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The key to the highway
Voice of Pepe Escobar, The Real News Analyst

PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, TRNN: Florida. The case study of how the 2008 election was won. For the Obama campaign, a Florida win would not only erase the nightmarish film noir of eight years ago but achieve burning, bright redemption by smashing the Republicans with a shock-and-awe ground game. The alluring, swinging Sunshine State became an obsession even more than Ohio. Money was no object. An online and on-foot grassroots army was there to get out the vote with phone banks and knocking door to door, canvassing cops and cars and manicured boulevards, derelict wastelands and bastions of privilege, outspending the McCain campaign on the airwaves three to one. In the end, Obama got almost 71 percent of new registered voters. Boosted by swing voters, young voters, independents, African-Americans, the bulk of the vote from Central and South Americans and young Cuban Americans, he beat McCain in Florida 51 percent to 48 percent. Joe the Plumber may have not, but José el Plomero in Florida, he voted Obama. A former colleague at the University of Chicago law faculty describes Obama as a visionary minimalist. The world, still punch-drunk with joy, will soon discover that Obama, apart from being an exceptional political organizer of his own success, is also about post-ethnic civic nationalism. Make no mistake: in his own way, he also wants a new American century. His speeches tell the whole story. He truly believes in American exceptionalism and a US manifest destiny. But he’s not an ideologue; he’s a pragmatist. His speeches also say that it’s not about left and right; it’s not about big government or small government; it’s about a government that works. How will it work? Obama’s the leader and spokesman of a new generation. Will he mobilize his online grassroots army to speak directly to progressive Americans? Or will he be a cautious conservative and settle for a Clinton III mandate? And that’s the signal you send when you name as your chief of staff a spokesman for Wall Street, the state of Israel, and hardcore globalization. Will he be a chameleonic, compassionate conservative? Everyone in America and around the world now has to become a critical intellectual. As Obama himself said at his acceptance speech:

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.

ESCOBAR: But where is “there?” To get to this fuzzy promised land, after all, this is a man who essentially won an election on a single-word slogan—”Change.” Obama has to bridge the gulf not only between black and white but red and blue and rich and poor. A recent Gallup poll reveals 58 percent of Americans and 84 percent of Democratic voters believe wealth should be spread around more evenly in the US. Obama has to climb a mountain and challenge the Bush-Paulson-Pelosi-Obama-McCain $700 billion taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. Will he dare or be allowed to re-regulate Wall Street in the public interest? Will he dare to tax the US oligarchy? Many among them supported him, as well as huge corporations. He has to be perfectly clean about a health plan that won’t be run and controlled by corporate insurance companies, ultra-conservative hospital associations, and by the pharma industry. Why not a universal, single-payer health program? He has to come clean on his relationship with big agribusiness. He and his team—Volcker, Rubin, Summers, Warren Buffett—have to explain how fiscal austerity will be compatible with creating jobs, how bailing out Wall Street is compatible with productive investment, how the framework of the war on terror is compatible with a full domestic recovery. The Pentagon celebrated Obama’s election by once again slaughtering a wedding party in Kandahar province in Afghanistan. Forty-eight dead, mostly women and children, and scores of wounded. Obama wants a surge in Afghanistan; Obama wants to expand the framework of the war on terror into the tribal areas of Pakistan. Obama wants redeployment in Iraq, not withdrawal. He does not have a clearly defined deadline to leave Iraq because the Pentagon lodged in Iraq is directly tied to access to oil in the Middle East in a non-stop war of attrition with Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. And Obama has not renounced unconditional support to Israel’s neocolonial war on Palestine. Obama’s real big bang would be to bury the fanatical neocon world view. No more unilateral exceptionalism; no more preventive war, extraordinary rendition, torture, Guantanamo, demonization of the UN, a Pentagon guzzling more funds than the whole planet combined, demonization of Russia, barely disguised hostility towards China. And then there’s that other America: Will Obama understand the reach and transformative power of profound social movements in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay—all over Latin America. Will he understand that the Monroe Doctrine is dead and Latin America is eager for a mature relationship with the US? Key West—Cuba is just 90 miles away. The US listens to Cuba from here. Obama captured 66 percent of the Latino vote nationwide. Will he have the courage to end a failed, painful, and criminal embargo? He’s already being called on it by Chavez in Venezuela and Lula in Brazil, an embargo that hurts most of all ordinary Cubans. Geographically, the United States of America ends here, right behind me. Politically, the long Bush night of the soul also ends here in slightly over 70 days. Historically, led by a cool black man with a weapon of mass seduction, his unlimited soft power, this passage of time has the potential to be a prelude to a new day dawned. It’s up to engaged, tirelessly mobilized US civil society to change hope into reality.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.