I find it quite remarkable that US President-elect Barack Obama has already been voted personality of the year by several publications, including the American Time magazine and the British The Times newspaper. Hacks are saying that the United States would be revived under Obama’s leadership. Let the good times roll, they write. Let the party begin.
I am sorry, but what is it exactly that Obama has done to deserve this accolade? Win the presidential election in November in the US? But he did not exactly win it by himself, did he? There was the might of the Democratic Party machine behind him, not to mention over $1 billion in donations that went into his election war chest. And it was not like he was standing against a strong Republican presidential candidate, who could rely on the backing of the current US President, George Bush, the most unpopular leader in US history.
John McCain, the Republican candidate, was weak and unimpressive. And he was just too old, plain and simple. He was not even the preferred choice during the Republican primaries. He got in simply because the main candidate, Rudi Giuliani, had to step down from the race as a result of his cancer coming back with a vengeance. That basically says everything about McCain.
I have nothing against Obama. And I why would I have anything against him? If he can be a good president, good luck to him. And to the American people too. It was just that the American media was so overwhelmingly supporting him that it was a bit awkward to see how it was all unravelling. And I also found it quite disturbing that some people were actually dropping hints that the American black community would ‘hit the streets’ if Obama were not elected.
That was not good at all. That smacked of opportunism and blackmail. No one should be terrorised into electing a nation’s leader. We have had enough of this in Russia and in other countries across the world that are ruled by authoritarian regimes. It is bad enough there, but to have something similar happening in America is even worse.
But coming back to the praise that is showered on Obama: is it not a bit too early to call him a saviour of America and even the world? It is not like he has saved anyone or anything yet, apart from his political career. It is not like he had dragged a child out of a burning house during the election campaign or foiled an armed robbery. He has yet to prove that he is presidential material.
But even despite all this, Obama’s popularity rating is supposedly reaching sky high: 82 per cent of Americans, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, approve of the way he is handling his presidential transition. It appears that he has the biggest approval rating during a transition period, compared to all the previous presidents. But what particular value does this transitional success has is unclear, because it is still just a transition whichever way you look at it. No decisions are taken and nothing really determined. And the appointments that Obama has made do not really tell us what he is planning to do that would be different from Bush. I mean, keeping Robert Gates as secretary of Defence actually sends all the wrong sorts of signals. It is plainly daft.
It would have been much better to wait till at least the end of next year to judge how Obama is doing. This praise that he is getting already could actually damage him rather than help him. Because it raises people’s expectations sky high and puts him under immense pressure. If you started calling someone a great magician before he even performed any tricks there would always be a chance that the tricks would not work. Just because of pure psychological pressure.
And considering the depth of the economic crisis in America and the challenges it faces abroad Obama would really need to demonstrate some magic to produce any sort of results. Otherwise the people, who hail him now as a hero, would start demanding his blood.
That is how things work in politics: yesterdays heroes quickly become tomorrow’s hate figures