Beltway Briefing

The top stories from US politics today.

1. Congress races for solution as debt ceiling looms

Senators resumed talks today on the possibility of raising the federal government's debt ceiling. Congressional leaders remain divided as to what proposals should go through to allow an increase on the current $14.3 trillion ceiling. Republicans are refusing to go along with an increase unless it is coupled with deep spending cuts, while Democrats are trying to minimise the impact of cuts on public services. Officials have warned of potentially catastrophic consequences is the ceiling is not raisedby2 August, at which point the budget could default.

2. Dearth of questions for Obama's Twitter meeting

President Obama is dues to hold his first Twitter town hall meeting on Wednesday, but so far the event has suffered from a lack of pick-up on the social networking site. With just under a day to go, the hashtag #AskObama is still only attracting a trickle of tweets. Among the policy questions from Republicans and Democrats alike, there have been several tongue-in-cheeck tweets, such as this one from @whateversusan:

"#AskObama My first question is: Twitter? REALLY? You do realize this is the place where Justin Bieber trended for two years straight, right?"

3. Mitt Romney misspeaks on Congressional approval in Libya

 

The Republican presidential candidate mistakenly refers to to No Fly Zone in Libya as being Congressionally approved, which is was not. A Romney source has replied by saying that he was merely drawing attention to Obama's "muddling" of the Libyan mission:

"The Governor is pointing out that Obama is pursuing a mission in Libya that is different than the one he presented to the nation in his March 28th speech. When he announced his humanitarian mission, many members of Congress - both Democrats and Republicans - were calling for a humanitarian mission that included a no-fly zone."

4. Tim Pawlenty trumpets Minnesota's 2005 budget fight in new TV ad

In the first really bizarre campaign video of the election, Tim Pawlenty boasts about putting Minnesotans through one of the longest transit strikes in history, and bringing the Minnesotan government to a shuddering halt in order to stop Democrats increasing taxes. In some political cultures, boasting about bringing government to a halt or putting voters through months of strikes would be odd. Amid the climate of near-suicidal political and financial brinkmanship that has gripped the Republican party, however, Pawlenty's boasts make sense.

Emanuelle Degli Esposti is the editor and founder of The Arab Review, an online journal covering arts and culture in the Arab world. She also works as a freelance journalist specialising in the politics of the Middle East.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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