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Barack Obama's impressive road to the white house

Barack Obama's impressive road to the White House
Say what you don't like about the length and expense of the presidential race, it is the most intense audition for the job People do lie to pollsters. Pollsters can screw up their measures of voting intention. Voting intentions can change in the frenetic last furlong before election day. The man himself constantly cautions the crowds at his final rallies to take nothing for granted. But the world now expects that the world will get what it wants: President Barack Obama. Just because this is increasingly anticipated, we should not discount how sensational that outcome will be. It will be an extraordinary victory for a novice senator born outside the continental United States who grew up with an absentee father and a peripatetic mother. To make it additionally astonishing, he is also a liberal, a northerner and a college professor - three categories long assumed to be unelectable as commander-in-chief. Oh, and did I mention that the pigmentation of his skin is not quite the same as that of George Washington and every President since? What if the world has been dreaming and wakes up on Wednesday to find that it is President McCain? The air will soon be thick with those opining that it was always a fantasy to think that the White House could be won by a neophyte who came out of nowhere with the middle name of Hussein. To the bitter end, John McCain will suggest that his rival is not qualified to sit in the Oval Office. And yet the gruelling business of an American presidential election is a qualification process in itself. It is many, many rollercoaster months since that victory in the Iowa primary when Obama started to confound the best laid grids of much more experienced rivals, to energise huge crowds and to mesmerise the world. Say what you don't like about the length and the expense of the presidential race, it does have the great merit of being the most intense audition for the job. You cannot entirely tell what a person will be like as President from the way he fought for the office, but it does offer useful pointers. It is one huge stress test of a candidate's temperament, ideas, judgment, strategic capacity, organisational skills and resilience. Take the last first. Initially and then repeatedly dismissed as a fashionable fad, a celebrity confection, Obama has proved that he is durable. To get here, the rookie senator has out-campaigned both the Republicans and the Clintons, besting America's two most formidable political machines by building from scratch an even better organisation of his own. At the climax, his campaign is so flush with donations that he can afford to buy 30 minutes of airtime in prime time across the networks while his opponent is running on empty and calling himself 'the underdog' to try to make a desperate virtue out of being behind. Among the people enthused by Obama are other politicians, not least those watching in some awe from this side of the Atlantic. It is a convention that British leaders do not take public sides in American presidential races, especially for fear of finding that they have backed the wrong horse. This cannot mask the excitement among Labour people at the prospect of an Obama presidency. That we'd expect. Labour and the Democrats are sister

parties. More remarkable is the large number of Tories for Obama. John McCain had many admirers among British Conservatives. He was the international guest of honour at their conference not so long ago. But if David Cameron had a vote, it would not go to the Republican. The Tory leader can't say this publicly, but he has revealed to colleagues that he hopes the Democrat will win. There's the obvious and rather glib reason for this: an Obama victory would be a win for 'change' just as Cameron hopes to be. There's the less superficial reason which is that the Tory leader was hugely impressed by the intelligence and judgment of the other man when they met in London a few weeks ago. David Cameron remarked to allies that he was especially struck by Obama's self-composure at a time when the polls and the atmospherics were turning against him. 'He was just so incredibly cool,' the Tory leader told a friend. They call it no drama, Obama. After two years under the searing spotlight of the most saturated media in the world, there has not been a single occasion when he has publicly lost self-control. Nor has his organisation lapsed in its self-discipline. It is a testimony to his ability to select and lead a team that his campaign has been so smooth in comparison with those of his rivals. There has been none of the internecine warfare which riddled the Clinton campaign and is now erupting within the McCain camp even before they know for certain that they've lost. This has not meant that Obama's road to the White House has been free of potholes, prangs and the occasional moment when some thought he might end up in the ditch. There was the uproar over his remarks, made at an event he did not expect to be reported, about voters who cling to guns and God out of bitterness with their lot. He's also been taught that it is a bad idea to call a photo-op in a bowling alley if you are crap at bowling. Then there was the furore over Jeremiah Wright and the pastor's inflammatory 'God damn America' sermons. That was an incendiary moment which would have toasted a lesser candidate. It takes one of exceptional quality to turn crisis into opportunity which Obama did by responding with a brilliantly argued, compellingly personal and finely nuanced speech about race. Grace under pressure has been a consistently striking feature of his campaign. It has also been one of the big contrasts with his opponent. John McCain was handicapped by the huge burden of being the Republican candidate after eight years of George W Bush, a weight that he could never entirely lift however much distance he tried to put between himself and the hugely unpopular incumbent. Against that, we should not forget that Senator McCain also came to the contest with significant advantages over his opponent. The famous war hero, the grizzled and gutsy senate senior, a man long respected by people beyond his own party, on the face of it John McCain was the known quantity of the contest, the safe and sound choice for Americans at a time when they are fighting two wars abroad and there is an economic crisis at home.

