Sunday, June 5, 2011

No Osama, President Obama and the vagueness of hope

Please forget Osama for the moment.

After eight years of George Bush’s administration, the United States was more than ready for change. After a decent first term, Bush’s popularity began to wane the second time around and seriously dipped towards the end. Worsening complications in Afghanistan and Iraq, and early signs of the soon-to-come serious economic downturn paved the way for a voice of hope. One that bounded with enthusiasm, honesty and faith. Obama’s election campaign embodied change, a huge symbolic aspect of this was his race. The country knew it wanted a different administration, and a different President. One vastly different from the previous one, who had become a global political caricature.

In 2008, it seemed like the United States had gotten into too much of a mess, one that seemed just too impossible to get out of. But the Obama campaign’s overriding theme seemed to promise that even the most seemingly insurmountable obstacle will be overcome. ‘Yes We Can’ became the theme all through Obama’s Presidential campaign. Although ‘Change we believe in’ was his slogan, Yes We Can was a resounding chant that followed the Obama campaign trail. The chant is inspired by a United Farm Workers movement, where the workers used a Spanish version in a 1970
s movement.

As Obama’s term-end comes close, he will have to prepare for another grueling 2012 election campaign, and many doubt if he will be reelected. To start with, there have been too many unfulfilled promises and then, there has been an overwhelming feeling among supporters that there was too much hope with unsubstantiated reasoning, and that they were somehow ‘hoodwinked’ into voting for fluff not backed by substance.

The reality will continue to unfold as long as the President is in the Oval Office, but this   popular perception is growing.

A trail of broken promises

During the election campaign, Obama promised change across crucial areas. From closing the Guantanamo Bay, where Human Rights abuses were rampant, to ending the Iraq War and promising affordable Health Care to all. If President Obama really meant them, the promises have been way too hard to deliver.

The Guantanamo Bay for instance, can’t be shut overnight. Many of the countries, whose citizens are in the prison, refuse to take them back. The Health Care system needs a long-term overhaul that just can’t be achieved without Republic support, which has been not forthcoming. But to many, Obama’s failed promises seem like a failure of will, rather than a systemic problem. On the other hand, those who do understand that it is not easy to tackle the tough areas he had proposed to act upon, see childishly hopeful optimism during the campaign and after, which by itself is not enough to change a nation.

 This March, Obama signed in a deal that agrees to resume the military trials in Guantanamo. What this means, essentially, is that the terror prison is not set to close anytime soon, as the trials could take time, besides, it makes the very existence of the prison, legitimate, despite some very public accusations of human rights abuses, an antithesis of what Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ electoral campaign had stood for.

This is what he had said in 2007, during the campaign.

“As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”

Old bottle, new wine

During his Presidential Campaign, Obama had famously praised the power of technology and had used the internet to generate millions of dollars of funding for his campaign. In the lead up to his 2012 campaign, it is unfortunately, the internet that is offering citizens a check list of Obama’s failed and fulfilled promises.  At every milestone, beginning with his 100-day term completion at the White House, bloggers, webmasters, critics and even supporters have been making checklists of words taken seriously and those allowed to fall by the wayside.

As much as Obama is a conservative Democrat and has come head-to-head with the Republicans on key policy issues, many political observes, especially internationally, have wondered over the last two years if Obama is not fulfilling a self-serving American agenda, just like his predecessor, the Republican George Bush.

The Iraq war, for instance, one of Obama’s key promises, was too difficult to exit because of various ‘strategic’ American interest in the region, one of them being oil.
A resounding global voice is now describing America’s efforts in Libya, to bring Gadaffi down, as the beginning of Obama’s Iraq.

The electoral candidate’s sugar-coated promise of change and hope was too hard to deliver in reality as the President. But many say that Obama inherited a brutally tough economic and political situation from his predecessor. And like his rant to a closed-democratic gathering, which was recorded by CBC news reporter last week showed, the Republicans have played serious ‘stalling’ politics. The President mentioned the key areas in his rant, Climate Change and Health Care, among others, where the Republicans haven’t allowed new policies to come into place.

They say an objective take on a President’s performance can only happen in hindsight, but many already feel they have an accurate assessment of Obama’s term – too many promises were made, most failed and a few half-passed.

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