BBC BLOGS - Justin Webb's America

Archives for July 2009

Too European?

Justin Webb | 08:04 UK time, Saturday, 25 July 2009

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A friend sends this interesting piece of religious news. I hadn't seen it because I am still in San Francisco, where the religious mores of the rest of the nation don't really hold sway. In Borders Books, they have The Origins of the Species in their favourites section. In Kansas, you'd need a paper bag and a special order.

And yet I feel torn by the European familiarity of San Francisco - its rationalism and secularism and public transportism. Being European in outlook is not - it seems to me - the future for America.

Americans can learn things from Europeans but the essence of America - even if it involves weird notions of Biblical denial of women's rights - is somehow more brutally vivacious than the jaded options over the Atlantic. So many European tourists here: poor things, they have travelled ten hours to come to the only part of America that isn't American. They'll go home knowing nothing.

Space, youth and hope

Justin Webb | 09:22 UK time, Friday, 24 July 2009

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Sorry to be so unreliable a contributor in the last few weeks of my time here - instead of blogging, we have been contributing to the Californian economy in a heartfelt bid to save it from itself.

Enjoyed LA and noted the owners of powder blue Bentleys seemed to have been unaffected so far by the economic crisis.

San Francisco is so European in contrast - prickly dislike of motor cars that stops you turning left or right when you want to and encourages you on to public transport. It's even cold and grey: we could be home already.

As for America's future - this country is full of space and youth and and hope. The rest of the world can seem so jaded in contrast. When people carp at America I think of the Robert Frost poem The Importer - sometimes reviled as racist and certainly not fashionable nowadays - that hits back with wit and, to me, wisdom.

Why America deserves three cheers

Justin Webb | 08:09 UK time, Monday, 13 July 2009

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My dear friend Lexington is leaving America to live in cloistered seclusion in Hampshire and write occasional columns about what's left of British industry. His parting shot is typically brilliant, though I think he and almost all other commentators on America fail to make the really difficult link between the God-awful screw-ups (Iraq etc) and the staggering ability of the place to revivify and refresh and keep pulling the world in the right(ish) direction.

The whole point of America is that you CAN fail. Really badly. And America itself does, regularly. But the failure - the harshness and the unfairness and the ugliness of much of American life - is what drives the place ever forward. So come on Adrian (whoops - let the cat out of the bag) let's add the third cheer...

Replacing Obama in the Senate

Justin Webb | 07:26 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

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I see others are beginning to catch on to the news I reported in this blog months ago that Mark Kirk - a socially liberal Republican with impeccable military credentials - is likely to run for Obama's Illiniois Senate seat and (it seems to me) is very well placed to win.

Which is why Obama didn't want an election in the first place - a rather cowardly refusal to do the right thing it always seemed to me. Anyhow Kirk is a strong candidate, though since we were students together (at the LSE) is highly open to blackmail from Brits...Only kidding.

'Obama is a Quaker'

Justin Webb | 09:04 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009


Apologies for the silence recently - I have been packing up and preparing to leave the US: the sadness has left me speechless although the work I am to do back in the UK, presenting the Today Programme, is decent enough compensation.

But before going, we are at an undisclosed location (alright: Kiawah Island, South Carolina) working out the wonders of the American-designed medical technology that my son will use to control his type one diabetes when back in Britain.

Since I asked for names for the Republicans in 2012 the party has sunk further into disrepair with the Sarah Palin train wreck. I suspect that she is actually a Democrat - a creation of Rahm Emanuel perhaps.

It'll have to be Pawlenty now for the simple reason that he seems to have a little constancy about him: that is their problem; it's not the sex scandals or the dubious TV performances or the ethics investigations that have undone the Republican pretenders, it is the swivel-eyed oddness of the outfit. It can be fixed but step one is recognising the need to fix as Karl Rove seems to grasp.

The other fascinating development in recent days has been the end - or not - of the Obamas' search for a church.

I have suggested it before but let me lay it on the line here in black and white: THE MAN IS A QUAKER. He may not yet know it but that is where his search should end. There is a lovely Meeting House somewhere around Dupont Circle as well so he could get there easily.

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