McCain's attack ads asked: 'Do you really know Barack Obama?' And yet it is to the Republican that the bigger question marks are now attached. In the debates between them and the campaign exchanges since, it is Obama who has come over as the nerveless, reassuring, sober, mature and authoritative one, the presidential one. It is John McCain, frantically switching tactics and snatching after headlines to try to get traction in the contest, who has come over as the impetuous, angry, adolescent, erratic one, the unpresidential one. That was most epitomised by his reckless choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate having met the Alaskan governor just twice. Like a star going nova, she dazzled for a brief moment when she first exploded on the scene only to implode into a black hole of national ridicule after some excruciatingly and alarmingly bad performances in interviews. This was the point when many British Conservatives lost faith in the American one. For them, as for many other people, it called into question what kind of calculation would animate a McCain presidency. The ability to dress a shot moose is not sufficient qualification to occupy the most powerful seat in the world. By putting Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency of a septuagenarian, John McCain was simply not being serious enough about the responsibilities of leadership. The result is that it is the veteran senator from Arizona who looks like the riskier choice than the freshman senator from Illinois. It is undeniable that Barack Obama's promises are much bigger than his experience. One thing that particularly impresses me is that he knows what he doesn't know. He has the confidence to acknowledge his deficits in experience and expertise by gathering around him a pretty stellar cast of advisers on both foreign and domestic policy. Of course, that does not in itself guarantee a successful time in the White House. A President also needs the capacity to understand the advice he is given and to choose between competing counsels. From what we have seen of Obama, he has that