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Sunday 9 November 2008

In search of a silver lining in cloud of McCain defeat 

Obamamaniacs will have to face the fact that they have elected a man, not a messiah, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

BEING a Pollyanna (what sociologists, God help us, describe as having a positivity bias), and a lover of the United States, I'm trying to look on the bright side of the defeat by a left-wing academic lawyer, community activist and knee-jerk party loyalist of that hero and independent spirit, John McCain.

Let's get the negativity out of the way first. Although I grant that he is brilliant, charismatic and disciplined, Barack Obama's inexperience, arrogance and naivete frighten me: Ahmadinejad and Putin are licking their chops.

His record vis-a-vis Ireland doesn't inspire: he gullibly backed the Sinn Fein wishlist by calling, for example, for a truth recovery process that will get the IRA off the hook, and foolishly posed for a fetching photo with Gerry Adams and IRA fugitive Rita O'Hare. That won't wipe the stardust from sentimental Irish eyes, but if he really means his anti-globalisation rhetoric about bringing jobs back to America, his ancestral Offaly village of Moneygall won't be able to afford even that pint they've promised him.

By grossly overselling himself and his hope, change and yes-we-can message, Obama has created expectations the Almighty would struggle to meet. And if he's genuinely a big-state, high-taxing protectionist, he will be disastrous for the American and world economy. If, on the other hand, he doesn't mean anything he said in those wonderful but vacuous speeches, and behaves in office like the ruthless pragmatist who navigated the fetid swamp of Chicago politics and associated with rogues and radical ideologues who hate the West, then the billions of Obamamaniacs across several continents will never trust a politician again.

There is certainly nothing idealistic about appointing as his chief-of-staff Chicago congressman 'Rahm-bo' Emanuel, a viciously effective Democratic fixer who sat on the board of Freddie Mac for two years as it gaily ruined millions by granting them mortgages they could not afford.

Now, for the optimism. As my heart soared in 1979 when -- although (to my subsequent shame) I had not voted for her -- I saw Margaret Thatcher on the steps of Downing Street, so it did when it became certain there was to be a mixed-race President of the United States.

I was sure racial politics would help, not hinder, Obama, and so it proved. Far too many blacks voted on racial grounds, which I regret but understand, but his colour won Obama more white votes than it lost him, for millions -- including life-long Republicans -- wanted to prove to the world the truth of the cherished American belief that the bastion of liberty, equality and opportunity allows anyone to become president.

In the warmth of their response to his election, both McCain and President Bush showed genuine joy in the symbolism of having a black family in the White House. They exhibited not just the generosity that marks the US, but the patriotism that urges graciousness and constructiveness in defeat.

"If he wins, Obama will be my president," said a right-wing friend in an email last Monday. "I would wish to separate myself from those who would rather tear down my country than see a president I opposed succeed. That does not mean I wouldn't begin on November 5 looking around for someone who might be a compelling opponent in 2012. It only means that there is a lot to be said for what the British call the 'loyal opposition' -- vigorously opposed on the issues, but stalwartly loyal when it comes to the prosperity and commonweal of this great country."

I rejoice at the blow struck by Obama's election against the intellectual elite who peddle virulent anti-Americanism. I am permanently angry at the ingratitude of Europe in particular. Americans could have stayed safe during both world wars, but they crossed the Atlantic to fight for freedom. Without the might of the US, the whole continent would have become the slaves of the Third Reich or the Soviet Union, and without its money we would have starved.

Where is the gratitude in Africa and Asia for the pots of gold American taxpayers have directed at trying to feed the hungry? Bob Geldof had the courage to appal the intelligentsia by pointing out that compared to the "pathetic" response of Europe to humanitarian crises in Africa, the Bush administration had provided major assistance.

In my time, I've found American materialism repellent, though I came to recognise that it was a reaction to the folk memory of pogroms and famines that made their ancestors flee their homes. Do those who rode the Celtic Tiger to its death have a good excuse? But I've always greatly valued the desire of US citizens to be a force for good in the world. They become involved in foreign wars for idealistic reasons: they often mess up because they think freedom matters to foreigners as much as it does to them.

Now that they have become fervent patriots, I hope that Barack and Michelle Obama will become warriors for the Judeo-Christian values of decency, toleration, the work ethic and respect for the rule of law that have made America a great, creative and can-do society. I hope too that they will help discredit those who have a vested interest in encouraging blacks and other minorities to act like victims.

The liberati at whose dinner tables America has been savaged as racist and uncouth have a period of intellectual confusion ahead of them. They are also going to have to face up to the reality that America has elected a man rather than a messiah. Like the US loyal opposition, I will be rooting for Obama against foreign tyrants and financial meltdown, but I will, though, be keeping an eye out for a worthy opponent for 2012.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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