Posts tagged ‘barack obama’

It’s air quality, stupid.

November 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

When Europe sneezes, will the world catch pneumonia?

Since the eurozone crisis first erupted three years ago it has largely been seen as Europe’s problem. It has now become a global emergency.

This crisis is “scaring the world” says President Obama, whose Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Europe twice in a week to meet European finance ministers and who has demanded speedy action in the strongest language, warning of “cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk”. Such US criticism looks a bit rich in the wake of the great American budget row, but it seems that when Europe sneezes, the whole world may catch pneumonia.

The G-20 has been mobilised to put co-ordinated pressure on the Europeans, while the International Monetary Fund is becoming a central player in a desperate campaign to avert global recession. The question is whether the IMF has the firepower to meet the challenge. In the few short weeks leading up to the G-20 summit in Cannes on November 3-4 an action programme must be devised to instil new confidence into the global economy and restore faith in the markets. Six weeks to save the euro, says UK finance minister George Osborne. Six weeks to save the world economy, some say.

A whole raft of ideas is in the air. One is to gear up the €440 billion EFSF by borrowing against it, so creating a fund of €2 trillion; another is a 50 per cent haircut of Greek bonds, allowing default by any other name but keeping Greece in the eurozone, with new funds provided to the banks by the ECB to strengthen their balance sheets. These are all variations on the piecemeal measures already adopted, too little and too late, by Europe.

Angela Merkel stresses the need for a step-by-step approach – or perhaps day-by-day would be more appropriate. She doesn’t want to frighten the horses in advance of Thursday’s meeting of the Bundestag, which will vote on the European Financial Stability Facility, so she does not welcome talk of Greek default or the creation of eurobonds.

The markets must not be allowed to dictate policy, she says, and she reassured Greek prime minister Papandreou of Germany’s support on this week’s visit to Berlin. The crisis was a debt crisis, she said, not a euro crisis.

It does look as if the German Chancellor will win the vote on Thursday with opposition support, but whether she can take her coalition partners with her is another matter. There is particular concern among FDP members over the possible expansion of the stability fund.

Ratification of the fund has other hurdles to overcome, but the Slovenian parliament has now given its approval. There follows Wednesday’s vote in the Finnish parliament, which has been negotiating  “collateral” with Greece as a condition of supporting the bail-out plan, and Slovakia, voting on October 11, which hates the idea of bailing out a wealthier neighbour, but is nonetheless likely to give its approval. Tuesday’s approval by the Greek parliament of a new property tax should underpin support in these countries.

Approval of the EFSF will no doubt help to soothe the markets in the short term, but it now seems clear that global support will be needed to restore long-term stability to global markets and head off recession. This will inevitably involve China, India and other developing economies,  marking a further shift of economic power across the world.

Michael Berendt

September 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm Leave a comment

The Wikileaks phenomenon: impact on 21st century statecraft?

Yesterday evening, The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel published analyses of a six-year archive of classified documents from US-led forces in Afghanistan, released to them by the organization Wikileaks.  The disclosure of the material has already raised much debate about what The Guardian has termed “the biggest leak in intelligence history.”

What is different about this leak is that it is mainly happening online, and the debate around it currently spans from Washington DC to Berlin to Islamabad.

Since the Obama campaign’s groundbreaking use of social media, the US government has been coming to terms with what it has deemed “21st century statecraft,” and this leak will put the new strategy to the test.

Two weeks ago, The New York Times Magazine ran a piece on Jared Cohen and Alec Ross, the “public faces” of “21st century statecraft,” an effort by the State Department to magnify traditional methods of diplomacy, and the first to recognize that control of information will simply not be possible as it was in the past. (The strategy was originally outlined by State’s Policy & Planning Director, Anne-Marie Slaughter, in a 2009 article in Foreign Affairs.)

But do 21st century technologies change everything? Or are they a new means to the same old communications challenges?

The hard reality is that the Internet does and doesn’t change everything.

