October 20, 2008


Why the crisis-rattled elite is banking on Obama: The endorsement of Obama by every liberal’s favourite Republican, Colin Powell, springs from disarray and desperation in DC circles. (Sean Collins, 10/20/08, Spiked)

Historically the differences between Republicans and Democrats have been narrow (especially by European standards). And in challenging times, such as war, politicians from both sides have come together. Today, both parties have abandoned their old principles and have lost a sense of direction. Consequently, when it’s not clear exactly what it means to be a Republican or a Democrat, the meaning of party membership does not carry the same significance as before. The Powell endorsement of Obama shows that the shrill politicisation of lifestyle in this election contest masks an ongoing erosion of substantial political difference between the Republican and Democratic leaderships.

More to the point, the financial crisis has shaken the confidence of the American establishment. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen an entire political class (not just the Bush administration) panicking and floundering to find a response. In this situation, a number of leading figures, such as Powell, have concluded that McCain is not up to the task and is too big a risk. At a time like this, the cross-party elite wants adults in charge, from whatever party. McCain, with his one-a-day economic prescriptions and gimmicks like new mascot Joe the Plumber, doesn’t seem to fit the description. Obama might not have much to say about the financial mess either, but at least he seems to take it seriously and to have an ability to calm the public.

While everyone is asking why Powell is backing Obama, perhaps the more interesting question is: why does Obama welcome his endorsement? Obama responded to the news by saying he was ‘honoured and deeply humbled’, and indicated that Powell would be an adviser of some kind in his administration. It may seem obvious, given the potential electoral benefits already mentioned, why Obama embraced Powell’s support. But one of the central arguments Obama deploys during his campaigning is that he had the foresight to oppose the Iraq war, and yet Powell was intimately involved in that war and the entire Bush foreign policy. Powell is the one who put forward the case for war to the United Nations with his speech on bogus weapons of mass destruction.

Obama’s welcoming of Powell’s endorsement – and suggestion that he would use him as an adviser – indicates that he really will not represent a decisive break from Bush, as he claims. Obama’s main criticism of McCain is that he follows Bush, and yet here we have Obama aligning himself with one of Bush’s main lieutenants. In fact, with regard to Afghanistan, if anything Obama outdoes both Bush and McCain in bellicosity.

...with an economics team that features Warren Buffett, Robert Rubin and Paul Volker, a President Obama would be the most old-fashioned conservative in that area since Coolidge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 20, 2008 3:10 PM
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