It’s hard to escape the feeling that all this excitement is going to be repaid in the devalued currency of disappointment. Mr Obama’s ego is certainly writing cheques his body can’t cash. There’s an expectation that a President Obama will change everything in America’s relations with the world. But my guess is that, for all his campaign rhetoric and for all his genuine intent, the facts on the ground won’t change much.
He will be able to do little or nothing new about Iraq. And in return for all those nice commitments he is going to make about multilateralism, global warming and international law, he will, if anything, step up America’s demand for hard European action in the fight against terrorism – especially boots on the ground in Afghanistan – something Europeans are not going to want any part of. If he is half-serious about some of the things he has said on trade, he is going to pit the US against the rest of the world in ways that might make diplomats yearn for the tranquil days of George Bush.* …
If it’s a caricature that takes hold, it will be a great shame and a great disservice to American politics. Mr McCain has at least as large a claim to be welcomed by America’s critics as does Mr Obama. …
For those around the world who worry about these things, Mr McCain is very Euro-friendly on a number of important issues. He is deadly serious about climate change, favouring an aggressive cap and trading system. He is sharply critical of US detainee policies and wants to close Guantanamo Bay. When he opposes torture by the US, he does so from a position of authority, having for five years been on the sharp end of torture techniques in a Vietnamese hellhole. Mr McCain has a long and almost unique track record of taking on powerful corporate interests in Washington.
What marks him out from Mr Obama is not his age or his race or his party, but that he has achieved so much of what Mr Obama merely promises to do – tackle the role of money in politics, work across the political lines and promote an image of the US in the world that is in keeping with the finest traditions of American democracy
I think I’ve just gone a little bit nauseous.
The problem is that there’s a danger that the presidential contest between Mr Obama and Mr McCain will become not a debate but a silly battle of conflicting icons. You can be sure that, in the eyes of the rest of the world, and much of America, if Mr McCain wins it will be not because of his superior experience or the quality of his ideas, but because America is irredeemably racist.
* Btw, have you all seen this?
Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama’s campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.
The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.