The Web remains unfamiliar territory for traditional policymakers who are wrestling how to keep up in a world with instant online news breaks and social media. While leaks are not new, their mass publication is instantaneous, volumes of feedback are exponentially larger and it can be difficult to distinguish the experts from the amateurs. Crisis-communications take on new meaning.

A recent BBC analysis of recent online crisis-management efforts by the British government and BP asks Should we trust the wisdom of crowds? The US government has publicly denounced the publication of the classified documents. It will be interesting to gauge how the public reacts to this leak and – in turn – how the architects of 21st century statecraft react to the public.


July 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm 2 comments

Obama Web 2.0 campaign webinar

We’ve been a bit quiet recently, in part due to a mad year end, but one internal event I had time to attend was an internal FH webinar on the use of digital in the Obama campaign.

I know, we’ve heard this all before you say. In fact, we’re going to kill the next person who mentions Obama’s use of the internet in his campaign.

Nevertheless the webinar, which you can view here, sees some of most practiced practitioners from election campaigning and digital public affairs talk about the challenges and successes of the campaign.

On the call are Robert Hoopes Jr. President of our Vox brand and a former staffer for Biden, Jim Margolis of our GMMB brand, a campaign strategist for Obama, as well as the head of our formidably large digital operations in D.C. Dan Horowitz.

As such, it’s worth a watch over the Christmas period.

Merry Christmas.


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December 20, 2008 at 11:03 am 1 comment

Posts from America (3) – The only day that counts is tomorrow

Michelle Ob...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Michelle Obama flew in today and held a rally at the College of South Nevada. The accompanying photo shows her at the event. Her speech went down really well with the enthusiastic audience of around five hundred, who stood in the glorious sunshine to chant ‘Yes We Can!’ and show their appreciation of Michelle’s part in the campaign.

The speech was more of an emotional testimonial than a detailed outline of policy though she did hammer home central messages about education, the economy, jobs and the Iraq war. Michelle seemed choked at times when she told stories of people she’d met and the highs and lows experienced since the start of the campaign.

‘The campaign has been fun’ she said, ‘and the rallies have been amazing, but the only day that counts is tomorrow.’ Her pride in her husband was clear and she spoke touchingly about what the impact had been on the Obamas as a family. I was impressed with how at ease she was with the crowd. She appeared to speak unscripted though I’m sure she has given similar speeches many times. She dealt ably with the frequent enthusiastic shouts from the crowd and delighted people with an extended rope line walk when she came off stage. There were at least seven television cameras covering the event, I counted fourteen other journalists scribbling in the press pen and she apparently gave a number of one-to-one interviews when she came off stage.

This was a slick event which touched the spot with the assembled activists. I’ve been involved in the planning and delivery of a number of similar events in the UK with the Labour Party, though nothing on this scale would ever have been staged for the leader’s wife. In US politics it seems that a candidate’s family plays a crucial part in the campaign’s ultimate success.

Michelle Obama’s visit was one of three high profile ones taking place today. Sarah Palin visited Reno in the north of the state and Senator McCain will fly in this evening at the end of a grueling day of visits to swing states. Nevada is a small state with only five electoral college votes, but it is crucially important to both campaigns. For Obama it represents a fail safe. Pollsters believe he already has 264 solid blue state votes. Nevada’s 5 would bring him to 269, which is the number representing an electoral college tie. In the event of a tie, the House of Representatives must vote to decide the winner and because the Democrats control the House, this means that a win in Nevada would mean the Democrats taking the presidency. McCain is obviously keen to stop this happening and his campaign is therefore fighting hard to keep it for themselves. The last time that Nevada voted Democrat in a presidential election was for Bill Clinton in 1996.  As an added indication of how important this fight is, the Obama campaign has over three thousand lawyers in Nevada alone ready to get involved if there is any repeat of the 2000 election.

Our committee room in north Vegas is well prepared for tomorrow. We’ll be starting at 5.30am when we will hang ‘don’t forget to vote’ signs (very quietly!) on the front doors of people we hope will vote for Obama. Following that after a quick breakfast we’ll be knocking on doors to encourage people to get to the polls as early as possible as there is concern that later in the day the lines will be very long and people may decide it’s not worth the wait.

Polls close in Nevada at 7pm tomorrow. The optimistic voices here think that if the Republican turnout is down on those who voted in 2004 and the Democrat vote is dramatically up (many think this is likely) then we should know the outcome by 9pm west coast time. A large party on Vegas’s Strip is planned and I’ve got my fingers crossed that one of the hardest working and most committed Obama supporters will make an appearance. If she does, the question I have for Obama Girl is, does she hope for a place in the new administration?

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November 4, 2008 at 5:43 am 1 comment

Posts from America (2) – Viva Las Vegas

Sheila Burnham of N...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I’ve never been to Nevada before and I may be suffering from culture shock. There’s a well known phrase that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and I certainly don’t intend to give a lengthy explanation of the ins and outs of last night so I’ll skip straight to the campaigning…

We had to get up early to drive to the campaign headquarters. Our destination turned out to be a Tuscan-looking mansion about half an hour north of Las Vegas. Even though this state is basically desert, the house was surrounded by lush, green lawns and there was even a paddock with grazing fresian cows behind a rustic wooden fence that looked like it had been imported from New Hampshire. Very odd. We were greeted there by a friendly Democrat, Elena from California, one of the many out-of-state volunteers who have come to help out. She loaded our car up with Obama-Biden posters and coated our T-shirts with stickers before sending us on to the local campaign centre run by Sherri Grotheer an enthusiastic volunteer who runs a tight ship and provides all her helpers with more snacks than you can shake a stick at and has a husband who cooks a mean chilli.

We were briefed by another volunteer Dan, a local teacher who has been inspired to get involved because of what Obama has been saying about education reform. Dan gave us campaigning sheets with the names and addresses of who we should talk to, a map and leaflets and sent us on our way. The objective was to find out who had already voted so that we didn’t waste time bothering them with unnecessary calls and to encourage those who had not yet voted to get out and vote on Tuesday. Dan gave us the key messages to use on the door and he took us through the dividing lines with the McCain campaign. Once in the car we fought with the sat nav which only seemed capabable of giving us instructions in Mandarin.

We finally made it to where we needed to be and walked the streets for several hours knocking on doors and talking to voters. Their main concerns were the economy, the war in Iraq and taxes. There was plenty of concern about mortgage repayments and we passed many homes that had been reposessed. Most of those we spoke to had either already voted or were planning on voting for Senator Obama and as we listened to the radio in the car we heard the encouraging news that the latest polls were putting Obama on 49% and McCain on 43%.

McCain does have plenty of support here though and it’s certainly not yet in the bag for Obama. As a sign of this Michelle Obama will be in town tomorrow morning for a rally. Once we’d finished our work out on the doors, we came back to HQ and started to call registered Democrats to ensure that they knew about the rally and to see if they were able to come along. The local party is expecting a big turnout to see Michelle hope that the event will encourage more volunteers to get involved during the last last 48 hours. We’ll be at the rally in the morning so I’ll be sure to report back on how it goes.


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November 3, 2008 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

Posts from America (1)

It was Halloween when I touched down in LA yesterday. I’d heard that Americans like to dress up on 31st October, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was greeted with. A woman next to me at baggage reclaim was dressed all in black with multiple skull and crossbones tatooed onto her shaved head. Her friend had a bllood trail coming from her mouth and looked as if she’s just been punched. At first I wasn’t sure whether they’d had a fight and normally dress like this – I’m in LA after all, but my stares provoked a ‘Happy Halloween’, plus a broad (black toothed) smile from the faux pirate. This put me at ease – sort of.

I was met by a James – a volunteer from the British Labour Party – who has been here for the past week. We drove to Santa Barbara and James gave me a good briefing on his experiences and about how the Obama campaign has been going in this part of the country. On arrival we met John and Felix, two other Labour Party stalwarts  inspired to take a break from work and join the campaign. Together we went out for a beer and to admire the Halloween costumes. There were some fantastic efforts but we were not prepared for the number of people who had decided to dress as Sarah Palin!

