Ethar El-Katatney

And the Winner is…

Posted in Egypt Today by Ethar El-Katatney on November 1, 2008

And the Winner is…
Egypt Today
November 2008

Available at:
Photo Credit: Organizational Consultants

CNN host of The Campaign Trail Jonathan Mann weighs in on a most historic US presidential campaign

By: Ethar El-Katatney

“They’re big, they’re noisy, they’re boisterous, they’re over the top [and] they’re hyper caffeinated.”

That, in the eyes of anchor and reporter for CNN International Jonathan Mann, sums up the United States presidential elections. And this one, he believes, has been the loudest yet.

What’s so Special?

For one, the players make this campaign extraordinary. Apart from the firsts of having a woman and an African American run for US president, Mann, who hosts the weekly program The Campaign Trail, says that Senator Barack Obama, Governor Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain and Senator Hilary Clinton are all “extraordinary in their own right.”

As pressing as the big issues are “[such as] the war in Iraq and the US economy […] what the world will remember are the people stories. The candidates [are the ones who have] evoked such passion and level of participation.”

Mann also notes that technology has revolutionized the campaign process. Now more important to the candidates than ever, technology has become a major fundraising tool.

The Democrats have used the strategy spectacularly. In September alone, Obama’s campaign raised $150 million (LE 837 million) through direct appeals to the American public.

“Technology is empowering Americans not only to vote,” says Mann, “but to contribute.”

Impact on the Middle East

The most pressing issue for the new US president is undoubtedly the economy. The Middle East is therefore not number one on the agenda. Nevertheless, the region has been closely following the elections, and a large percentage support Obama.

The Middle East, says Mann, and the world in general, thinks it knows a lot, about Obama, while “McCain, who has such a dramatic story to tell, is hardly known in comparison in the eyes of the world.”

Many say that Obama’s accidents of birth — his ancestry, skin color and the rumors surrounding his religion — have propelled him into the spotlight. Mann disagrees.

“If Obama was a white man or a Chinese-American, he still would have accomplished what he did,” says Mann. “McCain is an incredible man, but he’s just not exciting in public. Obama can really talk and gives of himself in a speech. It’s not a reason to be elected, but makes him [appealing]. I see him as not profiting from the circumstances of his birth, but responding [well] to them.”

Regardless of who wins, change will not be quick.

“Taking presidency is like taking captaincy of an enormous ship. And you can turn the wheel like crazy but the boat doesn’t move that different that fast,” Mann explains. “Our new president will inherit two wars, a crushing economic debt and all the burdens of running this enormous government.

“Does that mean US foreign policy towards the Middle East will change dramatically [if Obama wins]? No. [Obama’s] instincts are different [from McCain’s] but the instrument he has to operate with is still the US government and that doesn’t change that rapidly.”

Policy changes towards the Middle East, Mann predicts, will be small: Decreased involvement in Iraq, perhaps, and the same outlook towards Palestine and Israel, as both candidates have spoken very supportively on Israel’s behalf.

If Obama does win, Mann believes that America, “a country which not too long ago had a hard time electing a Catholic,” should be proud of itself, for electing a candidate “with a name that is Arabic in origin, attended a Muslim school in Indonesia, lived in a Muslim country, [and] who’s father was not an American.”

Regardless of the end result, Mann can’t deny that the campaign trail has been amazingly fun to watch. “It’s been a remarkably entertaining and intriguing experience. Everything about American life seems more like a movie than it should, but this really was.” et


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