Assessing the Obama Presidency
The unquestionable evidence for his justified second term
(January 2009 – October 2011)
Recent commentary on the relevance and veracity of an Obama second term, has been met with a sense of mixed emotions and responses. These vary from opposition party political embrace, claimed constituencies such as the black public intellectuals, unemployed dissatisfied workers and a whole host of declared and undeclared interest holders. The truth is whilst the Obama presidency may be critiqued no different to any former or sitting president, it appears the criticisms and blackmail is primarily informed by conjecture more than fact. To this extend I had sought to argue for his second term in citing 14 fundamental issues that this presidency had to contend with, became shaped by and will be judged for in history exemplification. My views are necessarily mine and as a South African is observed from such context.
Barack Hussein Obama the first black president of the United States of America, I hold disserves this his second term for the following reasons
- The president showed leadership in excruciating circumstances, from day one he had to deal with a litany of crises’ that threatened in manifold design the fabric of the American nationhood. In my note, Obama a Crises Manager par excellence I share some of these crises, from oil spills, wars, economic meltdowns, bailouts, temporal nationalization, ground zero land arguments, annual wild fires in California, and a crazy pastor out of Gainesvillle Florida who on the eve of the 9th anniversary of 911 bellowed threats of setting 200 Quran’s alight. The aspect of crises is one that often rears its head without warning, yet the ones I cited here, have constituted the greater part the essence of such crises, and the USA as we speak in October 2011, is less in crises now than when these unfolded. This must go down as a victory in crises management as Obama stepped up to the plate and delivered the goods.
- The president had to deal with the lifelong dream of National Health Insurance promulgation, and legislation that every democrat had dreamt about but could not attain. He managed to let the legislation passed through a hostile senate and lobby and though such is open for contestation in the definition of State embrace, no one can argue he did not deal with issue at least from a legislation point of view. The jury remains out as to how in reality it may be applied and pan out similar to the South African NHI in praxis but the legislation is in law. The Supreme Court judges may have to rule on this in more detail as the 11th District of Atlanta has filed a case for the abolition of such. Yet on the scorecard as it stands now Obama has the edge and can safely count this as a victory for him.
- The Obama presidency did what the Bush Presidency would have dreamt to do, that being to be accredited for locating and smoking out the claimed USA terrorist number One, namely the late Osama Bin Laden. The morning of May 2, 2011 will go down forever as a historic occasion, be it for symbolism or truth it remains another feather Obama may legitimately claim as in his hat. The magnitude of this is often less understood, yet with the voice of Osama no longer surprised all and sunder with threats and mobilization the president can consider this a task handled and can tick his box that he brought to book the enemy number one of the USA. We must also not forget the fact that this invasion of Pakistan condemned by many proved a thorny and very calculated yet very risky decision on the part of the President. It was a tough decision that he took and it paid off, having to deal with the gerrymandering and accusations of invasion he opted to take it on the proverbial chin.
- The president handled the ‘birthers’ claim the right way, when many asked of him to come clean and prove he is a legitimate USA citizen born in Hawaii, he kept them guessing in typical political deathblow moment embrace. As the chorus begin to gain momentum and even pulpits of Southern Bible Belt began to pronounce on the fallacy the president remain silent. The birthers found an ever-willing partner in self-proclaimed billionaire Donald Trump, who became the most public face of this ill-informed campaign.Needless to say the moment came when Obama determined it was his opportunity to share his birth certificate, the same he did not as forced but his prerogative. He did this to the expense of Trump and publically played the fool with a Trump candidacy quipping if Trump ever get to go to the white house he would turn it into a casino, Trump who later on withdrew his much publicized candidacy, could never get an answer for Obama, as he walked away with this one too as the winner. The birthers campaign had to contend with truth and in my books as I always say ‘Truth never straddles, it is never ambivalent for it detests ambiguity – Truth is necessarily one-sided and it is loyal to what the sun captured and the moon attests” (cnsr). I remember the subject of Obama’s birth even being shared by the former wife of a very prominent Pastor who had returned to SA after a stint of 10 years in the USA, she tried to convince me that Obama was not a USA citizen and I explained to her the fact that Obama is not responding to these much publicised claims is not to be read in as a legitimate claim. For as Obama then said, “ we have much more serious work to take care of than getting my birth certificate to prove anything”
- The President, had to contend with the control of the House as lost by the Democrats off course not the first time ever. This scenario as controlled by the Republican majority added new dynamics and twists to the Obama Presidency. Such often manifested in progress of his plans, and programmes being stifled by unnecessary scrutiny and delaying tactics. Yet the President proved prudent to pick up the phone and called on both parties in the house to put America first at all times. He had to wade through much contestation and remained focused on that which he committed to do in coming into the White House. This is not a simplistic matter, for he did not always get it his way and often had to threaten with his presidential veto to get things done.