California is a true blue state and Obama already knows those electoral college votes are in the bag. However there are lots of local candidates like Hannah-Beth Jackson who is running for California’s state senate and has a tougher fight on her hands. I met Hannah-Beth at a rally on Saturday morning and was impressed with the way she inspired the 100 or so volunteers who had turned up for a day’s campaigning. She told me her prioities were investing more in reneweable energy, demanding higher local taxes from the multinational oil companies who operate out of the state but currently pay little or no tax and focusing on improving health and education policies. There was a high level of enthusiasm amongst the volunteers some of whom told me how they’ve been using the internet to inspire people as has been happening all over the US The volunteers were joined by state congresswoman Lois Capps and Pedro Nava the local state assembly member, both of whom are also running for reelection. You can find out more about the campaigns of all of these candidates by checking out the Santa Barbara Democrats site.

After posing for photos with a cardboard cut out of Senator Obama and picking up some memorabillia we got a debrief over coffee from Tim Allison, a Democratic delegate and the team leader of the campaign in Santa Barbara. Tim outlined how the campaign worked and explained the levels of organisation that link what is happening in Santa Barbara into the national campaign. Everyone I spoke to – many of whom were old campaigning hands – said that they’d never experienced anything quite like the level of organisation of the Obama campaign.  His ability to communicate messages, to inspire and lead was, they said, a sign that an Obama presidency would be successful.

It’ll be four more days until we’re be able to judge if these enthusiastic activists are right and to know whether Senator Obama has what it takes to convince America that he’s the right man to lead them, but I know they’ll be working their socks off until the polls close at 8pm on Tuesday 4th.

We said our goodbyes to the Santa Barbara lot and set off for Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada is a swing state and so I expect the atmosphere will be quite different. There are high hopes amongst Democrats that for the first time in years the state will turn blue, but that remains to be seen.

I’ll be sure to post on what we find when we arrive and on how the last few days of the campaign develop in my part of the US.

FH Brussels team member Tim Nuthall is on the campaign trail with Democrats in California and Nevada in the last few days of this US election season. As a departure from our usual digitally related content, Tim has agreed to write a short series of posts on his personal experiences in the US.

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November 3, 2008 at 10:11 am Leave a comment

If the world could vote…

McCain as a student at the US Naval Academy in...

Image via Wikipedia

The Economist is running an interesting online Vote 2008 poll entitled Global Electoral College – what if the world could vote. I’ve been tracking developments over the last few days and things don’t look good for John McCain. A few days ago the only countries definitely in favour of a McCain presidency were Georgia and Iraq. Namibia, Sudan and Algeria were on the cusp of endorsing the Senator from Arizona and Macedonia, Columbia, Venezuela and Myanmar were wavering. Today Iraq seems to be having second thoughts and Georgia is looks far better for Obama. The rest of the world seems to have fallen in love with Senator Obama and in some countries like Greece and The Netherlands, McCain doesn’t even make it to double figures. Bleak news for the Republicans.

This poll probably tells us more about the readership of The Economist than it does about the two candidates real chances, but it’s interesting that a magazine with a history of support for free trade and liberal economics has a readership which so overwhelmingly supports Obama – a candidate who’s position on trade is at odds with that of the paper. It must be said that the poll results are not the editorial line – for that we need to wait for the November 1st issue, but I wonder if the editor will be brave enough to take on his readership and argue the case for McCain. Interesting the Financial Times, another economically liberal newspaper endorsed Obama earlier this week in glowing terms. The editorial was followed by an excellent live FT webcast debate with Republican pundit Andrea Tantaros trying her best to shore up support for her party’s candidate.

I’m getting particularly excited about this election as I’m heading West to Nevada at the end of the week for the last few days of the campaign. I’ll be sure to post news from the States giving my on-the-ground analysis.


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October 29, 2008 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

Big lesson from wee Canada

Tired of all the election speculation coming out of the U.S. these days?  Well allow this polite, humble Canadian to steer your attention north of the Canada-U.S. border to where another federal election campaign is underway – one that may be over before most of the world realizes it had ever began.


