Us politics

My message for Columbia’s protesting students

There are several frustrating things about American college campuses, just one of which is the sheer volume of column inches they take up. Whenever an American campus has an ‘occupation’ because the students want veto powers over foreign wars, the world media study their actions with great interest. Whenever a group of farmers or truckers complain about the loss of their livelihoods, whatever media attention does arrive comes from people eager to dismiss the protestors as know-nothings who are on to nothing. I told them that while they may know something, the chances are that people older than them know more Still, in recent months Columbia University in New York

Veep show: who will Trump pick for his running mate?

We are in the fifth week of Donald Trump’s ‘hush money’ trial and the real scandal is that it’s all so intensely boring. Sex, porn-star witnesses, shady lawyers, a president in the dock – the headlines are a tabloid dream. The crux of the case, however, is a bunch of tedious charges to do with tax reporting and accountancy. Who wants to read about that?   Trump is ‘not looking for an heir because that would be Macbeth or King Lear, a bloodbath’ Trump adores the attention, naturally. As the greatest showman of the 21st century he understands that we, the people, need fresh drama and new characters. That’s why, while

The Democrats have a Joe Biden problem

The Democrats dare to hope that this week will be a study in contrasts. On their side stands President Joe Biden, the veteran statesman, using all his diplomatic experience to stop a third world war breaking out in the Middle East. On the other, in the dock in Manhattan, sits Donald Trump, facing 34 criminal counts in a case relating to porn stars, adultery and hush money. As Biden urges Israel to ‘think carefully’ as it considers how to respond to Iran’s attack last weekend, Trump is, as ever, ranting away about himself. This speaks to Biden’s 2024 re-election pitch: it’s democracy (him) vs chaos (you know who). Trump can

Will Biden support Ukraine’s attacks on Russia?

This time last year, Volodymyr Zelensky was touring western capitals, calling for weapons and money to launch a decisive summer offensive. Nato eventually provided Leopard and Challenger tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, M777 howitzers, Himars rocket artillery and Patriot air defences – but too little, too late. The much-vaunted offensive went nowhere, despite a mutiny by the Wagner Group and widespread disarray in the Russian army. Instead, Soledar, Bakhmut and Avdiivka were seized. Today, Russian missile assaults are intensifying, not receding. In March, Russia hit Ukraine with 264 missiles and 515 drones. A relentless bombardment of Kharkiv is making Ukraine’s second city uninhabitable. In response, Kyiv’s most successful strategy to

Going electric requires electricity. Who knew?

A lead article in the sober-sided New York Times is seldom funny. Yet ‘A New Surge in Power Use is Threatening US Climate Goals’ earlier this month cracked me up. Check out this sternly dramatic first paragraph: ‘Something unusual is happening in America. Demand for electricity, which has stayed largely flat for two decades, has begun to surge.’ Personally, I’d have headlined that article ‘Well, duh’ – perhaps with the subhead ‘Aw, shucks’. Lo and behold, when you push people to electrify everything in their lives – cars, cookers, heating systems – while bribing them to go all-electric with lavish government subsidies, it turns out they use more electricity. Who

Why the British think differently from Americans

When I first started teaching undergraduates at Harvard, the grading system the university employed struck me as very odd. Even ambitious students at top colleges in the United States see it as their job to answer any essay question in the most thorough and reasonable way. They regurgitate the dominant view in scholarly literature in a competent manner. If they pull this off without making major errors, they fully expect to get an A. And with grade inflation rampant in the Ivy League, they usually do. This attitude has had a significant influence on American public life. If you read an opinion piece in the New York Times or the

Europe needs to step up on Ukraine

Vasyl, a burly, tattooed infantry commander who lost a leg to a Russian mine on the eastern front, sits swinging his remaining leg on the edge of the treatment table in the ‘Unbroken’ rehabilitation clinic in Lviv. He’s been inside the Russian trenches 50 times, he tells me. His stories are reminiscent of the first world war. I ask him what Ukraine needs for victory. Answer: ‘Motivated people.’ His T-shirt proclaims ‘no sacrifice, no victory’. After we shake hands and I wish him luck, he suddenly jumps off the table and starts skipping at amazing speed, his blue skipping rope whizzing around under his one foot, while he looks at

Emergency on Planet Biden

‘If aliens attacked Earth, do you think we would be safer under Joe Biden or Donald Trump?’ That’s a question in a new poll of American voters, and 43 per cent of respondents opted for Trump, 32 per cent for Biden, while 25 per cent sagaciously picked ‘Don’t know’. It’s fun to imagine President Donald in charge against the extra-terrestrials. ‘Zogblark the Magnificent is a good friend of mine,’ Trump would shout from the White House lawn, as the helicopter blades of Marine One clattered away behind. ‘He’s said some very nice things about me. Believe me. Things you wouldn’t believe… But we can’t have him exerting the supreme authority

Trumpvision: He’s making America watch again

It was hardly a surprise when Donald Trump said last weekend that he would not be participating in the televised Republican candidate debates. ‘New CBS POLL, just out, has me leading the field by “legendary” numbers,’ he declared on his very own Truth Social platform. ‘The public knows who I am & what a successful presidency I had… I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES.’ In other words, I am winning so I do what I want. Trump’s arrogance puts many people off. It’s also compelling because he has a point. On the right of American politics – and, to a large extent, on the left and centre too

Does Biden actually care about gay rights?

