February 18, 2008


But could he deliver?: It is time for America to evaluate Obama the potential president, not Obama the phenomenon (The Economist, 2/14/08)

His immediate effect on international relations could be dramatic: a black president, partly brought up in a Muslim country, would transform America's image. And his youthful optimism could work at home too. After the bitterness of the Bush years, America needs a dose of unity: Mr Obama has a rare ability to deliver it. And the power of charisma should not be underrated, especially in the context of the American presidency which is, constitutionally, quite a weak office. The best presidents are like magnets below a piece of paper, invisibly aligning iron filings into a new pattern of their making. Anyone can get experts to produce policy papers. The trick is to forge consensus to get those policies enacted.

But what policies exactly? Mr Obama's voting record in the Senate is one of the most left-wing of any Democrat.

The oft-repeated mantra that he is uniquely a "unifier" not only ignores his do-nothing record in the Senate and his failure to bridge the various ethnic and class divides in his own party, but necessarily assume one of two things: either he plans to completely abandon that left-wing politics as president or 60% of his fellow citizens will abandon their moderate-conservatism to embrace everything from infanticide to making concessions to Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Yet there's no reason to believe either, which means he'd likely be a more divisive figure than Hillary Clinton, who actually has worked across the aisle in the Senate and may have learned in her husband's administration that a Democrat has to govern pretty far to the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2008 8:20 AM

Beside the Obama blatter, the notion that the American presidency is a constitionally weak office betrays that the author is consuming mind-altering substances in industrial quantities.

Posted by: Peter at February 18, 2008 9:17 AM

That's funny, I thought George Bush was the "uniter, not a divider.

Note that we were bitterly divided in the 90's, all the fault of those damn right-wingers who hated Clinton. Note that "the bitterness of the Bush years" were because of that damn right-wing President. Note that if we are divided under Mr. Obama it will be the fault of.....

Uh huh.

Posted by: Andrew X at February 18, 2008 10:00 AM

"a black president, partly brought up in a Muslim country, would transform America's image."

This is such a mind-bogglingly ignorant and wrong-headed statement that it immediately disqualifies the author from ever being taken seriously again. I thought the Economist was supposed to pretend to be an intellectually serious magazine?

Posted by: b at February 18, 2008 11:47 AM