Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reflections on Barack Obama

As the drama fades away, it's perhaps time to reflect on a momentous night and try to work out what it all means both for America and the rest of the world.

As Barack Obama wakes up this morning he will know the heavy burden that rests on his shoulders. If he gets it wrong, he will have let down not only African Americans but all those across the political spectrum who lent him their support. In short, he needs to be a Ronald Reagan, not a Jimmy Carter. He will look at his 'to do' list and shudder. He takes over the Presidency at an incredibly difficult time, of economic and military crisis. He is neither an economist nor a military specialist and will therefore be relying on advisers in the same way that George W Bush had to in 2000. Bush appointed a top level Cabinet team - possibly the strongest Cabinet lineup in US history. But even that prevent some calamitous decisions. So the world will be watching to see what kind of Cabinet Obama appoints. I expect to see a few Republican names included as he reaches across the political divide.

A lot of Democrats will be expecting radical things from President Obama. I suspect they will be disappointed, at least initially. He may have campaigned on the slogan of 'change' but I suspect he will be far more conservative that many of his most enthusiastic supporters expect. He won't want to rock the boat too much until he has proved his competence to the nation. There may be one or two headline announcements in the first 100 days, but from a military point of view I am not sure much will change initially.

But it is not only his fellow Americans who are expecting great things from Obama - so is the world. I suspect the world is going to be very disappointed by the gradual pace of change. Obama may enter into talks which his predecessor would have baulked at, but if America's enemies think he will be a soft touch, I think they will be mistaken. I expect him to adopt a very tough line against Iran, which is at the root of most of the evil in the Middle East.

Domestically, the economic challenges the Obama Presidency faces are massive. His economic legacy is arguable worse than the one inherited by President Reagan in 1981. And his room for manoeuvre will be limited.

The speeches given last night by McCain and Obama were a mark of both men. Both struck exactly the right note and American can justifiably be proud of the two candidates who fought it out for the most powerful political job in the world. McCain was gracious in defeat and clearly understood the significance of his rival's triumph. Obama was visionary and inspirational.

America and the world expect a lot of Barack Obama. He has been a lucky politician, as well as a skilful one. His luck will need to hold if he is to take his country with him over the next four years. It's going to be one hell of a show.

UPDATE: Watching Gordon Brown's reaction to Obama's victory you'd have thought he was expressing condolences. I can't believe how downbeat he was. Cameron, on the other hand, struck exactly the right tone.


Anonymous said...

Okay, we know he's the first black president - but consider this sentence: "If he gets it wrong, he will have let down not only white people but all those across the political spectrum who lent him their support."


Anonymous said...

McCain's concession speech was indeed gracious.

Which is more than can be said for the knuckle-dragging monkeys who booed it.

Events dear boy, events said...

Agreed and spot on.

Also I bet that Brown gets carried away and overplays his hand with BO. I just cannot see those two getting on somehow.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I tried to sumit twice to the blog last night, but couldnt, so gave up, did anyone else have the same problem? I would write my comment, in the box for comments, pressed send and nothing! Should I have registered somewhere....
I had also tried to offer to cover the ITV coverage, as I know their US corrispondante, but not sure if that message got to you.
I also watched last night the BBC2 film on Alistair Cooke,(it was too early for much serious news from the States at that time) who for many I would think, gave us the first taste of America, through his `Letters `, how i enjoyed Friday nights, at school especially,listening to him. To me, (and I have travelled alot in the States and my brother lives there) he still the person who has been best able to capture what the States is about, and his Letters are still as topical today as they where when he wrote them 10, 20, 30 years ago. What a fitting programm to show yesterday, the BBC can still get it right!
Chris G

Anonymous said...

Many a true word is said in jest, and I think that The Daily Mash has it about right.

"I promised you change you can believe in, I did not promise you change you can actually see."

Anonymous said...

His victory tells us that racism is dead. That really is worth celebrating, no matter what one thinks of Obama's politics. He is likely to be a lot more conservative than many commentators predict.

