UpdateCorrected: Obama takes over US reins

05 November 2008 07:18  [Source: ICIS news]

Correction: In the ICIS news story headlined “Obama takes over US reins” dated 5 November 2008, please read in the fourth paragraph ...calloused hands-by-calloused-hands... instead of ...callous hands-by-callous hands... A corrected story follows.

 

By Pearl Bantillo and Stephen Burns

 

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--“Change has come to America,” said US President-elect Barack Obama, taking over the reins of the world’s biggest economy which is on the throes of recession.

 

The financial crisis that started with the slump in US housing markets had threatened to plunge the world economy into a recession. The US economy shrunk 0.3% in the third quarter as consumer spending buckled under the tight credit conditions.

 

“I know you did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime,” said Obama in a speech after his Republican rival John McCain conceded defeat.

 

The newly elected 44th president of the United States noted that the world faced its “worst financial crisis in a century” and called on Americans to work towards re-making the nation “block-by-block, brick by brick, calloused-hands-by-calloused-hands.”

 

“If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while main street suffers,” said Obama who made history by becoming the country’s first Afro-American leader.

 

Drawing upon a record-setting campaign war chest inflated by unprecedented grass roots support, Obama had worked hard to cast the election as a referendum on the deeply unpopular administration of George W Bush, who must step down in January after serving the maximum two terms as president during the past eight years.

 

The senator from Illinois state held a commanding lead in opinion polls for weeks but Obama's supporters had feared an upset in the uncharted waters of his historic candidacy as the first African-American representing a major party and amid the biggest voter turnout in decades.

 

The vote counting went Obama's way early on, as he took key battleground state Ohio as well as making deep inroads in traditionally conservative states including Indiana and North Carolina, while holding on to blue-collar Pennsylvania and the northeast.

 

Obama's victory was complemented by strong gains in Congress by the Democrats, who already control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

 

The prospect of a left-leaning Congress working with a Democrat president had worried many business leaders, including some in the chemical industry.

 

Higher taxes and tougher regulatory burdens were at the top of the concerns, with energy policy another major issue for the chemical industry.

 

Obama had said he would consider expanded offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, but the focus of his energy policy was on conservation, renewable energy and new technology.

 

The Democrat's declared willingness to seek better terms for the US in trade deals held mixed promise for the chemical industry.

 

The potential for a more protectionist stance could help some domestic-oriented producers, but could hurt exporters that might face retaliatory tariffs.

 

Obama's strong support for biofuels appealed to US ethanol and biodiesel producers, who feared losing subsidies and a weakening of mandates if McCain had won.

 

Obama's central message that his Republican opponent John McCain would continue the same policies as Bush resonated loudly in recent weeks as financial markets went into turmoil and economic storm clouds gathered over an already anaemic economy.

 

The global meltdown relegated the once-potent issue of the Iraq war to the background and neutralised McCain's advantage of experience in international affairs.

 

McCain had sought to distance himself from Bush by playing up his maverick reputation as one who had frequently bucked the Republican agenda and vowing to change the way Washington operates.

 

But McCain found it difficult to escape Bush's shadow, and his bold gamble on a virtual unknown as his running mate was widely judged to be a costly mis-step.

 

The choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin did initially breathe new life into the 72-year-old McCain's flagging campaign, but she soon became a liability in opinion polls amid intense and mostly unfavourable media attention.

 

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By: Pearl Bantillo
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