capacity. He is analytical, pragmatic, open-minded, considered and subtle - qualities all notable by their absence from the White House during the last eight years. Joe Klein puts it very well: 'He seems a grown-up, in a nation that badly needs some adult supervision.' Last, but far from least, Barack Obama has been true to himself. During 21 months of epic drama on this long road, he has never deviated from his essential vision and his core strategy. He ends the race as he began it, offering a positive prospectus of reconciliation, moderation and change. Politicians in Britain and the world over will try to emulate him by borrowing his slogans, plagiarising his rhetoric, copying his fund-raising techniques and all the rest of it. Those are the small lessons of his success. The big lesson is that the politics of unity and hope can still beat those of division and fear. At least, the world is united in hoping so. 民意调查并不可靠。对投票意向的预测,民调专家们都可能会搞错。面对大选近在咫尺的狂 热,人们随时会改变投票意向。虽然在最后几次集会上,他本人不断地告诫大家不要掉以轻 心,但是现在,全世界都认为,众望所归的那个人是:总统巴拉克.奥巴马。

正因为被寄予了太多地期望, 我们毫不怀疑即将揭晓的结果会多么激动人心。 对这位资历很 浅的参议员来说,这将是一个非凡的胜利。他没有出生在美国本土,他在单亲家庭中长大, 没有父亲在身边,陪伴他的母亲总是到处兼职教课。此外,还让人吃惊的是,他也是一个自 由主义者, 一个北方人和一位大学教授。 要知道, 这三类人长期以来都不被当作是统帅之材。 呃,对了,我有没有提到他的肤色和乔治.华盛顿以及以往每一位总统都完全不一样? 话说回来, 要是全世界都以为奥巴马将成为总统, 而星期三一觉醒来却发现总统是麦凯恩的 话,那又会怎样?恐怕很快地,连空气中都会充斥着那种论调:要是你以为白宫之门会为一 个不知从哪里冒出来的嫩小子打开的话, 那可真是天方夜谭了。 尤其是这小子的名字中间还 有“侯赛因”三个字。 本着死拼到底的精神, 参议员麦凯恩想要证明他的对手根本没有资格坐在白宫椭圆形的办公 室里。然而,紧张激烈的美国总统选举本身就是一个资格认证的过程。从爱荷华州的首次胜 利以来,奥巴马这几个月就像作了许多次云霄飞车:他开始过五关斩六将,打败了更富有经 验的对手脱颖而出,他的热情让众多的人受到了鼓舞,他的魅力使整个世界为之倾倒。尽管 你不喜欢谈论总统竞选的过程和耗费, 但它的巨大价值在于展现了一场最紧张激烈的求职面 试。 你不可能通过一个人竞选过程中的表现来判断他是否能作总统,但这确实提供了有益的线 索。这是一个对候选人性格、思想、判断力、决策能力、组织能力和顺应能力的巨大压力测 试。笑到最后的才是胜者。从最初到后来再三被当作一个流行时尚和名人甜点,奥巴马已经 证明他是有持久力的。 到了此刻, 这位初出茅庐的参议员已经把共和党人和克林顿都打出局 了。通过白手起家,奥巴马建立起属于他自己的更完善的竞选团体,从而击败了美国两个最 难对付的政治机器。 在高潮时期, 奥巴马竞选阵营的捐款是如此充裕以至于他能买得起整个 电视网络黄金时段的 30 分钟广告,而此时他的对手则是马不停蹄,手中空空,自称是有绝 处逢生反败为胜本领的“超能狗”。(迪斯尼的动画片《超级特工狗》,处于险境反败为胜) 奥巴马的那些“粉丝”中有其他一些政界人士, 特别是在大西洋彼岸带着某些崇敬的表情看着 这一切的政客。在美国总统竞选期间,英国领导人是不公开表示支持任何一方的,这是一个 传统。主要是担心他们会押错了宝,那就麻烦了。但这并不能掩盖英国工党预感到奥巴马将 成为总统时的兴奋之情。哦,我们可以想象。工党和民主党是姐妹党。而更不同寻常的是许 多英国保守党党员都支持奥巴马。 