Obama, Newsweek et le « président d’Espagne »

On a reproché à Bush 43 ses « bushisms« , et à Sarah Palin ses « palinisms » et son inculture encyclopédique. On a guère lu ou entendu parler de gaffes à mettre au débit d’Obama.

En lisant l’excellente série de Newsweek sur la campagne présidentielle, je suis tombé, au chapitre 6 consacré aux débats présidentiels, sur un passage intéressant, relatif à la préparation par Obama de ces débats:

Obama was instructed to point out that McCain was so averse to personal diplomacy that he had declined to meet with the president of Spain. Obama can be a little bloodless and dull in his preternatural calm, but his goofy side showed up at debate prep. He would appear very somber and emphatic when he accosted Craig/McCain for refusing to speak to the president of Spain. « You wouldn’t even talk to the president of Spain! » he would intone with mock gravity. Then he would begin to giggle.

Président d’Espagne? Je sais que Mc Cain est âgé, mais last time I checked, le dernier président espagnol avait cessé d’exercer ses fonctions en 1939… Et ni Obama, ni ses conseillers, ni Newsweek ne l’ont relevé…

US presidential elections are vastly overrated

Well, not as such, of course: I strongly believe in elections, and have always voted when it was physically possible for me to do so. But I’m not American, and couldn’t be bothered about whether the Supreme Court would have a more conservative outlook under Mc Cain or whether Obama would repel some of the Cheney/Bush administration’s labor-law reforms. I have very firm beliefs on these issues, and favor a more progressive Supreme Court and labor laws more in line with European decency standards. However, I’m not personally affected by these purely domestic matters.

I am of course more affected by the economic, foreign and environmental policies that would be pursued by the next US president. It can probably be blamed on my disinterest in such matters, but I have failed to notice any substantial difference between both major candidate’s economic policies – both appeared to favor the 700 billion USD Wall Street bail-out. I suppose that fiscal reality sets a firewall against any future president’s ambitions to implement further tax cuts, although even Obama voiced his intention to cut at least some taxes, although not the overall tax level.

As regards foreign policy, both major candidates are intercheangable – although Obama would appear to be more hawkish on Israel and Afghanistan, whereas Mc Cain would be fiercer on Iraq, and both seem about as terrible on Iran. As for Israel, Obama’s top foreign policy adviser would seem to be Dennis Ross, who distinguished himself during the 2000 Camp David negotiation round between Arafat and Barak as a lopsided and dishonest broker who was eventually cut out from the negotiations by Clinton – « it became evident to everyone that his more pro-Israeli feelings were coming out » (Clayton E. Swisher, « The truth about Camp David« , Nation Books, New York, 2004, p. 186). He has now set his sights on Iran, in line with Israeli priorities.

As for Morocco, it is of course impossible to tell, as Morocco is too far from the Washington radar to be addressed, even obliquely, in a presidential campaign – a good thing, as Arab or Muslim countries only seem to be of interest when they provide for a credible invasion target… The cabal of neo-con Polisario supporters around John Bolton and Suzanne Scholte will however probably not have the same access under Obama, but on the other hand pro-Moroccan neo-con Elliot Abrams will no longer be around to save the Kingdom from its abysmal diplomacy – I don’t know whether he’d be kept in place were Mc Cain to win. As Morocco is largely irrelevent nowadays on the Middle Eastern scene, I do not expect any major change to take place in either case.

As for the Great War on Terror, both candidates would of course shut down Guantanamo as a detention centre for suspected terrorists – a symbolic gesture, as none of them opposed the US Patriot Act and its sequels, although both agree to discard Bush’s torture policies. With his perceived Muslim background, it is even possible that Obama might feel the need – with a view to his re-election – to show very little courage on these issues. As for the rhetoric, Obama’s vow to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan and to take on Pakistan if need be gives very little room left for any optimism.

Does all of this mean that I wouldn’t vote, if I were entitled to? Certainly not: I’d vote for Ralph Nader, of course, provided that I lived in a state having him on the ballot. Otherwise, I’d vote Obama, extremely reluctantly – the fact that Al Gore would probably act as his adviser on global warming issues would convince me that there is a small difference – although one should remember that the Kyoto protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was ditched by the Clinton administration, with Gore serving as vice-president.

Oh and yes: of course, it’d be a nice symbol to have an Afro-American president, but the only thing he has in common with Martin Luther King or Malcolm X is the colour of his skin. And I must say that I am afraid that his honeymoon with foreign media and countries could undeservedly deflect much of the criticism that his policies would otherwise warrant.

By the way, I found these pro-vote video clips – excellent, and I’d only wish similar stuff had been floated around in Morocco last September

PS: Désolé pour les lecteurs francophones, je passerai à une langue plus civilisée au prochain billet.

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