Posts filed under “Financial Press”

The View from the Mountaintop

by Marion Maneker


We all make fun of the daily commentary that tries to assign a single motive to market moves but willingly accept the same sort of reductive analysis when it comes to real life events like elections. No doubt, Barack Obama’s skin color makes his electoral victory a historic event. But if we look at the trajectory of his victory, his background and the situation he inherits, is there anyone but Thomas Friedman who seriously thinks Obama’s win was about race?

Here’s how Friedman, a foreign policy columnist, opens his piece today:

“And so it came to pass that on Nov. 4, 2008, shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time, the American Civil War ended, as a black man — Barack Hussein Obama — won enough electoral votes to become president of the United States.”

Friedman goes on to try and weave Warren Buffett into his tableau:

“How did Obama pull it off? To be sure, it probably took a once-in-a-century economic crisis to get enough white people to vote for a black man. And to be sure, Obama’s better organization, calm manner, mellifluous speaking style and unthreatening message of “change” all served him well.

But there also may have been something of a “Buffett effect” that countered the supposed “Bradley effect” — white voters telling pollsters they’d vote for Obama but then voting for the white guy. The Buffett effect was just the opposite. It was white conservatives telling the guys in the men’s grill at the country club that they were voting for John McCain, but then quietly going into the booth and voting for Obama, even though they knew it would mean higher taxes.”

The assumption of a baseline racism to American politics seems terribly tone deaf to me. Last night Americans didn’t vote for Obama despite his race. They voted for him because they had no better alternative. Or, to put that in a positive light, they voted him because he presented the best leadership through the looming darkness.

Dan Gross captures this perfectly in Slate:

“McCain managed to give Obama a run for the money through mid-September. The polls began to turn (decisively, it turns out) against him when the global financial system suffered a run on the money.”

But at three crucial moments, McCain lost the public’s confidence. The first was his Hoover-esque, the-economy-is-sound comment as Lehman went down; the second was his ineffectual grandstanding around the bailout bill. It wasn’t Obama the black man who grabbed the center and showed how he would lead us through this crisis. Here’s Gross:

“While McCain seemed detached, Obama caucused with financial graybeards and kept his campaign plane on the tarmac to get updates from his new speed-dialing buddy, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Self-serving? You betcha. But doggone successful. And the passage of the bailout bill, which McCain grudgingly supported, neutered the increasingly ideological economic warfare McCain waged in the closing weeks.”

Finally, after the third debate, Obama had aligned himself with Buffett and Volcker–economic mensches–while McCain went off on another reckless gambit with Joe the plumber, the last act of a deaf man answering a question no one put to him. In that divergence, the election was won. And race played no part in it.

In conceding, McCain went straight to the race issue, pre-emptively cutting off attempts to rally the party around resentment. That speaks to McCain’s status as an American hero who has lived the ideals of his country in nearly every possible way. But race is a distraction that does nothing to help us understand what Obama’s strengths and weaknesses will be. The election night coverage of Obama’s speech struggled with making sense of Obama’s lack of a racial identity. There was Oprah crying in the crowd. She’s another figure who’s fame and success is almost wholly unconnected to her skin tone. Shots of Oprah were interspersed with glimpses of Jesse Jackson at times stoic and at times in tears.

Whatever you think of Jackson, there’s a poignancy to seeing the race man (“I am qualified”) witnessing a truly race-blind victory. And that points to something essential, almost biblical, in this story. Obama’s grandmother died days before his victory, poignantly reminding us of the story of Moses. The image of a leader on the moutaintop seeing but never entering the promised land is, of course, one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s enduring rhetorical images.

Yet in Obama’s version we have Jesse Jackson standing in the crowd–symbolically remote from ever becoming an elected official–and his beloved grandmother expiring with the knowledge that she had raised a President.

But symbolism comes at the end, not the beginning. The twin images of sacrifice are what should remind us that race has been left behind–and the real work of measuring Obama and his ability to lead has begun.

Category: BP Cafe, Financial Press, Politics

Front Page News

Some of the front pages of major newspapers WSJ NYT

Category: Digital Media, Financial Press, Politics

Department of Irresponsible Rumors: Landslide

I just spoke with a reporter for a well known national newspaper. According to this journo, exit poll data from within XXX suggested that the lead in Pennsylvania was double digits for Obama. Note: Exit polling is notoriously crappy — if exit polls were at all reliable , we would be discussing President Kerry. However,…Read More

Category: Financial Press, Politics

An SWF Loses It’s Sex Appeal

by Marion Maneker Perhaps it’s a sign of the shifting economic agenda that this profile of Kahldoon al-Mubarak, Abu Dhabi’s 32-year-old financial fixer, got shoved inside the paper last Saturday next to a story on Abu Dhabi’s joint investment in Barclay’s which had been announced the day before. When Mubadala, the Emirate’s development fund took…Read More

Category: BP Cafe, Financial Press, Politics

The Big Picture Café

If you have been reading the Big Picture for any length of time, you know I have a pretty good eye for spotting insightful writers, talented analysts, and smart commentators. Many of you have written me to say that a number of your regular blog reads were first discovered at the Big Picture. I always…Read More

Category: Economy, Financial Press, Markets, Politics, Weblogs

Another Bullish Bear

We last looked at the Bullish Bears? back on October 21. Now, we have another Ursine to add to the bull camp: Steve Leuthold, Chairman, The Leuthold Group. He is the subject of this week’s Barron’s interview: Barron’s: What is your assessment of the market’s big selloff this fall? Leuthold: There were two stages, the…Read More

Category: Data Analysis, Financial Press, Investing, Markets, Valuation

The Economist endorses . . .

Gee, do you think Europe is looking for a change from the States? Feel free to discuss what this might mean in comments. Please keep it civil, and use your frontal lobes, rather than the lizard portion of your brains. > Source: The presidential election: It’s time The Economist, Oct 30th 2008

Category: Financial Press, Politics

Blaming the Bears

Here’s the latest act of idiocy: Blaming the media or the Bears for the credit collapse and market crash. This not only demonstrates a total lack of understanding as to the difference between causation and correlation, but it evinces an utter disregard for the way the economy and markets operate. A classic example of this…Read More

Category: Economy, Financial Press, Psychology, Uncategorized

Map: Newspaper Endorsements in the 2008 US Presidential Election

Category: Financial Press, Politics

The Great Panic of 1873

Category: Financial Press, Markets, Psychology