Will Obama get his due?

By Dr N. Janardhan

The new American culture is to blame the president for all ills.

IT IS The quintessential plight of a politician — reaching the zenith of popularity just before and at the time of assuming power, and hitting the nadir midway or towards the end of the term in office. No one epitomises this reality better than US President Barack Obama at present.

The news of the beheading of Steven Sotloff by ISIS had barely trickled in when Fox News began blaming President Obama for the murder of the American journalist in September 2014.

This was followed by critics assigning blame on Obama for the Ebola death of an American in October. Such was the virulent attack on the US president that one commentator protested: “If our children’s children should die from Ebola here in the United States, President Obama would be to blame.”

Not just these, some Americans even blamed Obama for diminishing American supremacy in space technology after the unmanned commercial rocket, ‘Antares’, headed for the International Space Station to deliver supplies, exploded just after launch at a Nasa facility a few weeks ago.

In fact, a Fox News host bizarrely clubbed Ebola, the Secret Service scandal, the Veterans Affairs scandal, Obamacare, Benghazi, and other controversies in one question on Obama administration’s competence!

The cumulative result of such a sustained campaign by his political adversaries resulted in Republicans winning the Senate majority in the just concluded elections, thereby shifting the power balance in Congress, painting a dim future for the Democrats, and rendering Obama a lame-duck president.

David Leege of the University of Notre Dame summarised that the mid-term election “was the final chapter in making the president small. The immediate aftermath of 2008 was that Americans had finally conquered their racial aversions. The election of Barack Obama was a victory both for renewed national hope and long-awaited democracy. Obama was big, a star, a voice to be reckoned with, a mind to be taken seriously.

“By 2014 Obama was small, a punching bag, easily bullied, the one to whom small politicians could talk tough, abusively, the one whose ideas were ignored, the one whom his fellow partisans would come to avoid at all cost. How could this happen in six short years?”

It is ironic that few Americans remember his policies that led to the withdrawal of all American troops in Iraq in 2011 or his bid not to put any boots on the ground in the ongoing war against ISIS. Fewer people praised the Obama Doctrine on how the United States should use its military power around the world — “just
because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail…Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without levelling with the American people about the sacrifices required. Tough
talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans.”

This doctrine is a direct contrast to the approach of his predecessor, which Dick Cheney summarised: “If there is anyone in the world today who doubts the seriousness of the Bush Doctrine, I would urge that person to consider the fate of the Taleban in Afghanistan, and of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.”

While these facts are barely remembered, a few other more important facts have been forgotten as well. The US economy is at its best now than ever before in Obama’s six-year term, having grown by more than seven per cent since 2008; the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been hitting records; unemployment rate is falling and is now below six per cent; the dollar is at a five-year high versus major peers; and aided by lowest gasoline price since 2010, consumer confidence and disposable income are high, both combining to increase US retail sales.

These should make us wonder if it was really Obama and his policies that cost him and the Democrats so dearly. Or should we read between the lines from the following facts – the November 2014 election was the costliest in US history with Republicans spending their way to victory; three out of five whites voted for a Republican House candidate; and apathy, anger and frustration at the negative tone of the campaigns resulted in the lowest percentage of voter participation since 1942.

In spite of all these factors, Obama’s best years could still be ahead of him. The Iran nuclear and Palestinian-Israeli issues are pregnant with positive possibilities. These and the possibility of Obama completing his twin presidential term without waging a ground war on any country may finally justify the Nobel Peace Prize, which was conferred rather prematurely in 2009.

Together, it appears that Obama may be better recognised as a ‘fine’, ‘credible’ and ‘successful’ US president in future than he is at present.–AN

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