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US political analysts join The World Today -

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US political analysts join The World Today

The World Today - Wednesday, 5 November , 2008 12:46:00

Reporter: The World Today

ELEANOR HALL: It is being called historic. It could see the first black American in the White House
and it is being held in the midst of the biggest economic crisis in the United States since The
Great Depression.

We'll know the results in the next few hours, or the next few days, but to talk about the
significance of this election - not just for the United States but for the rest of the world -
we're joined now from the United States by three political analysts.

Michael Fullilove is the program director for global issues at the Lowy Institute and is also a
visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Danielle Doane is the director of congressional relations with the Heritage Foundation and has
worked for many years for Republicans in Congress. She's also in Washington.

And Simon Jackman Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, is on the other side of
the country. He joins us from his University outside San Francisco.

Thanks to you all for being there.

First to you Michael Fullilove, is this as Barrack Obama says a defining moment in history?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: I think it is for a couple of reasons, first of all the scale of the challenges
facing the next president are awesome, bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear programs
in Iran and North Korea, terrorists networks, the financial meltdown, a cooling economy, a warming
planet. So I think it's historic in that sense.

And secondly, if he is elected president then it will be an amazing full stop to the last century
of race relations in the United States, to have a black man in the White House if he's elected in
the next couple of hours, I think will shift international perceptions of the United States and
maybe even dislodge some of the prejudices against this country.

ELEANOR HALL: Danielle Doane do you see this as a defining moment in history?

DANIELLE DOANE: Oh absolutely. I think that this just shows that the, the entire nation is starting
to look to different changes. However I do want to point out from a conservative institution that
the programs that Obama's presidency has been running on, the campaign, is more conservative.

It's tax cuts, it's you know, nuclear energy solutions, things that resound more with the
conservative base, and so I think to some extent that doesn't point to a problem for Republicanism,
for conservatism as much as it does for Republicanism.

ELEANOR HALL: And Simon Jackman, what do you see as at stake in this election?

SIMON JACKMAN: Well I agree with the symbolic importance of electing an African-American to the
presidency, that's going to do wonders for America's image abroad and Americans' sense of

I still though, continue to wonder about the extent to which this new president takes office and
finds himself just tremendously constrained, despite the great challenges facing the United States
and the great expectations Americans have for their next president, that nonetheless the next
president inherits a trillion dollar budget deficit.

And despite some of the mighty promises Obama has made over the course of this campaign I do wonder
on the extent he'll be able to follow through and the political pressure he'll face from this vast
constituency he's rallied and mobilised over the course of the last 12 months or so, the extent to
which he'll actually be able to deliver to their satisfaction, over the medium-term.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you're talking about a vast constituency that's been mobilised; already it's
clear the voter turnout in this election has been phenomenal and people are still voting as we

What is it that's switched so many people on to voting? Is it anger with George Bush, is it the
charisma of the candidates, is it simply the organisational machines?

First to you Danielle Doane.

DANIELLE DOANE: Well first of all I think that the Obama president, campaign for president actually
tapped into something very early which is a need for change.

I absolutely agree that I think, everybody in the nation is looking for some kind of difference,
that it is sort of the anti-Bush; but it's also the fact that they're unhappy with the way things
are and so I think it's kind of a combination of things that have caused such a great turnout.

And you know, hitting with hope, now there's no real specifics beyond that, it's just the idea of
hope and giving people the chance to actually feel like they are making a difference in the
long-term direction of the country.

ELEANOR HALL: Michael Fullilove, what do you think is driving this big voter turnout?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Well, I think both the candidates speak to the better angels of the American
nature actually. I mean Obama has this incredible story of his origins, he's bested the Democrat,
the dynasty that dominated the Democratic Party for the last 20 years and he's remarkably
articulate and intelligent. McCain is a war hero and an independent person, so I think both of them
in some ways stir up, in some ways reflect the best aspects of the country.

I might say Eleanor that I can tell that Danielle is a fan of the Monty Python song 'Always Look on
the Bright Side', I think it's a nice argument to make out that Barack, if Barack Obama is elected
today that's bad news for Republicans but not for conservatives.

But I would read it a little bit more negatively for the conservative cause, especially if
Democrats solidify their majorities in both houses of Congress, I mean, Danielle herself admitted
that change has been the mantra of this election and in many cases, it's changed from the kind of
conservative foreign policy that President Bush has run and a kind of conservative economic policy
as well.

So I think this will cause a big re-think or at least it should on part of not only the Republican
Party but the conservative movement in general.

ELEANOR HALL: Danielle Doane, I'll let you come back on that in a moment, but let's hear from Simon
Jackman, I mean there is talk of a seismic shift in policy driven in large part by the economic
crisis, are we looking at something big in economic policy along the lines of a new deal and are we
also talking about massive changes in foreign policy or is it more as Danielle Doane points out,
not such a big shift to vote for Barack Obama?

SIMON JACKMAN: I tend to think it won't be a huge shift, I think there's a few things Obama's
signalled that he will do; he'll reinstate tax levels for the richest Americans back to where they
were under the Clinton administration, that will be an important gesture.He may be able to get
through the congress in short order.

There will be another hugely symbolic act, I think, starting to wind down the American presence in
Iraq, although there will be a considerable re-deployment to Afghanistan.

But in terms of, you know, we're staring at the breach of a new deal type complete upheaval of
American domestic policy, American foreign policy, for that matter as well, I tend to think that's
going too far, I just don't see Obama himself perhaps wanting to go that far despite some of the
rhetoric of the campaign.

