Pakistan Link, Commentary, Anila Ali, Posted: Jan 22, 2010
One year has passed since the electrifying event at Green Park where President Obama delivered his victory speech to the accompaniment of a highly charged crowd’s roar, “Change has come to America.”
Americans had made history by electing the first African-American president. People around the world were expecting a changed America, a changed world that he promised, a changed role of America as a world leader. Americans looked on and believed things would be different with a visionary world leader: Barack Hussein Obama.
Their hopes of the two wars ending and Guantanamo Bay closing were appreciably high. They had also hoped that Iran would shake hands with Obama by signing the uranium enrichment deal, Israel and Palestine would sit together and feast on olives and hummus, as opposed to just extending an olive branch, that the economy would be rescued and lifted to the Clinton era glory, that Wall Street would be duly punished and its powers curtailed, that the basic need of every human being – healthcare – would be available to all Americans, and that the climate change agenda would become a world priority.
A year on, these expectations appear to be a distant dream. The US is deeply embroiled in Afghanistan, Guantanamo remains open and the Congress has ruled that none of its detainees could enter the US, Iran continues to threaten the world with its uranium enrichment program, peace in the Middle East appears far-fetched, the US economy trudges a messy course, healthcare for all Americans is being sabotaged by lobbyists, while the environmental agenda remains uncertain!
As far as the American opinion goes, 48% of the people endorse the way the President is handling the issues (CNN poll). That breeds some hope. And another contention on a positive note is that if it weren’t for the speedily passed stimulus of $787 billion, 640,000 or so jobs would have been either lost or not created at all.
Another positive development is the induction of the accomplished Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic woman, who now sits comfortably on the Supreme Court bench. In fairness to the President one could say that even though the presidency appears the most powerful position in the United States, the real power lies with the Congress. President Obama’s sincerity for healthcare was all too evident in his words and in his eyes but it’s the handful of US senators whose votes would decide if the millions of deserving Americans could get healthcare to bring the US at par with the rest of the developed world.
President Obama’s plans for change still resonate but what has become obvious to Americans is that only a little of the big change could take place.
As for reaching out to the other side, he has tried to woo the Republicans and, in the opinion of some analysts, even bent backwards to win their support. For example, the stimulus package has seen many tax cuts, the troop surge has pleased them, but the bi-partisan support the President is looking for remains elusive. They have not hesitated in labeling him as a socialist, a Nazi, a Muslim (insinuating, as being a Muslim is tantamount to being a terrorist). They do have the powerful corporate world, cable TV, and several talk radios on their side. For these very reasons, they have made it impossible for President Obama to get bipartisan support that he so keenly desires.
President Obama may have disappointed Americans whose hopes he had raised but change is still very much possible. Healthcare for all Americans is still possible. The Afghan war has a timeline for withdrawal, and perhaps he can persuade Iran to sign a uranium enrichment deal. We know for a fact that he deliberates and listens to all sides before making a decision. In stark contrast to Bush’s temerity, Barack Hussein Obama is thoughtful about the decisions he makes. He should know that the deadline for change to be achieved fully is 2012.