Saturday, June 07, 2008

FT Editorial: New type of a campaign

The whole piece is excellent, but last paragraph summarizes it the best:
Each candidate’s best chance of success may lie in advocating his own policies and respectfully picking apart his opponent’s. This may be unheard of in modern American politics but these are strange times: only consider the two candidates. They promised exactly that kind of campaign. The electorate awaits.


Here's the full text:
With the terms of Hillary Clinton’s surrender unclear, it is too soon to say that Barack Obama can turn his full attention to John McCain. He needs to deal with that distraction soon – by telling Mrs Clinton, with elaborate courtesy, that she will not be his running mate – and focus on his last remaining opponent. The debate that the United States wants over the next few months is between him and Mr McCain. Their differences are real and often stark. They have a lot to talk about.

So far, they have fought a phoney war. Mr Obama has described the prospect of a McCain presidency as four more years of George Bush. That line delights Democrats, but does not move voters at large – though one must admit that Mr McCain, with Republican loyalists in mind, has lately tried to validate the charge. Most voters are sick of Mr Bush, yet the polls show Mr Obama and Mr McCain running neck and neck. This White House is not, by default, going to drag the Republican down. Mr McCain will have to choose that defeat for himself, by turning into John McSame. Otherwise, Mr Obama will need another strategy.

Equally, Mr McCain had better ditch his own first line of attack, the Clintonian charge that his opponent lacks experience. Mr Obama has already shrugged that off, pointing to the dismal record of Washington’s tried-and-tested political elite, and by demonstrating composure and self-command beyond his years.

There is nothing else for it: they must talk about issues. Mr Obama needs to explain why abruptly withdrawing forces from Iraq will improve US security, and Mr McCain needs to say – with more consistency than up to now – why that is wrong. Mr Obama must explain the difference between diplomacy and appeasement and what he might hope to secure from dialogue with Iran. Mr McCain must be plain about what options remain in dealing with rogue nations if talking is disallowed – and why Ronald Reagan was right to talk to the Soviet Union.

Mr Obama needs to say, in detail, how his healthcare reform can be paid for amid steadily worsening public finances. His opponent needs to say why the US fails to provide a pillar of social insurance, desired in the country and seen as indispensable in every other prosperous nation. Mr Obama needs to explain how trade restrictions will help the poor – when US exports are a key driver of growth and cheap imports are buoying living standards. And Mr McCain needs to address the economic anxieties of middle America with proposals, not platitudes.

Each candidate’s best chance of success may lie in advocating his own policies and respectfully picking apart his opponent’s. This may be unheard of in modern American politics but these are strange times: only consider the two candidates. They promised exactly that kind of campaign. The electorate awaits.

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