- Obama, went to the wire on the credit extension subject, where it became apparent how small the likes of Boehner became when they reduced the entire country to and nation to the threat of defaulting for the first time ever after the great depression. As the days mounted and a deal refuse to be found the likes of Boehner proved what this real issue was all about. It was always about unseating this president by any means even if it meant let the nation and country suffer. Reporters carried the news that Obama lost his cool and stormed out of meeting clearly annoyed by the intransigence of the likes of Boehner who thought they could use this looming default as a premise to get this president removed from white house. In the end, a deal was struck and Americans became aware just how nasty such can become. He walked away with this one too, for the American people clearly saw the agendas of those who are anti-CHANGE.
- The president, notwithstanding being accused of doing little for African Americans or the Black constituency as vocalized by the public intellectuals namely Dr. Cornel West and Mr. Tavis Smiley and a litany of many more, have stayed clear from getting involved in a blame game which would polarized this group. He chose to ignore the views and perhaps it rendered such voices no credence the same his response would have afforded. For the record Obama never ran a campaign on a black ticket, so those who emotionally wants to blackmail him for being responsible for not uplifting blacks must necessarily prove honest and come clean and acknowledge that he never ran any campaign from a black perspective. One almost get the sense that Obama’s unstated view is, those who want me to be black at the expense of my whiteness are no different to those who want me be white at the expense of my blackness.
- The president, took charge early on in his presidency to hold Wall Street accountable, in personally getting involved in the negotiations with captains of industry. These flew in their private jets seeking relief and bailout opportunities for their respective industries. The president held these captains of industry personally accountable for the recovery of the money lent to save their industries. It was not too long before the banking sector begin to show dividends and these repaid the loans the American people granted. This decision of bailout packages started under the auspices of his predecessor, George W Bush, he had to continue with and he managed to get the banking sector to recover though with much tighter control over lending procedures. It is now common knowledge that the mess of economic challenge came propelled by irresponsible lending on the part of the banking sector. Last August figures shows economic growth and a slight growth in employment, though such cannot be seen as major given the challenge, yet it must be celebrated in some way or another.
- Obama on the subject of the Libyan question initially proved prudent, in desisting the temptation to get involved and asking Europe to lead this their battle. I thought he proved clever and sensitive to the fact that he too has become known as a war president, when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is still far from concluded though he has promised to close Guantanamo Bay, and withdraw troops from the two wars, he had to informed by advice increase the USA presence when others in Europe grew tired of the ongoing wars. The president clearly the flavour of the town in Davos and other G20 gatherings judged by even Sarkozy worshipping him no dissimilar to what a Blair did with Bush, fell for the accolades and big brother mantra when he stepped into the ring of a Libyan contestation. As we speak the anger of many if social media pages are anything to go by is singling him out as the culprit for the imbalanced Libyan attack when Syria equally and even worse is allowed warning upon warning by the state secretary Clinton. I think the president must have some regrets that he as a Democrat is now duly considered and accused of being a war president, with literally 3 wars. The president certainly lost the African contingent of respect, not that Obama seems to be too concerned with Africa, for he is yet to visit South Africa and could be cheesed off from being snubbed when he was visiting SA last and was not afforded the respect he perhaps felt an Mbeki Presidency should have had the foresight to read what was going to play out. Obama has perhaps another issue with South Africa for South Africa voted in favour of the UN Resolution 1973 and switched up on its implementation. Whatever the reasons for Obama not officially visiting South Africa may be, it is clear he has not considered the need for such visit yet.
- This president who set records with his first election in campaign fundraising continues now in the second attempt to set the bar for raising money to run his presidential campaign. If the raising of money in a depressing economy is anything to judge a candidate on, than Obama it can be said has mass appeal and confidence at least by those who support him financially for the dream of Change as his campaign mantra.
