McCain vs. Obama, a Battle of Major Political Figures in the Presidential Election

The Republican primaries and caucuses have been decisive. Senator John McCain will be the Republican nominee in this Novembers Presidential election. The Democratic nomination is not yet certain, but there is a strong probability that Senator Barack Obama has the momentum and that Hillary Clinton will not be able to recover what had seemed a dominant position. This is a double change from the leadership positions of last year, when Hillary Clintons nomination seemed to be inevitable and Rudy Giuliani, the ex-Mayor of New York, was the front-runner in the Republican polls.

If the Presidential election is finally a contest between the two Senators, McCain and Obama, it will at least be a contest of major political figures. I would myself vote for Senator McCain, because he has the experience, and the proven character, to fill the role of Commander-in-Chief. Nevertheless, like most other observers, I have been struck by the inspirational appeal of Senator Obama. I have been following U.S. Presidential elections since 1952, and there have been very few in which both candidates have been of such high quality. In recent years one might have to go back to the Kennedy-Nixon election of 1960 to find a pair of equally gifted candidates, and Senator McCain is a man of far better character than Richard Nixon.

It is probably a good thing that none of the three surviving candidates is an economist, or is known to have any personal ideas of economics. It is not a Presidents job to take specialist decisions on major issues of policy. When presidents have imposed their own economic fads, such as Franklin Roosevelt and the price of gold, that has meant an overconfident amateur deciding issues of major international policy. Presidents are not employed to have technical opinions but to take decisions between the different opinions advanced by professionals. General experience and strength of character are the qualities a President needs.

Probably Hillary Clinton has the greatest experience of economic policy. The Clinton administration was relatively successful in optimising U.S. economic opportunities in its period of office from 1993 to 2000. One can imagine that the Presidential couple discussed Alan Greenspans latest mystic pronouncements over the grapefruit juice in the White House, if it was their custom to have breakfast together.

The other two candidates, who are more likely to be nominated, lack that experience. Nevertheless, they can do what Bill Clinton did, which is to employ the best available talent in the key positions. The best U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in the last twenty years was Bob Reuben, who is now overseeing the recovery of Citibank. Either Senator Obama who is a fellow Democrat or Senator McCain could either try to bring Reuben back, or could at least take his advice on the key appointments.

From what we know, Senator Obama is the more dangerous of the two candidates, in that he holds liberal views which have not been put to the test of experience. There is a rule of experience in the formation of economic policy. Liberal ideas are politically attractive, but have the disadvantage that they do not work. If social intervention by the state really did work, then everyone would operate in that way, because state socialism is always attractive to many voters.

The opposite error is nave supply side economics, and that does not work either, or, at least, not very well. Senator McCain is not an economic ideologist, as he says. He does not know much about economics. He was suspicious of President Bushs tax cuts. He is a conservative, but not a neo-Conservative. Given the right advice, there is a good chance he would take it.

William Rees-Mogg
For Markets and Money

William Rees-Mogg
Leading political editor William Rees-Mogg is former editor-in-chief for The Times and a member of the House of Lords. He has been credited with accurately forecasting glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall – as well as the 1987 crash. His political commentary appears in The Times every Monday. His financial insights can only be found in the Fleet Street Letter, the UK's longest-running investment newsletter.

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7 Comments on "McCain vs. Obama, a Battle of Major Political Figures in the Presidential Election"

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i’ll take OBAMA and SOCIAL INTERVENTION, over FED meddeling in the ‘so-called’ FREE MARKET.

give us OBAMA


I would go independent ,To me Mccain is as dumb as a rock and Obama has no record of experience.
I won’t vote for the lesser of the 2 I wouldn’t want it on my conscience that I voted for either of them.
Although Obama makes Mccain look as stupid as a door knob. So I don’t think it’s a race this year . The republicans are in trouble their candidate can not chance ,not even close.That they even think Mccain has a chance is a testament to their intelligence being minute at best.

James Bond

McCain, Hillary, Obama are all puppets. All of them will just keep up the status quo if elected. How on earth is anyone so stupid to not recognize this?

Herman Rockefeller

In Response to David

You don’t even have half the brain of John McCain. You don’t know his policies, and hell you’ve probably never even seen him in a debate. All Obama talks about is pathetic minority issues and making a big mistake by taking troops out of Iraq. McCain however talks sense about the economy, keeping troops in Iraq and helping relieve debt. While you are probably drinking beer with your friends he is fighting for America’s future.


“It is probably a good thing that none of the three surviving candidates is an economist, or is known to have any personal ideas of economics.”

So it’s better to have a bunch of Kaynsian advisors running our country than the elected official?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather elect a President that I can agree with on economic ideology (eg Ron Paul).


..hilary has experience because she was “there”…ireland africa etc…etc…so…so was her hairdresser…i guess he has experience too….

Shaye Jones
This is getting outrageous!!!!! The reason that McCain was not aware of the economy crisis on yesterday is because he did not get an e-mail…..Why? Because he doens’y know how to use the computer. In addition, he must acknowledge there is a crisis before he can attempt to fix it. He is in such denial…out of touch. How can a great number of women in America see themselves in Sarah Palen…I certainly don’t! I do not eat moose burgers, I don’t hire my unqualified classmates to work in high positions, I don’t shoot animals for sport (Michael Vick got sent… Read more »
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