McCain and Obama approach the final leg of the race

The McCain campaign's strong personal attacks on Barack Obama have backfired and hurt John McCain more than his opponent as American voters focus their attention on the financial crisis and the threatened economy. In Afghanistan, Nato's third in command acknowledges that the international community was "a bit naive" in assuming that it would be easy to defeat the Taliban.

Powered by automated translation

"After weeks of economic upheaval and a day that brought another precipitous drop in the stock market, Sens John McCain and Barack Obama... held a final presidential debate that was marked by a vigorous series of disputes on abortion, the economic crisis and which man has run the more negative campaign," The Washington Post reported. "McCain entered the night trailing in the polls and needing a clear victory to reverse the direction of his campaign, which has been hurt by the continuing focus on the troubled economy. The GOP nominee has struggled to separate himself from the policies of the unpopular Bush administration, and tonight he repeatedly made clear that he was his own man and would go in a 'new direction'. " 'Senator Obama, I am not President Bush,' McCain said, after the Democrat pointed out that he had voted for Bush's budget proposals. 'If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.' " Before Wednesday night's presidential debate, The New York Times said: "The McCain campaign's recent angry tone and sharply personal attacks on Senator Barack Obama appear to have backfired and tarnished Senator John McCain more than their intended target, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found. "After several weeks in which the McCain campaign unleashed a series of strong political attacks on Mr Obama, trying to tie him to a former 1960s radical, among other things, the poll found that more voters see Mr McCain as waging a negative campaign than Mr Obama. Six in 10 voters surveyed said that Mr McCain had spent more time attacking Mr Obama than explaining what he would do as president; by about the same number, voters said Mr Obama was spending more of his time explaining than attacking. "Over all, the poll found that if the election were held today, 53 per cent of those determined to be probable voters said they would vote for Mr Obama and 39 per cent said they would vote for Mr McCain." In another report, The New York Times said: "With Senator John McCain unveiling a $52.5 billion package of proposals on Tuesday, both presidential candidates have now outlined their plans for addressing the economic crisis, leaving voters with a clear choice when it comes to one of the biggest challenges the next president will face. "Mr McCain's new plans include tax cuts on capital gains and on withdrawals from retirement accounts by people 59 and older, bigger write-offs for stock losses and a tax waiver for unemployment benefits. "Those proposals, which would be effective for two years, complement an overall economic program that hews to the Republican playbook: tax cuts geared especially to individuals and businesses at the top of the income scale, in the belief that they will stimulate the economy and create jobs that benefit everyone. " 'If I am elected president,' Mr McCain said Tuesday in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, 'I will help to create jobs for Americans in the most effective way a president can do this, with tax cuts that are directed specifically to create jobs and protect your life savings.' "The $60 billion stimulus package that Senator Barack Obama announced Monday, combined with his longstanding economic agenda, reflect Democratic emphasis on tax cuts intended for middle-class and low-wage workers and for the smallest businesses, as well as spending increases for public works to create jobs." The Financial Times contrasted the differing styles with which the two candidates approach foreign policy. "Although the specific policies of the two men often echo each other, the overall contrast is amplified by differences in rhetoric and temperament. Mr Obama is deliberative and sometimes vague; Mr McCain, forceful and combative. "And while the Democrat has built up an extensive network of advisers who agonise over his foreign policy positions, Mr McCain's advisers stress their candidate is his own man. A series of polls has indicated that Mr Obama is by far the more popular throughout the world but both hope to capitalise on international relief at the departure of Mr Bush - and both may find themselves battling unrealistic expectations. "In a series of Financial Times interviews with former and serving diplomats from the US and beyond, many were more sympathetic to Mr Obama's philosophy. " 'Obama is correct that a strong, self-confident and effective US should not be afraid to sit down with our adversaries,' says Nicholas Burns, who until this year led the Bush administration's efforts on Tehran's nuclear programme. 