Friday, November 07, 2008

Best and Worst 08

The USA has had a historic election. After 200-years the country that has done more than any other in history to preach the idea of "Opportunity for All," finally elected a man who was not a White Anglo Saxon and had a name that rhymed a bit too closely with two men they had gone to war with.

Allot is being said about President-Elect Obama and his victory. The usual questions of who will he pick for this and that post and what will his policy on this and that be like, are being asked. Everyone is talking about his fabulous victory speech and the many other great speeches he made.

These are important discussion points and there is no doubt that President-Elect Obama deserves his victory. Let's leave aside the reasons of why he should have won anyway, namely the incompetence of the current Bush Administration. The President-Elect ran a strategically brilliant campaign. His team mastered the art of keeping the money flowing, which meant he could promote his message more agressively. His message was focused. He kept his cool even when his opponents seemed to have ammunition to be used against him. His two challengers, Hillary Clinton and John McCain started out with better brand names and a wealth of contacts and dare I say it, experience. However, once the campaigning began, President-Elect Obama somehow managed to make his older and more experienced opponents look like 60-year olds trying to relive their sophmore years.

So, despite the obvious economic gloom and the military situation in the Middle East, the election of President-Elect Obama has created a seed of a sense of optimism. This is vastly important because if the world's biggest power has confidence in its leadership, it gives the rest of us hope.

For me, I am pleasently surprised that the American public has done what I never expected it to do - vote someone a darker shade of pink into power. However, I think something has to be said about the losing candidate, John McCain. The 2008 Presidential Campaign was as much about the lneptitude of John McCain's Campaign as much as it was about the brilliance of the Obama Campaign.

It was actually quite sad. I remember liking John McCain in the 2000 election. The man was refreshingly principled in that election. He took responsability for the failure of his first marriage and after Clinton's lack of a military record and Bush's avoidance of one, McCain's mere presence in Vietnam made him such a credible candidate. My respect for John McCain increased when, in the Senate, he took on causes that he believed in, despite his party. The McCain-Feingold (Sponsored with Democrat Senator Russ Feingold) act on campaign finance is one such act that showed his ability to cross party lines. My respect for him increased even more when he took a principled stance against torture, even when his President and party were advocating it.

But something happened within the 8-years of the Bush Administration. The Pincipled Maverick of 2000 became an inept self-opportunistic old fart. Allot will be made of the way Senator McCain chose the even more inexperienced (Than then Senator Obama) Sarah Palin as his running mate. However, for me, the saddest thing about Senator McCain's campaign was the way in which he reversed his stance on torture. The "War Veteran" who had been "Tortured" and knew that torture is ineffective, suddenly decided that torture was OK, provided it was applied to Arabs....oopps, I mean terrorists. This transformation was pathetic. Instead of sounding like a leader of high-principles, Senator McCain sounded like what his opponent described him as - George W Bush Mark 2. Thanks to his about-face, all the then Senator Obama had to do was to point out the obvious - vote for McCain and you'd get more years of the same (faggoty mismanagement of the military and economy). Once this happened, it all went wrong for the McCain campaign. When he talked about his military heroism in Vietnam, people saw a sad old man who's only achievement was to marry his money - not exactly the type of man you want telling you to buckle your economic belt while you're keeping the recievers at bay.

So thank goodness for his concession speech. Suddenly we had a glimpse of the 2000 McCain. While his supporters booed Obama's victory, Senator McCain took one hundred percent responsability for the failure of the campaign. He made a call for unity to match Mr Obama's victory speech and stopped his attacks against the man who had just become his President. It was a magnificent speech and credit must go to a fantastic speech writer but let's give Mr McCain his due - he delivered it in a way that probably only he could have done.

To the rest of us, the US Presidential system might seem to be expensive and bitchy. It's chaotic and throughout the campaign, you often see the worst in political leaders. However, once it was all over, you could actually see the best in leaders. It's worth having a system that puts strain on people - the heat of competition is good for everyone. It's something the rest of the world can learn from. No system is perfect and the American system has more faults than one could care to name - but listening to Messers Obama and McCain, I get the feeling that this is as close as humanity will get to testing leaders properly before they are given the levers of power.



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