Saturday, February 16, 2008

Obama the Messiah

Senator Barack Obama may well seize the Democratic Party presidential nomination on his message of change delivered in oratory that has won him many supporters.

Obama has acknowledged the transformational impact of President Ronald Reagan but the former two-term successful Governor of California, in 1980, had domestic and foreign policy platforms that offered significant change.

Caroline Kennedy daughter of the 35th President last month wrote an article for the New York Times titled: A President like my Father.

If the Kennedy Administration had survived beyond 1,000 days, who knows if the quagmire that involvement in Vietnam became, would have been the same or the high risk behaviour such as having sex with an East German spy in the White House, would have doomed his presidency?

Kennedy had said in his Inaugural Address: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge—and more."

Obama recently said: "We know that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored, that will not be deterred, that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, make this time different than all the rest.”

Being a beacon to the world, has always been part of the moral underpinning of American foreign policy and Ronald Reagan used to often talk about "building a shining white city on a hill."

The genesis of this metaphor dates back to 1630, when the first Governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop penned his sermon A Model of Christian Charity, as his ship the Arbella, approached Boston Harbor.

We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, "may the Lord make it like that of New England." For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God's sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.

The world will welcome the passing of George W. Bush with acclaim but silver words won't kill all the Anti-Americanism that's about.

Edward Luce of the Financial Times recently wrote about Obama: Each of his three central messages is as old as the Republic – the promise of bipartisanship (“to put an end to the bickering and the partisan ways of Washington”), an ethical foreign policy (“to restore America’s moral place in the world”) and delivering change through unity (“to stand up and say we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come”).

Each of these themes also share two traits. First they are drawn from the school of “American exceptionalism” – the belief that America offers a uniquely moral beacon to the world. And second, they are virtually impossible to accomplish.

The extent of the inevitable disillusionment that would follow from the wide gulf between the rhetoric and reality, would depend on good luck that would come the way of a President Obama in particular with the US economy.

There would be no bipartisanship and the reprise of winning "Obama Republicans" similar to the "Reagan Democrats" in Congress - Conservative Democrats who supported Reagan's program - would not happen.

Most people have forgotten that Bill Clinton's first six months as President were a disaster and the first controversy was on gays in the military. Besides policy implementations, more than 3,000 positions have to be filled by the new president.

James Fallows of the Washington Monthly wrote in 1994: Four months after Bill Clinton's inauguration, the verdicts were in: He had failed disastrously as a leader and his administration was for all practical purposes at an end. In early June, Time published its cover story on "The Incredible Shrinking Presidency," and Newsweek's cover showed a picture of Clinton with the caption, "What's Wrong?"

The Washington Post ran a front page story presenting Clinton as a case study of what it means to use up your "political capital." A New York Times editorial asked "Can the Democrats Govern?" and a Times columnist wrote, "Four months into a new presidency, people who voted for it are wondering if it can be saved." The weekend talk shows rang with schadenfreude-edged dissections of "another failed presidency." Even David Broder, usually the soul of sobriety, weighed in with a column calling Clinton's performance a "calamity that reached beyond our borders." This column ended, "That this is happening to a man who will remain as president for the next 43 months is an international disaster."

Last week, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote: There’s a big difference between the Republican and Democratic campaigns: The Republicans have split on policy grounds; the Democrats haven’t. There’s been a Republican divide between center and right, yet no Democratic divide between center and left.

But when you think about it, the Democratic policy unity is a mirage. If the Democrats actually win the White House, the tensions would resurface with a vengeance.

The first big rift would involve Iraq. Both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have seductively hinted that they would withdraw almost all troops within 12 to 16 months. But if either of them actually did that, he or she would instantly make Iraq the consuming partisan fight of their presidency.

There would be private but powerful opposition from Arab leaders, who would fear a return to 2006 chaos. There would be irate opposition from important sections of the military, who would feel that the was squandering the gains of the previous year. A Democratic president with few military credentials would confront outraged and highly photogenic colonels screaming betrayal.

