Confession: I was on the streets of Washington celebrating Barack Obama’s victory that historic November night in 2008. Even for a non-voting non-American, it was difficult not to be swayed by the euphoria, the sheer magnitude of the moment, the rivers of pride flowing on every African American face. THE barrier broken.
The whole world believed in the promise of Obama. He was the ultimate rock star of politics, rousing people from Berlin to Delhi. Heart in the right place. Check. Will talk peace instead of war. Check. Has a high IQ, not just beer-drinking abilities. Check. Wants to block runaway capitalism. Check. What a relief after George ‘War on...’ Bush and Dick ‘Darth Vader’ Cheney.
Yet, when Obama made the promise, people believed in “Yes, we can”. Only to find that he compromised too much, was too conciliatory and too easily browbeaten by the Tea Party leaders and their wacko demands. The cerebral, aloof aura didn’t help. For a long time, he was unable to, as the president, connect with and deliver a credible message to the average American. The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded prematurely and essentially for the feelgood factor and one famous speech in Cairo where Obama had recognised the suffering of the Palestinians, looks now a bit silly. Tactical misjudgements, turf wars among his advisors and the power of the pro-Israeli lobby defeated him. He just washed his hands of the Middle East peace process and concentrated instead on the war on terror.
There too, liberals are dismayed at the unprecedented expansion of national security powers, increased use of the drone programme, crackdown on whistleblowers and the continuing CIA renditions. He has a “kill list” under which any military-age male in the strike zone is deemed a terrorist. Obama has been called Bush on steroids. Not a label any one would have conjured up in the heady days of 2008 because Obama was different. As it turns out, not really. He had vowed to close Guantanamo Bay, but gave up in the face of fierce opposition. Both Republicans and Democrats refused to allow the remaining 171 prisoners to be brought to the mainland for prosecution. “Not in my backyard,” was the stern message. Obama backed off. But he did get Osama and did show a cool resolve not usually associated with squishy Democrats. He called Pakistan’s bluff, ended the war in Iraq, helped in the ouster of Libya’s Col Gaddafi and recalibrated US policy toward Asia with an eye on an assertive China. From India’s point of view, this is mostly good.
Obama’s domestic policy achievements are significant considering the financial crisis he walked into. He could have imposed stronger regulations on the banking sector when Wall Street was on its weakest political wicket. He didn’t. Bailed out and free, the executives walked off with big bonuses. Not a pretty sight. He delivered on healthcare reform after a bruising battle, he revived the auto industry and got the inert carmakers of America to make more fuel-efficient cars, and put tough consumer protections on the credit card industry.
Still, three years later, he looks like a uber realist, not a uber idealist. And even to his most ardent supporters, he is an underachiever. Just like Manmohan Singh.
(Former deputy foreign editor of Outlook, Seema Sirohi is currently based in Washington DC)
'he revived the auto industry and got the inert carmakers of America to make more fuel-efficient cars,.."
Tough luck for Obama and his supporters. GM is on track to become bankrupt yet again. So Obama's significant success is bankrupt as well.
"Obama compromised too much, .."
Can Seema enlighten me about where Obama compromised? He had full control of the House and 60 seats in the Senate for the first two years. When did he compromise?
"He could have imposed stronger regulations on the banking sector when Wall Street was on its weakest political wicket. He didn’t"
Oh really!!! What was Dodd Frank about?
"he revived the auto industry and got the inert carmakers of America to make more fuel-efficient cars, "
That would be news to everyone. Obama's pet project, the Chevy Volt is a huge flop. And as for reviving the auto industry, GM and Chrysler still owe the tax payers billions of dollars. Ford refused any help from Obama and is doing very well. Obama saved the union workers thro' the bail out. He did not save the auto industry.
Not sure where Seema gets her news from.
VNK Murthi >> 1. Obama killed No 1 enemy of America Osama.
Absolutely wrong, the credit should go to the ground personnel who drove the operation and should also credit Bush for laying framework for operation kill osama
VNK Murthi >> 2. He changed the globe's paradigam shift towards India.
Again the credit should go to the much abused and disliked GWBush who was really pro India, obama has done nothing much to build the relation.
VNK Murthi >> 3. American banking industry survives
This is Obamas' greatest failure, he has effectively privatised profits and nationalized losses and his policies are infact much the reason for global inflation. But he is powerless in a way, the Democrat Party has its core constituency in the suit and tie financial industry and he has to listen to his paymasters.
VNKMurthi>> 4 The health care policy was appreciated by one and all.
Not appreciated widely, but agree that he has attempted a change for good.
VNK Murthi>> 5 He shows flexibility and accomodate others Ideas
He really does not have hard agendas like GW Bush and so appears flexible but that is more a represenation of current situation rather than anything.
Overall, it is too early to judge Barack Obama but he has his list of failings (many) and successes (some) ...
1. Obama killed No 1 enemy of America Osama.
2. He changed the globe's paradigam shift towards India.
3. American banking industry survives
4 The health care policy was appreciated by one and all.
5 He shows flexibility and accomodate others Ideas
To sum up Though I am not a great fan of him atleast he is
atheletic in shape and not rude as powerful are..
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