• Outlook on the U.S. Presidential Elections - by Ambassador Philip D. Murphy

    Excerpts from the Ambassador's speech at Atlantik-Brücke on September 13, 2012

    I am very happy to join you this evening to talk about the upcoming election for a number of reasons. Number one: I am a fan and a long supporter of the Atlantik Brücke. The work of this organization is just as important and just as valuable as when it was established 60 years ago. Second reason: Despite all the messiness of American election campaigns, I think it is an example of transparent democracy that I for one am extremely proud of. Political campaigns are history in the making. And thirdly: I am a political junkie. I love politics and I love talking politics. There’s a phrase in English for which I am not sure we will in fact be able to come up with a good German equivalent: a gym rat. A gym rat is an athlete, who after practice, stays behind and talks about the last game or the last season, or the moves made by another team. Well, you know I love soccer but I am a political gym rat. I love talking and re-hashing what’s gone on and what’s going on in politics. And so, let this political gym rat offer a few observations about the ongoing campaign and then I would be glad to take some questions.

    First, this election will be a close, hard-fought campaign. It has been and it will continue to be. The polls tell that story. The Republicans and the Democrats are neck and neck and they have been for months.

    But my advice to you on the opinion polls is this: forget the polls from last week and even this week. Start taking the numbers really seriously next week or even the week after. The race is still tight and the election could go either way. Do, however, look carefully at what’s happening in the battleground states – in Ohio, for example, a state that was hard hit by the financial crisis and has really bounced back. Its unemployment rate is lower than the national average.

    Remember, in our system, you have got to win states. You have got to put a series of states together to get to the required number of electoral votes which is 270. But you have to win states. Al Gore had many more votes than George Bush but lost the election.

    Speaking of which, look at Florida. According to poll results announced on Tuesday, Governor Romney leads among Florida's white voters, but that lead is erased by Florida's minorities: Obama leads by 16 points among Cubans, 36 points among non-Cuban Hispanics, and he leads by 67 points among African Americans. Now we know that the economy is the main issue in Campaign 2012, but changing American demographics will play an important role in this election – and elections to come.

    One of the challenges the Romney campaign faced was to offer a more personal view of their candidate. And in his acceptance speech, Governor Romney did just that – and he did it well, as did his wife Ann. For me, the highlight of the Republican convention was the speech by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice which was brilliant. She gave an excellent and for the most part nonpartisan overview of US foreign relations but she also gave an overview of America and what it is like to be an American. We’ll go back in a few minutes to foreign policy but I thought she, as they say in baseball, hit the cover off the ball.

    The Democratic Party had fewer distractions and skirmishes; which is to be expected with a campaign by an incumbent. Each night was marked by a strong keynote speech and also strong lead-up introductory remarks. First Lady Michelle Obama, once more, showed an incredible presence.

    There are a number of speeches that are part of the political annals of American election campaigns. In 1964, then actor Ronald Reagan gave the keynote address at the Republican convention in San Francisco. After years as a Democrat, Reagan had recently become a Republican. “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny,” that’s what Reagan said in a very well-received speech that launched his political career. Two years later, Reagan was elected governor of California. In 1980, he was elected president.

    The keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston spoke of the hope he believed was needed to move America forward. “It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores … the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him too.” At the time, not many people had heard of the U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois named Barack Obama, but four years later his would be the name behind which the Democrats rallied at the national convention in Denver.

    But a rising star is only as good as the convention speech he or she gives. And that speech is not always easy for a beginner. In 1988, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was tapped to give the nominating speech at the Democratic convention in Atlanta. The speech went on for so long that the audience cheered at the words “In conclusion.” He became famous overnight, but not in a good way. Four years later, however, Clinton was nominated by his party, won the presidential election and is now remembered, like Reagan, as one of the more effective presidential speechmakers of all time.

