed by trading partners around the world. So far so good on this test of the new White

Obama trade test

In December, I queried the optimistic predictions that the new Obama Administration and the new President himself would not resort to protectionism in these dark days for American manufacturing. It looks like the details of the fiscal stimulus package and its 'buy American' tag-ons may

Why we will all get sick of Obama, eventually

I just got off the phone with our man in Washington, Michael Fullilove. We talked about how poorly the Obama inauguration was organised, what we've learnt from his first week in office, and the absurd levels of attention devoted to the minutae of the President's life. [sound:

Obama dignity agenda

I would highlight two passages from President Obama's interview with al Arabiya. First: And, look, I think anybody who has studied the region recognizes that the situation for the ordinary Palestinian in many cases has not improved. And the bottom line in all these talks and all

The inaugural: Still terrorism?

Like Michael Fullilove, I thought Obama’s inaugural was a lacklustre speech, superbly delivered. But as an exposition of the foundations of the new Administration’s foreign policy, it was a bit less than lacklustre – it was distinctly disappointing. I have written elsewhere about

The inaugural address

I admit to being a bit underwhelmed on first hearing the speech. Parts of it sounded almost like it could have been delivered on the campaign trail, with some unusually (for an inaugural) partisan jabs embedded in the typically flowery rhetoric. But my first impressions are often wrong, and

Inauguration madness

Guest blogger: David Knoll researches US foreign policy in Washington, DC, and served as research assistant for former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s last book, ‘Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West.’ George W. Bush still has two days left in office, but the

VF 'oral history' of the Bush Administration

Vanity Fair has published a very diverting 'oral history' of the Bush Administration. The piece consists entirely of quotes from senior players in and observers of the Administration, with only the odd note from the reporters to explain the historical context. It is an engrossing


As the Obama juggernaut rolls on I've liked watching its cultivation of the online supporter base. His election campaign famously harnessed the net to devastating effect, but now the President-elect looks set to try and keep his online supporter community intact. As a subscriber to

Washington buzz-word bingo

International relations, like all fields of endeavour, has its own jargon, some of which neatly encapsulates complex policy ideas while others are simply jibberish. The eminent IR theorist Joseph Nye Jr was largely responsible for an example of the former, with his neat delineation of 'soft&#

Whither the American right?

Joe the Plumber, made famous by his confrontation with Barack Obama and his subsequent championing by John McCain in a presidential debate, is in Israel. The conservative online media organisation, PJTV, sent him there to report on breaking events, though evidently, he thinks that's not

The president reading list

A Boxing Day op-ed by Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal stirred up a lot of chit-chat here in the US. Rove revealed (not for the first time) that he and his former boss, President George W Bush, engage in an annual competition to see who can read the most books. The op-ed is a perfect storm of

Kurt Campbell would be good for Australia

If they turn out to be true, media reports that Kurt Campbell will be Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia are welcome news. Campbell is a longstanding friend and advocate of Australia in Washington. He is engaging, straightforward and – importantly – ‘gets’

US decline: Is the media the message?

I'm broadly sympathetic to Michael Fullilove's argument against American declinism in today's Sydney Morning Herald. I remain open to the idea that, largely as a result of China's rise, America's unipolar moment has passed. But as Michael says, the evidence and arguments for

Bush Snr praises Obama as only a Bush can

Bush Snr on Barack Obama: But I'm impressed with him. I'm very impressed with his style on the campaign and his coolness and his articulate nature. I think he can give a sentence and it will sound like it's been thought out by Shakespeare or something. It's the

Putting Obama in his place

So Pete Speer thinks anyone who nominates Barack Obama as their leader of the year needs to ‘sober up’. Pete’s right, of course. Obama achieved nothing at all in 2008, apart from coming from way behind to win the most impressive electoral victory in decades, in the process of which

Celebrities without shame

I am pretty dubious about 'celebrities without borders' who involve themselves in politics and international relations. So I've decided to kick off a very occasional feature in which I post instances of this kind of celebrity shamelessness. I'll start with Fran Drescher, the Nanny who's

Reader riposte: Leader of the year

Pete Speer disagrees with those of our experts who picked Obama: For this year? Obama? Triumphant leader of the Democrat Party, certainly. The one we hope will return America to the Days of Glory and make us proud and patriotic again, you bet. But as a leader to this date

Indonesia the right stage for Obama

In August 2007, President-elect Barack Obama promised that, in the first 100 days of his administration, he would ‘travel to a major Islamic forum’ and give a speech on Islam and terrorism. ‘I will make clear’, he promised, ‘that we are not at war with Islam, that we will stand with

Obama national security team: Change or continuity?

