Posted by Brad @ 5:22 pm on October 30th 2008

The Economist Goes Obama

Interesting endorsement from a publication we all here seem to respect.

They have previously endorsed John McCain.

The most thoughtful bit is that the McCain we all mostly like is not the McCain that is running anymore, and that fact simply cannot be ignored or brushed away.

That, however, was Senator McCain; the Candidate McCain of the past six months has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery, his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated. The fiscal conservative who once tackled Mr Bush over his unaffordable tax cuts now proposes not just to keep the cuts, but to deepen them. The man who denounced the religious right as “agents of intolerance” now embraces theocratic culture warriors. The campaigner against ethanol subsidies (who had a better record on global warming than most Democrats) came out in favour of a petrol-tax holiday. It has not all disappeared: his support for free trade has never wavered. Yet rather than heading towards the centre after he won the nomination, Mr McCain moved to the right.

Meanwhile his temperament, always perhaps his weak spot, has been found wanting. Sometimes the seat-of-the-pants method still works: his gut reaction over Georgia—to warn Russia off immediately—was the right one. Yet on the great issue of the campaign, the financial crisis, he has seemed all at sea, emitting panic and indecision. Mr McCain has never been particularly interested in economics, but, unlike Mr Obama, he has made little effort to catch up or to bring in good advisers (Doug Holtz-Eakin being the impressive exception).

The choice of Sarah Palin epitomised the sloppiness. It is not just that she is an unconvincing stand-in, nor even that she seems to have been chosen partly for her views on divisive social issues, notably abortion. Mr McCain made his most important appointment having met her just twice.

Ironically, given that he first won over so many independents by speaking his mind, the case for Mr McCain comes down to a piece of artifice: vote for him on the assumption that he does not believe a word of what he has been saying. Once he reaches the White House, runs this argument, he will put Mrs Palin back in her box, throw away his unrealistic tax plan and begin negotiations with the Democratic Congress. That is plausible; but it is a long way from the convincing case that Mr McCain could have made. Had he become president in 2000 instead of Mr Bush, the world might have had fewer problems. But this time it is beset by problems, and Mr McCain has not proved that he knows how to deal with them.


There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and outfought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right.

Political fire, far from rattling Mr Obama, seems to bring out the best in him: the furore about his (admittedly ghastly) preacher prompted one of the most thoughtful speeches of the campaign. On the financial crisis his performance has been as assured as Mr McCain’s has been febrile. He seems a quick learner and has built up an impressive team of advisers, drawing in seasoned hands like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.


  1. 2017.

    Oh wow, that’s a hell of a long way into the future. The prospect of Democratic control until then is more than the slightest bit horrifying. I yearn for the Republicans to get their act together.

    Comment by Cameron — 10/30/2008 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Perhaps I should have given the context to that number:

    Jump forward to 2017, when the next president will hope to relinquish office. A combination of demography and the rising costs of America’s huge entitlement programmes—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—will be starting to bankrupt the country.

    Comment by Cameron — 10/30/2008 @ 5:59 pm

  3. I do like the Economist (although I don’t agree with this endorsement, obviously).

    Comment by Adam — 10/30/2008 @ 6:47 pm

  4. The Economist is my sole source of print political information.

    Comment by Cameron — 10/30/2008 @ 6:58 pm

  5. I used to like the WSJ, but I don’t trust any part of Murdoch’s news operation.

    Comment by Adam — 10/30/2008 @ 7:19 pm

  6. I still think (and even more so now) that Obama has a good chance of being a one term president. The only way I see him staying for two is if things go really well for him in the first four. In which case I can’t see why I’d mind him getting another four.

    Comment by Mortexai — 10/30/2008 @ 9:24 pm

  7. If he’s like Blair — which he appears to me to be — he’ll get through the next election still blaming the Republicans for everything. Unlike Blair, he’ll have a lot of troubles to blame them for — Blair took over with the economy in decent shape — but the GOP so spectacularly screwed up that I suspect they public will buy it.

    Comment by Adam — 10/30/2008 @ 10:07 pm

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