Obama, the heartbreaking candidate

22nd July 2008, Comments 0 comments

Barack Obama is by far the more popular choice – but will he deliver what he promise?

22 July 2008

UNITED STATES - In the United States, Barack Obama has a four-point lead over John McCain. In France, Germany or Spain he is leading by more than 50 percent. Obama is also very popular in the Islamic world. He is seen there as being less bellicose than McCain; and then his middle name is Hussein, and part of his family is Muslim.

In Iran, too, he is favoured by the curious fact that in the Farsi language "Oh ba ma" means "He is with us."

Obamania is spreading throughout the world, nourishing immense expectations. And when expectations are so high, disappointment is inevitable. This is always the case, but with Obama the expectations are so high that the let-down is likely to be of global magnitude.

As president, Obama is likely to disenchant many of those who are now so enthusiastic about him, especially among those who believe that the United States and its president have more power than they really have.

If he is elected, Obama will be hedged in with severe restrictions. Though it is probable that his party will have a majority in Congress, this does not guarantee that President Obama will have carte blanche to do what he wants.

The unions will limit his options in connection with international trade. The ethanol industry, which is very influential in circles close to Obama, will do all it can to impede the elimination of the subsidies that have contributed so much to the rise of food prices throughout the world.

Obama not only supports these subsidies; he is also in favour of maintaining a tariff that raises the price of ethanol imported from countries such as Brazil.

And these are not the only cases of policies supported by Obama which are diametrically opposed to what many people expect of him.

Obama has, for example, recommended an "urgent" increase in the pressure aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and he made it clear that he does not exclude the military option.

While he did oppose the war in Iraq and demanded the immediate withdrawal of US troops, he has lately talked of a more gradual pullout. Obama prefers multilateral solutions to international crises, but insists that he would not have any problems in taking unilateral action.

The greener environmental policies that are widely expected of him imply new costs that would be difficult to impose in an economy mired in crisis, such as the one he is going to inherit.

Besides, he will be looking at a fiscal deficit that will impose severe limits on what the government can spend. And this will also be an important source of frustrations.

It seems likely that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. This mere fact is going to open up a range of interesting possibilities that the unfortunate leadership of George W. Bush had closed.

It is also true that Obama has demonstrated that he has very special talents, which may offer us some positive surprises.

And, naturally, we have to be careful not to believe everything that a candidate - any candidate - says during the electoral campaign. We know that once they are elected, candidates often change. Sometimes for the better.

Obama seems to possess all the requisite conditions to become a great president of the United States. But not of the world.

[El Pais / Moisés Naím / Expatica]

Moisés Naím is an economist and editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine.

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