Anonymous said...

'Which is more than can be said for the knuckle-dragging monkeys who booed it'.

exactly the same attitude that lead the brazilian crowd to boo lewis hamilton in san paulo. massa on the other hand was also, like mccain, gracious in defeat

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Oregon!

Here the flags are waving, the bands are playing on every steet corner, the car horns are still honking. And it feels like we've won the World Cup. (or maybe West Ham beat West Brom)!

You are probably right, but we'll have a little celebration before we analyzzze your analyissss!

Happy Hangover!

Mostly Ordinary said...

Why do people seem to forget his mother is white? Barack is mixed race, his mother and grandmother where his biggest influences - both where/are white.

People are seriously over hyping his skin colour and in the process dismissing the part of his family that pretty much made him what he is.

Anonymous said...

Specfically re the Amercian economy: If Obama gets it wrong - which he will - then he/the Democrats will simply blame the republicans (and ofcourse capitalism). Obama may have been conciliatory in his speach this morning but Senate based Democrats like Pelosi and Franke are anything but.

Man in a Shed said...

Have to disagree Paul Seaman - Obama's victory shows us that racism is very much alive. Its just not white racism.

Sabretache said...

I expect him to adopt a very tough line against Iran, which is at the root of most of the evil in the Middle East.

Oh for God's sake Ian. Iran has been subjected to near constant interference from the West but has NEVER attacked anybody. It's first democratically elected government was overthrown by the US/UK sponsored operation Ajax and a vicious (though Western Compliant) dictator installed (sound familiar?). It is surrounded by US military bases. It is subject to near constant bellicose rhetoric from the US threatening military attack. Likewise from a nuclear armed Israel which, unlike Iran operates entirely outside the terms of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (with full Western connivance). There are at least two nuclear armed US carrier groups permanently on station and regularly navigating Iranian waters to enter the Gulf. etc etc....

I suggest you look elsewhere for the root of the evil in the Middle East.

Jabba the Cat said...

The turkeys have voted for Christmas whilst in a state of divine rapture, with the green saving of the planet substituting for cranberry sauce.

That was the immediate thought that went through Jabba's head as he listened to the Anointed One as he spoke and mesmerized the masses after John McCain conceded defeat in the early hours of this morning.

Reality will click into focus sooner rather than later, and the American electorate will see that they have traded in their freedoms and the contents of their wallets, on an unprecedented scale, with long term detrimental consequences that will take years to put right.

Simon Harley said...

Really, Danny Finkelstein in "The Times" today says it all;

"But, from today, a black child born in America will look on his nation with greater pride because he will feel that the highest office in the land is open to him."

If you're a girl of any colour however, you've seen in the past few months how one veteran woman politician was comprehensively defeated (Hillary Clinton), and how a woman was shamelessly and viciously denigrated and mocked for little reason (Sarah Palin). The Republicans may well think twice about putting a woman on the ticket again, and God only knows what the Democratic Party will be like in 4 years.

At the end of the day Obama convinced a slender majority of Americans (he polled less than Bush in '04 by the look of things) that some sort of massive change is necessary. The voters don't know what that change entails. He had better be able to justify the hype he has whipped up.

Anonymous said...

"Bush appointed a top level Cabinet team - possibly the strongest Cabinet lineup in US history."

Total nonsense. His administration was packed full of energy lobbyists and cold-warriors in search of a fight.

Bush also appointed Dick Cheney, who then aggressively pursued his own agenda for 8 years in economic and foreign policy. Any window dressing with Powell was precisely that.

Anonymous said...

Tony Blair MK2 just elected.I agree with Man in Shed, 96% black voted Obama, now who is racist.

Indy said...

Sorry Simon Harley. Sarah Palin was not shamelessly and viciously denigrated and mocked for little reason. There were plenty of reasons!!

(I am a woman incidentally. Initially wanted Hillary to get the nomination but completely converted to Obama, who was the better candidate).

Wrinkled Weasel said...


