Monday, September 01, 2008

"Yo, Mr. President!"

The normally convoluted gyrations of an American presidential election took a surreal turn the other day with John McCain’s selection of a running mate. Apparently chosen by means of a pin and a copy of the Alaska telephone directory, it was all the more surprising when it was revealed that they had only met once before. McCain’s appeal to red-blooded Americans is that he is an acknowledged hero with, for once, a genuine claim to courage in adversity. Whether his ponderings in the Hanoi Hilton, where he apparently turned to politics, would make him an effective leader of the most powerful nation in the world is another matter.
But for many, including some of his own associates, the problem with his selection of Ms. Palin is that, potentially, there is the frightening prospect that, in the event of anno domini or a reprise of the Lincoln Theatre scenario catching up with McCain, a moose-burger chomping mom would have her finger on the trigger of the most powerful weapons in the world.
Her grasp of foreign affairs might be illustrated by the fact that she only recently applied for a passport.
It might well be a vote catching ploy but for the world in general it is a very disturbing development.
On the other side of the ballot box, Obama has all the charisma and erudite charm that McCain lacks. But, realising his own lack of experience, he wisely opted for Joe Biden to boost his credentials.
The United States sorely needs to rebuild its image with the rest of the world, an image that has been tainted, often unfairly, by years of the Bush administration and Barack Obama is hugely popular outside of America.
But there still runs a deep vein of racial prejudice in the American psyche and even those who see Obama’s undoubted merits will probably shy away from making him their president.
This is not the blatant racism of white supremacists but the quieter conservatism exemplified by organisations such as The Daughters of the American Revolution. This innocuous sounding group, who once vetoed Marion Anderson performing at one of their meetings on grounds of race, were embarrassed some years ago when, having rejected a membership for admission to a black woman, found that her ancestors had indeed fought on the side of the revolution. The rules were hastily amended to state that all were welcome, regardless of race or creed. The bye-laws might have changed but it is unlikely that the thinking has.
When Winston Churchill lost the post war election, his wife remarked that it was a blessing in disguise. He retorted that it seemed particularly well disguised.
Obama may feel the same way should he lose. But any incoming president has a mound of useless baggage left over by the Bush administration to cope with. He might well be better off letting McCain wrestle with it for one term by which time, the public will have a better handle on Barack Obama.
In this case, let’s hope for the longevity of John McCain. An Annie Oakley as president does not bode well for any of us.


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