2008: What A Year!

How else can you describe it? Thanks to Maclean’s for giving me the opportunity to share with readers in the blogosphere my impressions about the US presidential race from the perspective of a challenger who was 22 percent behind in the national polls at this stage last year. Thanks, too, to the readers and responders along the way. Many disagreed with me but were not disagreeable. While it may not always show, the more conservative, pro-Republican responders made me think and I am grateful. I still believe conservatism is a vital and essential part of American political thought. Just like liberalism needed to rethink its basic tenets from the 70’s on, I believe 2008 is the beginning of the next conservative revolution. This is just the way America works—checks and balances on its institutions and, more importantly, on its political thinking.

The election of Obama will bring about some basic changes to how America sees itself and how others see it. While not all was bad, the Bush years have changed the perception of American ideals around the world. Unfortunately, it has not been for the better. That only 25 per cent will miss him speaks volumes.

Without Bush, there would have been no Obama. Of course, there are no guarantees Obama will succeed. But there is a generational change emerging and America has shown the world it can choose its leader on the basis of character and promise rather than the colour of one’s skin. Like him or not, whether you are conservative, Republican, liberal or Democrat, America showed the world that its ideals come from the ballot and not the bullet. Thanks to America for giving us a view of democracy at work—with its all imperfections but its majesty as well.

To end 2008, let me share with readers some highs and lows along the way. I never hid my preference for transformational change, the power of words and the promise of the senator from Illinois. I tried in the process to be respectful of his Democratic opponents and his eventual Republican opponent. Clinton and McCain were honourable and worthy opponents. And while I was less than objective on many occasions, I am happy to say that Obama conducted himself in a most honourable manner. American democracy was enhanced in the process.


1. Obama’s campaign: Always above board, highly innovative, very inclusive, and the most efficient I have seen.

2. The power of words: Not since 1968 has the use of words played such a part in the political process. Obama inspired and defined “change” through his rhetoric and oratory skills. Hillary once said they were just words and McCain said they were platitudes. They weren’t to 52 per cent of the voting public!

3. Hillary ‘s close call: She said there were 18 million cracks in the ceiling—and she was right. Just for that, it was worthwhile. Good choice for secretary of state.

4. The speeches by McCain and Obama on election night: They could not have been better!

5. The transition: As a student of US politics for over 40 years, this was the best-managed transition I can recall. A team of rivals coupled with the “best and the brightest” makes it hard to beat in the future.

6. Joe Biden as vice president: Clearly showed that Obama had sound judgement. He did not represent much electoral advantage. He was just a solid choice that looked even better because of McCain’s choice of Palin. He brought gravitas to the ticket at a time when it needed it.


1. John Edwards: So sad and so tragic. God bless that family.

2. The Republican race: A poor crop of candidates. McCain was by far the best, but his party did not like him. Guiliani and Thompson were poster boys for weak candidacies.

3. Reverend Wright: A reminder of how vanity and resentment can make a potent, even lethal, cocktail.

4. The Palin choice: Bad judgement on McCain’s part, poor performance on her part, and a decisive factor in the outcome.

5.The economy: It tanked like we had not seen since 1929. It showed the greed of some and the failure of policy makers. We can blame conservatives, market forces and deregulation, but that would be too easy. Everyone must share the responsibilty equally.

6. McCain’s campaign: This was not the campaign John McCain should have run. He was cantankerous and, at times, mean-spirited. The good image he had cultivated over the years was somehow lost in the midst of Karl Rove-type politics. He redeemed himself in part on election night, but it left a bad taste and showed he really wasn’t presidential enough.

Talk to you next year. On to the Inauguration.

Happy new year.

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