Three major US newspapers endorse Obama

It’s an interesting feature in US politics. As polling day approaches, newspapers will publish an editorial endorsing one of the candidates.

CNN reported that the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune have endorsed Barack Obama as their choice for President of the United States.

Here are snippets of what they had to say about the rationale behind their choice.

Washington Post:

…it is without ambivalence that we endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president.

The choice is made easy in part by Mr. McCain’s disappointing campaign, above all his irresponsible selection of a running mate who is not ready to be president.

Mr. Obama’s temperament is unlike anything we’ve seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment.

Los Angeles Times:

We need a leader who demonstrates thoughtful calm and grace under pressure, one not prone to volatile gesture or capricious pronouncement. We need a leader well-grounded in the intellectual and legal foundations of American freedom. Yet we ask that the same person also possess the spark and passion to inspire the best within us: creativity, generosity and a fierce defense of justice and liberty.

Indeed, the presidential campaign has rendered McCain nearly unrecognizable. His selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate was, as a short-term political tactic, brilliant. It was also irresponsible, as Palin is the most unqualified vice presidential nominee of a major party in living memory. The decision calls into question just what kind of thinking — if that’s the appropriate word — would drive the White House in a McCain presidency. Fortunately, the public has shown more discernment, and the early enthusiasm for Palin has given way to national ridicule of her candidacy and McCain’s judgment.

Obama’s selection also was telling. He might have scored a steeper bump in the polls by making a more dramatic choice than the capable and experienced Joe Biden. But for all the excitement of his own candidacy, Obama has offered more competence than drama.

We may marvel that Obama’s critics called him an elitist, as if an Ivy League education were a source of embarrassment, and belittled his eloquence, as if a gift with words were suddenly a defect. In fact, Obama is educated and eloquent, sober and exciting, steady and mature. He represents the nation as it is, and as it aspires to be.

Chicago Tribune:

On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate–but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin’s exposure to the public. But it’s clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment’s notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.

Obama chose a more experienced and more thoughtful running mate–he put governing before politicking. Sen. Joe Biden doesn’t bring many votes to Obama, but he would help him from day one to lead the country.

We do, though, think Obama would govern as much more of a pragmatic centrist than many people expect.

He has the intelligence to understand the grave economic and national security risks that face us, to listen to good advice and make careful decisions.

It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation’s most powerful office, he will prove it wasn’t so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama’s name to Lincoln’s in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States.

Obama talks frankly about race and politics

This is probably the most inspiring speech from Barack Obama I’ve watch yet. He was brutally frank about the most delicate issue of race and politics. While condemning the incendiary remarks his pastor made against white America, he honoured him as a man who has done much for the community and led him to his Christian faith.

This is a must-see for not just Americans, but all those who live in multi-racial countries, including Singapore and Malaysia.

I am now even more convinced that Obama is the best man to lead the US, not just because he could be unifying factor in America, but in the world as well.

Obama praises Singapore’s education system

Senator Barack Obama mentioned Singapore at a Democratic party rally in Maryland sometime back. Thanks to reader “an old friend” who pointed this out to me.

Obama said, “How can it be that we haven’t made preparations to make sure we’re providing math instruction and science instruction for our children that matches countries like Taiwan and Singapore.”

Oops…he called Taiwan a country. Good for him! For one thing it shows that he is at least aware of Asia, a region that the Bush administration has largely ignored (except for North Korea).

Unfortunately some of our leaders do not think as highly of him as he does of us. Speaking at a recent IPS Forum, MM Lee Kuan Yew questioned the wisdom of supporting leaders like Barack Obama. He described Obama as a one-term senator with manifest intelligence and a gift for getting the right pitch.

“But you ask yourself: Is it going to be a safer world with McCain or with Obama?” he wondered aloud.

Maybe MM Lee forgot that he himself had only been MP for four years, and was only 35 years old when he became PM of Singapore.

I respect McCain and would support him if Obama wasn’t in the picture, but experience isn’t everything. In fact, sometimes the wrong experience can be worse than no experience. MM might have to eat his words if Obama really wins in November.

Countdown to America’s Super Tuesday

The US elections have on occasion been called the most undemocratic in the world. Less than 130 million Americans choose a leader whose decisions will impact 6.5 billion people around the world for four to 8 years. (In the 2004 elections, only 122 million Americans, or 57 per cent of eligible voters, bothered to cast their vote.)

On Tuesday 5 February, Americans in over 20 US states will go to the polls to nominate their party’s candidate for the Presidential election this November. The result of “Super Tuesday” is likely to reveal who the eventual President will be. With support for the Republicans at a low, it is the Democratic Party candidate who stands the best shot at the White House come November.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running neck to neck in the race, with Obama currently trailing just a few percentage points behind the former First Lady, but fast catching up.