Joseph Robinette Biden, a practising Catholic, has travelled a long way when it comes to gay rights. In 1996, as Senator for Delaware, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked the federal recognition of same-sex unions. Two years earlier he voted to cut funding to schools that taught the acceptance of homosexuality. In the 1970s, when asked about homosexuals in the US military, he replied: ‘My gut reaction is that they are a security risk but I must admit I have not given this much thought… I’ll be darned!’   Saudi Arabia is the world’s second-biggest oil producer and so it gets a pass. Uganda has little to

Is progressivism winning in America?

36 min listen

Galen Druke, host of the FiveThirtyEight podcast, joins Freddy Gray on this episode to talk about what to take away from Chicago’s election this week, how well the Biden team is handling the progressive wing of the Democratic party, and whether the Democrats would prefer to face up against Ron or Don as the Republican nominee. Produced by Natasha Feroze, Saby Kulkarni and Cindy Yu.

Joe Biden has some difficult questions to answer

Joe Biden has become the Typhoid Mary of classified documents, spreading them as he goes. They keep turning up in batch after batch, everywhere but the floor at Starbucks. The President has said almost nothing about the mess, except to reassure us that ‘people know I take classified documents seriously’. That defence has since taken on a slight change of punctuation: ‘People know I take classified documents. Seriously.’ He certainly does. He takes them everywhere. Most recently, classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center, a foreign policy thinktank in Washington, DC established by Biden in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania. The documents raise additional questions. Why were

Ron DeSantis is the Republican party’s best hope

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is shaping up as the GOP’s best hope for next year’s US presidential election. Large parts of his popular appeal are his open attack on (now fairly well-established) left-wing infiltration in education and to some extent in commerce, and his expressed intention to make Florida the state ‘where woke goes to die’. Hitherto his success has been limited. But recently there have been signs that he may be learning from his mistakes. His troubles started with a failure to grasp that a direct legal attack on left-wing influence, however electorally popular, was likely to be doomed. However fed up Floridians might be with the spoutings of left-wing professors

You can’t keep an American exceptionalist down

Like millions of other Americans I was riveted by the images of chaos and despair at the Kabul airport as US forces finally left Afghanistan, yet another sad result of a forever foreign policy driven by ignorance, overreach and hubris. But as distressed as I was by the sight of desperate Afghans clinging to the exterior of a moving US Air Force cargo jet, what truly horrified me was the flood of belligerent anti-withdrawal nonsense uttered in print and on TV by an American political and media establishment that has apparently learned nothing since the Korean War, when General Douglas MacArthur provoked China’s invasion of North Korea by pushing too close

The dos and don’ts of the inauguration outfit

Given recent events on the inauguration scaffolding, Jill Biden may do well to wear a bullet-proof vest to watch her husband become the 46th President of the United States and be done with it. But Inauguration Day calls for some serious sartorial politicking and it seems unlikely Dr B will want to miss out. Long before Michelle sashayed her way to the 2013 ceremony in that Thom Browne coat, Thomas Carlyle spoke of the power of clothes in his 1834 Sartor Resartus: “Society is founded upon cloth” he said simply, and most women in the world would agree with him. Yet what the First Lady wears as she stands shivering

Could Trump go bankrupt?

‘Send in the troops. The nation must restore order. The military stands ready.’ Aficionados of the New York Times may recall that these sentences appeared as the headline of Tom Cotton’s op-ed in June that led to the departure of the paper’s editorial page editor James Bennet. Bennet resurfaced as a guest author of Politico’s Playbook newsletter last week. But how the times have changed! These days it is Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser who has embraced the Cotton Doctrine. She is demanding that the city be placed into what amounts a state of martial law. Ten-thousand National Guard troops, up to 15,000, are slated to guard the city against the motley

Who’s who in the Biden clan

The electoral college has confirmed it: the US will have its 46th president on 21 January next year – Joseph R Biden Jnr. While Scranton Joe might not have much in common with his predecessor in many departments, there are (some) similarities when it comes to their personal lives. As grandfathers in their 70s, both men preside over large broods, who have helped build the family political brand – and who have generated their fair share of media intrigue along the way. Here’s the guide to who’s who in the Biden clan: (Dr) Jill Biden Dr Jill Biden (Image: Getty) An English professor with nearly two million followers on Instagram,

The never-ending smugness of the NeverTrumpers

In March 2016 as Donald Trump looked likely to be the Republican party’s nominee to run for president, more than 100 foreign policy professionals signed a letter vowing not only that they wouldn’t work for him should he become president but that they would work ‘energetically’ to prevent his election. As the months wore on, the light in which the signatories appeared often shifted. Once Trump became the nominee, and then the President, these representatives of the ‘national security community’ appeared to have demonstrated one of the most damaging things any such group could demonstrate: their own irrelevance. It turned out that more than a decade and a half into

The absurd outrage over Dr Jill Biden

The Electoral College has confirmed Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Now America puts weeks of mad discussions about stolen elections and Venezuelan voting machines behind it, and conversation turns to what kind of president Biden will be. Will he make good on his pledge to bring America together? Will he heal the wounds of the Trump era? Well, if the past few days are anything to go by, his administration will certainly stand up for the rights, for the dignity, for the humanity, of people with advanced academic degrees. I’m referring to the Dr Jill furore, which just may be the most phoney bit of elite outrage from 2020 (in a

My week with the baying Antifa mob

Portland, Oregon In the days when you could still watch a nature documentary without feeling as if you were sitting through a politics lecture I saw footage of a pack of smaller predators taking down an elephant. At the time I remember thinking: ‘Why don’t you keep running? Why don’t you knock the first one off and keep going?’ Strangely, I thought of that elephant again in the very different savannah of Portland, Oregon. In recent years this city in the Pacific Northwest has become famous for a variety of reasons — none of them good. As one long-term resident said to me last week: ‘This used to be a