    And President Obama’s speech last week was also excellent. Some say it was not his best. True, perhaps. But he sets the bar high. We all know his ability to reach audiences both on a personal and a policy level. High expectations are a double edged sword; and people expect a lot from this President.

    Some say he has not come through on the message of hope and change that he communicated four years ago. Now obviously I am biased but I believe history will show just how challenging the past decade has been. I say to young Germans all the time that I wouldn’t extrapolate a whole lot from this decade. 9/11; two of the longest and most expensive wars that our country has ever fought; the bursting of an enormous economic bubble; global economic challenges, which still go on. It’s a tough time to govern. In the United States, I believe it’s a combination of unrealistic expectations, the very challenging political rhetoric that we have in our country today, and an economic environment which feels constraining to all of us and feeds the myth that change has not occurred. But I believe the record of accomplishment of the Obama Administration is truly impressive, particularly in the context of the economic situation which he inherited when he assumed office. It was the most challenging that we have seen in our country – and in the world – since the 1930s. But look at the automobile industry. It was almost at the point of a complete meltdown when the President took office in January 2009. Look at financial market regulation which Germans kept asking me about when I first got here. They said that the US would never regulate its financial markets. Now companies say there is too much regulation. Look at long overdue health care reform, the progress that has been made on the long path toward a nuclear weapon free world, America’s renewed strategy of engagement with the world and with allies, notably among others with Germany. I could go on and on.

    That is not to say that there are not real problems. The unemployment rate is too high. Too many homes are worth less than the debt incurred to buy them. These are the realities that American voters are rightfully concerned about. But it took years and years to build the bubble I referred to earlier. We have to accept the fact that it will take time to get back to where we were.

    I’m a bull, by the way. I think we are in for a very strong two or three years, regardless of who the President is. I think we are on the verge. Time will tell.

    And so, American voters will be looking for real answers from the two major candidates. The economy is definitely the number one issue in the campaign. And there is no doubt that the prescriptions that Governor Romney and President Obama offer for America’s future are very different. This is not an election where you say, “Gosh, one guy is just a little bit different from the other.” This year, American voters have a very real choice. That, too, is reflected in the tight polls. Within the political spectrum today, there is less room for a large undecided portion of the population.

    For me, this is the difference. The Democrats are offering what I think of as a 100 percent middle class policy approach to the future. The theory is that if things go well for the middle class, things will go well for everybody, including the very wealthy.
    The Republican approach is that the more government stays outs of the way of entrepreneurs, the more they will succeed; and when they do well, Americans will succeed with them. So, if we stay out of the way of the folks who build companies and create jobs, if we give them a fair to attractive tax regime, they’ll do well and we’ll all do well as a result.

    Let’s look briefly at some of the other topics on the political agenda.

    I am asked often about the role that foreign policy will play this year. The truth is that in any election, domestic issues are almost always more important to American voters. Two exceptions were the presidential election in 2004 and the congressional election in 2002, the first elections after 9/11. There is no doubt, however, that given the very real tensions and challenges on the international scene and witness what is literally happening as we speak, at any time during the next two months, foreign policy issues could take the forefront. Another big factor in the election is money. Money always plays an enormous role in American elections. In my opinion, it is too big a role, particularly after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case in January which essentially allows the possibility to raise unlimited parallel campaign funds.

    One of my favorite quotations about the American political process stems from former Governor of New York Mario Cuomo. He said, “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” In my opinion, poetry and emotion are two of the essential ingredients in a political campaign. President Clinton’s speech last week was exceptional because he managed to cite an endless list of cold facts and hard statistics but he did so in a way that people understood. He touched people’s hearts and souls. In the same way, many people were attracted in an emotional and poetic way to Barack Obama. But like all figures in public office, he has had to accept that when in office, it is one step after another. Those, I believe, who are the most disappointed in President Obama (and I think there is an overblown sense that there is an enormous number of people who are disappointed) are perhaps the poets among us. They expected poetry not only in the campaign, but also in government.