As a Singaporean who spent his college years in the US (in Los Angeles) while the Clintons occupied the White House, I am convinced that Obama is the better choice not just for America, but also the world. I see Obama as an inspirational leader who can unite not just America, but also go a long way to bring the world together.

What the world badly needs right now is a United States that can provide not just military leadership, but also moral leadership based on the strength of its ideals of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. These ideals have been badly battered in the last eight years, especially after 9/11, but the world would be worse off without an America that can champion these ideals both in word and deed.

I hope my American friends and readers will begin to fathom the weight of responsibility that rests on your shoulders, and vote on Tuesday for a man who can not only lead America into the future, but also deal with the rest of the world with newfound understanding and respect.

Here’s an editorial from The Los Angeles Times, a major daily in the US, endorsing Barack Obama’s bid for the presidency:

The Los Angeles Times


Barack Obama for Democratic nominee

Endorsements for president 2008
February 3, 2008

Democrats preparing to vote in Tuesday’s California primary can mark their ballots with confidence, knowing that either candidate would make a strong nominee and, if elected, a groundbreaking leader and capable president. But just because the ballot features two strong candidates does not mean that it is difficult to choose between them. We urge voters to make the most of this historic moment by choosing the Democrat most focused on steering the nation toward constructive change: We strongly endorse Barack Obama.

The U.S. senator from Illinois distinguishes himself as an inspiring leader who cuts through typical internecine campaign bickering and appeals to Americans long weary of divisive and destructive politics. He electrifies young voters, not because he is young but because he embodies the desire to move to the next chapter of the American story. He brings with him deep knowledge of foreign relations and of this nation’s particular struggles with identity and opportunity. His flair for expression, both in print and on the stump, too easily leads observers to forget that Obama is a man not just of style but of substance. He’s a thoughtful student of the Constitution and an experienced lawmaker in his home state and, for the last three years, in the Senate.

On policy, Obama and his rival Democratic candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, are a hairsbreadth apart. Both vow to pull troops from Iraq. Both are committed to healthcare reform. Both offer candid critiques of the failed George W. Bush presidency, its blustering adventurism, its alienating stance toward other countries and its cavalier disregard for sacred American values such as individual liberty and due process of law.

With two candidates so closely aligned on the issues, we look to their abilities and potential as leaders, and their record of action in service of their stated ideals. Clinton is an accomplished public servant whose election would provide familiarity and, most important, competence in the White House, when for seven years it has been lacking. But experience has value only if it is accompanied by courage and leads to judgment.

Nowhere was that judgment more needed than in 2003, when Congress was called upon to accept or reject the disastrous Iraq invasion. Clinton faced a test and failed, joining the stampede as Congress voted to authorize war. At last week’s debate and in previous such sessions, Clinton blamed Bush for abusing the authority she helped to give him, and she has made much of the fact that Obama was not yet in the Senate and didn’t face the same test. But Obama was in public life, saw the danger of the invasion and the consequences of occupation, and he said so. He was right.

Obama demonstrates as well that he is open-eyed about the terrorist threat posed to the nation, and would not shrink from military action where it is warranted. He does not oppose all wars, he has famously stated, but rather “dumb wars.” He also has the edge in economic policy, less because of particular planks in his platform than because of his understanding that some liberal orthodoxies developed during the last 40 years have been overtaken by history. He offers leadership on education, technology policy and environmental protection unfettered by the positions of previous administrations.

By contrast, Clinton’s return to the White House that she occupied for eight years as first lady would resurrect some of the triumph and argument of that era. Yes, Bill Clinton’s presidency was a period of growth and opportunity, and Democrats are justly nostalgic for it. But it also was a time of withering political fire, as the former president’s recent comments on the campaign trail reminded the nation. Hillary Clinton’s election also would drag into a third decade the post-Reagan political duel between two families, the Bushes and the Clintons. Obama is correct: It is time to turn the page.

An Obama presidency would present, as a distinctly American face, a man of African descent, born in the nation’s youngest state, with a childhood spent partly in Asia, among Muslims. No public relations campaign could do more than Obama’s mere presence in the White House to defuse anti-American passion around the world, nor could any political experience surpass Obama’s life story in preparing a president to understand the American character. His candidacy offers Democrats the best hope of leading America into the future, and gives Californians the opportunity to cast their most exciting and consequential ballot in a generation.

In the language of metaphor, Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility. Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long — a sense of aspiration.

