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This is the election you wouldn't want to win


IrishHarrington
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/c...icle4827820.ece

 

 

Victorious Roman generals were reminded of the fickleness of their glory by a slave carefully positioned in earshot on the triumphal parade route.

 

?Memento mori,? the hapless servant would whisper to the wreathed victor as his chariot rattled along Rome's jubilant streets: ?Remember you are mortal.?

 

They don't have slaves in America any more but perhaps the winner of November's presidential election should consider having one of his lower-paid deputy-assistants mutter something similar in his ear as he takes the tribute on Inauguration Day next January.

 

It is highly probable that that moment, the very hour that he takes office, will be the high point of his presidency. Whoever wins on November 4 will be ascending to the job at one of the most difficult times for an American chief executive in at least half a century. When the votes are counted his people might ruefully conclude that the victor is not Barack Obama or John McCain. The real winner will be Hillary Clinton, or Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee, or some now happily anonymous figure whose star will rise in the next four turbulent years.

 

 

 

This sobering reality was startlingly underscored this week by none other than Tom Daschle, the former leader of the Senate Democrats, the national co-chairman of Mr Obama's presidential campaign, and the likely White House chief of staff in an Obama administration. He told a Washington power breakfast that he thought the winner of the election would have a 50 per cent chance at best - at best - of winning a second term in 2012.

 

Consider the challenges.

 

The financial crisis and Washington's response to it have transformed the economic and fiscal environment in which the new president will take office.

 

The bailout/rescue plan/ socialisation of the banking system - whichever you prefer - has, in effect, already rendered null and void almost everything that the presidential candidates have been proposing for the past six months. It may not end up adding a straight $700 billion to the deficit over the next couple of years - the Treasury is surely right to insist that it will get some of that money back when the bad assets acquired from banks are sold off. But it would certainly not be prudent to expect there to be any room left over for promised tax cuts, spending increases on health, education or anything else.

 

The US already faced daunting fiscal challenges (admittedly smaller than those confronting most European and Asian countries). At some point reality will bite hard and politicians will discover that they simply cannot go on funding two wars, cutting taxes, creating vast new government health and pension programmes and doing the other essential things that the Federal Government does - all those bridges and roads and light-rail systems in parts of the country with closely fought congressional districts.

 

As some observers have noted, the bailout plan may simply have shifted the locus of the next financial crisis from the private to the public sector. This fiscal challenge is not just economic, but also geopolitical in nature. More government debt increases America's dependence on the financial interest of strangers; and not just any foreigners, but countries that hardly count as America's friends, such as China and Russia.

 

All this, and we almost certainly haven't even seen the worst of economic times yet.

 

For the past six months there's been a rather pointless debate in the US about whether the country is or is not in a ?technical? recession, whatever that is. What is certain is that unemployment has risen and real incomes have declined, but now it seems that things are getting much worse. Yesterday - in one day - economic reports said that durable goods orders, everything from aeroplanes to television sets, dropped by more last month than in any month in almost two years; that jobless claims rose to their highest level since September 11, 2001; and that new home sales fell to their lowest in 17 years.

 

The US is now indisputably entering the darkest phase of a period that will not only produce real hardship, but could send further shocks through financial markets and cause deeper fiscal damage.

 

Then there is energy policy. Weaning America off its oil addiction might actually need to be a policy rather than a slogan in the next four years; but that will place new burdens on the budget and require sacrifices difficult to make in good times, let alone in economically distressed ones.

 

Compared with all this, foreign policy looks like a doddle.

 

The next president has only to complete the process of transition in Iraq, win the war in Afghanistan, face down a resurgent Russia, continue to keep its foot on the throat of stateless Islamist terrorism, stop Iran from going nuclear and figure out what to do about the challenge from China - the most serious threat to US global hegemony since America became top nation.

 

Oh, and I didn't mention Pakistan. Conversations this week with advisers to both campaigns suggest that both now see Pakistan - especially after last week's terrorist attack in Islamabad - as perhaps the most intractable and serious challenge of all in the next few years: they candidly admit that no one has much of a clue what to do about it.

 

You don't have to loathe President Bush to acknowledge that America's capabilities and standing in the world are seriously diminished at a time when its tasks are larger and more complex than they have been in decades. With its economic wherewithal now further impaired, the prospects for real success anywhere in the next four years look constrained.

 

Yet all this might be too gloomy a prognosis. Previous periods of apparently existential crisis in the US have certainly produced one-term disasters: James Buchanan in 1857, Herbert Hoover in 1929, Jimmy Carter in 1977 spring unpleasantly to mind. But the genius of America is that apocalyptic challenges have also, in time, produced the men to match them: Abraham Lincoln in 1861, Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, Ronald Reagan in 1981.