    When it comes to the campaign trail, the easiest platform is a start-up; everybody loves the shiny new toy. Next best is demolishing something that's old. That is part of the very, very effective appeal that Representative Ryan has added to the Romney ticket.

    Which message will win on November 6? Who will be the next President of the United States? I don’t know the answer to that. Sometimes, I wish I could predict the future.

    We know very well that the world is watching. And this November, we will offer the world, as President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “a wonderful example of democratic government on a giant scale.”

  • Comeback Kid - von Christoph von Marschall

    Was für ein Wahljahr! Und was für ein Wechselbad an Gefühlen und Eindrücken, je nachdem von welcher Seite des Atlantiks man das Präsidentschaftsrennen beobachtet. Hier wie dort sind die meisten von Barack Obamas erster Amtszeit enttäuscht. In Deutschland sieht jedoch eine überwältigende Mehrheit in den Republikanern keine ernstzunehmende Alternative. Und glaubt deshalb, es könne gar keinen Zweifel geben, wer am 6. November siegt. Da ist wohl auch der Wunsch Vater des Gedankens. Wenn die Deutschen mitwählen dürften, würden rund 80 Prozent für Obama stimmen.

    Wer das Wahljahr in Amerika erlebt, hat ein ganz anderes Bild. Zu Jahresbeginn sahen die Republikaner wie die ziemlich sicheren Sieger aus. Nun ist jedoch ein überraschendes Comeback des Amtsinhabers zu bestaunen. Obama hatte diese Wahl eigentlich längst verloren. Im vergangenen Herbst und Winter sagten drei Viertel der Amerikaner, ihr Land bewege sich in die falsche Richtung. Deutlich mehr Menschen lehnten die Politik des Präsidenten ab, als ihn unterstützten. Mit solchen Zahlen gewinnt man keine zweite Amtszeit. Bis heute gilt unverändert: Aus eigener Kraft kann Obama nicht gewinnen. Die Bilanz der jüngsten vier Jahre ist für die Mehrzahl der Bürger kein ausreichender Grund, ihn wieder zu wählen. Die Arbeitslosigkeit liegt noch immer über acht Prozent; diese Zahl gilt vielen Amerikanern als Zeugnis des Versagens. Nach der tiefen Krise kommt die Wirtschaft nicht schnell genug in Gang. Und dafür macht man hierzulande den Präsidenten verantwortlich.

    Und doch liegt Obama nun plötzlich in den Umfragen in Führung, sowohl in den nationalen Erhebungen als auch in den entscheidenden Swing States. Wie ist das zu erklären? Amerika erlebt einen ganz anderen Wahlkämpfer als 2008. Damals predigte er „Hope“ und „Change“ und Versöhnung. Er war der nette und sympathische Kandidat, der versprach, sich nicht am Verleumdungswettbewerb mit den für die USA so typischen „Negative Ads“ zu beteiligen. Damals war die Stimmung hoffnungsvoll, obwohl in den Monaten vor der Wahl zwei Investmentbanken zusammen gebrochen waren, Bear Stearns und Lehman Brothers, und das Land spürbar auf Talfahrt ging. Neuer Präsident, neuer Kurs, neuer Stil – so würden die USA rasch aus der Krise finden. Das war die hoffnungsvolle Erwartung.

    2012 ist die Lage gerade umgekehrt. Die Wirtschaftszahlen bessern sich, aber die Stimmung ist mies. Also musste auch Obama ein anderer werden. Seit Ende 2010 sinkt die Arbeitslosenrate kontinuierlich. Jeden Monat kommen neue Jobs hinzu. Die Wirtschaft wächst. Doch die Bürger halten das Obama nicht zugute. Sie hatten einen schnelleren und kräftigeren Aufschwung erwartet. Der Präsident weiß seit langem: Die meisten Bürger wollen ihn eigentlich nicht für weitere vier Jahre im Amt sehen. Gewinnen kann er nur, wenn sie noch mehr Abneigung gegen seinen Herausforderer Mitt Romney empfinden.