- Obama’s presidency confirmed again a dignity of presidential office, which must admired. Whilst many presidents have been caught out and proving short in the issues of morality this president, notwithstanding all scrutiny came out tops and squeaky clean as a moral leader, setting the tone and standard to argue for presidential office as a office moral standard. Obama standing in the ilk of William Jefferson Clinton as a popular Democratic candidate gifted in intellect, articulate, independent in mind, not immured by guilt to make tough and unpopular decisions and one with a larger than life epistemological perspective, adds another dynamic to this White House that of being a morally sound president.
- The Obama presidency restored the values of family and marriage to the USA Presidential office and the White House. Scandal upon scandal have visited upon the White House from the days of John F Kennedy and many subsequent to him, not forgetting the William Jefferson Clinton impeachment scandal informed by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. It has almost in a subliminal way become acceptable for presidents to have a type of cosmetic family hood. This presidency restored the sense of marriage and family both sacred values for American societies. Whether some may claim it is early days to be this conclusive on this subject, I shall venture to say Obama restored the dignity of marriage and family defined in Presidential office and White House context.
- Whilst the current Republican Party front runners for its party candidacy finds themselves having to deal with many questions on their insensitivities to the voter constituencies. Herman Cain for his unfortunate remarks on the Wall Street protestors in which he blame them for their own plight, followed this up with another ill conceived and ill timed statement on border security and immigration issues. He is quoted for having said “ built a 18 feet wall, place on top of that an electric fence and post a sign close by that reads this can kill” When he was pushed to explain this he first called it a joke in the very serious presidential campaign, and later appeared to be defending his early stance leaving us all to wonder which truth is the truth. Mitch Romney on the other hand, this week goes to Nevada the State known in the USA as the highest in percentage for foreclosures and argues, “Let the mortgage thing runs its course”. Al Sharpton says, Romney does this whilst he lives in a $12million dollar home. These unfortunate remarks by both frontrunners for the Republican Party nomination share a side of insensitivity on their part towards the voters. Yet Obama keeps his message of grassroots embrace simple, and clear. His message clearly is aimed at and targets a grassroots connection in which he seeks to connect with the voters by informing them what he has done with an earlier mandate. In a season of hard economic times, double digit unemployment figures in some States, a jobless slow growth economy, threats of revisitation of recession, it makes sense to give leadership that embraces a sense of the average American matters, his vote counts, they not to blame for the mess the USA finds themselves in and needs a champion for their cause. He does this making them aware their plight is his plight. This message unfortunately has not reached the Republican Party frontrunners yet , regardless to if they black or white.
- Gaddafi’s death as reported on a multiplicity of media carriers, regardless to how wrong Obama could have been to eventually become the face of this Libyan regime change mandate which emanated from a European context and was endorsed by UN Resolution 1973, he is today accredited to claim under his presidency the tyranny of a Gaddafi elongated leadership was brought to an end. Though Resolution 1973 was stretched to its hilt to justify the involvement of NATO in the African Country, it is fair to say that wont matter now, that Gaddafi is history. The truth is the welcomed and unwelcomed death of Muammar Gaddafi as experienced by some depending on whom you talk to, goes down as another Obama victory. Gaddafi who shared a on and off relationship with the USA, and often became the ire of the international political world. Be that as it may, Big Brother is dead.Gaddafi who was in power for over 42 years, and had lived through the reign of many USA presidents, particularly proved a bad spot for the Clinton Administration is now dead, and the original aim of freeing the Libyan people as advanced by Cameron, Sarkozy and later Obama is hallowed and celebrated in Libyan and international contexts. Obama therefore can claim this as major victory and this like all the ones I have raised here guarantees, him his second term in USA Presidential embrace.
- Finally, the announcement by the Presidency on the December return date for all serving USA troops in Iraq, bodes well as a Christmas gift for many American families who will see their loved ones return. Nothing could be more important in this globally depressing economy to have loved ones manifested in mothers, fathers, aunts uncles, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and neighbors back from a war situation. I hold this too will count for Obama as him having kept his promise to those who entrusted him with their vote.
Bishop Clyde N. Ramalaine, an independent political observer and commentator the Published Author of
1. “Preach a Storm, Live a Tornado” – The Preacher: A Theology of Preaching
2. “Through the Prism of My Soul” – An Anthology of Contemporary Political Analysis and Commentary
***Prepared for the LA Focus on the Word, Political Perspectives on the USA Presidential Campaign 2012