I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that since settling at Fleishman Hillard Brussels, I haven’t heard a peep about the excitement back home, despite my religious attachment to FH Canada’s election blog – (yes, what a shameless plug). What with global economic meltdowns, U.S. election debates and U.K. party politics, there’s not much room in the political newscycle for wee Canada.

But gosh darn it (yes, Canadians are that polite), wee Canada deserves some attention!  After all, if you consider that the land of beavers, Mounties and maple syrup will be the first member of the G8 to go to the polls following “the worst financial crisis since ’29”, there may be a few reasons to watch and learn from the Canadian experience.

While I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting that the fate of incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a pre-cursor to John McCain’s (all told, it’s most likely that Harper will eek out a small minority government this coming Monday), both men’s laissez-faire approach have been interpreted by their opponents as “out-of-touch” and lacking compassion.  Just look at the reaction to Mr. Harper’s suggestion yesterday that the recent downturn is an opportunity to buy cheap stocks and you’ll understand how exceedingly sensitive members of the public are becoming to the current economic situation.  It seems people want both a big heart and big government in these times of need and the small-C conservatives who ignore this point, both in Canada and abroad, do so at their peril.

But then again, we should not forget that “conservative” governments, including the current Republican administration, have been at the head of some of the largest government spending projects in modern history.  No Child Left Behind, money for AIDS in Africa, the war in Iraq – good or bad, these are all record-making expenditures that precede the most recent and single largest cheque ever written by a national government in the history of the world.  Perhaps when John McCain suggested in yesterday’s presidential debate that Barack Obama would raise taxes, the Democratic candidate should have answered, “Yes, to pay for Republican bills!”.  And given the fact that an economic turnaround is not foreseeable at this point, could it be that these big spend tendencies will be reinforced?  Again, today’s support from the U.K. Tories for Gordon Brown’s £50 billion bank bail-out is but another example.

But I digress – and most certainly do so at the peril of future postings on this blog!  So let me end by revising my argument about the significance of the highly under-covered Canadian campaign.  Perhaps not only will this election be a clear reminder for conservatives, worldwide, of the need to go back to their big government roots, it may in fact represent one of the last major Western campaigns for a while where conservatives can credibly argue for smaller government.

But then again, I’m getting ahead of myself.  I am after all just a humble Canuck pining for a little world attention.

Canuckia Blair

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October 9, 2008 at 9:33 am 9 comments

Obama and the iPhone

Image representing IPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

There is little doubt that if queues to vote for the Democrats on November 4 are comparable to queues on the release of the iPhone, then Obama will be a happy man.  Last week Obama’s team announced that the link between Obama and the iPhone ran deeper, with the creation of an application for the iPhone which encourages friends and families to vote.

The imaginatively-named ‘Obama 08 Phone App’ has a ‘Call Friends’ option that prioritizes contacts by key battleground states and asks users to call their friends in those states to vote for Obama. The software also enables users to receive updates about the campaign and set reminders to call friends on Election Day. Chris Hughes, the director of online organizing for the Obama campaign explained, “A contact has a lot more value when it is from someone you know than when it is from some random person,” said Chris Hughes, the director of online organizing for the Obama campaign.

Amid such talk, it is easy to forget that the subject of the conversation is political campaigning. Indeed, categories such as “Not Interested,” “Considering Obama” and “Already Voted,” are more suggestive of an online dating tool. Herein lies the ingenuity of ‘Obama 08 Phone App’: the obvious question as to why friends would want to sort their contacts into anything other than alphabetical lists is lost in the originality of the application.  The software plugs into the millions of American iPhone lovers and Obama supporters in the hope that the passion for the former might be mirrored in support for latter on November 4.

Obama’s use of digital tools provides interesting insight into political campaigning in the 21st Century. His website has links to no less than 16 social networking tools, as well as the now almost standard TV channel. Whilst not all of the platforms are likely to appeal to the European voter (indeed British iPhone lovers are unlikely to fall for a ‘Brown 08 Phone App’), the US election does offer innovative ideas for politicians on this side of the Atlantic.


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October 7, 2008 at 12:25 pm 1 comment

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