Black Americans, no more than white Americans, they do not want more government programs which perpetuate dependency.

They don't want to be a colony in a nation.

They want the pride, and the self-respect, and the dignity that can only come if they have an equal chance to own their own homes, to own their own businesses, to be managers and executives as well as workers, to have apiece of the action in the exciting ventures of private enterprise.

I pledge to you tonight that we shall have new programs which will provide that equal chance."

And he did, one of the great promoters of genuine progress in civil rights and opportunities for black people. He was, Richard M Nixon.

Jess The Dog said...

A good analysis. Much is made of Obama as the “first black president” but he was elected in an overwhelming victory by voters of all backgrounds, races and classes. He will also be the “last black president” as race is only likely to be a minor curiosity in future elections, and this perhaps fulfils the dream of Martin Luther King. The world feels a little different today, perhaps this is hyperbole and US and world troubles will continue, but I am sure the legacy of racism and the civil rights conflicts of the 1960s will seem more distant. Will he disappoint? We don’t know, it is clearly more likely with higher expectations and the challenges are huge. I think he is a unifying president who provides the best chance of steering the country through difficult economic times and disastrous overseas wars. This impacts on all of us in the UK and in the world.

As for Brown’s reaction. I didn’t see it. However, two facts are apparent. Obama was a “change” candidate, and this label clearly fits Cameron and most certainly not Brown. When America sneezes, Britain catches a cold – time for a change! Also, Obama’s stance on Iraq is at odds with the last six years of government, with Brown inheriting Blair’s position as Dubya’s poodle. How will Brown deal with the reappraisal of the Bush/Blair legacy and extraction of troops from Iraq and possibly Afghanistan? I am sure Miliband and other pretenders will be overjoyed though!

Anonymous said...

Can it get any worse for Dave?

Tories history.
Labour 11 years.
Restoration of Tory nemesis-Nationalisation.
Australia win4Labour.
Obama brings home the bacon.

Think about it Iain.
Where now for 20th Century Tories?
Put it this way, I as a Socialist can write winning Tory policy better than Dave. Easy.

And yet all I hear is Gideon shutting Norther Rock or Dave, well, being Dave, which to be fair has shored up the wavering loons tempted to lean towards caning kids or birching tax avoiding freezing pensioners.

Tories need a bit of jazz.Tories are bankrupt of ideas in a new Century. No spark, no sparkle.Even Socialists are alowed to agree with a good Tory idea, aren't we?
After all, remember it was Labour who wanted to sell of Council Houses but then allowed Thatcher to steal the idea!

There is only one question now for Tories post Obama. Where now?
Personaly, I think it is obvious.

Anonymous said...

To quote the Who (Won't Get Fooled Again)'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss'.

Christ, he's only the new president, not the new Messiah! All this expectation is just setting him up for failure. Leave the guy alone to do his job.

Anonymous said...

For me the significance is America, the sole superpower, the no 1 economy in the world in 'these difficult times' has elected a 'novice' as the president. America
listened to the message' Change'.

This will come and haunt Brown and Cameron should turn this jibe around in his PMQs. Now Brown,the part of the boom and bust here will be meeting this 'novice' an d accepting his leadership of the free world 'in these difficult times'!

Good election slogans now for Cameron!

Pogo said...

Hmm.. Depressing... Two dreadful candidates, the prettiest and best-marketed of whom won.

So, what have we got? A Tony Blair clone who's bought into "green" eco-wibble in the biggest possible way. Not only has he stated that he intends upon bankrupting coal power plants but he also intends to make energy prices “skyrocket”.

"Change"..? Time to get into candle-making mayhap.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to the chap - if we can take anything out of this it's the fact that they've jumped a generation and the kids and the classically normally disenfranchised have become involved which is ace.

I think nerds can have plenty to go on about modern election strategies and media.

Sure, he'll break our hearts but perhaps less so than recent ones.

On an aside - how come a 78 year old dude looks younger and Obama seems to have aged 5 years.

