Obama is a hands-on crises manager par excellence!!!
It is almost twenty one months ago since the United States of America; leading superpower of the world installed its first true African American President, Barrack Hussein Obama. There are those who will argue that he is not the first Black President since many hold William Jefferson Clinton known to all as Bill, was that first black president of the USA.
However as much as that may prove an interesting hypothesis it remains a topic for another day, since our objective is to understand what and how should this first half of the Obama presidency be defined. In the Biblical narrative as captured in Exodus, Moses is instructed by God to take His people to the promised land. Moses agonises as to his ineptness on finding the way to the promised land.
He then implores his brother in law (a man of dark skin), cush to accompany him for his take is...” cush you can be our eyes in the wilderness for you know the way… dwight mckissick out of Texas USA, once noted when the nation is in trouble, look for the “black man” he knows the way. Never did I thought McKissick would be proven that right as I seek to advance in this paper. I have mulled over what could define the Obama presidency if such must now for an uncalled reason come to an abrupt end.
They say that leadership is shown in crises situations and I shall contend that no President in modern history in American context had proven such more than this lanky former Harvard alumni, professor, attorney, community organiser, father and mean basketball player from Illinois Chicago.
One is tempted to begin to say this presidency can safely be defined as the presidency of crises management. If we retrace this presidency the notion would hold. These crises inculcates wars, economic meltdown, economic sector support interventions, extensive job losses, oil spills and leaks, fires in California and now a somewhat crazy Pastor Jones who has gripped the attention of the world with his expression of how he was going to spend the anniversary of 9/11, burning Qurans.
When the aging icon of Black Education and modern history in the USA, Joseph Lowery gave his moving rendition with a typical husky voice on the significance of the moment of Obama’s installation at Barack’s installation as the 44th President of the USA, the country he was to lead was in major crises mode. We shall look at some of these crises and his leadership response to such.
The first identified crises which really became an ongoing crisis constitutes the two wars the USA still finds themselves in namely Afghanistan and Iraq. These wars may have been wars 8 years ago but have since then become a gross liability not just in financial terms but in every sphere possible. Obama stepped into this war situation his plan was in a sense not his for it had to be done. Such plan was to deal with the wars with decisive withdrawal dates.
The American citizenry had become fatigued by the impact of these dual wars, exemplified in the body bags that were sent home and the constant feeding of money and resource into what appears to be an abyss with no end. Obama had promised on his change agenda to end the wars as soon as possible the challenge was the full scope and extent of these dual wars as it appears were not made under the Bush administration.
Much as Obama wanted to respond earlier, he had to be advised on the dynamics and the challenges and for a while it appears he was indecisive especially when he was accused of being slow to send more troops in these war zone areas. His opponents had always warned of his lack of war experience and it appeared his promise of withdrawal sold to the voters was now challenged by the reality of the moment constituting a crises.
The second crises for this presidency came packaged in the now infamous economic meltdown of 2008. Much as the generic definition of this crisis is afforded as a global one the truth is the essence of this meltdown was engineered in the USA and transported to the global economies. It would be unfair to say there were no tell-tale signs where the USA economy was heading months before the actual meltdown. The Economy of the USA was bleeding profusely and job-losses across sectors remained the order of the day.
The economic meltdown in the USA really became financial crises of extreme proportions. The dynamism of the crises itself was not as simple as we attempt to make it appear, key aspects of this economic meltdown that ultimately became a crises presents itself in banking sector, motor manufacturing sector definition. Obama found himself not a purist as it relates to a president at strategic level only but he became operational in having to personally engage the leaders of Wall-street and motor industry sectors as these came cap in hand though flown in their private jets begging for assistance and intervention on his part.
Bail-outs of extensive proportions became the order of the day. In no time the plans unveiled the aspect we thought we would never see in capitalist defined economies, namely nationalization. Adam Smith’s philosophy now needed redress, nationalization to stave of the death of an economy who was limping to its untimely grave. Obama’s intervention was trillions of borrowed money from China amongst others to make these failing sectors work again.
One is clear he accepted that nationalization was the only out of it. Needless to sectors especially the banking sectors have in recent months shown revenue streams confirming strong recovery and government is beginning to pull out of these not that has been fixed as yet, but there is marked improvement. The financial sector has begun to show recovery in making profits again and government has been repaid by the likes of Bank of America and others. This would mean Obama’s crises management intervention worked.
The third crisis which really is an outflow of the economic crises this presidency had to contend with is the issue of major job shedding. Healthy economies are those who function in growth as exemplified in job creation. The facts speaks for themselves the American economy was bleeding incessantly and was shedding jobs at an alarming rate, some analysts have put it as high as a over 600000 on a monthly basis.
