In this period, known as the “lame duck” interregnum, we are anxiously awaiting the emergence of the new administration at the start of the new year, with the inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama.
A jump in unemployment figures for the third quarter 2008, a burgeoning deficit and unsustainable spending on military endeavours abroad, expectations can justifiably be said to be high. Obama has been cautious in his rhetoric since being elected, he aims to temper his speeches with a clearer sense of limitation than when still campaigning. Recently he said words to the effect of “this country is governed by one Administration at a time”. Many have seen him as a soothsayer, others just look longingly into a vision of a future more embracing of the rest of the world. Partners, not colleagues.
It’s time the refrain – “Only in America” applied across the developed nations. It’s time troops were drawn down from both Iraq and Afghanistan – from all participant countries; it’s time that the protectionist policies of the Bush Administration were once again discarded for free trade liberalism.
It truly is an amazing story, and as a person of mixed heritage, I myself can bear testament to the fact that you simply have to be better, bolder and stronger to stand out. Barack Obama is a rhetorician the like of which world diplomacy has not seen for perhaps half a century. Let us pray that he has the belief and circumstance in all quarters of US Government to support this vision.
Presidential politics is not very different to seeking a mandate from your local Parish – there are simply degrees of inertia and scale to contend with. Then there is what are disobligingly called the “retreads” – those who have already been around the block and muddy the recognition factor with a presentation of ‘wisdom’ and ‘experience’
This is dubious – because of course, the corollary to that is that we simply didn’t want them last time either! Hilary Clinton is a hard act to follow: she has spent years now, casting out the perceptions of her as a dangerous and un-costed Liberal. She has become, or at least allowed herself to be perceived as being (the two are not typically the same) – an astute and worldly politician: one whom America could feel proud of representing her interests in far flung and commercially sensitive places. The sort of places where President George Bush could easily embarrass both himself and his country. The swagger and general self concern won’t wash any more – as recent fight backs on environmental policy have shown – American politics need to get into the 21st Century.
Barack Obama is a different deal altogether- he may well be the future if he doesn’t quite manage it this time around. Certainly, the Democrats have been more impressive overall than the Republicans. As John Gappers say’s in a recent FT article:
“Then there is Mr Obama. Hardly any business leader can hope to match his skill as a speaker. He has displayed perfect pitch in his oratory, including his rejoinder to Mrs Clinton’s barb about “raising false hopes” during his concession speech in New Hampshire: “In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.”
The World Stage needs a new leading actor – we tired of the old one a long time ago. Let alone the fact that that very stage will be his (or hers) for less than they realise, as up come India and China, bounding along. Let alone a new spirit of political independence across the US’s backyard in Latin America – following the Chavez model of sloughing off the weight of their northern neighbour. Times remain interesting….