Richter Scale

Obama’s Veep Sidekick

Why should New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg be on Barack Obama’s vice presidential shortlist?

Barack Obama.

Takeaways


  • So much has piled up in the to-do box that the agenda is about as loaded and complex as what the countries in Central and Eastern Europe faced after the end of the Communist era.
  • It would behoove a future president very well to have somebody by his side who has an understanding of markets as well as solid management experience in the government sector.
  • It would be wise for a potential future American president to bank on the notion that his fellow Americans view their biggest concern not to be terrorism or Iraq, but their own economic destiny.
  • Senator Obama must be concerned that John McCain would seek to close his intra-party conflict with Republican conservatives by selecting his erstwhile chief opponent, Mitt Romney.
  • If the underlying analysis — that it's economic insecurity (in the domestic, not the international variant) — is correct, then that leaves Mr. Obama basically with one choice: New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The venerable Wall Street Journal, now under the scepter of that muscular ex-Aussie Rupert Murdoch, recently sought to be extra clever. That famous Clinton campaign ad about the future president waking up to an international security crisis at 3 a.m., the Journal opined, was off the mark.

Rather, that phone call would be “about an international economic crisis — for example, a meltdown of the Japanese stock market.”

Such views, of course, leave the rest of the world wondering what it is about America’s opinion elites that they always, always ascribe the source of insecurity penetrating the comfort of Americans’ lives to the overseas domain. A certain paranoia is shining through.

At the present stage, one would assume, even the densest (or proudest) Americans would recognize that it is the United States itself — especially its economy and its made-in-the-USA world of finance — that should keep a future U.S. president awake at night.

One would certainly expect that average Americans — not opinion elites — would be more concerned about the fallout of a home-made economic crisis than piddling Japanese ones.

Either way, the odds are that it would be wise for a potential future American president to bank on the notion that his fellow Americans — in a departure from long-standing practice en vogue really since the late 1930s — view their biggest concern (and hence source of insecurity) not to be terrorism or Iraq, but their own economic destiny.

Hence, if the young and highly polished Mr. Obama is honest with himself, he would recognize two points in a flash. First, his biggest weakness — as that of all the remaining contenders — is his lack of experience in dealing with economic issues.

And second, to be prepared for January 20, 2009, it would behoove a future president very well to have somebody by his side who has an understanding of markets, a track record in that field — as well as solid management experience in the government sector.

The new team in the White House might just be called upon to handle a lot of issues that might amount to a reinvention — and certainly a fundamental recalibration — of the American economic model.

After decades of self-satisfied talk of America’s economic superiority, it seems high time to realize that the rest of the world has copied — and adapted and implemented — plenty of what once set the United States apart while the other countries more often than not embraced statism.

Now, however, it seems as if the shoe is on the other foot. For too long, U.S. decision makers have not managed to update, or reform, their model — or, if they tried, a la Sarbanes Oxley, they overshot in a near panic.

Questions of fundamental balance are likely to rise very quickly to the top of the national (insecurity) agenda.

For too long, issues such as income distribution (and who gets taxed how much), addiction to a deregulation dogma that (paired with inept supervision) may prove fatal to swaths of Wall Street, the absence of savings at the consumer level, patterns of constant over-consumption, paying lip service only to the environment, ideologizing the immigration issue as well as a wasteful health care system have all gotten short shrift.

In the eyes of some long-time friends and observers of the United States, so much has piled up in the to-do box that the agenda is about as loaded and complex as what the countries in Central and Eastern Europe faced after the end of the Communist era.

Perhaps that (over)loaded agenda is why the presidential candidates have spent so much time debating the Iraq issue. Solving that problem may be quite drawn out, but the conflicts may be quite tame by comparison.

So what’s Obama to do under those circumstances? The conventional wisdom of selecting Hillary Clinton as his vice president to unite the Democratic Party has gone out the window due to constant driblets of vitriol.

Selecting another woman in her place has its charms. However, with his easy, astute and elegant ways, Senator Obama has plenty of tools to attract women’s votes.

If the underlying analysis — that it’s economic insecurity (in the domestic, not the international variant, contrary to the Wall Street Journal’s wishful projections) is correct — then that leaves Mr. Obama basically with one choice: New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A former Democrat who then became a Republican (and now is an independent), the founder of his eponymous global financial information services company certainly has crossover appeal. Selecting him would blunt McCain’s middle-of-the-road image.

His terms as New York’s mayor have been successful (buoyed, of course, by high tax revenues due to the now-finished financial boom). He is viewed as a competent manager — and a team player.

Given the likely prospect of a quick surge of the economic issue to the top of the presidential criteria agenda, Senator Obama must be concerned that John McCain would seek to close his intra-party conflict with Republican conservatives by selecting his erstwhile chief opponent, Mitt Romney.

A successful businessman, Mr. Romney certainly has caché on the economic front. However, despite his wealth and reputation as a competent manager (rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics), his campaign made him look curiously wooden, and even at times inept.

Despite John McCain’s self-professed lack of economic know-how, his analysis that the car industry jobs lost in Michigan would not return to the state was certainly much more on target than Mr. Romney’s extremely pandering remarks about bringing them back.

Whatever Mr. Romney would add to a McCain ticket, Mr. Bloomberg’s selection by Senator Obama would not just match that, but probably exceed it.

With all of that in mind, the smart money around the U.S. elections still has its doubts about an Obama/Bloomberg ticket. Could the Democratic Party really risk putting an African-American and a Jew onto the same ticket? Wouldn’t that sink the party’s otherwise quite good prospects?

That such considerations could enter into the equation does astound many observers in most parts of the world. Isn’t it, they ask, high time for the self-acclaimed beacon of freedom and liberty, at long last, to rise above such shopworn thinking patterns?

They do seem from another era, at least 50 years past. Maybe it’s time for Americans to prove that very point.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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