The problem of job shedding however does not stand in a vacuum, it relates and interacts on a plethora of levels and spheres impacting other aspects of what makes up society. The crises of job shedding proved a reality that Obama had to deal with. He had to find a way to inject money into the sectors that were bleeding to ensure unlocking of job creation. We can now report based on his intervention that the July figures for job creation indicates a growth of persistent growth identified as 178000 for the month to month designation. This may prove paltry but must go down as him having managed the crises successfully
The fourth crises this presidency had to square off constitute the issue of public health care reform. Though this would be considered not really crises in the crises definition, it does hold if we understand the dynamics of the public health care system that is failing a citizenry impacted by the economic meltdown job loss economies. The public health care reform of USA an elongated debate that almost forever has been a Democratic Party aspiration. One would recall Clinton tried very hard to push for reform but failed to get the bill through senate.
Hence when Hillary Clinton was squaring of against Obama she made this a key aspect of her campaign. Obama however despite opposition from a string of lobbying sectors in this industry managed to get the bill to serve and succeeded in getting it canvassed through all the necessary legislative processes. He endeared himself to many whilst he became the hate of many yet he managed these crises and came out on top of his game on this one. The reality is that Obama can claim he is the only president to have successfully propelled public healthcare reform in policy development and adoption format. The jury remains out as to how this in the praxis will work out, but it is fair to say the crises of public health care in policy formulation has been handled well my the specialist crises manager.
The Obama presidency faced other crises during 2010 when the area of the gulf was subjected to extensive oil leaks, at the hand of BP. This crises that had seen life loss and miles of sludge on the seashores of the gulf basin with the potential of plant life loss and a dastard impact on sea life appeared impossible to fix when BP first abdicated responsibility and later prove in sixes and sevens as to a solution with all the untested attempts it advanced and strategies it employed.
These crises perhaps cost Obama presidency much, the president was accused of not responding in time. The crises of the oil spill lasted for almost two months and the president only began to respond towards the end of the first month. Again when he did respond it was again the crises manager in action, he did not shy away from keeping BP accountable and insisted on the establishment of a fund now a $20 billion strong to deal with ensuing claims from this crises. It is fair to say the president the crises manager managed this one not as good as the other but he managed the crises nevertheless.
The issue of annual fires in the Californian hinterland constitutes other crises the Obama administration had to contend with. Every year for some reason fire erupts in certain areas of California such usually has devastating impact. The same happened last year this crises perhaps not huge in scope as it relates to the broader geographic USA, nevertheless constitutes another smaller crises Obama dealt with successfully as manifested by government intervention and support for the California state.
The last unfolding crises the president now faces comes on the eve of 9th commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, when a singular pastor out of Gainesville Florida decided the let the world know how he was going to spend the commemoration aka the burning of Quran’s necessarily the holy book f Islam. It is unfair to see this in isolation since the preceding aspect revolve around the fact that a Muslim group had acquired a property close to ground zero, and intends a cultural centre and Mosque. This intention flared up much debate and panic amongst the USA citizenry. There are those who feel such Mosque would be an indictment on the deaths of the 9/11 victims, yet other argued that the right to build and practice religion in the USA is an inalienable one.
The crises built and the president was forced to be categorical in what constitutes the constitutional franchise of the USA, necessarily agreeing that no body can prohibit anyone else to built on land they own and to practice their faith when and where necessary. This is the context for Pastor Jones’ declared intent. His gripe is the removal of the planned Mosque for this known KKK based pastor’s mind sees such Mosque to add insult to injury on the deaths of those who died at the hand of what is called terrorist attack. The week leading up to September 11, 2010 saw a campaign building when Jones made known his intent, anticipating the impact of such act on many good things and gains made by this administration saw the crises signals of this and responded, he even had his secretary of defense Bill gates extend a personal call to the Pastor Jones.
I guess this President dealt with crises upon crises and it seems it is far from over yet. If Obama’s presidency is defined understood and articulated it would be difficult to do so devoid of acknowledging his crises management skills for his was thus far a presidency informed by crises in which some of them he handled with reasonable ease and had great success yet others he equally proved vulnerable and proved late out of the starting blocks. One thing is clear; this president thinks on his feet and manages crises well. Hence is he the crises president of the USA of modern history?
Bishop Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Written October 2010
Courtesy of “Through the Prism of My Soul” An anthology of Political Analysis and Commentary 2011