Monday, 8 February 2010

DIVERSION

Barack Obama, one year later

It's a little over a year since Barack Obama created history and already the shine and gloss is wearing off his presidency. Suddenly he's looking like any other US president.

America's first African-American president steamrolled into the White House on the grand slogans "Change we can believe in" and "Yes we can". Just twelve months in the Oval Office and everyone, fans and foes alike, are asking "Can he really?"

The Obama presidency was nothing short of a miracle or two. The first miracle happened when he defeated John McCain, though that was expected. The second, his promise of change, is still awaited by Americans and the rest of the world.



The question is not whether he wants to bring change as he said during his election campaign—of course he does, who doesn't want to play god—it's whether he can make a change that Americans can believe in.

For now, the odds are against Obama and it will be a while before he can bend down and pick up the baton of change and dash to the finish line. His popularity ratings have dipped. The US economy is yet to come out of recession. Unemployment is still on the rise. His healthcare reforms are under fire, and pending. He shocked many by sending more arms and men into Afghanistan. Last year he refused to meet the Dalai Lama to appease China. He tried to foist a last-minute climate change deal on the developing world. In a major political upset last month, the Reps snatched the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, held by the Dems since 1952. And there's plenty where all that came from. Clearly, Obama has a big fight on his hands.

There is palpable disappointment amongst many who actually thought Obama would, like some medieval conjuror, make hope and change materialise out of thin air, and that everyone would live happily ever after. Nothing of the kind is going to happen. Obama may be an extraordinary president, but don't forget he is also an ordinary person, subject to human frailties that are common to you and me. He is more likely to fall before he rises, more likely to fail before he succeeds. But, the seriousness of intent and purpose of his presidency cannot be mistaken.

The hype and hoopla surrounding Barack Obama's spectacular victory will fade in due course of time. What will stay alive in public memory, though, is how he conducts himself, both as a president and a person, over the remaining three years of his term. From here on, should he fail to live up to the great expectations that have fallen to his lot, there will be neither hope nor change—probably not even a second term.

Recommended article: The Muddled Selling of the President at www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/weekinreview/31stevenson.html

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