That tearful answer that won Hillary New Hampshire

I don’t think I was the only one who was a little surprised and disappointed to learn that Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, edging out the pre-poll favourite Barack Obama. Many have attributed her win to an answer she gave to an independent voter who asked her how she managed to carry on doing what she did. Here it is:

The results speak for themselves. Women in NH chose her over Obama by almost a 10 percentage point difference. I must say that watching this video leaves me little doubt that Hillary really does love her country and want to lead it forward. But I believe so do the other leading candidates.

Nevertheless this is an important lesson for politicians not to hold back showing their soft side. After all, people vote for a human being, not a policy wonk.

Obama for President?

So it’s official that Barack Obama has got the Democratic Party caucus vote from the state of Iowa, beating rivals John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. On the Republican front, Mike Huckabee has come out tops in Iowa.

Of course, this is just the first of many caucuses and primaries leading to the party nominations. But I like the results I see so far from both camps. Whatever it is, please let’s not have Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani ending up in the White House.

I’ve been following Obama’s campaign on the Internet for several months now, and I must say I’m rather impressed with the man. There is something different about him. Inspirational leadership is what comes to my mind.

I remember watching a video of a speech he made in a predominantly black church in South Carolina (or some other southern state). Instead of playing to the crowd and lamenting about how black people are suffering from discrimination in America, he preached self-improvement and self-reliance. Obama is a second generation American, whose father is Kenyan.

Of course as a non-American, my primary concern for the President of the United States is what his or her foreign policy will be. On this front, I’m hopeful that Obama’s proposed approach of using soft power to advance America’s interests will be more effective than simply brandishing their military might at every turn. He has even proposed engaging traditional enemies like Syria in dialogue, something the Bush administration has steadfastly refused to do.

The US President has such a big impact on so many countries beyond just America. I hope more Americans realise the weight of responsibility that rests on their shoulders as they choose their next leader.


Colin Powell’s interview on NBC’s Meet the Press

NBC’s Tim Russert interviewed former US Secretary of State Colin Powell on NBC’s Meet the Press on 10 June 2007. The full transcript is available here. Powell — whom I have huge respect for and have seen in person when he spoke at my uni — covered a wide range of issues, including the Iraq war, Iran, Gitmo and the next US presidential elections. Many thanks to pseudonymity for highlighting this interview in his blog. The following are some extracts which I found quite eye-opening.

On the Iraq War

Powell: I didn’t think the war was a mistake at the time we entered into it. It was a war that I would have preferred to avoid, and I said to the president in August of 2002, “Let’s take this to the UN and try to solve it, because there are consequences, both unintended and intended, associated with entering into a conflict with Iraq that are going to be difficult. We break it, we’re going to own it. We’re going to be liberators, we’re also going to be occupiers.” And the president did that, he took it to the UN. But he did not get a satisfactory solution from the UN, and he made a decision to use military force, and I supported him in that. But I think we have handled the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad in, in a very ineffective way.

Russert: Knowing what you know today, would you do the same thing all over again?

Powell: If we knew today—or knew then what we know today, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, I would’ve had nothing to take to the United Nations…. I think it is doubtful that without the weapons of mass destruction case, the president and Congress and the United Nations and those who joined us in the conflict—the British, the Italians, the Spanish, the Australians—would’ve found a persuasive enough case to support a decision to go to war.

But let’s go back to around 10 April of 2003. Saddam Hussein’s statue fell on the 9th, and from the 10th of April, for a month or two, everybody in the United States thought this was a terrific outcome. And it looked like it was going to work, just as the administration has said it was going to work. We were liberators for a moment, and then we simply did not handle the aftermath. We didn’t realize we were in an insurgency when we were in an insurgency, and we watched as the ministries that we were counting on, the government ministries we were counting on to help us take over, were being burned and looted. And we didn’t respond. And we didn’t have enough troops in the ground.

Because once the government fell, the whole structure of government collapsed. Once the government in Baghdad came down, everything came down. And it was our responsibility then, under international law as the occupying authority as well as the liberators, to be responsible for restoring order, and we didn’t have enough troops there to restore that order nor did we have the political understanding of our obligation to restore that order.

I spent five days out at the CIA going over every single piece of information that was going to be in my presentation (to the UNSC on 5 February 2003). There were a lot of other pieces of information that different people would have wanted me to use and it was all rejected. Everything in that statement was blessed by the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet; his deputy, John McLaughlin; and all of their senior officials. They believed it, too. George has said he believed it. And so I went to the UN having dumped a lot of stuff on the side of the road because it wasn’t multiple source. It might have been right, but it wasn’t multiple source and I wouldn’t use it. And the reason you see Director Tenet sitting behind me is because I wanted to make sure and he wanted to make sure that people understood I was not making a political statement. I was making a statement of the facts as we knew them.

