Rupert Cornwell, the distinguished and experienced US correspondent of London’s Independent newspaper wrote, more in sorrow than in anger that:

“Yesterday was not only a black Monday for markets. It was the blackest of Mondays too for the US political system, saddled with a discredited president who has completely lost control of his own party and a Congress that responds to a national emergency with little except snarling partisanship.”

After the grotesque horrors of Iraq, the military and political failures in Afghanistan and the incomprehensible bombast in the response to the threats of Iran you thought that it couldn’t get worse for America’s standing in the world. But no, the wholly avoidable disintegration of home loans companies and the subsequent credit crunch and collapse of famous investment banks shows that no aspect of George W Bush’s dire terms in the White House can be regarded with anything but contempt. That he was in the thrall of the neo-conservatives in his disproportionate and ill-directed response to 9/11 was scandalous. As Joe Klein so aptly said “Neoconservatism in foreign policy is best described as unilateral bellicosity cloaked in the utopian rhetoric of freedom and democracy.”  But that Bush also presided over the world’s biggest economy with such a disregard for probity has brought the presidency to a barely credible new low.

There have been world leaders who got it right on the international stage but screwed up at home (e.g. Nixon and Churchill). There have been world leaders who ran things well on the home front but suffered internationally (e.g. Eisenhower or Blair). But never has there been a leader of a great country who has managed to bungle everything as much as Bush. Bush has had a sort of reverse Midas-touch – everything that he touches turns to dross, or worse. “Merde – ce prochain?”  as the French might say.

John McCain seeks to distance himself from Bush – and who can blame him. But what McCain cannot do is distance himself from the shallow and failed ideologies that dominated in the Bush years. Bush favoured deregulation – so does McCain. Bush wanted to leave it to the markets. So does McCain. Bush saw war as a solution not diplomacy. So does McCain. Bush had contempt for international institutions. So does McCain. Indeed McCain’s asinine and arrogant proposal for a so-called “league of democracies” to supplant the United Nations just shows that he may be even more of a xenophobic nationalist that the present President.

Barack Obama’s slogan that America needs Change You Can Believe In is only half of what is needed. Change, of course. Nobody could question that – and believable as well. Sure. But change that leads to respect has to be the primary goal of a President Obama. Respect because the next administration can only succeed if it is respected by the world at large – and above all by the American people. Contempt for politicians is dangerous and to be deplored. At least for Obama the only way will be up!

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