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Oliver Kamm: If I Could Vote, It’d Be For…

Jewcy recently asked a select group of foreign writers we admire to state which candidate they’d vote for if they could, and why. Oliver Kamm’s response is excerpted from his longer post at the Times Online. I admire McCain, and … Read More

By / October 29, 2008

Jewcy recently asked a select group of foreign writers we admire to state which candidate they’d vote for if they could, and why. Oliver Kamm’s response is excerpted from his longer post at the Times Online.

I admire McCain, and his instincts on foreign policy – including the Iraq War – seem to me sound. Had there been a McCain-Lieberman ticket, it would have been neither conservative nor even Republican, and I would have supported it. Like Christopher, I am no admirer of Barack Obama, whose grasp of foreign policy is worryingly confused (in particular, his willingness to meet leaders of rogue states without preconditions shows a man unversed in the exercise of diplomatic leverage).

Possibly I’m exercising wishful thinking here, but both parts of the judgement are founded on advice from sources I trust: I take literally Obama’s stated willingness to pursue al-Qaeda into Pakistan and to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while not believing his stated plans for premature redeployment of troops from Iraq. And, like almost all of my readers (you are always the wild card when I make generalisations like that, Mr Irving), I am impressed and moved at the prospect that the world’s leading democracy might be led by a black man, when the stain of segregation was erased less than half a century ago.

But what really threw me in this election was the choice for vice-presidential nominee. Obama’s choice is unexcitingly prudent. McCain’s is a bloody disgrace. Martin refers in his email to Melanie Phillips, whom I’m glad to count a friend. Melanie wrote in the Daily Mail this week that a victory for Obama would be:

"… a crowning triumph for the anti-Western ideology which has wrought such havoc on both sides of the Atlantic. The reason Sarah Palin has struck such a chord is that Middle America sees her as the first candidate in its lifetime who stands against that destructive nihilism. That’s why she is the key target for Western radicals who are now poised to gain the biggest prize of all."

I do not agree with the first part of that judgement, but I have some sympathy with the second. Sarah Palin’s candidature is a statement in the culture wars. The Republican Party cannot do more than affect the tone of that social conflict: there will be no rolling back of permissive abortion legislation, gay rights and sexual equality (though local politicians do have the capacity to inflict harm on science education through their indulgence of religious obscurantism). But influencing the tone, by promoting an anti-intellectualism, insularity, social intolerance and anti-rationalism that are ever with us, is damage enough to the quality of public life. Melanie is concerned with "Western radicals", but Western liberals, secularists and Atlanticists have an interest in minimising the possibility that there will ever be a Presidency of the ignorant and insular Sarah Palin.

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