在英国保守党中, 有许多是麦凯恩的崇拜者。 就在不久前, 他还以国际嘉宾身份出席保守党的会议。不过要是让戴维.卡梅伦(现任保守党领袖)投票 的话,这一票可不会给美国共和党。 虽然保守党领袖不会公开说这些,但他私下对同僚透露,他希望民主党获胜。这里面很明显 的有相当圆滑的原因:奥巴马的胜利将带来“改变”,这对卡梅伦来说正中下怀。还有不为人 知的原因是,几个星期前,和他们的盟友在伦敦会晤时,保守党领导人对奥巴马的智慧和判 断力留下了深刻的印象。卡梅伦向盟友们表示,尤其让他难以忘怀的是,当民调和整个氛围 对奥巴马不利时,他那种镇定自若处事不惊的表情。这位保守党领导人对一位朋友说:“他 是如此难以置信的冷静。” 他们认为对奥巴马而言没有什么悬念了。两年来,面对全世界所有媒体灼热的聚光灯,他从 未在任何公开场合下失去自我控制,他的团队也非常自律。相对于他的竞争对手而言,这有 力的证明了他有能力挑选和领导一个团队, 这使他的竞选活动进行得如此顺利。 那些上演在 克林顿阵营和眼下爆发在麦凯恩阵营内部的窝里斗 (甚至在他们确信自己大势已去之前就发 生了),都从未在奥巴马的团队中出现过。

但这并不意味着奥巴马通往白宫的道路没有陷进、 爆炸和偶发事件, 有些人感觉他会最终阴 沟里翻船。在一次本不打算公开的集会上,他对那些“认为抱住上帝和他们的枪就能远离苦 难的选民”作了评论,有人借题发挥,制造了轩然大波。这事让他也接受了教训:没有金刚 钻,就甭揽那瓷器活。 随后,牧师耶利米.赖特和他“上帝谴责美国”的煽动性布道又激起了狂怒。 1 这时愤怒之火 熊熊然烧,要是较弱的候选人早就被烤着了。而这时奥巴马却表现出了非凡的才能,把危机 变成了机会。他对种族问题作出了精彩的回答:言谈中论点鲜明,个人魅力让人折服,措辞 无懈可击。
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在压力下, 竞选中的奥巴马温文尔雅的形象始终如一。 这和他的竞争对手形成了一个鲜明对 照。经过小布什八年的折腾,麦凯恩已经背上了一个巨大的负担,这位共和党的总统候选人 怎能轻松自如。 这个大包袱就是: 不管麦凯恩将自己和那个非常不受欢迎的现任者拉开多远 的距离,都无法彻底消除小布什的阴影。(跳到黄河也洗不清) 然而, 我们不应该忘记, 参议员麦凯恩同样比他的对手更有优势参加竞选。 著名的战争英雄, 斑白头发、勇敢无畏的资深参议员,一名长期受到党内外人士尊重的男子。从表面上看,参 加竞选的麦凯恩是大家所熟悉的。此刻对美国人而言,外面正在打两场仗,家中又发生经济 危机,这时麦凯恩应该是他们安全无误的选择。 在麦凯恩具有攻击性的广告中曾问道: “你真的了解奥巴马?”但现在, 对这位共和党人而言, 他身上贴了更大的问号。自从他们之间展开辩论和数次交锋以来,奥巴马逐渐变得沉着、冷 静、可靠、成熟和有威信,总统就是这样的。而麦凯恩为了在竞选中拉到人气,疯狂地转换 战术并且抢占头条新闻。他逐渐变得浮躁,愤怒,冲动,变化不定,实在不像总统的样子。 仅仅见过莎拉.佩林两次,就轻率地选择这位阿拉斯加州长作竞选伙伴,这便是麦凯恩最好 的写照。 佩林在一些访谈中的糟糕表现令人难以忍受和震惊万分。 她的首次公开亮相没有威 力四射,就像恒星转为新星一样,她只炫目了一瞬间,却砸出一个大家嘲弄的黑洞。 正是这一点,让许多英国保守党对这位美国人失去了信心。对于他们来说,和许多其他人一 样,大家的疑惑是,什么样的计划才能把麦凯恩送上总统宝座。佩林即使有一枪打死驼鹿的 本事也还不够资格坐这世上最强大的交椅。一个七十多岁的老者任职总统,而让莎拉.佩林 作为意外情况下的法定继承者,看来麦凯恩没有充分认真地考虑领导的责任。 结果就是, 这位亚利桑那富有经验的参议员的选择看起来比伊利诺伊州的年轻参议员更加冒 险。 不可否认的是,奥巴马的承诺远远大于他的经验。让我特别印象深刻的一件事情是,他知道 什么是他不知道的。 他很有信心地承认他经验和专业知识方面的不足, 而他身边有一个相当 出色的对国外和国内政策的顾问团。当然,这本身并不能保证他入住白宫期间能成功执政。 对获得的诸多建议,一个总统也必需要有理解力和筛选能力。而我们所看到的奥巴马,他有 这样的能力。他注重分析,实事求是,思想开明,深思熟虑和细致敏锐——这所有重要的品 质都是过去 8 年来白宫所缺乏的。乔克莱因说得非常好: “看起来,他是一个成熟的人,这 个国家迫切需要一些成年人的监督。” 最后,但还远不止这些,奥巴马一直忠实于自己。在这 21 个月的史诗剧般漫长的道路上, 他从来没有背离他的基本观念和他的核心战略。 从开始到结束, 他给出了积极的前景, 和谐、 温和却富有变革。

英国和其他国家的政客们实在太想赶上他,他们借他的口号,抄袭他的言论,复制他的筹款 技术和所有其他的等等等等。这些都是他成功的小经验,最重要的经验是,政治团结和充满 信心仍然可以战胜那些政治分裂和畏惧。至少,大家应该齐心协力去实现愿望。