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Obama would maintain US leadership abroad: Washington Post

By Arun Kumar,IANS,

Washington : The influential US daily, the Washington Post, has endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama saying he has the potential to become a great president, who “would seek to maintain US leadership and engagement” abroad.

Adding its national weight to 39 other regional newspapers that have backed Obama, the Post in an editorial Friday described him as “a man of supple intelligence, with a nuanced grasp of complex issues and evident skill at conciliation and consensus-building”.

The 39 newspapers that had endorsed Obama before Friday represented 3.5 million readers. His Republican rival John McCain, who is lagging in the polls behind Obama, has received endorsements from 15 newspapers with 1.5 million readership, according to the industry magazine Editor and Publisher.

The Post said it has “reservations and concerns, almost inevitably, given Obama’s relatively brief experience in national politics. But we also have enormous hopes”.

“At home, we believe,” the daily said, “he would respond to the economic crisis with a healthy respect for markets tempered by justified dismay over rising inequality and an understanding of the need for focused regulation.”

“Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain US leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of US values and interests,” it said.

“Obama has the potential to become a great president,” the Post said. “Given the enormous problems he would confront from his first day in office, and the damage wrought over the past eight years, we would settle for very good.”

Among the problems, the daily listed “two ongoing wars, both far from being won; an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan; a resurgent Russia menacing its neighbours; a terrorist-supporting Iran racing toward nuclear status; a roiling Middle East; a rising China seeking its place in the world.”

On the issues “having to do with keeping America safe in a dangerous world, it is a closer call. McCain has deep knowledge and a longstanding commitment to promoting US leadership and values,” the daily said. “But Obama, as anyone who reads his books can tell, also has a sophisticated understanding of the world and America’s place in it,” the Post said.

The daily also hoped “he would navigate between the amoral realism of some in his party and the counterproductive cocksureness of the current administration, especially in its first term.”

On most policies, such as the need to go after Al Qaeda, check Iran’s nuclear ambitions and fight HIV/AIDS abroad, he differs little from Bush or McCain, the Post said “but he promises defter diplomacy and greater commitment to allies”.

However, the Post said “Obama’s greatest deviation from current policy was its biggest worry: his insistence on withdrawing US combat troops from Iraq on a fixed timeline”.

“Thanks to the surge that Obama opposed, it may be feasible to withdraw many troops during his first two years in office,” the Post said.

“But if it isn’t – and US generals have warned that the hard-won gains of the past 18 months could be lost by a precipitous withdrawal – we can only hope and assume that Obama would recognize the strategic importance of success in Iraq and adjust his plans,” it said.

The Post also hoped that “the alarming anti-trade rhetoric we have heard from Obama during the campaign would give way to the understanding of the benefits of trade reflected in his writings”.