    Also ist Obama schon lange nicht mehr der nette Wahlkämpfer von 2008. Er hat nicht den Ausgang der Kandidatensuche der Republikaner abgewartet, sondern früh darauf gesetzt, dass Romney sein Gegner wird, und ihn systematisch angegriffen. Er wollte ein negatives Bild von Romney zeichnen, ehe der auch nur die Chance hatte, ein positives Bild von sich zu verbreiten. Romney möchte mit seiner Wirtschaftskompetenz punkten. Obama stellt ihn als einen „Heuschrecken“-Investor dar, der mit seiner Private-Equity-Firma „Bain Capital“ mehr amerikanische Jobs vernichtet als gerettet habe. Die Präsidentenwahl ist auch eine Persönlichkeitswahl. Den Sympathie-Wettbewerb hat Obama ebenfalls für sich entschieden, indem er jede Gelegenheit nutzte, die Amerikaner daran zu erinnern, dass Romney ein Multimillionär sei, dem jedes Verständnis für die Alltagssorgen nicht ganz so vermögender Bürger fehle. Hinzu kamen die Vorwürfe, Romney zahle zu wenig Steuern und wolle Sozialprogramme für Bedürftige streichen.

    Romney hätte die Wahl gerne zu einem Referendum über Obamas Bilanz gemacht. Am 6. November sollte es allein um die Frage gehen, ob die Wähler das Gefühl haben, dass es ihnen nach vier Jahren Obama besser gehe? Und wenn die Antwort Nein laute, sollten sie für Romney stimmen.

    Obama hat das mit seinem aggressiven Wahlkampf nicht zugelassen. Die Wahl wird zu einer Richtungswahl. Freilich zu einer ungewöhnlichen Form von Richtungswahl. Von beiden Kandidaten war wenig Konkretes darüber zu erfahren, was sie im Fall eines Wahlsieges tun würden. Beide sprachen fast ausschließlich darüber, was Amerika angeblich drohe, wenn der Gegner gewinne. Diese Richtungswahl gilt also nicht der Frage, welchen Kurs die Bürger lieber wollen – sondern umgekehrt, welchem Kandidaten und welchem Programm sie mehr misstrauen.

    Es ist kein schönes Bild, das die USA im Wahlkampf 2012 bieten. Aber wenn es nicht noch eine „October Surprise“ gibt, die den Trend zu Gunsten Romneys dreht, wird wohl Obama am Ende als erfolgreiches „Comeback Kid“ dastehen.

    Christoph von Marschall ist White-House-Korrespondent des Tagesspiegel. Soeben ist sein neues Buch erschienen „Der neue Obama. Was von der zweiten Amtszeit zu erwarten ist“, Orell Füssli Verlag Zürich 2012.

  • State Owned Enterprises: Addressing an Urgent Challenge - by Robert M. Kimmitt

    This article was originally published in the July/August edition of the Diplomatic Courier.

    In 2007, prompted by concerns expressed in the United States and Germany, a major debate commenced on whether Sovereign Wealth Fund investment was good or bad for the global economy. The core question was whether such investment was being done for commercial or political reasons. A year-long process, led by the IMF and energized by Singapore, the UAE, and the United States, resulted in the promulgation of the Santiago Principles in November 2008. Adherence to these principles creates the presumption that a Sovereign Wealth Fund is investing for commercial purposes, thereby largely depoliticizing investment reviews in the United States and elsewhere.

    Today, State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are exactly where Sovereign Wealth Funds were four years ago. This should be of particular concern to China, whose SOEs occupy 41 of the Fortune 500 positions, including three in the top 10. Action by both governments and the SOEs themselves is needed to create an environment of mutual benefit, based on the open investment pledges made by China, the United States, and others in the G20.

    Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats summed up the U.S. Government position on SOEs as follows: “The issue the U.S. and other nations face is not whether SOEs are inherently good or bad, but whether governments give SOEs preferable finance or regulatory treatment, or provide them discriminatory access to government procurements or domestic markets at the expense of their competitors. This is our concern—and that of other nations as well.”

    The U.S. Government is taking a number of steps to address the issue multilaterally, both at the OECD and in discussions on a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership. The effort in the OECD to develop a “Competitive Neutrality” framework is particularly important, building as it does on excellent work done by the OECD on SOE corporate governance guidelines.

    The Chinese have been more interested observers than engaged participants in these multilateral efforts. But there is another avenue for progress—that is, leveraging the Chinese government priority directive for its SOEs to “go global.” The pressure today on Chinese SOEs to invest and operate successfully abroad is perhaps the greatest challenge they face and provides an opportunity to convince China that cooperating with multilateral SOE framework efforts serves its declared business self-interests.

    The simple fact is that, the more open and level the sector from which SOEs emanate in China, the more opportunities they will have to make successful acquisitions abroad. And the more the SOEs play by the global set of rules to which they are now subject by nature of China’s WTO membership, the more likely they are to operate successfully abroad.

    The Chinese SOEs that will succeed in “going global,” therefore, will be those that play by the global rules and become prime advocates for market access and liberalization in China itself. Yes, that means they will face more competition at home. But they will become more globally competitive abroad by facing that competition at home, where they will still enjoy significant “home court” advantages. And this liberalization of the Chinese market will benefit Chinese private companies as well as foreign counterparts.

    Part of playing by the rules abroad will be to ensure that financing of deals follows good market practices rather than government support decisions. And commencing on a pathway to privatization will also help establish that an SOE is investing and operating for commercial not political purposes.

    The wisdom of this approach was demonstrated by the most recent Strategic & Economic Dialogue (S&ED). Though the meeting in Beijing was overshadowed by the drama surrounding Chen Guangcheng, it produced significant results regarding SOEs. Specifically, China agreed (1) to provide non-discriminatory treatment in terms of credit, taxation, and regulation; (2) open new sectors for investment; and (3) take steps to join the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. These steps, if implemented, will move China and its SOEs in a significant and productive direction.

    But recipient countries, too, have important responsibilities. They need to be as open and predictable as possible in their investment and operational regulatory reviews. SOEs, like SWFs before them, who invest and operate responsibly should be given fair and equitable treatment commensurate with that accorded to private companies. It was thus significant that the United States stated clearly at the recent S&ED that it “welcomes investment from all countries, including China, and including from State-owned enterprises.”

    This mutuality of interests and responsibility should animate and benefit the debate on SOEs just as it did so successfully on Sovereign Wealth Funds four years ago. That is the challenge, but also the great opportunity, before us, as we all seek to operate effectively at that intersection where business, finance, and government meet.

  • Die nächsten Termine

Die nächsten Termine

  • "Crumbling from Within: The Crisis of American Superpower"

    24.10.2017, Hamburg

    Referent: Roger Cohen, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

  • "Your Truth is not my Truth: Politics in a Changing Media Landscape"

    25.10.2017, Berlin

    Referent: Roger Cohen, New York Times, Julian Reichelt, BILD, Gerard Baker, Wall Street Journal


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Katharina Draheim, Eveline Metzen (verantwortlich)


Katharina Draheim, Eveline Metzen, US-Botschafter Philip D. Murphy, Dr. Christoph von Marschall (Der Tagesspiegel, Washington, DC), Robert M. Kimmitt (American Council on Germany)


Oliver Rüther (Editorial), Peter Frischmuth (Editorial), Atlantik-Brücke/Katharina Draheim (Rede von Botschafter Murphy), David Außerhofer (Artikel von Robert M. Kimmitt)


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