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The US Presidential Election: Global Impact

Richard Burt and Nelson Cunningham, the campaign advisers for the US presidential elections, debate in Mumbai.
by Stephanie Valera
21 October 2008

MUMBAI, October 21, 2008 - Ambassador Richard Burt, adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign, and Nelson Cunningham,
adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign engaged in a debate hosted by the
Asia Society India Centre regarding the next American administration,
and how it would affect the world at large.

his opening remarks, Cunningham expressed that Obama is ready to be
president. Obama’s choice of Joseph Biden as his vice presidential
running mate demonstrated his understanding of “what was required from
a second-in-command.” According to Cunningham, history was on Obama’s
side. He recounted that, in difficult times (such as with the current
economic crisis), Americans historically rely on Democratic presidents.

cited another example of Obama’s readiness to lead by illustrating his
reaction to the economic crisis. Obama brought together the “right”
people to talk about solutions to the problem (such as Paul Volcker,
Larry Summers, and Warren Buffet), and addressed the issue with what
Cunningham called an “unflappable calm.”

began his counterargument by stating that while Obama is a remarkable
politician, the presidency is not a question of who is the best
politician, but of "who is best suited to run the country."

reminded the audience that the future president will have to deal with
the issues in Iraq and Afghanistan which are spilling into Pakistan, as
well as the growing problem of Iran and Islamic fundamentalism. Because
of these issues, Burt stated that "there is a premium on experiences."
McCain has had 30 years in Washington and a record of being tough and
resilient in the face of challenges. Burt felt that Obama’s “mechanical
deadlines” regarding a pullout from Iraq would ignore what could happen
on the ground. He claimed that John McCain’s flexibility when facing
this issue is the superior approach.

In the face
of the economic crisis, Burt believes that fiscal restraint is of the
utmost importance. Balancing the budget will be a key part in a
long-term solution to the economic problems. McCain has said that there
should be control over spending. Further, Burt stated that the
protectionist tendencies in Obama’s economic policy would hurt the
economy, while McCain is liberal in addressing world wide trade. Burt
worries that if the economy becomes excessively protectionist it will
never return to its momentum of free trade.

stated that Obama lacks the experience to handle challenges down the
road, such as the rise of China. He felt that Obama would not
understand the intricacies of such a complex relationship, unlike Bush,
who was able to manage China as a stable partner. He also stated that
if Obama were elected the presidency and congress would both be
democratic. As a result, the normal checks and balances of the American
system would be in jeopardy.

Reported by Purwa Bansod, Asia Society India Centre