Director of the Lowy Institute's Global Issues Program, Michael Fullilove, is spending a year with the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. I talked to him this morning about what President-elect Obama's newly announced national security team says about the direction of US foreign

A turkey pardon

Sometimes you simply have to feel sorry for George W. Bush. Today I watched Barack Obama give another well-received press conference in which he tapped former chairman of the Fed, Paul Volcker, to head up a new Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Then the coverage clicked over to the current

Obama style and substance

President-elect Barack Obama has recorded two video appearances in the last few days that are worth a click. His first post-election interview on 60 Minutes is enjoyable because it points to a future when it will be a pleasure to listen to the president of the United States. I know it’s

The shape of Obama energy policy

Guest blogger: Fergus Green is a Lowy Institute intern. He has recently worked as a research analyst for an energy and resources consultancy in Melbourne and in the Asian Security Group at CSIS in Washington, DC.  Having argued recently that the next US administration is likely to face

Major Obama misstep

It turns out that not even Barack Obama is perfect. Sure, he won an historic election victory. Yes, he gave a cracker of a victory speech. OK, his transition to power is humming along with the usual deadly effectiveness. But I am sorry to pass on the news that Obama’s Secret Service code-

Is the US-China relationship Bush 'greatest legacy'?

That's what Thomas Barnett argues in this op-ed: This sort of effort at grooming a great power for a greater role in international affairs is a careful balancing act, and the Bush team sounded most of the right notes, from reassuring nervous allies in Asia, to avoiding the

Reader riposte: Obama letting Bush dangle?

Pete Speer writes in regard to the conversation Michael Fulllilove and I had on Saturday about President-elect Obama's first press conference (my comment follows): In looking at and listening to the president-elect's first press conference, I found an unfortunate stream running

The many moods of Greg Sheridan

The Australian's foreign editor today: Famously, Obama threatened to bomb Pakistan if he had actionable intelligence about terrorists hiding out there and the Pakistani Government wouldn't or couldn't act. Some of Obama's statements suggested he would bomb whether these

Who could fail to be moved by this?

It’s been an exhilarating couple of days to be in the United States, as a great victory was won by the most gifted presidential candidate in decades and America demonstrated again why it has such a hold on the world’s imagination. I described some of my feelings at the end of this interview

Recollections of a historic night

Michael Fullilove saw the celebrations first hand in Washington, DC. In our chat below, he talks about what he saw, and we discuss Obama's first press conference as President-elect, which just wrapped up about 20 minutes ago. Oh, and The West Wing... [sound:081108_fullilove.mp3

Another nice piece of election trivia

From SlashFilm: After McCain’s gracious concession, the score from Hans Zimmer’s Crimson Tide blasted through the speakers...Crimson Tide “focused on a career Navy man (Gene Hackman), labeled a maverick by some, who is stripped of his authority and ultimately beaten by a young

Barack Obama is a bad influence on your children

This from one of my favourite Australian economics blogs, Game Theorist. Conversation in our house this evening after watching Obama's speech: "Dad, can we play Guitar Hero?" "No" "But Barack Obama says 'yes we can.' And he's the President

Obama herculean task

The euphoria and promise of Barak Obama’s election triumph will soon be tempered by the stark prospect of US weakness and decline. The new president has a power of work ahead of him if he is to restore the tarnished US brand and repair the financial mess that is likely to be his predecessor’s

Let not fall too much in love with power

Given the generosity and optimism of much blog commentary this morning about Obama's victory, I'm feeling a little guilty about the slightly dyspeptic tone of my comments yesterday on Obama's victory speech. So I will agree that this is a genuinely uplifting and important moment in

Obama acceptance speech

This may be horribly unkind, but although Obama went out of his way to say that the election was not about him, it did sound awfully as if he was saying that his ascent to the presidency represented the culmination of American progress since the abolition of slavery. I'll have to read the

Yes, Australians are paying attention

Amazing scenes here at the University of Sydney. The US Studies Centre is hosting a barbeque at the Manning Bar, and the place is packed. I kid you not, there's a guy standing outside the venue holding a sign that reads, 'Wanted: One ticket'. Predictably for a university, its a

Election day linkage

Didn't I tell you that the New Yorker's George Packer, though he doesn't blog often, always blogs well? He's detected a change in Barack Obama's countenance lately, even before his grandmother died.Perhaps something to do with weight of responsibility? University of

What does Cheney really think of Palin?

John McCain probably felt he needed Dick Cheney's endorsement like a hole in the head — but now he's got it. Barack Obama made hay with the announcement, congratulating McCain and asserting that he'd worked hard to get it, by voting with President Bush 90% of the time. But I

Live (almost) from Washington

It's late in Washington, DC, but our man at the Brookings Institution, Michael Fullilove, was kind enough to have a chat with me about the election. I only just got off the phone with him, so here it is, almost live. My opening gambit was one of the great journalistic cliches of our time

Obama foreign policy realism

In an article published last week in the new online magazine The Daily Beast, I argue that despite being a McCain adviser, Henry Kissinger really ought to vote for Obama on Tuesday, since he would be a run a more realistic foreign policy than McCain. Obama’s pragmatism was apparent in his 2002

Reader riposte: Modesty in US foreign policy

Anton Kuruc takes issue with my post of last Thursday. As you'll see in my reply below Anton's email, I disagree strongly with him:  Obama's foreign policy modest? Please, this is the guy whose foreign policy is to 'heal the world' and get the 'water receding&#