Archive for November 4th, 2008

Today, America votes in a presidential election that has dominated U.S. news coverage for almost two years. Noor Hassan, an Iraqi-American who works in the defense industry in Washington, D.C. and describes himself as “a moderate who is slightly left of center,” discusses the outcome of today’s historical U.S. election from a more pragmatic perspective:

On the eve of this historic election and in the midst of one of the greatest economic crises to hit the United States, it would seem that one thing is certain: Barack Obama will win this Presidential election quite handily. Looking into my crystal ball, I strongly believe it is likely that the Democrats will seize a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and seize 30 more seats adding to their majority in the House. Do you know what happened the last time us Democrats held those kinds of leads? It was 1992 and a man named Bill Clinton won the presidency after 12 straight years of Republican rule. We were at the end [although we did not know it at the time] of 20 years of economic recessions and it seemed like Bill would fulfill all our wishes and those stodgy Republicans were through bossing us around and making us look like cruel aggressors and unilateralists in the international community.

Do you remember what actually happened? The Democrats, us liberal intellectuals, well, we failed big time. We failed on every single count. We passed NAFTA, which has certainly been a double-edged sword as it has led to an expansion of the drug trade and illegal immigration in concert with an expansion in trade. Moreover, Bill and Hillary failed to get universal healthcare passed and not one significant new policy was enacted that most of us could recall today.

Do you remember Bill’s theme song during that first election campaign? If you guessed it was ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,’ then you would be correct. Let us think about the lyrics for a moment. “Everything will be better than BEFORE, yesterday’s gone…yesterday’s gone!” Right? Right…and what CHANGE actually occurred? Well, we got a president who could speak like his voice was coated with molasses and rainbows, was very popular with the American voter and was loved around the world by foreign leaders and foreign audiences. Does no one remember this? What did Bill actually accomplish? The answer…NOTHING.

I love Bill Clinton the politician and the intellectual. I admire his guile, his wit and his charm. However, I still admit he accomplished NOTHING. The economy boomed as a result of the technological revolution and the outsourcing of labor to the developing world, thereby mitigating overhead costs due to low-wage foreign labor and increasing U.S. corporate profits. As with most major economic shifts, this was not because of anything a sitting president did. What did our early 90’s agent of change bring to us? Although he had affairs in the White House, we all still loved him [his approval rating actually went UP during this time!]. He encouraged us to think about what the definition of ‘is‘ is. Does this not remind you of anything? Should anyone forget some of his other gaffes in office, I would like to remind you: his ‘wag the dog’ air strikes against Libya to draw attention away from the Lewinsky affair, his botched humanitarian effort in Somalia, his complete lack of action during the Rwandan genocide, as well as a run of corruption charges to boot [notably Whitewater].

However, in November 1991, Bill was the young, hot, passionate oratory genius who would CHANGE everything with his Democratic majority. I will never forget that election or the passion that his campaign evoked in me because it was when I first fell in love with politics. However, I will also never forget my chagrin when I learned how easy it is to make phenomenal campaign promises and stir up public sentiment by promising CHANGE in Washington. We all believed in Bill, heck, most of us Democrats still love Bill Clinton. It’s too bad that those happy times are a delusion and nothing more. However, it serves as a poignant reminder and ominous warning about how we can twist our minds and our hearts to believe anything if it is delivered to us in a big red bow with our favorite song playing in the background.

I know that many Democrats laud Kennedy the same way that Republicans delusionally prize Reagan as a great President. Before Kennedy’s untimely death, he had failed in Cuba [i.e., the Bay of Pigs], won a Pulitzer prize for a book he did not actually write [thanks Joe Kennedy!] and got us further entrenched in Vietnam. People still love him though, because he was handsome and young and could say things like, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Furthermore, his beautiful young wife and dashing brother completed the Camelot picture. Likewise, the Republicans claim that Reagan was the Great Communicator and the 2004 Republican National Convention was a Reagan lovefest. However, Reagan’s trickle-down economic policies paralyzed this nation, he was caught in the middle of Iran Contra, and anyone who gives one President credit for the fall of the Soviet Union needs to take a few classes on the Cold War. Furthermore, it is now clear that the man was suffering from Alzheimer’s while in office. Yet, still, because of the red bow delivery of the enigmatic Reagan, he is viewed by Republicans as a national hero.

