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US presidential elections involve a fabulous expense of time, effort and money. Doubtless it is all too much – but, by the end, nobody can complain that the candidates have been too little scrutinised. We have learnt a lot about Barack Obama and John McCain during this campaign. In our view, it is enough to be confident that Mr Obama is the right choice.

At the outset, we were not so confident. Mr Obama is inexperienced. His policies are a blend of good, not so good and downright bad. Since the election will strengthen Democratic control of Congress, a case can be made for returning a Republican to the White House: divided government has a better record in the United States than government united under either party.

So this ought to have been a close call. With a week remaining before the election, we cannot feel that it is.

Mr Obama fought a much better campaign. Campaigning is not the same as governing, and the presidency should not be a prize for giving the best speeches, devising the best television advertisements, shaking the most hands and kissing the most babies.

Nonetheless, a campaign is a test of leadership. Mr Obama ran his superbly; Mr McCain’s has often looked a shambles. After eight years of George W. Bush, the steady competence of the Obama operation commands respect.

Nor should one disdain Mr Obama’s way with a crowd. Good presidents engage the country’s attention; great ones inspire. Mr McCain, on form, is an adequate speaker but no more. Mr Obama, on form, is as fine a political orator as the country has heard in decades. Put to the right purposes, this is no mere decoration but a priceless asset.

Mr Obama’s purposes do seem mostly right, though in saying this we give him the benefit of the doubt. Above all, he prizes consensus and genuinely seeks to unite the country, something it wants. His call for change struck a mighty chord in a tired and demoralised nation – and who could promise real change more credibly than Mr Obama, a black man, whose very nomination was a historic advance in US politics?

We applaud his main domestic proposal: comprehensive health-care reform. This plan would achieve nearly universal insurance without the mandates of rival schemes: characteristically, it combines a far-sighted goal with moderation in the method. Mr McCain’s plan, based on extending tax relief beyond employer-provided insurance, also has merit – it would contain costs better – but is too timid and would widen coverage much less.

Mr Obama is most disappointing on trade. He pandered to protectionists during the primaries, and has not rowed back. He may be sincere, which is troubling. Should he win the election, a Democratic Congress will expect him to keep those trade-thumping promises. Mr McCain has been bravely and consistently pro-trade, much to his credit.

In responding to the economic emergency, Mr Obama has again impressed – not by advancing solutions of his own, but in displaying a calm and methodical disposition, and in seeking the best advice. Mr McCain’s hasty half-baked interventions were unnerving when they were not beside the point.

On foreign policy, where the candidates have often conspired to exaggerate their differences, this contrast in temperaments seems crucial. For all his experience, Mr McCain has seemed too much guided by an instinct for peremptory action, an exaggerated sense of certainty, and a reluctance to see shades of grey.

He has offered risk-taking almost as his chief qualification, but gambles do not always pay off. His choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, widely acknowledged to have been a mistake, is an obtrusive case in point. Rashness is not a virtue in a president. The cautious and deliberate Mr Obama is altogether a less alarming prospect.

Rest assured that, should he win, Mr Obama is bound to disappoint. How could he not? He is expected to heal the country’s racial divisions, reverse the trend of rising inequality, improve middle-class living standards, cut almost everybody’s taxes, transform the image of the United States abroad, end the losses in Iraq, deal with the mess in Afghanistan and much more besides.

Succeeding in those endeavours would require more than uplifting oratory and presidential deportment even if the economy were growing rapidly, which it will not be.

The challenges facing the next president will be extraordinary. We hesitate to wish it on anyone, but we hope that Mr Obama gets the job.

 www.ft.com/uselections

Colin Powell served as secretary of State under George W. Bush, but recently endorsed Barack Obama. Photo: AP

The scene is “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Tom Brokaw has just asked Colin Powell if he is prepared to say whether he is supporting John McCain, to whom he has contributed money, or Barack Obama, whom Powell has told he will not support “just because you’re black.”

Colin Powell is, indeed, prepared to say whom he is supporting. And he does so for the next seven minutes and eight seconds, a lifetime on television, which Brokaw has the wisdom not to interrupt.

Speaking with neither anger nor malice, Powell’s words nonetheless fall like hammer blows on McCain.

“I found that he was a little unsure as to [how to] deal with the economic problems that we were having, and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem,” Powell says of McCain.

And that is a concern, Powell says, because McCain doesn’t seem to have a “complete grasp” of our economic difficulties.

Sarah Palin?

“I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president,” Powell says. “And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made.”

“I found that he was a little unsure as to [how to] deal with the economic problems that we were having, and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem,” Powell says of McCain.

You keeping score? McCain doesn’t understand the economic crisis, is erratic, is trying to foist an unqualified vice president on the nation and has shown questionable judgment.

Can it get worse? It gets worse.

Powell, who is of the same generation as McCain (Powell is a year younger), of the same party and of the same military background, criticizes McCain for his negative campaigning, for being “narrow,” and for aiding and abetting the “rightward shift” in Republican politics.

And then there is the Supreme Court. “I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration,” Powell says.

Powell is a Republican, but a Republican who is troubled when he hears “senior members of my own party” suggest that Obama is “a Muslim and he might be associated [with] terrorists.”

“This is not the way we should be doing it in America,” Powell says, and then continues with a poignant defense of American Muslims and points out that some are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, having given their lives for their country.

Powell concludes by saying that he is voting for Obama not just because of Obama’s “ability to inspire” but because “he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure.”

That Powell would endorse Obama was not entirely shocking — their politics are not far apart — but the breadth and depth of Powell’s criticism of McCain was a surprise. Perhaps it should not have been.

Read more….

Colin Powell: New president facing a daunting picture

Esquire Endorses Barack Obama for President

WASHINGTON (AP) — Esquire is backing Democrat Barack Obama for president — its first endorsement in the magazine’s 75-year history.

The Illinois senator is “the only possible choice to lead the country,” editors wrote in the November issue, on newsstands Oct. 14. They also encouraged people to vote for Obama because the next president will influence the direction of the Supreme Court.

“The best argument for the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States is written quite clearly in the peaks and squiggles of John Paul Stevens’ EKG,” they wrote of the 88-year-old justice.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain has run a “cheap and dishonorable campaign,” they said. And his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is “stunningly unqualified.”

The editors wrote that McCain has not offered evidence of how things for Americans would change if he were to succeed President Bush.

“Bushism must be ripped out, root and branch, everywhere it has been established, or else the presidential election of 2008 is a worthless exercise in futility,” the editors said.

Source: AP

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