America at its best
大耳朵英语  2008-06-16 20:42:41  【打印
America at its best


Jun 5th 2008

The primaries have left the United States with a decent choice; now it needs a proper debate about policies


IT IS hard to believe after all the thrills and spills, but the real presidential race is only now beginning. In any other country, the incredible circus that has marked the past year could not have occurred. The business of choosing the main contenders for the top job would have been done behind closed doors, or with a limited franchise and a few weeks of campaigning. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, by contrast, have spent well over a year in the most testing and public circumstances imaginable—and that was just to get to the final five months.

很难相信在经历了之前所有的紧张与刺激之后,真正的总统选举才刚刚开始。在其他任何国家,过去一年里种种难以置信的热闹场面都不可能发生。选择总统参选这 档事以前都是密室完成的,或者就进行小范围的投票及几周的竞选活动。与此形成鲜明对比的是,希拉里克林顿和巴拉克奥巴马在能够想像的到的最激烈和公开的环 境下缠斗了一年多—而这只是为了能够进入最终大选。

The Republicans settled on their candidate more quickly, but theirs was still a marathon by anyone else’s standards. And the end of it was surely the right result. In John McCain, the Republicans chose a man whose political courage has led him constantly to attempt to forge bipartisan deals and to speak out against the Bush administration when it went wrong. Conservatives may hate him, but even they can see that he offers the party its only realistic hope in November.

共和党早些时候就已经确定了提名人,虽说他们的党内初选在其他任何国家看来已经是一场马拉松了。初选结果非常正确。共和党选择了麦凯恩,一个有政治勇气, 能够不断促成两党合作,并且敢在布什政府做错事时站出来大声指责的人。保守派也许痛恨他,但即使是他们也知道,只有麦凯恩才能够在11月份给共和党带来获 胜的希望。

The Democratic race has been longer and nastier; but on June 3rd it too produced probably the right result (see article). Over the past 16 months, the organisational skills and the characters of the two contenders have been revealed. Mrs Clinton, surprisingly in the light of all her claimed experience, was shown up for running a less professional and nimble campaign than her untested rival. She has also displayed what some voters have perceived as a mean streak and others (not enough, though) saw as gritty determination. And she could never allay confusion about the future role of her husband.

民主党初选则更长更激烈。但在6月3日,它同样做出了极有可能正确的选择。但过去的16个月当中,两位竞争者展示了自己的组织能力和人格魅力。虽然希拉里 自诩有着丰富的经验,但同她缺乏考验的对手相比,她的竞选显得不够专业,有欠灵活。她的一些行为让人觉得略显卑劣—虽然还有些人(不是很多)把这些行为视 为意志绝决的表现。还有就是,她从来没有消除大家对克林顿未来角色的疑虑。

Mr Obama has demonstrated charisma, coolness under fire and an impressive understanding of the transforming power of technology in modern politics. Beating the mighty Clinton machine is an astonishing achievement. Even greater though, is his achievement in becoming the first black presidential nominee of either political party. For a country whose past is disfigured by slavery, segregation and unequal voting rights, this is a moment to celebrate. America’s history of reinventing and perfecting itself has acquired another page.

在竞争当中奥巴马展现出了自己的人格魅力和冷峻个性。他对现代政治体制下技术的转变力量的理解让人印象深刻。击败强大的克林顿团队已经是一项了不起的成 就。而他的更伟大之处在于,他成为了两党历史上第一位黑人总统候选人。对于一个历来因为其奴隶制,种族隔离和没有平等选举权而被世人诟病的国家而言,这一 刻值得庆祝。美国不断自我创新自己完善的历史又翻开了新的一页。

But will he play in Pennsylvania?


But that does not make Mr Obama the new messiah. The former law teacher has had obvious problems convincing America’s middle-class voters that he understands their concerns. He has also displayed a worrying, somewhat Clintonian slipperiness on difficult issues, both trivial (whether he would wear a flag-pin) and significant (whether he would talk to rogue states). His victory, it must be noted, has been wafer-thin: in terms of delegates, a couple of hundred out of 4,500; in votes, only a few tens of thousands out of 35m. In the end, the Democrats have, very narrowly, opted for the candidate who has put together a novel coalition of blacks, young people and liberal professional sorts, rather than the candidate of their more traditional blue-collar base. How this coalition fares against the Bushless Republicans remains to be seen.

