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McCain would be best for the US and India
Vijay Dandapani
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March 12, 2008

Most people outside the country could be forgiven for viewing the race for the 44th President of the United States of America as one between a black male and a white female.

The fact that all prior contests have been between two white males has served to accentuate the media glare on their candidacies. While the internationally ethnic mosaic that is Senator Barack Obama has helped ratchet up worldwide interest in the election like never before, Senator Hillary Clinton, a former First Lady with a former President aspiring to be 'first laddie' in tow, has had a distinctly less electric quality to her run.

Nevertheless, her performance at the hustings has galvanized many voters, and the press. But what has often been overlooked is that there is a third Senator with his own claims to the 'first' label -- John McCain, of Arizona, the man who has clinched the Republican nomination.

If elected, Senator McCain, 71, will be the oldest man ever to sit in the Oval Office. The general election likely will see his opponent spinning that statistic, regardless of merit, as a liability. But the fact that the Arizonian spent five years as a prisoner of war in the euphemistically named Hanoi Hilton 'tied-up', as he caustically shot back in a repartee to a Democratic hopeful, is a truly remarkable first.

Widely known as a maverick, McCain has more often than not stuck to convictions and principles during his Senate tenure even if it cost him politically. Unsurprisingly, his viewpoint and record on most policies, particularly economic and foreign, results in his being labelled a centrist, if not a moderate.

What is likely to ensue over the next few months is the most contested post-war primary, resulting in several other 'firsts'. Despite his newly-minted front runner status based on his lead in the delegate count, Senator Obama is, as yet, not assured of the nomination.

While Senator Clinton is currently the favourite for winning the nod of the super-delegates, a different outcome ought not to be a surprise. However, before that happens there are other unprecedented events that have a high probability of occurring.

These include a potential lawsuit from the Clinton camp or a proxy asking to count the delegate votes of Florida [Images] and Michigan. Both states held 'renegade' primaries in contravention of the party directive to not hold early primaries in January. In that context, it is worth recalling the see-saw turn of events in Florida nearly eight years ago, which eventually resulted in the Bush presidency. A lawsuit involving Florida to decide the candidate of the Democratic Party, and possibly the presidency, will be ironic and will certainly be greeted with schadenfreude by the Republicans.

But more than anything else, this election has shown that a campaign of personal attacks is more likely to redound to the benefit of the target. Former Massachusetts governor and Republican candidate Mitt Romney found that out when he took on both former governor Mike Huckabee and Senator McCain. Ex-president Bill Clinton's [Images] unsubtle dismissal of Senator Obama's victory in South Carolina as indicative of that state's racial composition only served to hurt Senator Clinton.

The irony is that constructive criticism of Senator Obama's record has been nearly absent. That, however, is not likely to persist, should he become the nominee of the Democratic Party. Senator McCain will, rightly, launch a broadside that targets the actual record of the silver-tongued Senator from Illinois, or more aptly the absence of one, on the economy, governance and foreign policy.

For India, it is not entirely clear which of the two Democrats running for President will be better. Senator Clinton, steeped in Democratic politics, is a protectionist just like Senator Obama; the difference is in the close ties she has with India, as well as with the Diaspora in America.

Senator Obama has his share of Indian supporters in the US, but he is not as vested in the process as Senator Clinton is, and should the US economy continue to skid, he is more likely to be part of hasty and retrograde economic measures that are detrimental both to India and the US.

Senator McCain, on the other hand, has been a consistent advocate of free trade. If he merely persists with the Bush administration's stance towards India, arguably the most pro-Indian of any administration since 1947, he would inarguably be the best for both countries.

Vijay Dandapani is COO, Apple Core group of hotels

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