The Obama Effect

LONDON – In the last two months, I have been in eight American cities – Boston, New York, Washington, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Phew! I am left with several sentiments.

First, if you have to travel from city to city in the United States, you would do yourself a favor if you could find a way of journeying by train. American airlines are pretty awful. They are lucky that hostility to competition in what purports to be the homeland of free-market capitalism has kept Asian airlines out of their domestic marketplace. Do American air travelers know just how bad the service that they get really is?

American airports are as dire as British ones, maybe worse. Los Angeles gets the Oscar, with Soviet-style queues through security. How is it that America gives us Silicon Valley wizardry and Third World infrastructure?

But, for all the misery of air travel in America, when you get to your destination it can still blow your socks off. The lakeside architecture of Chicago. The sight of Puget Sound in Seattle (one of my favorite cities). The view across San Francisco’s bay from Nob Hill. Park Avenue in New York on a fine late spring morning. They are all, to borrow from Frank Sinatra, “my kind of town.”