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Week In News: Plan To Save Eurozone Takes A Hit



PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: Britain is out of it and will remain out of it. Other countries are in it and are having to make radical changes, including giving up sovereignty to try and make it work.

RAZ: British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday after his country chose to remain outside a new landmark agreement that will further integrate the European economy. It's one of the stories James Fallows of The Atlantic is following, and he joins me now as he does most Saturdays for a look behind the headlines. Jim, hi.

JAMES FALLOWS: Hello, Guy. Welcome back.

RAZ: Thanks indeed. This treaty, it's designed to rescue the euro but also to force all of the signatories, I guess, to be more fiscally disciplined. Britain is out, quite possibly, Jim, more isolated from Europe than at any other time in the post-World War II period.

FALLOWS: I think so. And this is actually a quite dramatic climax or at least episode in what's really been the saga of Britain's post-World War II or even post-imperial choice about whether in the long run, it was going to basically be a European power allied with France and Germany and all its other traditional neighborhood rivals and partners or fundamentally an Atlanticist partner being connected with the United States for all the reasons they have been allied over the years.

And I think we've seen, of course, the Atlanticist emphasis from the time Churchill and Thatcher and Tony Blair. But this is a time when I think even the British are reflecting on is this too stark a choice they have made in rejecting where the rest of Europe is going. I think they can't quite foresee what all the consequences will be.

RAZ: And we still assume that the consequences will be really strong European economic integration, more so than exists now.

FALLOWS: Yes, because the problem that the way this agreement was designed to solve is that over the last 20 years, the Europeans have gone halfway to some kind of economic and fiscal union. They had a common unit of currency across 17 countries, but they didn't have anyway really to combine fiscal policy across these countries.

So you have the spectacle that's been so dramatic of the Germans and the French feeling that they were responsible for decisions they couldn't affect in Greece, in Italy, in Portugal and elsewhere. So the step towards some kind of larger Pan-European actual decision-making is what the rest of the Europeans are going through now and what Britain very much did not want to be part of.

RAZ: Let's turn to domestic news and politics. We'll hear from Don Gonyea, who is in Iowa, in a moment. We'll hear an update from him, where Newt Gingrich is now the clear leader of the pack there. He has been called the Ideas Man. Jim, is he changing the tenor of the debate?

FALLOWS: I think he actually has and in a positive way. I still remain in the skeptical camp about whether Newt Gingrich will end up as the nominee against President Obama next year. But I think he's already had at least one measurably positive impact on the course of the presidential debate, which is that with all of his prolixity and ideas, he is - they're encouraged to force the president to have a clearer statement of what his own ideas are.

And so the speech last week in Kansas, in Osawatomie, Kansas, where Theodore Roosevelt had famously given his new nationalism speech a century ago, the president made a more coherent case for his view of government involvement in America's economic future than he had been forced to do before, because the campaigning so far had been more sort of strictly negative. So the Ideas Man, for better or worse, Newt Gingrich, I think, has evoked some ideas from the president.

RAZ: He's driving that?

FALLOWS: Yes, I think so. Because until this point, you could say that the campaigning was purely negative within the Republican primary and against the Democratic administration, too, where the Republicans were sort of competing with each other for closer and closer fealty to the sort of the right wing part of the Republican Party and just saying they were more and more outraged to what the administration was doing. And so I think that Gingrich has a way of having an idea every minute or two and this has made the president match him in a better way than he's done before.

RAZ: That's James Fallows. He's national correspondent for The Atlantic. You can find his blog at jamesfallow.theatlantic.com. Jim, thank you so much.

FALLOWS: My pleasure, Guy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.