Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Walker's World: America's choice

Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Walker
Washington (UPI) Nov 3, 2008
Some 130 million American voters -- more than the entire population of Japan and enough to make them the world's 10th most populous country -- will go to the polls Tuesday in the most exciting and extraordinary election in modern times.

This election campaign has been about more than just war and peace, more than the usual tropes of taxes and gun control and abortion; it has driven deep into the American psyche to explore the compelling questions of race and gender. It also has forced Americans to ponder how much they care about the way the rest of the world thinks about them at a time when the reins of financial power are shifting away from New York and London.

These are grand and solemn themes that have succeeded, thanks to the financial crisis, in asserting themselves above the chatter about Obama's "illegal immigrant aunt" and McCain's seven or eight houses, above Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin's $150,000 wardrobe. Americans, even if they have not studied the way their 401(k) pension savings have dropped by a third or even half, have been forced this year to weigh their responsibilities as voters with great seriousness.

The choice between these two highly impressive men is not an easy one. John McCain is a person of sterling character who has prevailed through trials of prison and torture that are beyond the imagining of most of his fellow Americans. He has been a bold, independent and even visionary senator. The McCain-Feingold Act to rein in the scandal of campaign finance, his brave struggle to persuade his party to think seriously about immigration and his success in finally forcing a cavalier administration to send adequate numbers of troops to shoulder the ill-conceived mission in Iraq all demonstrate McCain's stature as one of the outstanding political figures of the day.

Obama is a man of extraordinary talents. An inspirational public speaker with the courage to explore some of the most edgy issues of modern politics, he also has run the most disciplined and professional political campaign in memory. He has rewritten the rulebook of presidential campaigning, from unprecedented fundraising to the recruitment and organization of volunteers. He has generated more enthusiasm and passion among usually apathetic young voters than we have seen since the days of Bobby Kennedy. Indeed, he sometimes seems like a blend of those twin archetypes of the modern Democratic pantheon: the Kennedy brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King.

The question remains whether Obama could be as great a president as he has been an outstanding campaigner. His legislative record is thin, whether in the Illinois General Assembly or in the U.S. Senate. His grasp of international affairs appears sound but somewhat shallow, lacking that depth of personal involvement and experience that McCain can claim. Obama's sense of the modern economy, whether the importance of incentives for the productivity and innovation of the American economy or the degree of interdependence that now characterizes the global economy, does not seem to go far beyond platitude and sound bite.

McCain seems even less equipped to tackle the economic challenges ahead or the deep ailments of the U.S. educational system and the industrial and fiscal infrastructure that will have to be addressed. McCain's team of economic advisers, including former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, looks like so many pygmies when compared with Paul Volcker, Larry Summers, Robert Rubin and Laura Tyson in the Obama camp. And since inspiring market confidence is going to be of crucial importance to any new administration, this is a deeply serious contrast between the two candidates.

One of the salient differences between McCain and Obama is in the depth of executive talent the two men can command. Whether in foreign or economic policy, environmental and scientific affairs, education or housing or even veterans' affairs, the skill and experience of the Obama Cabinet bench far outweigh McCain's potential team in most of the great offices of state. In judicial matters, again, Obama can claim the advantage: His Supreme Court appointments would maintain the current useful balance between liberal and conservative justices, while McCain would solidify an unusually conservative (and thus divisive) court for a generation.

But it is important to remember that an American president does not govern in isolation. The Congress is an equal arm of government, and its budget votes control the national purse strings. Just as McCain's potential pool of executive talent is badly tarred by the disappointing performance of the Bush administration on so many levels, so Bush's unpopularity means that a President McCain would face an overwhelming Democratic majority in both the House and Senate. Indeed, the Democrats seem within striking distance of winning 60 Senate seats, enough to overcome any Republican threat of filibuster.

McCain lately has made much of the importance of electing him as a bulwark against the Democrats running wild in what could look like a one-party state, with the financial crisis providing a rationale for massive deficit spending. This is a serious concern, and the only remedy -- that Obama would be prepared to fight and govern against his own party's congressional zealots -- itself gives pause for thought.

It is not the purpose of this column to advise readers one way or the other. But one further point bears consideration. American voters would impress much of the world and probably themselves by a determination to turn the page on the Bush era and display their own daring and post-racial sensibility by electing Obama. There could be few more dramatic symbols of change, of no more business as usual and of America's constant capability to reinvent itself.

The great economist Lord John Maynard Keynes always stressed that one of the most potent, if indefinable, economic forces are the animal spirits of the saving and investing and consuming public. The invigorating surprise of an Obama victory, of a country where segregation was commonplace just a generation ago electing a man of color to the White House, is likely to provide a shot in the arm for the animal spirits of the United States and much of the avidly watching world besides.

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
Democracy in the 21st century at

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Landslide or dead-heat? Making sense of polling data
Los Angeles (AFP) Oct 24, 2008
Barack Obama by a landslide or too close to call? Trying to make sense of polling data in the US election campaign has become a national past-time as the White House race nears the finish line.

  • Aftershock rattles Pakistan as disease spreads among survivors
  • 20 dead, 42 missing in southwest China landslides: state media
  • Netherlands to simulate massive flood rescue
  • Cold and hungry, Pakistan quake children start to sicken

  • Conclusive Proof That Polar Warming Is Being Caused By Humans
  • World Bank Trys To Keep Global Warming On Agenda
  • Canada to seek continent-wide approach to climate change
  • Study Helps Clarify Role Of Soil Microbes In Global Warming

  • Arctic Sea Ice Thinning At Record Rate
  • NASA-Enhanced Dust Storm Predictions To Aid Health Community
  • GeoEye Releases First Image Collected By GeoEye-1
  • Maps Shed Light On CO2's Global Nature

  • HP beefs up data centers while trimming electric use
  • Bangladesh mobilises warships over Myanmar gas tensions
  • Analysis: Iraqi oil revenue gets new audit
  • Sudan recovers last Chinese hostage dead

  • Seeing Life In Viruses
  • Genetic Based Human Diseases Are An Ancient Evolutionary Legacy
  • HIV treatment should begin earlier: study
  • WHO slashes AIDS mortality projections

  • Confirming Amphibians' Ability To Predict Changes In Biodiversity
  • 1000 Tags Reveal Mysteries Of Giant Bluefin Tuna
  • Pesticide, fertilisers linked to decline of amphibians: study
  • Global Warming Is Killing Frogs And Salamanders In Yellowstone Park

  • Smelly effluent mars affluent Dubai's beaches
  • White House defends last-minute deregulation push
  • China struggling to meet environment goals: official
  • Study: Biosolids pose little worker risk

  • Ancient Bone Tool Sheds Light On Prehistoric Midwest
  • Yale Doubles Number Of Free Online Courses
  • Total artificial heart to be ready by 2011: research team
  • US nuclear family also technology family

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement