Passport

Both British candidates hire Obama advisors for TV debate prep

Both sides in Britain's national elections are looking to capture a little bit of the Obama magic in a series of upcoming televised debates:

David Cameron has hired two of President Obama’s former advisers to help him to prepare for the televised debates due to be held before the election. Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director, and Bill Knapp, who has worked on the past four US Democratic Party presidential campaigns, will also advise the Tory leader on general strategy.[...]

Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is being advised by Joel Benenson , a pollster and strategist who helped to prepare Mr Obama for his TV showdowns with John McCain. Labour has also received help from David Axelrod, Mr Obama’s senior adviser, and David Plouffe, his former campaign chief.

Thanks to prime minister's questions, British party leaders have plenty of experience with televised verbal jousting, but American-style debates are an entirely different beast. From an outsider's perspective, the younger more dynamic Cameron would appear to have the upper hand, though the polls do appear to be narrowing. 

 

Peter Macdiarmid/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Passport

The Leveretts go to Tehran

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett just got back from a trip to Tehran. They write:

Shortly before we arrived in Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Islamic Republic is turning into a “military dictatorship”.  As we drove around Tehran, we looked hard to see a soldier anywhere on the street but did not see a single one—except for a couple at the entrance to the Behest-e Zahra cemetery just south of Tehran, where many of the Iranian soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq War are buried.  Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in a lot of Middle Eastern capitals.  We have never been in one—including in Egypt and Israel—that has fewer guys in uniform on the streets than in Tehran right now.

I'm not sure this is a good metric. You won't find a lot of soldiers on the streets in Damascus, either -- and few would argue that Syria is not a dictatorship backed by force. As the Leveretts well know, Iran's apparatus of repression contains a lot of tools that aren't "soldiers," strictly speaking, and they don't need to be standing around in uniform to be nefarious.