There would be important criticism from nonpartisan military experts. In his latest report, the much-cited Anthony Cordesman describes an improving Iraqi security situation that still requires “strategic patience” and another five years to become self-sustaining.

There would be furious opposition from Republicans and many independents. They would argue that you can’t evacuate troops just as Iraqis are about to hold national elections and tensions are at their highest. They would point out that it’s insanity to end local reconstruction and Iraqi training efforts just when they are producing results. They would accuse the new administration of reverse-Rumsfeldism, of ignoring postsurge realities and of imposing an ideological solution on a complex situation.

All dreams of changing the tone in Washington would be gone. All of Obama’s unity hopes would evaporate. And if the situation did deteriorate after a quick withdrawal, as the National Intelligence Estimate warns, the bloodshed would be on the new president’s head.

Either the election of a woman or black as President of the United States would be historic milestones but a campaign theme "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!" without much substance, will flounder in the real world of politics.

David Henninger of The Wall Street Journal provided an edited version of an Obama speech this week, "stripped of the flying surfboard":

"Our road will not be easy . . . the cynics. . . where lobbyists write check after check and Exxon turns record profits . . . That's what happens when lobbyists set the agenda. . . It's a game where trade deals like Nafta ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with their teenagers to work for minimum wage at Wal-Mart . . . It's a game . . . CEO bonuses . . . while another mother goes without health care for her sick child . . . We can't keep driving a wider and wider gap between the few who are rich and the rest who struggle to keep pace . . . even if they're not rich . . ."

Here's his America: "lies awake at night wondering how he's going to pay the bills . . . she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill . . . the senior I met who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin' Donuts after school just to make ends meet . . . I was not born into money or status . . . I've fought to bring jobs to the jobless in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant . . . to make sure people weren't denied their rights because of what they looked like or where they came from . . . Now we carry our message to farms and factories."

It ends: "We can cast off our doubts and fears and cynicism because our dream will not be deferred; our future will not be denied; and our time for change has come."

Henninger wrote that odds are that he will ride it to the nomination among Democrats for whom America can never quite escape the Depression. Hillary Clinton can only offer what she's got -- a clear-eyed ambition to get, and use, Democratic power.

Henninger said everything in life has a top -- stocks, football teams and political phenoms, as she well knows. Though down, Hillary ought to suck it up for Ohio and Texas and hope the Obama wave starts to break. On current course, it will.

There is still an election to be held in November and on Friday Bloomberg highlighted that the "Republican Attack Machine" is ready to tarnish the preacher of change, if he is their opponent.

Obama has conceded it was ``boneheaded'' of him to buy a home in June 2005 for $1.65 million with the involvement of a shady associate Antoin Rezko, who was under federal investigation at the time. Rezko was indicted 16 months later on unrelated corruption charges, and is awaiting trial in jail. Over the past year, Obama, has returned about $85,000 in campaign contributions given or raised by Rezko.

When Obama bought the home in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, Rezko's wife, Rita, purchased, for $625,000, adjoining land that the house's owners insisted on selling at the same time. Seven months later, she sold the Obamas one-sixth of her lot, for $105,000, so they could expand their yard.

Senator John McCain has his own skeletons and was among five senators who took contributions from savings- and-loan executive Charles Keating and were then accused of seeking favors from regulators for him. The Senate Ethics Committee reprimanded McCain, though it cleared him of wrongdoing.

On Thursday in Ohio, Senator Hillary Clinton said she offered "solutions" rather than the "speeches". On Friday in Wisconsin, Obama said that Mrs Clinton's "solutions" were beholden to Washington lobby groups.

"In this campaign, Senator Clinton has taken nearly double the amount of money from lobbyists than any Democrat or Republican running for president," he said. "That's not being a part of the solutions business. That's being a part of business-as-usual in Washington. And that is what we are trying to change."

The only certainty is that business-as-usual in Washington will remain as business-as-usual in Washington.

Dr. Peter Morici: Challenges for the New US President - - Voters are focusing too much on personalities and not enough on issues