It'd be ace if he offered McCain a job should he want one - the man ran a campaign which was dirty but not rude, not venal or underhand - good clean fighting with maybe a few punches below the belt - but it was worth fighting for.

Glad it's over and the right result. Good luck Yanks & good luck Obama. Do a Kennedy and go somewhere quiet with the family and relax into the plans for the next 3 weeks or so.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the result will lead to a lot of infighting in the Republicans and that there may be splits. Interesting times ahead.

Simon Harley said...


I wanted Hillary to be President over McCain and was gutted when she lost to Obama. As far as I'm concerned McCain was the better candidate but obviously a majority of Americans disagreed with me!

As to Palin I think she was a better Vice Presidential Candidate than Biden, not that that is really saying much (anyone who copies from Kinnock, well, that speaks for itself - If Obama is Kennedy Biden is no L.B.J. that's for certain).

Anonymous said...


Looks like Guido Fawkes et al are having a spot of bother with plod in Whitehall.

Another Day said...


I agree with you on Gordon Brown congraulating Obama on hs victory at question time. I think he really has a huge problem communicating on a 'human' level genuine excitement and passion.

I wrote a small piece on Monday expressing similar views about his reaction to Lewis Hamilton's victory (no quite as momentus!). I compared his odd and passionless reaction with the genuine excitement articulated by David Cameron.

If Brown can not articulate warmth and feeling on simple things such as Obama's victory, then there is no way I can see him inspiring the British electorate to vote for him whenever he calls an election.

PS Remember I said to you at the time that I thought Brown's 'no time for a novice' comment was interesting vis a vis Barack Obama! I think he may regret the comment now...

Anonymous said...

A few people risk missing the point that he is being radical just by being there given his social trajectory.

He shouldn't be judged on any higher - or lower - a standard of competence than Bush has been, or McCain would have been.

It should also be acknowledged that Senator Obama had the support of his family and of his Party, neither of which could or should have been taken for granted. They confronted their own fears and those of others, stood their ground and ultimately believed in the American people to give him a fair hearing. Yes, extra measures did have to be taken to protect his security. Yes, it was a risk to pick someone like him. No, they didn't let others use that as an excuse when the going got tough to keep him invisible.

Anonymous said...

Keep taking the pills Gary, and don't look at any polls. That way you can continue to pretend that Labour can win anything. And don;t read this post any further.

For the rest of us, if Labour only win every seat that is as safe as Glasgow East was meant to be, that would give them about 30.

Not a majority of 30, you understand, 30 seats.

But don't tell Gary. We don't want to them to wake up and realise that it is now pretty much impossible for them to win. Then the whingy little sods would try and scorch the earth before they get kicked out.

Anonymous said...

A message from Barack Obama:

We just made history.

And I don't want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing...

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


A request from me:

Celebrate tonight, but tomorrow there is work to do for all of us. Please go to and read again about Barack's positions on the issues and what he wants to accomplish. Find at least one thing that is important to you and that you think you can help with. Sign up for the newletter, so you'll know what his strategy is. Stay active!

Please join and share your idea(s) and plan(s). Connect with other people and help make America and the world a better place for all of us.

To paraphrase a friend...Things may get tough and when they do, let's remember tonight and what we've already accomplished...and then let's get back to work!

Thanks for all your help!

Anonymous said...

But the real 'crunch' is not the 'credit crisis', but the shock when the expectations which have been built up sky-high have to be brought back down to earth...

There isn't any money for a grand programme of public investment at this juncture, and as Blair found out, the wheels of Government can turn slowly.

I wish Barack Obama well, but he does need to start explaining very soon that this is 'a long job and will take eight years', rather than being seduced by the media to offer one of these fatuous 'first hundred days' and all will be well plans.

Anonymous said...

OT, but I am liking watching Emily Maitliss today. Lousy Public Service Broadcaster, she just can't hide her happiness. But wrapped up against the cold, lacking usual perfect maquillage & ensemble, she seems like a warm & appealing human being and it is hard not to feel pleased that she is so pleased!

