What direction will Obama take?

Ex-UK ambassador to US, economics professor and Republican on the new president.

us elections


An Obama administration has the chance to reconnect the United States with the world [EPA] 

A former British ambassador to the United States, an economics professor and a young Republican debated the presidential elections at the Oxford Union on the night of Barack Obama’s victory.

Here they tell Al Jazeera what they believe an Obama presidency will bring.

Peter Jay: Former British ambassador to the United States


“I always thought it was possible that we would see a black president in my lifetime, but we shouldn’t see the election mainly in those terms of race.

“This is an historic moment and a huge opportunity for America to reconnect with the world which I feel is looking for such leadership.

“I think Obama can make tremendous progress in terms of foreign policy.

“Everywhere except Palestine, which is a tragic problem and I believe virtually impossible to solve due to the structure of the US political system, I feel he can make major changes.

“This is also true in terms of many other areas, from culture to the environment. The fact is he connects with people, it’s about how you project your message and he is a great communicator.

“When I consider the Democratic administrations of Kennedy, Carter and Clinton they were constantly frustrated in their plans by the political process in the US and I hope, given his skills of communication, that Obama can break that chain.

“For those who say Obama lacks experience, this is not a job like a plumber, there’s no training programme to become the president. It’s about character.

“In any case, Obama has been a successful lawyer, a state senator and a senator. Look at FDR [Franklin D Roosevelt], his only experience in national government before he became president was assistant secretary of the navy.”

Avner Offer: Chichele professor in economic history at the University of Oxford


“I think that the markets will welcome the election of Obama. He is much more level-headed than McCain and his advisors are better regarded. But it’s wrong to think that Obama has the solution to the current economic crisis.

“It’s a big mistake to think that this financial crisis is just a repeat of the 1930s. What we have done over the last few years is just constantly feed this massive financial bubble and now it’s come to an end. 

“But overall, Obama is more qualified than McCain, less in denial and less a captive of ideology in terms of tackling the problem.

“Unfortunately, such is the size of this problem it is easily going to take all of his first term in office to engage with.

“I think the energy crisis is going to be another major issue for him to tackle. He has outlined a 10-year plan to drastically reduce the reliance of the US on oil.

“I think helping to solve the energy problem is the single-most positive thing he can do and he could make this a rallying point of his administration.

“Overall, speaking as a person from the left of politics, my expectations of Obama are quite muted. Don’t forget he is coming from the ‘Chicago School’ of neo-liberal economics when it comes to his background.

“I have more satisfaction that the present managers of the US are on their way out.”

Scott Erwin: Young Republican and Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford


“I have deep concerns over an Obama administration. He is talking about universal healthcare when I think we should be cutting spending.

“I have concerns about his inexperience and that he may prove ineffectual. He doesn’t have the experience of someone like McCain in terms of being our commander-in-chief.

“Having said that, I hope Obama will govern from the centre and I aim to support him as our president.

“I am more concerned about how the Republican party responds to this defeat.

“I think McCain was the best of the candidates for the Republican nomination. However, I feel that this was a year in which no Republican had a conceivable chance of winning following the Bush years and the crisis in the economy.

“I also feel Sarah Palin was politically the best choice, I saw in person the enthusiasm she generated at rallies and among the population.

“The media portrayed her unfairly and I think she will be on the political stage for years to come.

“In terms of new leaders, I think Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, is the type of person who has the social values expected of a Republican candidate.”

“We need to rebuild the Republican party. We need to attract Latinos and be open to all groups. Latinos are becoming an increasingly larger percentage of the US population as a whole.

“With their socially conservative views, rooted in Roman Catholicism, the Republican party should be their natural home.”

Source: Al Jazeera