‘How Obama surrendered at home and waged war abroad’

‘How Obama surrendered at home and waged war abroad’ by Tariq Ali for the Daily Telegraph, October 30, 2010

As the midterms rapidly approach, the beleaguered US President’s ratings are in steep decline, putting him on the defensive with little to offer his supporters except fine words. Those supporters have been voicing their discontent on the television networks but, much more seriously, are likely to punish Obama by staying at home and ignoring the ballot box on Tuesday.

Indeed, this has been a humiliating time for the once seemingly messianic President. This week’s decision for Obama to appear on the US satirical current affairs TV programme The Daily Show – which is largely watched by liberal voters – was a disaster. The audience openly laughed at him; the presenter, Jon Stewart, gave Obama the honour of being the first President to be called ”Dude’’ to his face on national television; and, worst of all, Obama was forced to recant on the most effective marketing slogan of his generation. ”Yes we can,” Obama admitted, had become ”Yes we can, but…’’ Not exactly a rallying cry.

The desperate move to try to rescue himself from disarray, if not extinction, was misguided. While the audience laughed at him, Obama’s self-justificatory response was wooden and dull. “When we promised ‘Change you can believe in’, it wasn’t ‘Change you can believe in in 18 months’.”

So how has Obama ended up in this mess? The question voters are asking is whether anything has altered substantially since the White House changed hands? To which I can answer: very little, apart from the mood music. The high hopes aroused during Obama’s galvanising election campaign have receded rapidly. Two wars and an economic crisis would test the capacity of any president, but Obama has been found wanting on many levels. His desire to please all has succeeded in antagonising many of his own supporters.

In Washington and New York last month, I spoke to several Afro-American activists whose sadness and anger was written on their faces. They won’t vote for him again. Sadly, proximity to power has an unsurprising ability to mutate a politician’s spinal cord into bright yellow jelly. But, in times of crisis, punishment is not long in coming. Despite the media hoopla that surrounds them, Obama isn’t being much punished by the rise of the Tea Party movement. Their shenanigans are, much to the delight of the White House, largely succeeding in destabilising the Republican establishment.

The election to the presidency of a mixed-race Democrat, vowing to heal America’s wounds at home and restore its reputation abroad, had been greeted with a wave of ideological euphoria not seen since the days of Kennedy. The shameful interlude of Republican swagger and criminality, they thought, was over.

Illusion-mongering about America’s new dawn spread to every continent. Europeans concluded that if they had to permanently kow-tow to the great global hegemon across the water, better this Holy American Emperor than his ghastly predecessor. read more

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