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem for Obama is that so many people, not just in the USA but throughout the world have put him on such a high pedestal and after the disaster of the present administration expect great things. It will be very difficult for him not to disappoint as expectations are so great. He has to contend with a failing economy, a huge budget and trade deficit and two wars.

With regards to your comment on Iran I don't think that they are the main source of evil in the Middle East but they are a regional and Shia power. This has always been the case and has always caused tension with the Sunni ruled countries, especially Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf. Syria is only an ally with Iran because they have no-one else. By talking to Syria, which Obama wants to do, this can weaken their relationship with Iran. If there are no talks then it will strengthen the Syrian / Iranian relationship.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know, I will keep taking the pills but the world is going one way and the Tories have gone a bit soft left to counteract the significant divide.
Labour will always do what it is supposed to do but i always thought that Tories were there (apart from being made fun of) to offer an alternative view?

So what is your alternative to the NHS rebuild? schooling? fairness? mobility?
I could go on.

My point of Obama is that the political outlook of the world is rendering Conservatism an historical nonentity that was tried and failed throught 250 years of Government and opposition. The death of the marketplace (every 25 yewras or so) has now been answered, once and for all, by Nationalisation and thankfully taken up around the world by welcoming failing economies beholdent to Labour.

Obama is bad news for Dave. Today, Dave is all experienced smiles for a fledgeling second coming black man.

Tomorrow, Dave either organises the funeral of his party or he takes the fight to the ideas men and women and cries help!
Remember the Notting Hill set?
That was the best you could come up with and it has failed. Why?
Because they have no idea(s) for today's problems and no idea for tomorrow. 2010 will jump out of the shadow quicker than Jonathan Ross makes a comeback.

Anonymous said...

Gary, I have to tell you that your condition is now terminal, and no amount of pills will put it right.

Bon voyage mon petite.

Anonymous said...

@gary elseby
So what is your alternative to the NHS rebuild?
- Certainly not pouring billions into unreconstructed health service blackhole and seeing the Great Ormond Street Hospital begging for £3 per month through TV advert
- Certainly not doubling the salarie of GPs for less work
- Certainly not bringing in 12,000+ Indian doctors who are mostly unemployed, a few are taking jobs awy from our medical graduates.

As a school governor I am seeing primary kids leaving schools with minimal literacy and numeracy so that they are ill-prepared for secondary schools
So many sink secondary schools and so few skilled pupils

-Applying human rights only to the thug who was an illegal immigrant, who did not stop at red light and ploughed his car into an innocent young woman and snuffed her life out, and letting him out without deportation
- Rewarding Afghan hijackers with nice housing and topping up with spending money but doubling the pensioners incometax
Gordon Brown as an MP in Scotland does not have a say there but he can move down South and become PM unelected. His fellow scottish MPs can become mobile come down to London, vote to restrict education, healthcare and just about anything English. A lesson in mobility!

I could go on!

Anonymous said...

Isn't Obama's presidency going to be problematic for Brown?
He's already berated Cameron for his lack of experience, doesn't it stand that he'll have difficulty working in unison with popular, but inexperienced president?

David Lindsay said...

Whatever you think of community organisers, being a community organiser is a long way from being a Bullingdon Boy.

David Lindsay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


Cameron introdeuced McCain at Tory conference claiming him as the next President

on Raadio 4 he said While he liked Obama the republicans were our sister party and therefore he would be backing McCain

But if Camerons wants to back what Fox claimed was a Socialist, Communist, Marxist backed by Fidel, Chavez, Gadafi then great

Anonymous said...

Why not ask an American if they want the NHS

they would say yes the financial crisis has sent insurance through the roof.

You cannot even change jobs because your scared about new employers not having health insurance

biggest cause of personal bankruptcy is health care

38m have no health care insurance

Hospitals turn away people who have no insurance

Thats why we back the NHS

Simon Lamb said...