That brings us to this year’s election. The Democrats will win – oh yes, by a large margin – but I would really have to wait and see how this one plays out, because, as far as I am concerned, there has not been a great Democratic president since Truman.  The pundits and commentators are cautious to say it because of President Bush‘s last two wins but all the numbers point towards a potential landslide victory for Obama. Also, record voters are hitting the booths which can only be good for Obama and the Democrats since the groups that rarely vote and support the Democratic party [college students and minority groups] will actually be at the polls this year. For all of you that view this election as an ‘US vs. THEM’ and you are a Democrat, then the question  is not whether ‘we’ will win, but what will Barack Obama do with it? Quite frankly, I expect him to be popular, pass some legislation that annoys me, pass some legislation I agree with – nothing revolutionary, and nothing new. Politics on Capitol Hill and the White House will remain the same.

Barack Obama raised more money than any candidate in history and even had enough left over to run a 30-minute infomercial. I sit here and I wonder whether this is Kennedy and Clinton all over again. Do we fall in love with a package that sings and talks better than all the rest? I pray that the substance matches the rhetoric but history warns me. What we need is not more of the same, but a revolution of the spirit. I highly doubt the young politician from Illinois can bring us what we seek, a return to faith in the American dream. [Image from BBC News]

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Today, Americans Decide

On Tuesday, November 4, Americans will vote in a historic presidential election that has ignited not just the country, but the entire world. Although the U.S. media has obviously focused heavily on this election, it has also been widely covered by international news agencies. In fact, according to a BBC World Service poll released last month, which surveyed people in 22 countries around the world, Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama was universally preferred over Republican nominee Senator John McCain. On average, 49 percent would like to see Obama prevail, while only 12 percent prefer McCain. Many of those polled said an Obama presidency would “fundamentally change” their perception of the United States. Regardless of whether or not that will truly occur if he is elected, such reasoning is still notable.

In Pakistan, such a preference seems to hold true, but is nevertheless complicated by statements made by the Democratic senator in the past year, [see related CHUP backgrounder]. However, despite his more hawkish assertions regarding Pakistan, [namely him saying that if the United States has Osama bin Laden in their sight and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to take him out, America will take him out], he has indicated his support for Pakistan’s democracy and for a dramatic increase in non-military aid. In an interview with MSNBC on Sunday, Obama asserted, “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focussed not on India, but on the situation with those militants.” Dawn cited the interview on Monday, noting that Obama emphasized, “The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan is actually deal with Pakistan. And we’ve got to work with the newly elected government there in a coherent way that says terrorism is now a threat to you. Extremism is a threat to you.”

As U.S. attention has shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, Pakistan has increasingly come into the spotlight, and without a doubt has been a hot topic in the 2008 elections, [see CHUP’s coverage of the presidential and VP debates]. As a result, the U.S. elections have been widely covered in Pakistan. An editorial in The News noted today,

Obama has not repeated his threat of attacks on Pakistan. But he has spoken of targeting Osama bin Laden, and taking him ‘dead or alive’. The bullish element in the Obama mix as such stays intact, but given that he has also mentioned closing down the notorious Guantanamo Bay jail, his policies may well offer more that is good than bad.

The editors in Dawn’s Tuesday edition commented on Obama’s recent statements on Kashmir, noting, “By focusing on Kashmir, Mr. Obama has indicated that he understands the dynamics of international politics in South Asia.” Although The Nation’s editorial echoed that the Democratic nominee’s Kashmir statements have “inspired hope,” the news agency ultimately noted, “Whether the new President will come up to the expectations will become clear once he is in the saddle. The world will therefore have to wait for a few more months.”

Currently Obama leads McCain in the national polls – the Washington Post/ABC News poll, 53% to 44%, CBS News a nine-point advantage, 51% to 42%, while Fox News reports that he is seven points ahead, 50% to 43%. However, while many media outlets have already called the election in favor of Obama, I believe nothing is certain until the last votes are counted tomorrow. Therefore, stay tuned – CHUP will be updating this site as the results come in tomorrow evening, EST. [Image from GEO News]

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