 

So perhaps, rather than simply assuring us that the man who wins in November is a sure loser, history suggests an unsettlingly binary possibility. Either the next president is destined for the cruel obscurity of one-term failure. Or he is set to join the pantheon.

 

Then again, look carefully at those dates and consider a crueller possibility for this year's winner: that desperate times like these actually produce both types of president, sequentially: a one-term disaster who paves the way for a true giant.

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No kidding.

 

The next president is either going to be a failure (or victim of circumstances) or is going to be a great president. I don't think we'll have anything in between.

 

 

I am trying to be optimistic regardless of who wins , BUT it is hard to see how either candidate will be successful under these conditions .At best we are going to have higher unemployment , higher inflation , and a higher national debt . These problems are not easily solved with a tax cut or a tax increase and are going to take longer than 4 years to properly address.

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Agreed. There's a good chance the next president will only serve one term (he'll lose re-election.

 

I think this is the reason some of McCain's first choices (Jindel, for example) did not want to be his VP. I could even see a scenario where McCain wins the presidency but doesn't even get the nomination in 2012. I'm hoping one of the Ron Paul 'politicians' can step up in 2012.

 

Bob Conley a democrat from South Carolina has me interested...

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Ron Paul needs to spend the next four years of his life grooming a candidate with equal intelligence and integrity. Once the country realizes that socialist/Keynesian policies are only making matters worse perhaps a pro-liberty Austrian will seem more appealing.

 

It's a damn shame Paul isn't 15-20 years younger.

 

maybe he can groom this guy...I was very impressed with his speech

 

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Ron Paul needs to spend the next four years of his life grooming a candidate with equal intelligence and integrity. Once the country realizes that socialist/Keynesian policies are only making matters worse perhaps a pro-liberty Austrian will seem more appealing.

 

I think this is the direction the Paul campaign is heading. We need to infiltrate the two main political parties; which seems to be happening already on a small scale.

 

Ron Paul needs to spend the next four years of his life grooming a candidate with equal intelligence and integrity. Once the country realizes that socialist/Keynesian policies are only making matters worse perhaps a pro-liberty Austrian will seem more appealing.

 

It's a damn shame Paul isn't 15-20 years younger.

 

maybe he can groom this guy...I was very impressed with his speech

 

 

Won't happen, that guy is a war monger.

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No kidding.

 

The next president is either going to be a failure (or victim of circumstances) or is going to be a great president. I don't think we'll have anything in between.

I personally think both candidates will be epic failures, and would have been regardless of the political climate during their term. They are just awful choices for leader of the free world.

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If Obama wins my guess is he would get reelected no matter what happens. With the population shifts and the changes in demographics I doubt a Republican will ever get elected again.

 

That's going a bit far. Sure, the demographic changes don't bode well for the future of the Republican party, particularly if it doesn't become more inclusive, but what makes you think the Democrats will maintain its current base? The Democratic and Republican coalitions are always shifting. The Republicans of 2008 are not the same as the Republicans of 1960. Same thing for the Democrats. Of course, if the Republicans don't change, they are toast.

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If Obama wins my guess is he would get reelected no matter what happens. With the population shifts and the changes in demographics I doubt a Republican will ever get elected again.

 

after 2002 and 2004 everyone thought the Democrat party was finished , it all goes in cycles . America is a center right country if Obama wins he will have huge majorities in the senate and the house and we will see how well one party ruling everything goes. I suspect whether or not Obama wants to go left he will be forced to go left and in the long run that will hurt him politically

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I hope both of you are right. I'm a glass is half-empty guy so I usually view things in a negative light.

 

If the GOP becomes more inclusive my guess is the Democrats will become even more inclusive themselves negating any potential gains by the GOP's shift so you'll end up with an overall shift to the left with no gains for the GOP. This has being happening for years.

 

It's also about Democrats moving into small red states like Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

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The GOP is standing on a cliff, because they can't realistically keep winning elections by only courting the socially conservative and blue collar whites. You could see the drastic differences in demographics in the two parties by just looking at each one's convention floor. The DNC was supposedly the most diverse ever, with the largest number of African-American, Female, and Gay/Lesbian delegates in the party's history. Meanwhile, the RNC was one of the whitest ever. The Republicans need to get with the program and realize that they are WAY behind in the diversity department, and stop demonizing non-white, non-Christian, and non-straight voters already.

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