24/10/2012 06:58 BST | Updated 22/12/2012 05:12 GMT

Tim Montgomerie's Obama Baloney


The US election is nearly upon us and the two things that everyone can agree upon is that the race is within a whisker and whoever is elected president, a huge, defining decision will have been made - not just for the US but the whole world. As a result, passions are running high.

Nonetheless, on 19 October Tim Montgomerie, of Conservative Home, wrote an article in The Times so allergic to the full facts and so alien to reason that it cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

As Tim is an intelligent man I must assume that his inaccuracies were a purposeful display of overt partisanship, rather than not having done his research properly.

Let me list my bones of contention one by one:

Unemployment is still historically high: On the face of it, this is true. However, the financial crisis of 2008 - the biggest of its kind since the Great Depression - occurred six weeks before Barack Obama got hold of the keys to the White House. As such, not one iota of blame can be attributed to him for the mess. He inherited it; pure and simple.

Furthermore, and more importantly, unemployment is now at its lowest rate for four years. Jobs are being created, not lost, and the economy is growing, not shrinking. As reported by the Financial Times, earlier this month, in September the US saw sales increase by 1.1 per cent, greater than the 0.7 per cent most analysts had predicted. In addition, the vital car manufacturing sector saw growth of 1.3 per cent in the same month, building on growth of 1.8 per cent, in August. This, of course, is totally down to the leadership of Barack Obama, because without his saving the automotive industry there would be no companies to provide growth and jobs being delivered. But Tim conveniently forgets to mention any of this.

61 per cent of Americans think their country is on the wrong track: Again, on the face of it, Tim is correct. However, what he does is to simplify that which cannot be simplified. While all the polls show that most Americans do, indeed, believe their country is on the wrong track, it does not logically, or realistically, follow that they blame Obama. If the executive is to blame for everything in the US, then surely that applies to the UK, too? Of course, this is wrong - there are always external factors; it's how one manages them that should be judged.

The fact that the president is leading Romney in most of the polls, especially in the swing states, and has an approval rating regularly around 50 per cent, is testament to the fact that most Americans do not blame Obama - not primarily, at least - for America's ills.

For example, two factors that have increased Americans' unease about their country's future are the rise of China and the increasing cost of fuel. In regard to China, President Obama has launched more trade suits against China, through the World Trade Organisation, in his first term than President Bush managed in two. Does that smack of weak leadership? And, concerning the price of fuel, it has been hugely affected by two things out of Obama's control: 1) the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the sanctions placed on Iran's oil exports. Again, Tim, while insistent upon a whole spectrum of powerful, external forces being largely responsible for the UK's woes is, nevertheless, happy to attribute all of the United States' hardship to one man. Hardly fair, I think you'll agree.

Obama is 22 years younger than Reagan was when he became president: This I found to be Tim's most indecent observation. Ronald Reagan, at 69 years 349 days of age, was the oldest president ever, when first inaugurated. Therefore, Reagan was particularly old, Obama was not particularly young. John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were, in fact, both younger than Barack Obama was when they first became president. What Tim was clearly trying to do in his article was use age to undermine Obama which, in my opinion, is a thoroughly unwelcome contribution to politics.

Also, it is clearly ludicrous, because which political commentator with an ounce of credibility would suggest that either JFK or Clinton were amateurs, out of their depth, or too young to hold the office they did. For the third time in a little over one thousand words Tim's analysis has been highly selective with the facts to make partisan and unfair points.

Latest track survey has Romney just two points behind Obama: While correct, this is an oversimplification of polling akin to calling the Mona Lisa a 'picture'. While the trend, nationally, has been to see the race tightening, Obama still enjoys leads in the majority of swing states - the states which will decide the election. Romney could outperform Obama, nationally, but so long as the president maintains his lead in the swing states he will be returned to the White House. Indeed, this is what happened in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote but George W. Bush won the Electoral College.

The significance of states is such, compared to the popular will of the people, because of the country's federal nature which, in turn, is the result of Americans wanting to rid themselves of British monarchical despotism. The president of the Union is supposed to be a chairman of self-determining states and must derive his authority from them through an electoral college. That is why even the smallest, apparently inconsequential states can decide a presidential election. New Hampshire, for example, with its four measly Electoral College votes could hand victory to either Obama or Romney.

Therefore, while important, the national polls are not what should be primarily touted. That is why the blog of renowned US pollster, Nate Silver, gives Obama a 67.9 per cent chance of winning the election, as a direct result of his outperforming Romney in the key swing states.

In conclusion...

There was much more in Tim's article, of a subjective nature, that I fundamentally disagree with. For example, his accusation that Obama has not been providing the world with the leadership it craves and his assertion that Obama's "hopey-changey" politics is not as desirable as Romney's politics of "tried and tested experience". Nonetheless, I have simply stuck to challenging his partisan analysis of the facts.

To my mind, Tim is an intelligent, engaging and decent political commentator. His analysis is often insightful and inquisitive and that is why I could not let his latest article, which is as balanced as Katie Price is shy, pass without being challenged.

I'll give the last word to Abraham Lincoln: "It is not best to swap horses when crossing streams."