'Frankly, in the case of Iran, it would be unconscionable to head towards a military conflict if we had not tried a major diplomatic effort beforehand... We really haven't had a meaningful set of conversations with Iran in 30 years.' "Without endorsing Mr Obama, Marc Grossman, who served as the state department's number three during Mr Bush's first term, said the American people wanted 'a little more diplomacy rather than a little less diplomacy'." In Politico, Andrew Rasiej and Micah L Sifry looked at the impact of YouTube on the first presidential election campaign in which it has played a role. "Together, Barack Obama and John McCain's YouTube channels have received more than 100 million video views - though it's telling to look at the different ways the two campaigns use the service. As of this writing, McCain's channel contained just over 300 videos, with about 20 million views in all. Nearly all of his videos are short, well-produced pieces that look like, and in many cases are, TV commercials. Of his top 10 most-viewed videos, only one of them - a nearly eight-minute clip of a Sarah Palin speech - breaks that mold. "Obama, by contrast, had more than 1,500 videos on his site, totaling about 80 million views. Many of them, like McCain's, are similar to TV commercials, but that is hardly the rule for Obama. Hundreds of his videos are more like campaign training manuals or appear to be microtargeted at a narrow sliver of viewers - Republicans in Ohio, for instance, or absentee voters in Michigan. But even those obscure videos have been viewed thousands of times. At the other end of the spectrum, only one of Obama's top 10 most-viewed videos is a 30-second commercial. The rest are longer TV appearances and speeches, including Obama's famous speech on race, which was 37 minutes long and has been viewed more than 6 million times. "But focusing only on how the campaigns are using YouTube, without looking at what ordinary users are doing, would be a bit like exploring video today by looking only at what the big three TV commercial networks put online. A search for videos tagged with the words 'Obama' or 'McCain' finds more than 750,000 unique results on YouTube. In other words, the campaigns are responsible for only about 0.25 per cent of all the content uploaded to the site about their candidates." Looking beyond the election itself, in The Boston Globe, Stephen Kinzer considered an issue which will be among the most pressing for the next president: the war in Afghanistan. "Despite their differences over how to pursue the US war in Iraq, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama both want to send more American troops to Afghanistan. Both are wrong. History cries out to them, but they are not listening. "Both candidates would do well to gaze for a moment on a painting by the British artist Elizabeth Butler called 'Remnants of an Army.' It depicts the lone survivor of a 15,000-strong British column that sought to march through 150 kilometers of hostile Afghan territory in 1842. His gaunt, defeated figure is a timeless reminder of what happens to foreign armies that try to subdue Afghanistan. "The McCain-Obama approach to Afghanistan, like much of US policy toward the Middle East and Central Asia, is based on emotion rather than realism. Emotion leads many Americans to want to punish perpetrators of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks. They see war against the Taliban as a way to do it. Suggesting that victory over the Taliban is impossible, and that the United States can only hope for peace in Afghanistan through compromise with Taliban leaders, has been taken as near-treason." Der Spiegel reported: "On Wednesday, the highest ranking German commander in Afghanistan, Major General Hans-Lothar Domrose, voiced his concerns in an interview with the Suddeutsche Zeitung. Domrose is the chief of staff of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and thus third in command of the 50,000 soldiers under Nato command in Afghanistan. He said in the interview that the West has gotten more than it bargained for in Afghanistan. " 'The assumption that one could easily defeat the insurgents using conventional means was wrong,' he told the Munich paper. 'Perhaps we, the international community, were a bit naive.' "He added, however, that one of the primary reasons for the difficulty ISAF is currently encountering is the fact that Taliban fighters are able to retreat to relatively safe havens across Afghanistan's 2,500-kilometer (1,553-mile) long border with Pakistan. 'As long as these sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border exist, we are going to have a difficult time,' he said, before adding that he didn't think the war in Afghanistan was winnable unless the border was sealed." In a commentary for RFE/RL, Helena Malikyar said: "For some time now, polls and other research have indicated that Afghans are tired of living in a protracted state of armed conflict and insecurity. "There have also been credible signs of similar attitudes within the Taliban - among both foot soldiers and pragmatists in the group's leadership. "Mullah Mohammad Omar's recent call for an end to attacks on schools, book-burning, and dismemberment - as well as a marked decrease in suicide attacks targeting civilians - would seem to indicate the Taliban leadership is aware that public opinion is turning against it. "At the same time, a recent increase in coalition and Nato air strikes that have led to civilian causalities is increasingly hard to dismiss as inevitable 'collateral damage'. Afghan public opinion is rapidly turning against international forces and, by extension, the Afghan government. In The Christian Science Monitor, Anand Gopal reported: "In several provinces close to Kabul, the government's presence is vanishing or already nonexistent, residents say. In its place, a more effective - and brutal - Taliban shadow government is spreading and winning local support. " 'The police are just for show,' one local says. 'The Taliban are the real power here.' "Widespread disillusionment with rampant crime, corrupt government, and lack of jobs has fueled the Taliban's rise to de facto power - though mainly in areas dominated by fellow ethnic Pashtuns. Still, the existence of Taliban power structures so close to Kabul shows the extent to which the Afghan government has lost control of the country."