Friday, October 31, 2008

FT and the Economist Endorse Obama

By Ben Trott

Yesterday, following hot on the heels of the
Financial Times’ endorsement earlier this week, the Economist came out in support of Obama.

FT praised Obama’s oratory skills, his plans for health care reform, and his response to the economic crisis. He looked around, they argued, for the best advice, whilst McCain was criticised for ‘hasty half-baked interventions which were unnerving when they were not beside the point.’ The paper state that if elected, Obama is of course destined to disappoint. Expectations are too high. He cannot possibly improve middle-class standards of living, address the income gap, fix racial inequality, transform the US’s international standing, cut almost everybody’s taxes, and end losses in Iraq – all at the same time, and in a situation of economic difficulty.

Most disappointing, for the
FT, in Obama’s election campaign has been his stance 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.’

Nevertheless, they conclude, ‘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.’

Economist begin by ‘wholeheartedly’ endorsing Obama. Only to add – making this wholeheartedness sound somewhat less whole – that they acknowledge ‘this is a gamble’. They set out the series of challenges which will be faced by either of the two candidates, should they be elected, by looking at the issues the world is likely to face between now and 2017 – when the next President would relinquish office, if he serves two terms. In large part, the Economist argue, this will involve attempting to wed emerging powers to the West. This will not only involve attempting to increase collaboration with, for example, India and China on a number of global issues, such as climate change. Moreover, it will involve ‘reselling economic and political freedom to a world that too quickly associates American capitalism with Lehman Brothers and American justice with Guantánamo Bay.’ This, they appear to believe, is a job which can likely much better be accomplished by Obama than McCain. And as election day draws closer, this appears to be the increasingly ‘common sense’.

Echoing the
FT’s concerns about Obama’s (relative) protectionist tendencies, particularly in the context of a likely Democrat-controlled Congress, their endorsement begins drawing to a close with the caveat,

‘Our main doubts about Mr Obama have to do with the damage a muddle-headed Democratic Congress might try to do to the economy. Despite the protectionist rhetoric that still sometimes seeps into his speeches, Mr Obama would not sponsor a China-bashing bill. But what happens if one appears out of Congress? Worryingly, he has a poor record of defying his party’s baronies, especially the unions. His advisers insist that Mr Obama is too clever to usher in a new age of over-regulation, that he will stop such nonsense getting out of Congress, that he is a political chameleon who would move to the centre in Washington. But the risk remains that on economic matters the centre that Mr Obama moves to would be that of his party, not that of the country as a whole.’

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