All 5 entries tagged Presidential Election

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January 20, 2009

This historic day

There is something more to today than the inauguration of the first mixed-race President of the United States.

When Barack Hussein Obama is sworn in at 5pm (GMT) tonight, he’ll assume responsibility for the greatest country in the world.

Its economic, military, social and cultural impact is immense. And its reputation is in need of salvation.

President Obama has been hailed as the Saviour of the America many want the country to become. Yet that task is so great, imbuing responsibility for it in one man has never been as risky.

Two wars, a failing economy, a crumbling infrastructure, a woeful health system and an underperforming education system. These are each difficult crises, just one of which can sink a President.

President Obama does appear to have a once-in-a-generation chance to solve some of these.

But to solve them all – and to simultaneously repair the country’s image, particularly in Latin America and the Middle East – will require a miracle even greater than President Obama’s election.

He begins his term of office with majorities in the House and Senate. With millions of supporters ready to jump in front of traffic for him. And with the goodwill of most of the Western world.

All of these things make it more likely he will let some of us down.

But there will be achievements to savour during the 44th Presidency, and we should appreciate each of them, even if President Obama fails us at times. He is, after all, only human.

It’s been a while.

But today, at last, we’re jealous of America, hoping that the stardust will fall beyond the country’s borders.


November 05, 2008

God Bless America

Barack Obama and family

I went to bed at about 2.15am last night (9.15pm ET), confident that John McCain was out of it.

He was.

Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio were all being pushed towards Obama wins. Just one of them was probably enough.

The Obama that spoke in Chicago a few hours ago was an older, wiser and certainly more tired one than was thrust onto the political stage back in 2004. That date – and its closeness to the present day – is just one of the amazing things about this election.

In few races could a junior senator from a Northern state with relatively left-wing values beat an experienced war hero like John McCain.

Throw in his race – but more importantly his full name, Barack Hussein Obama – and the result of the 2008 election could have been written by Hollywood.

  • Dizzy makes a good point that this wasn’t the landslide that the electoral college would suggest. As I write, McCain received 47% of the popular vote. If this wasn’t an election, that’d be rounded up to ‘half’. The United States is still a divided country, even if state boundaries have conspired to suggest otherwise.
  • I stumbled across this website yesterday which is very cute. It’s the online equivalent of “are we nearly there yet”. Until a few hours ago, it said “almost”.
  • The TV coverage on both sides of the Atlantic was interesting. David Dimbleby on the BBC was useless, and must surely be approaching retirement. He had to ask his studio guests to help him identify Joe Lieberman, kept barking at the control room while still on-screen, and didn’t give the impression he knew much about U.S. politics.
  • Sky did better, but the constant ad-breaks made me give up. It’s a bit like watching Formula 1 on ITV – you know something’s going to happen while you’re learning about washing powder.
  • Stateside, MSNBC was a bit dry, Fox News was a bit depressed and CNN brought Star Wars to the Presidential Election – their correspondents appeared in the studio by hologram. I loved it.

Later I’ll probably write something about what all of this means for the UK.


November 04, 2008

Bated breath

The U.S. Election, after about six billion years of waiting, is finally upon us. It seems to be an almost unbloggable subject now. There’s little left to be said.

It’s been the most fiercely contested election in history – anywhere. Never before has there been such interest in a electoral battle between two people.

The internet’s been a big winner of 2008 – there’ve been few arguments overlooked, barely a minute without another revelation about McCain or Obama’s policies.

But has this been the most transparent election ever?

It’s hard to think so.

To some extent, the media’s role in all of this has been devolved for the first time to the people who upload and comment on videos on YouTube, to college campuses and to the writers on Saturday Night Live.

But there’s been a dearth of hard, investigative journalism since the primaries ended. Perhaps the bitterly fought preliminaries meant there was little to discover about the two candidates once they’d fought off the might of the Clintons or the Christian right.

There were raised eyebrows at some stories – Obama’s choice of church and McCain’s choice of running-mate. But we didn’t learn very much about the candidates that we didn’t already know two years ago.

Some journalists were burned by the 2004 cockup in which CBS News wrongly presented controversial documents as fact. Respected journalists lost their jobs over it.