And we all believed it. Our military believed it going into battle. Other governments believed it. The reality is they did not have those stockpiles. We were wrong.

Fourth point I’d like to make. Suppose that the UN sanctions had subsequently broken down. We didn’t go into a war with Iraq and Saddam Hussein was free of all UN constraints because of the collapse of the Oil for Food program. Would you believe, would anybody believe, that with the capability and with the intent he would not then go back to trying to build up those stockpiles? That’s the chance the president did not want to take, that’s the risk he did not want to take.

We went to war on the basis that we have a terrible regime and what makes—it’s been terrible forever. What makes it so terrible now, in the aftermath of 9/11, is that they had demonstrated that they will use these weapons.

I’m glad the regime is gone. I’m glad Saddam Hussein is gone. But the case that we took to the world and the case that we took to the American people rested not just in his human rights abuses or his cheating on the Oil for Food program, it rested on the real and present danger of weapons of mass destruction that he could use against his neighbors, or terrorists could use against us. That was the precipitating issue in my judgment, and it turned out those weapons were not there.

…when we decided to take it to the UN, I worked for seven weeks to get a UN resolution, a unanimous resolution. as it turned out, 1441, and that resolution had a get out of jail card for Saddam Hussein. It gave him, I think it was 30 or 60 days, to come forward and answer all the questions that are outstanding about your capability and your stockpiles and what you’ve done with it. And, instead of seriously trying to answer that question, he just dumped a whole bunch of stuff on us that really wasn’t credible or believable. And it was at that point that he set us on the road to war. He had a chance to stop this. And when I briefed the president in August of 2002 about the potential consequences of the war, and he said, “What do we do?” I said, “I recommend we go to the UN.” He accepted that recommendation, we went to the UN. But I said to the president at that time, you know, “He could satisfy us, and if he satisfies us, if he makes it clear that here is it—here it all is, then you have to be prepared to accept that, and there may not be a war, and we may have a changed regime but not a regime change.”

Russert: What did the president say?

Powell: He said yes, he understood that.

I would’ve preferred no war because I couldn’t see clearly the unintended consequences. But we tried to avoid that war with the UN sanctions and putting increasing diplomatic and international pressure on Saddam Hussein. But when I took it to the president and said, “This is a war we ought to see if we can avoid,” I also said and made it clear to him, “If, at the end of the day, it is a war that we cannot avoid, I’ll be with you all the way.” That’s, that’s part of being part of a team. And therefore I couldn’t have any other outcome, and I had no reservations about supporting the president in war. And I think things could’ve turned out differently after the middle of April if we had responded in a different way.

On Iran and Syria

I believe we should be talking to all of Iraq’s neighbors. I think we should be talking to Iran, we should be talking to Syria. Not to solve a particular problem or crisis of the moment or the day, but just to have dialogue with people who are involved in this region in so many ways. And so I think it is shortsighted not to talk to Syria and Iran and everybody else in the region, and not just for the purpose of making a demand on them “and I’ll only talk to you if you meet the demand that I want to talk to you about.” That’s not the way to have a dialogue in my judgement.

On Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo has become a major, major problem for America’s perception as it’s seen, the way the world perceives America. And if it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I’d close it. And I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system.

America, unfortunately, has two million people in jail all of whom had lawyers and access to writs of habeas corpus. And so we can handle bad people in our system. And so I would get rid of Guantanamo and I’d get rid of the military commission system and use established procedures in federal law or in the manual for courts-martial. I would do that because I think it’s a more equitable way to do it and it’s more understandable in constitutional terms. I would always—I would also do it because every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so, essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. We don’t need it, and it’s causing us far damage than any good we get for it. But, remember what I started in this discussion saying, “Don’t let any of them go.” Put them into a different system, a system that is experienced, that knows how to handle people like this.

On the next Presidential elections

I’ve met with Senator (Barack) Obama twice. I’ve been around this town a long time, and I know everybody who is running for office, and I make myself available to talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever wishes to chat with me.

Russert: Would you ever come back in the government?

Powell: I would not rule it out. I’m not at all interested in political life, if you mean elected political life. That is unchanged. But I always keep my, my eyes open and my ears open to requests for service.

Russert: Any endorsements?

Powell: Oh, not yet. It’s too early.

Russert: But you’ll support the Republican?

Powell: It’s too early.

Russert: Would you support an independent?

Powell: I’m going to support, I’m going to support the best person that I can find who will lead this country for the eight years beginning in January 2009.

Russert: Of any party?

Powell: The best person I can find.