And nor do I see frankly, even if Democrats are on track to increase their majorities, I just don't
see a lot of these new comers in the Senate or the House being willing to sign on to something
completely radical, a radical re-shift to the left on both domestic and foreign policy, I just
don't think that's on the cards in the next year or two.

ELEANOR HALL: And Danielle Doane, we have been hearing earlier in the program from our pollsters
that it does look like there will be a move towards Democrats again in the congressional vote as
well. Would you be concerned should there be concern about increased Democrat control in the
Congress, particularly in the Senate if they get that magic 60?

DANIELLE DOANE: Well yes, that actually does create some problems, especially in the Senate, about
if they get close to 60 just because the fact that that kind of eliminates some of the basic checks
and balances that were created in our government to kind of keep things in more control.

Back to the discussion before though, I think one of the reasons why Obama's going to be a bit
constrained if he gets the presidency in the initial couple of months is that, you know, everybody
is calling for change but nobody really knows what that is.

Every single person that voted today thought that they heard something that resonated with them,
whether it was getting completely out of Iraq, and Afghanistan, you know, tax cuts, or tax
increases, that doesn't apply to me that only applies to people in a certain range.

You know it's a lot harder when you get in and hope and change and these kind of words that have
been used as buzz words throughout the campaign actually translates into actual legislation,
actually translates into things that are going to affect to people in their everyday lives, then
you're going to see the problems begin and you're going to have to see what actually can be
translated into legislation and into real policy changes.

And I just think that that's going to be more limited than people expect.

ELEANOR HALL: Now of course we haven't got a result in this election yet, but how critical is the
size of the mandate? Will it be important in giving extra power to a new president, Michael

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: I think the mandate will give, I mean if Obama wins and if he wins big, then he
gets a strong mandate of course, it's not like the Australian system, he can't take that into the
Parliament and push his legislative agenda through, but I think that will give him some gravitas to
bring Congress along with him.

I mean back on the issue, back on the debate about change Eleanor, nobody's saying the America is
going to turn around on a dime and become a sort of Scandinavian country with a welfare state,
that's not the issue. The issue is, is the tone and the texture of Washington's policies across the
whole spectrum of policies likely to change.

Just going through some of the issues that the other guests mentioned, a drawdown of forces in Iraq
which has been the biggest discontinuity in the international system in decades, a, moving closer
to a global deal on climate change after the macabre dance of climate change denial and delay from
the Bush administration, a real shift in international perceptions towards the United States.

A different kind of foreign policy strategy on the use of force, on multilateralism, on some of
these issues, it's not that they're going to become a small power, they're going to remain the
United States. But this is a big shift and if Obama wins and if he wins big, I think we're fooling
ourselves if we say, oh this is not a big deal. This will be a big deal.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Jackman, the challenges, the environment for a new president, Michael
Fullilove's already talked about it being a very tough environment. I mean, how important is a
change in leadership for the direction of the US given the constraints that are there anyway with
the economic crisis and the Bush legacy in foreign policy?

SIMON JACKMAN: Yeah, look I have to agree to some extent with Michael, look every time the party of
the presidency changes in the United States, it's associated with this great theme of renewal, it
was morning again in America when we switched from the Democrats to the Republicans back in 1980
under Reagan.

Bill Clinton was building us a bridge to the 21st Century when we went from 12 years of Republican
presidents to the Democrats in 1992. So make no mistake there will tremendous rhetoric and
tremendous push for change.

My only point here would be to point out that with the US on the brink of a deficit next year in
the neighbourhood of 10 per cent of GDP - a trillion dollar deficit - there's sort of an orthodoxy
developing among a lot of economists that this is the time to run up the deficit, if you've ever
got to do it, now's the time.

The question is where in the midst of that do we find the hundred billion for education, or the
extra 250, 300-billion, you know, these sums of money that at one point seemed feasible and within
reach. Now I just get the sense it's going to be very very difficult for this ambitious agenda, I
mean, there will be tremendous symbolism, the inauguration of an African-American president, make
no mistake about the signal that will send around the world and what it will send domestically, the
way it will empower Democrats and people on the left more generally in the United States and the
tremendous national unity that will prevail in the weeks and months after that.

But then I think when we get down to brass tax, we've still got this tremendous, we've got this one
trillion dollar deficit confronting us and nervous new members of Congress wondering where does
this road end and how far down this road do we go with this new president, and I think it could
start to get very difficult six months, 12 months in.

ELEANOR HALL: Now we're running up right to the end of our program, we've only got about a minute
left, but Danielle Doane, how much does depend on the character and the personality of the

DANIELLE DOANE: Well obviously he, whoever the president is, they're going to have to be able to
sell a lot of big ideas and I think you're absolutely right, the previous speaker about the
trillion dollar deficit and the fact that the baby boomer generation is about to retire.

Huge problems that are facing this country and you need somebody who can take them on in a very
strong way that also doesn't bankrupt the country.

ELEANOR HALL: Michael Fullilove do you think the character and personality of the president is as
important as the environment?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Look I think it is, I mean a lot of academics put a lot of weight on the sort of
structural factors in determining which ways countries go, I think particularly in presidential
systems like the United States, the kind of personality, the direction they chart and of course the
individuals that they appoint, because unlike our system the next president will have a huge say,
will basically appoint most of the senior officials in his administration. So yeah, the personality
matters a whole lot.

ELEANOR HALL: Thank you very much to you all for joining us, I'm going to have to wrap it there.
Michael Fullilove from the Lowy Institute who's there at the Brookings Institution, Danielle Doane
from the Heritage Foundation and Simon Jackman from Stanford University.

Thanks very much to you all.