From: Tsegai Emmanuel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Nov 01 2008 - 11:28:33 EST
Financial Times FT.comCOMMENT & ANALYSIS
Editorial comment ; *Obama is the better choice*
Published: October 26 2008 19:31 | Last updated: October 26 2008 19:31
US presidential elections involve a fabulous expense of time, effort and
money. Doubtless it is all too much – but, by the end, nobody can complain
that the candidates have been too little scrutinised. We have learnt a lot
about Barack Obama and John McCain during this campaign. In our view, it is
enough to be confident that Mr Obama is the right choice.
At the outset, we were not so confident. Mr Obama is inexperienced. His
policies are a blend of good, not so good and downright bad. Since the
election will strengthen Democratic control of Congress, a case can be made
for returning a Republican to the White House: divided government has a
better record in the United States than government united under either
So this ought to have been a close call. With a week remaining before the
election, we cannot feel that it is.
Mr Obama fought a much better campaign. Campaigning is not the same as
governing, and the presidency should not be a prize for giving the best
speeches, devising the best television advertisements, shaking the most
hands and kissing the most babies.
Nonetheless, a campaign is a test of leadership. Mr Obama ran his superbly;
Mr McCain's has often looked a shambles. After eight years of George W.
Bush, the steady competence of the Obama operation commands respect.
Nor should one disdain Mr Obama's way with a crowd. Good presidents engage
the country's attention; great ones inspire. Mr McCain, on form, is an
adequate speaker but no more. Mr Obama, on form, is as fine a political
orator as the country has heard in decades. Put to the right purposes, this
is no mere decoration but a priceless asset.
Mr Obama's purposes do seem mostly right, though in saying this we give him
the benefit of the doubt. Above all, he prizes consensus and genuinely seeks
to unite the country, something it wants. His call for change struck a
mighty chord in a tired and demoralised nation – and who could promise real
change more credibly than Mr Obama, a black man, whose very nomination was a
historic advance in US politics?
We applaud his main domestic proposal: comprehensive health-care reform.
This plan would achieve nearly universal insurance without the mandates of
rival schemes: characteristically, it combines a far-sighted goal with
moderation in the method. Mr McCain's plan, based on extending tax relief
beyond employer-provided insurance, also has merit – it would contain costs
better – but is too timid and would widen coverage much less.
Mr Obama is most disappointing on trade. He pandered to protectionists
during the primaries, and has not rowed back. He may be sincere, which is
troubling. Should he win the election, a Democratic Congress will expect him
to keep those trade-thumping promises. Mr McCain has been bravely and
consistently pro-trade, much to his credit.
In responding to the economic emergency, Mr Obama has again impressed – not
by advancing solutions of his own, but in displaying a calm and methodical
disposition, and in seeking the best advice. Mr McCain's hasty half-baked
interventions were unnerving when they were not beside the point.
On foreign policy, where the candidates have often conspired to exaggerate
their differences, this contrast in temperaments seems crucial. For all his
experience, Mr McCain has seemed too much guided by an instinct for
peremptory action, an exaggerated sense of certainty, and a reluctance to
see shades of grey.
He has offered risk-taking almost as his chief qualification, but gambles do
not always pay off. His choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, widely
acknowledged to have been a mistake, is an obtrusive case in point. Rashness
is not a virtue in a president. The cautious and deliberate Mr Obama is
altogether a less alarming prospect.
Rest assured that, should he win, Mr Obama is bound to disappoint. How could
he not? He is expected to heal the country's racial divisions, reverse the
trend of rising inequality, improve middle-class living standards, cut
almost everybody's taxes, transform the image of the United States abroad,
end the losses in Iraq, deal with the mess in Afghanistan and much more
Succeeding in those endeavours would require more than uplifting oratory and
presidential deportment even if the economy were growing rapidly, which it
will not be.
The challenges facing the next president will be extraordinary. We hesitate
to wish it on anyone, but we hope that Mr Obama gets the job.
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