Africa & Beyond

Obama’s Difficult Presidency

After the landslide win over the discredited and war-wearied Republicans in the 2008 US presidential elections, the first elected African-American President’s tumultuous ride into the White House was the stuff legend was made. If the tetchy Democratic primaries between Obama and Hilary Clinton, culminating in the Democratic nomination of Obama gripped the attention of the world, the final presidential battle for Washington pitching the conservative war veteran, John McCain and the neophyte Illinois Senator, now President, was no less a spectacle. The inauguration of the 44th first Black US President on January 2009 heralded a new World Order. Or so it seems. No event in recent history can compare to the spectacle of the US elections and inauguration of 2008 except maybe for the pulling down of the Iron Curtain ending the Cold War between the East and West. I remember watching Rev. Jesse Jackson drenched in the rivers of his own tears as President Barrack Obama took the oath of office on the worn pages of the Bible first used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

The occasion was just too emotional and too massive for him. It was the climax of the pain of the civil rights years. Even the strong oratorical power of the President-elect failed him. For a moment as he took the oath, he stuttered. He was at the centre of it all. But that was more than a year ago. Times have since changed. The euphoria that greeted the inauguration of the first black president is now but a speck in the memory of a nation ravaged by the costly and unending Taliban insurgency, an economic meltdown not seen since the Great Depression and still haunted by the race the question. America is at cross roads. The election of President Obama initially demonstrated a country ready to come to grips with its blighted past but has now terribly and most shockingly revealed the façade of it all. The Obamas occupation of the White House has exposed the fragility of race relations and the frightening distrust that still exist among minority groups in the country. It was easy to have concluded several months ago that America was ready to move on, after having incurred the wrath of the entire world, angered its allies and completely isolated as the self-styled policeman of the world writhing under George Bush Texan boots.

Obama’s Presidency was thus meant to change the unilateralist policies of the Bush years. It was a breath of fresh air from a government dominated by Republican hawks. Obama was poised to make a difference from Bush intransigent years. Of course, a lot has changed since George Bush returned to his family ranch in Texas, so has the face of America politics been strangely transformed in the past months. A new brand of politics has emerged. President Obama’s policy decisions and actions in office have sadly now been reduced to dirty politicking and the black versus white discourse have resurfaced like an old wound and now largely defines much of American politics and “the Obama age”. No thanks to rampaging Republicans and a grouchy cousin, the Tea Party. Every utterances and actions of the President are being watched and twisted by opponents as being racial or promoting a racial cause. The race debate which many thought had long gone with his election now defines America politics. So President Obama is running a difficult presidency. Apart from battling to save the economy wrecked by a Republican government and making American safe with the war on the Taliban, he has to watch his back at home from GOP-Republicans and their Tea Party extremists who continue to fight dirty. And this is intriguing! The resurgence of the Tea Party? Why now in the Obama’s Presidency? Where were they during the Bush years if they are truly nationalists? A black president emerges in the White House and a long forgotten and dead Tea Party resurrected. How convenient? The brand of politics and tactics of the Tea Party and their Republicans supporters should have no place in an American democracy many countries look up to as a symbol of democratic values. The first inkling that Obama road will be rough was during the Health Care Debate aimed at providing health cover for millions of poor Americans with no health insurance policy. The Republicans alleged that the President initiated the Health Policy to cover millions of blacks. He was ridiculously alleged by the Tea Party “as wanting to steal from the white to pay blacks” At one of his healthcare address in the House of Representatives, a Republican Rep. Joe Wilson rudely cut the President short in his speech with a “you lie” outburst in an extraordinary breach of congressional decorum after Obama had declared that insurance health covers would not be extended to illegal immigrants.

Though Joe Wilson did apologize for his barbarism, calling the outburst spontaneous, the outburst heralded and was the big picture in a grotesque twist of what was to come in “the Obama age” and America politics The skirmishes between Obama and the Republicans during the Health Care Reform will go down as one of the highpoints of Presidents Obama difficult Presidency. Never has a major policy decision been so fiercely contested as the health care reform The arm-twisting, dirty fighting and flaring of the race question by the Republicans defined the debate so much so that the benefits of the health policy was lost on ordinary Americans. America was at a breaking point. President Barrack Obama was called names from a socialist to a Hitler and an Anti Christ. Black senators were stoned by Tea Party extremists on their way to the Capitol. It was 1960s all over again! It was a theatre of the absurd-America was on a descent to Third World politics, Democratic constituency offices were attacked and dead threats became the new song of Health Care Reform.

Then Professor Louis Gates Jnr, one of America’s pre-eminent African American scholars was busted by a white police officer in his Harvard apartment in 2009 and all hell was let lose on a nation on edge. The smoldering fire of race was stoked again. Was Gates a victim of racial profiling or circumstance? President Obama’s comment about the incident was also latched on by the Republicans as anti-white. But Obama has continued to wage a difficult presidency in a country that reeled under eight years of bullish leadership. Not that running America from the Oval Office had been a tea party, but never also in the history of American politics has a President has to constantly watch his back as a result of his skin colour. Now Obama seem to be the fall guy in a country suffering from excruciating economic recession and unemployment ever witnessed since the Great Depression. The Obama’s Presidency is coming at a time of great difficulty in the country’s history. So this was definitely not going to be a walk in the park for any President. But do the Americans realize that the Democrats have always had the thankless job of clearing the mess left behind by the Republicans? The Republicans will run the country into a cul-de-sac; the Democrats would do a thankless job of re-directing the country. George Bush Snr. ran America into a dead hole and started the new war and America hate in the Muslim world with spates of violent attack and terrorism on its citizens; Bill Clinton brought years of prosperity and a love for America. George Bush Jnr, wrecked the goodwill of Bill Clinton years, and then comes Barrack Obama to do the dirty job once again. But that country seems not to have learned the lessons of the past years. While the majority of the citizens continued to be hoodwinked by Republican hawks into believing that President Obama is the next worst thing after Hitler, their brand of politics is making America a laughing stock in the comity of nations. What message will a Republican Party preach in the event that they assume the presidency again after Obama? It will be nice to see somebody stand up to any Republican President and say to him “Hey, you have no moral ground t

o speak to us about democracy and fair play, because you never practiced the same at home”. The Gulf of Mexico oil leak has also turned out to be one of Obama’s difficult moments. Accused of not responding promptly enough to the spill that has wreaked untold ecological and economic havoc, the Republicans of course played true to type in using the leaks and other such incidents like the recent sacking in the Agriculture Ministry of Shirley Sherrod as examples of everything goes including the absurd in American new politics. President Obama has so far waged all the wars, with the Republicans, the Tea Party, a biased Fox news, Wall Street greed, Arizona immigration Laws, and the Taliban insurgents who are even more determined to spill Americans blood in the war against terror. But the real battle will be fought in November congressional elections. In the meantime, Obama continues to face a difficult Presidency and has anybody noticed that he has grown more grey hairs in the last two years?

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