但这并不是说奥巴马是新的救世主。这位前法律老师有很明显的问题,他很难让中产阶级的选民相信他对他们的苦衷感同身受。在一些困难的议题上,他表现出了令 人担忧的,一定程度上克林顿式的油滑。这样的议题既有细小的(他是否会佩戴国旗勋章),也有极其重要的(他是否会同流氓国家谈判)。必须注意到,奥巴马在 初选中的胜利很勉强。在代表方面,总共有4500名代表而他只领先了几百名;选票方面,共有3500万选民而他只领先几万人。最终,民主党勉强选择了这位 能够将黑人,青年和一些有着自由主义倾向的专业人士这样一个新奇组合整合起来的候选人,而不是那位得到民主党传统基石也就是蓝领工人支持的候选人。这样一个联合体如何对抗没有布什的共和党还有待观察。

For what America’s voters, and the world’s fascinated spectators, have not had so far is much of a policy debate. Yes, there were bone-aching arguments between Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton as to whose plan for health care would work best. And yes, Mr Obama refused to endorse Mrs Clinton’s bad plan for a gas-tax holiday. But on the whole, it has been a policy-light contest for the simple reason that there was very little to choose between the two Democrats either on domestic or on foreign policy. Small wonder, then, that the Democratic race focused on character more than content.

对于美国选民和世界各地关注大选的观察者而言,现在所缺乏的是一场政策辩论。的确,希拉里和奥巴马曾经硬碰硬地争辩过谁的医疗改革计划更有效。的确,奥巴 马不支持希拉里那个汽油税假日的糟糕计划。但整体而言,他们争论并不以政策为重。原因很简单,不管是内政还是外事,选民在两位民主党人之间挑选的余地都很 小。所以毫不奇怪,民主党内斗拼的是候选人的品格而不是他们的政策。

All that has now changed. With his victory speech in Minneapolis on June 3rd, Mr Obama took the fight to Mr McCain. Though there are a fair number of things on which Mr Obama and Mr McCain, admirably, agree (a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, the immediate closure of Guantánamo and a more multilateral approach to diplomacy, to name just three), there is a lot more that they disagree over.


Blood, treasure and votes


The choice will be starkest over Iraq. Mr McCain backed the war in the first place, and he proposes to stay the course there no matter how long it takes. Mr Obama opposed the “dumb” war from the start and has pledged to withdraw all combat troops within 16 months, though he has lately wriggled a little on this commitment. Although most Americans now think the war was a mistake, polls suggest that Mr McCain’s determination to see it through may stand him in better stead with voters than Mr Obama’s determination to pull out whatever the consequences, especially since the tide of war seems at last to have shifted firmly in America’s favour. In general, Mr McCain will offer a much more robust approach to security issues than Mr Obama—and that may help him.

两人对伊拉克战争的分歧最大。麦凯恩一直支持伊点,并且他建议美国需要驻军多长时间就驻军多长时间。奥巴马则从一开始就反对这场“愚蠢”战争,并且希望在 16个月内撤出全部战斗部队—尽管最近看来他的这一立场有些松动。虽然大部分美国人认为伊战是一个错误,但调查显示,相比奥巴马不计后果的撤军,麦凯恩坚 持到底的立场的更受欢迎,尤其是现在战争已经开始稳固地向有利于美国的方向发展。总体而言,在安全问题上,麦凯恩的措施比奥巴马有力得多—这一点可能对他 有利。

That said, the war is clearly receding as a political issue, just as concerns about recession are growing. America no longer has a Hummer economy (General Motors is considering selling off the gas guzzler). And there are clear choices about how to fix it. Mr McCain offers orthodox supply-side solutions, stressing deregulation, free trade, competitiveness and the use of market mechanisms to cure the problems in everything from health care to education to pensions. The trouble for him is that America is already a pretty deregulated place, and many voters feel that globalisation has brought them much less than was promised (and bankers a lot more). Mr Obama offers a very different vision: more spending on education and training, an expensive expansion of health care to (almost) all Americans and better benefits for the unemployed. His problem will be convincing sceptics that his sums add up, though it may well be that voters, battered by falling house prices and rising oil prices prefer not to worry too much about that.

尽管如此,同日益增长的对衰退的忧虑相比,伊战作为一项政治议题就显得不是那么重要了。美国再也没有“悍马假期”了(通用汽车正考虑出售高油耗汽车业 务)。有明确的方法可以解决这一问题,麦凯恩提出了正统的供给解决方案,对于从医疗到教育再到养老金等各方面问题,他强调放松管制,自由贸易,竞争和有效 利用市场机制。这一方案的缺陷是美国已经是一个管制相当宽松的地方,并且许多选民认为全球化并没有给他们带来预期的收获(对于银行家而言,则是带来了太 多)。奥巴马提供了一个相当不同的方案:进一步加大对教育和培训的投资力度,将医疗保险覆盖范围扩大到几乎全部美国人,给失业人员带来更多利益。这一方案 的问题是他必须让一些怀疑者相信他有这么多钱—虽然说也许正是这些人,因为受到房价下跌油价上涨的影响,更愿意看到这一方案的实现。

Both candidates have their flaws and their admirable points; the doughty but sometimes cranky old warrior makes a fine contrast with the inspirational but sometimes vaporous young visionary. Voters now have those five months to study them before making up their minds (and The Economist will be doing the same). But, on the face of it, this is the most impressive choice America has had for a very long time.