Obama gets second chance to restore US image

By Ameen Izzadeen
When Barack Hussein Obama won the presidency in 2008, many thought he would be a one-term president. Some even feared that he would be killed, probably by a racist or by the mysterious killers who gunned down President John F. Kennedy. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said, “I hope they do not kill Obama, because Obama is biting off more than he can chew.”
But Obama survived. Some may say this was probably because the would-be killers thought a parallel between the Kennedy killing and the Obama killing would be so striking that it could blow the lid off their secret identity. Others may say that the United States has come of age and a majority of the people do not subscribe to racist ideologies.
Analysing Tuesday’s election results, one could safely assume that none who voted for Obama is a racist, though strangely the Ku Klux Klan called on its members to back him because he killed Osama bin Laden. This does not mean that those who voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney were racists. By appointing African Americans as Secretaries of State and National Security Advisors, the Republicans have demonstrated that they are not racists. But Obama’s victory has proved that US elections are decided not by the whites alone. Obama’s supporters comprised a winning coalition of educated whites, the liberals, the social justice activists, the anti-war campaigners, the women, the youth, the minorities – Afro Americans, Hispanics, Muslims and the Jews who are opposed to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
An Afro American with a Muslim middle name being elected not once but twice says much for the goodness of the American people, though such goodness is seldom reflected in the policies of the leaders they elect.
Four years ago, when Obama won the race to the White House, racial walls in American politics tumbled. The rest of the world partied along with the people who elected him. Many shed tears of joy, unable to believe that the dream of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had finally come true.
The aura of freedom – freedom from bigotry and racial hatred – was evident at the victory rally in Chicago and the celebrations at Times Square in New York and the lawn outside the White House in Washington on Tuesday. Emphasising this freedom, Obama in his victory speech said: “I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you live. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”
The Obama victory not only dealt a severe blow to the racists, it has also dealt a similar blow to the neocons who were counting on a Romney victory to re-implement their might-is-right doctrine that saw illegal wars, human rights violations, state terror and other acts that made the US to lose its moral authority to lead the world. Also dealt a humiliating blow was the Israeli lobby, which was praying for a Romney victory.
This election showed for the first time that people’s power was greater than lobby power. The claim that no candidate can win a US election without the support of the Israeli lobby has been proved wrong. Obama won without the support of the Israeli lobby. This is a feat which no US president since the setting up of Israel in 1948 had achieved.
The biggest loser was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He openly backed Romney although Obama, during the campaign and the debate on foreign policy, tried his best to show that he was closer to the Zionist state than his rival was.
Yet it was no secret that Obama and Netanyahu had disagreements over Israel’s policy on settlement building in the occupied Palestinian land and over a possible military attack on Iran.
Be that as it may, peace in Palestine should be Obama’s primary foreign policy goal. He tried during his first term but could not proceed because of the pressure from Israel. It is said that the US president in his second term plays for history. If Obama is to be remembered, not in terms of his racial identity but in terms of his achievements, he should bring morality back to US politics. This can come about if he helps the Palestinians to achieve statehood, ends the war in Afghanistan, respects international law and stops drone attacks and extrajudicial killings in Pakistan and other places.
Yesterday, Obama was back in the White House — this time as a first Afro American President to be reelected. When President Bush was re-elected in 2004, Britain’s Daily Mirror in a headline-hitting headline asked, “Why were 53 million Americans so dumb?”. In this election, the 59.7 million Americans who ensured Obama’s victory came in for praise from the rest of the world.
Now firmly in the saddle, Obama’s first and foremost task is to put the economy in shape. Four years ago, Obama inherited a crisis-ridden economy with a trillion-dollar budget deficit amidst a major global financial crisis. At Tuesday’s election, the state of the US economy nearly cost him his reelection. With a high unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent and the federal debt ceiling likely to be raised, writ large in Obama’s victory is the great expectation of the people that the President would put the economy on the path to recovery.
On the first day in the Oval Office after his victory, the international rating agency Fitch warned the newly re-elected President that the US rating could be downgraded and the country would be plunging into recession unless he put in place a credible deficit-reduction plan by raising taxes and cutting down on expenditure.
The economic imperatives underline the need to concentrate more on trade and diplomacy rather than wars and confrontations which have cost the US taxpayers more than 1.3 trillion dollars since 2001. Placing excessive hopes on one’s military power will lead to hubris which in turn leads to one’s nemesis. The US must, instead, push for peace and fair trade.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka on November 9, 2011)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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