Obama, free trade, race and vanity
Article added in Berlin on August 1, 2008
Here in Berlin in July, Obamamania swept
parts of the population. The presumptive - aka presumptuous - Democratic
presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke in front of a crowd of some
As a candidate, not even yet officially nominated by his party, to hold an
electoral rally on foreign soil is unique in American history. Germany is a
free country. Therefore, Barack Obama was free to speak in Berlin. However, it
represents a change I do not like.
Initially, he chose the
Brandenburg Gate where JFK and Reagan had given memorable speeches. One
could expect at least a memorable catch phrase by Barack Obama. At best,
something as powerful as the 2004 Convention speech that put him on the
is not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is the United
States of America...
” Unfortunately, in Berlin on July 24, 2008 Barack Obama had nothing
groundbreaking to say, not even a sound bite.
On July 18, 2008 the best and most damaging article
against Barack Obama was written by Charles Krauthammer:
“The Audacity of Vanity”. The Washington Post writer rightly pointed out
that this was as if a German politician demanded the Statue of Liberty as a
venue for a campaign speech.
Krauthammer highlighted the fact that, after three years in the senate,
Obama has not a single important legislative achievement to his name. His
most memorable work is his autobiography.
Krauthammer was also one of the rare commentators to point to Obama's hubris
in declaring his primary victory a great turning point in history: “...generations
from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was
the moment... the rise of the oceans began to slow”. Krauthammer then
referred to the other rare critical commentator on the subject, Irwin
Stelzer from the London Daily Telegraph, who wrote that “Moses
made the waters recede, but he had help.” Krauthammer concluded that “Obama
apparently works alone.”
Regarding the subject of race, I have great news for the world: we all can say - yes, we
can! - that since the cradle of humanity lies in Africa, we are all Africans.
Breaking down barriers of gender and race is not a
breakthrough of the 2008 presidential campaign. Bill Clinton appointed
Madeleine Albright as secretary of state. George Bush the Younger aka the Torturer, first appointed Colin Powell as secretary
of state. Powell himself could
have run for president with serious chances to be the Republican candidate
and equally good chances to be elected president. His successor as secretary
of state is Condoleezza Rice, who happens
to be - the jackpot - an unwed female of African American descent. Three
barriers broken down! But of
course, for Democrats and many African Americans, successful people such as
Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice do not count as African Americans. They
are just Republicans. So much for
“...there is the United States of America”.
Obama and free trade seem to be incompatible. Fighting for the Democratic
nomination, he pandered to the left wing of his party and to all other kind
of protectionists. He talked
about renegotiating the NAFTA free trade agreement, one of the few
international success stories of the Clinton administration. When he was
attacked by Hillary Clinton, he said on February 19, 2008:
“She says speeches don't put food on the table. You know what? NAFTA didn't put
food on the table, either”.
More recently, for once, Barack Obama
took part in a decision. It was not just another flowery speech. Unlike some
130 times in the past in the senate, he decided not to vote just present.
Instead, he supported Bush's
agricultural subsides. That is change we can believe in!
At the same time,
the one whom Barack Obama accuses of aspiring at a third
Bush term, John McCain, decided to vote no, risking to alienate farmers. Obama knows of course that farmers are voters, and he loves to pander
to them, even, if economically, it does not make sense, neither for the
United States nor for the world as a whole.
In short, we can say - yes, we can! - Barack Obama is the least
prepared Democratic candidate for president ever. So far, the master of
flowery rhetoric has mostly distinguished himself by grandstanding. Let's
hope, if ever elected president, he will realize his limits and convert to
free trade, for the better of America and the entire world.
Let me just suggest two books for Barack Obama to read: Razeen Sally's
Trade Policy, New Century. The WTO, FTAs and Asia Rising
(order it from
or read our
German review first). Sally explains why
free trade is the best solution for the world and why even unilateral trade
liberalizations are benefitting countries adopting them.
The second book is a great classic, Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom,
in which the economist explains why planning, be it called socialism or something else,
is economic suicide. Man does not know everything and, therefore, planning
or collectivism is the ultimate form of hubris (order the book from
Amazon.co.uk). Hayek was an intellectual leader. He wrote his
groundbreaking book in 1944, when in Western nations collective wartime
planning was at its height. Luckily, in dark times, some leaders
emerge. So far, Barack Obama, the master of vanity, seems to be none of them.