Maybe that’s put the media on edge in 2008. Also, job cuts in virtually every U.S. newspaper group have made investigative journalism harder. (1) (2)

So I can’t help feeling that whoever wins tonight (or tomorrow), we might need to expect the unexpected. Neither candidate’s biography seems to have been finished yet.


October 29, 2008

Race for 2008: Is tonight when the tide turns?

Thank goodness for our election laws.

Tonight, Barack Obama will straddle three national TV networks to tell the American people what he will do for them.

It’s an interesting idea, but could it spectacularly backfire?

The backlash has already begun, with Obama’s ten-year-old daughter Malia. She asked her mum: “Are you going to interrupt my TV?”. She was reassured the broadcast wouldn’t be going out on the Disney Channel.

But it will be going out on Fox, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, Univision, BET and TV One.

Fox has had to push back a major sporting fixture to avoid a clash with the Obamathon.

He’s also appearing on tonight’s The Daily Show – an appearance I’ll definitely be checking tomorrow on More4 – as well as doing several big interviews over the next couple of days.

Obama isn’t so much going for blanket coverage, as suffocation.

There’s a real danger that the 30-minute broadcast will come across as arrogant.

McCain’s already jumped on it, saying: “No one will delay the World Series with an infomercial when I’m president”.

The piece is apparently high on ‘Americana’ – flags, strings and Presidential imagery.

But why’s he spending $6m on broadcasting it when it’d still get millions of views if he stuck it on YouTube?

The polls are apparently beginning to tighten – could one last burst of arrogance pop the bubble?

(He’s already joked about his face being on Mount Rushmore!)


Race for 2008: Is the media rooting for Obama?

The Republicans have been facing an uphill battle ever since George W. Bush won the 2004 election.

The media hunt as a pack, and the collective pendulum has been swinging towards the Democrats for the last two years.

I might have called it just a little bit wrong when I said of Joe Biden: “[calling Obama ‘clean’ will] probably be his only notable contribution to the campaign”, but I wasn’t alone when I predicted whoever won the Democrat primary would take the White House.

But the ease with which Obama has got this far is starting to worry people.

Michael Malone writes that as a journalist, he’s ashamed of the bias shown towards Obama.

While the media has gone through Sarah Palin’s bins, trashed John McCain’s wife Cindy and given anything John’s said little serious attention, Obama and Biden have had it easy.

Malone says it’s not because of journalists, but because their editors have only been selecting – and commissioning – stories which help smooth the wheels of the Obama campaign, and perpetuate the narrative that appeals most.Obama worship

Why?

The media pack loves a good story. America’s first mixed-race President is an incredible one, which everyone (including the British media) have got caught up in. This is only the biggest, most expensive, most anticipated election in decades because of Barack Obama’s colour.

There’s also a slightly more sinister side to this. McCain dying in office would be an enormous story. Obama dying in office would make the death of Princess Diana look like a footnote in history.

No matter what happens, an Obama presidency will bring with it more drama than President Bartlet managed in seven seasons of The West Wing.

A changed dynamic in Congress also appeals to their instincts. It’ll give them a common enemy in just a few months, and a filibuster-proof 60 seats for the Democrats in the Senate means the effective opposition isn’t the Republicans, but the media.

Put simply, if Obama wins next week, it’s the end of business as usual.

And that’s why virtually every newshound is rooting for him.

News coverage of George Bush – in fact his lame duck status – has come about because the media got bored with him. The war in Iraq isn’t working. The war in Iraq isn’t working. The war in Iraq isn’t working. Say it several times, and people get bored of that story. You can change Iraq for ‘financial stimulus package’, ‘healthcare’ or really any other Bush policy, and it becomes tiresome pretty quickly. News coverage of the White House has been minimal since early 2007, when the race for 2008 really began.

The narrative of the past six years has been full of failure. Obama might not have intended to woo the media with it when he came up with his slogan, but change is exactly what they want, never mind the electorate.

The bias in the coverage of this election looks more than likely to help bring that change about.

> Politico in the States defends itself against pro-Obama bias


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