Watching the crowds in various American cities reminded me of McCain's line to the white tie Smith dinner: "Maverick he could manage, Messiah was above his pay grade."
Obama is a fantastic speaker - managing the Gettysburg Address and MLK's final 'Promised Land' speech in his inspiring victory speech. Not sure whether he writes it, but he can sure deliver.
Whether he can handle the 'in-tray from hell', only time will tell.

Anonymous said...

"...Iran, which is at the root of most of the evil in the Middle East."

Do you really think that the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians over the last 30 years can be overlooked. Shame on you.

Iain Dale said...

Where did I say that? Don't put words into my mouth.

Pete Wass said...

I think you're underestimating the moonbats Iain. Even if Obama is inclined to moderation (which certainly isn't supported by his record) he will have major problems with his left flank if he attempts to implement it. He has a very wide coalition to maintain if he wants to be re-elected, and his electoral college tally notwithstanding, he can't afford to lose much of it. If he upsets the moonbats and even a few of them stay at home next time round, he's toast.

Anonymous said...

"Iran, which is at the root of most of the evil in the Middle East"


the evil in the Middle East?
The discourse on this "post racial" President proves he is a long way ahead of most of the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

Iain your sister party lost
get over it
here in the US its party party

maybe youll join us in the Dems abroad (you can join the SDA)Socialist Democratic Assoc

Anonymous said...

Clinton for all his charisma can now be seen as the source of a number of the world problems we are currently suffering. It was on his watch and probably at his instigation that the green light was given to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to start the sub prime lending fiasco. It was also on his watch that Bin Laden was allowed to blossom into the devil incarnate that he's become. So another dose of Clintonism would indeed have been disastrous. Fortunate that Barrie defeated Hilary.

Barrie has also pledged to chase Bin Laden in Pakistan. Excellent sentiment but it remains to be seen how ruthless he will be in pursuing this. Another "surge" in Afghanistan is promised and pursued with suitable diplomacy could be successful.

On the home front he has the advantage over McCain that he is not in the pockets of the Oil lobby. He realises the strategic need to free America from its dependence on oil, which would also have the dual beneficial effect of transforming the Middle East back into the backwater it should always have been while at the same time boosting investment in green technologies. America now has the opportunity to invest heavily in home grown renewable energy technology. Helping to lift it out of recession, helping to save the planet and most importantly rendering America independent of the Oil Sheiks, mullahs and tsars who can guzzle their oil to their hearts content.

Of course he could end up just being another Bliar and then the world would really have something to worry about.


Good Lord, a debate about the ObamaMessia that does not mention his leftist voting record, his socialist links, his links to extremists and the corruption and the voter fraud of his campaigning, which also finished off Hillary Clinton.
The colour of a president should be irrelevent, as should their se and sexuality.
What matters is their calibre, character, poliies, beliefs and values.
America not only elected its first non-wite president, but also it first socialist. That I think is far more significant.


Yak40 said...

Turnout was not "huge", it was about the same as 2004.

Obama's campaign took in massive amounts of untraceable contributions, including from outside the US (illegal). The automatic verification system (AVS) was deliberately turned off for online donations.

The media utterly failed in its duty to properly "vet" candidates.

Obama has still to show a proper birth cert. Why not ? Shouldn't be hard.

His choice of Rahm Emanuel as WH Chief of Staff bodes ill for the ballyhooed "reaching across the aisle" stuff, let alone the fact that BO's own record shows zero evidence of that, the opposite if anything.

His "disciples" should prepare for reality, they'll be getting their expectations revised downwards pretty soon !

Yak40 said...

Hospitals turn away people who have no insurance

County hospitals accept everyone, trouble is they're clogged up with illegal immigrants giving birth and so on.

Our county hosp. is excellent and is affiliated with a leading research facility but it too spends huge chunks of its budget treating illegals and non-citizens at the expense of the taxpayers who actually pay for it.

Many county hospitals in California have gone bankrupt and closed because of this abuse.

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