Barack Obama is not a bad man, or a stupid man.
It’s hard to say that he’s a bad president for the United States. He has made a mark for himself in bringing US health care into the 20th century, and it may even make it into the 21th century, depending on subsequent implementation and fix-ups. The task was gargantuan, given the deeply embedded notion that health care should be a source of profit, for physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies.
He is making an effort to do something fair about who knows how many illegal immigrants. That’s another hard one, given the contrasting notions of justice among Americans, the long and porous borders of the US, the attractions of low-paying jobs for miserable people who don’t live all that far from the US, and the desire of American families and corporations for cheap labor.
Repairing the 50 year problem with Cuba also adds to Obama’s credits, which he sensibly began in the second half of his second term, unreachable by the money or votes of Cuban Americans.
Where Barack Obama scores far below the mid-point of presidential acumen and success is with virtually everything having to do with the Middle East.
His failures began with a Cairo speech preaching equality and democracy in the heart of a culture that is hostile to both. It extended to the folly of a speech about Syrian chemical weapons that began with aggression and ended with appeasement. It includes his enthusiasm for Palestine despite the chronic failure of Palestinian leaders to agree to Israeli or American proposals. Most recently he’s claimed success with Iran that ignores how the Iranians see what he called an agreement.
Involved also is the President’s view of Muslims killing Jews as random violence not associated with a religion.
It is not only about the Middle East and Islam where Barack Obama scores poorly. His record on Ukraine suggests that he did not learn the elemental lesson about spheres of influence that led Nikita Khrushchev to pull his missiles out of Cuba in 1962.
How did a person so unfit for world leadership get into office?
The same way as George W. Bush got there.. Both won presidential primaries, and became the candidate of the party that benefited from dissatisfaction with the preceding President.
The fixed term joins presidential primaries as a handicap of American politics.
Every other democracy relies on a parliamentary system where the national leader reaches office via a number of learning steps, and then has to prove capacity, or bow out to a successor.
Bush’s victory in 2004 stands as a mystery of its own. The disaster inherent in the war waged partly to democratize Iraq was not fully apparent. Bush’s popular vote margin was the smallest for any reelected president. Perhaps John Kerry wasn’t any better as a candidate than as a negotiator.
Americans may not care all that much about their international position, or how well their leaders do in understanding and dealing with issues far from home. A study published by the Brookings Institution points to minority turnout and voting–especially of Blacks–as central to Obama’s elections. Sentiments a lot closer to home than the Middle East move American politics.
The study shows that Blacks, as well as Hispanic and Asian Americans increased their tendencies to vote Democratic between 2004 and 2008-2012, while White voters remained Republican in all those years. Helping to elect and re-elect Obama were increasing Black turnout rates from 2004 to 2008 and again in 2012, while White turnout rates declined in each of the later elections.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has begun her candidacy for 2016. She may claim that 8 years as a politically astute Presidential Wife and four years as Secretary of State put her experience in foreign policy in the league with Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush.
We don’t yet know if she is sharper than Obama on the Middle East and more capable of seeing the complex realities of Islam. She’ll have to overcome the tendency of Americans to avoid giving three successive terms to the same presidential party, and animosities apparent toward Obama’s administration. The importance of minority votes for Obama suggests that Ms Clinton may come to office on the basis of her sex rather than on what she says about the Middle East or any other region of the world.
Some welcome–with enthusiasm–Obama’s efforts to replace American reliance on force with negotiations. Given his capacity to explain himself, a younger Barack might have won an undergraduate debate medal with his theme. However, it isn’t suitable to the Presidency when the Middle East is under the onslaught of aggressive Islam, and Iranian Shiites dreaming of imperial glories.
If the US had a parliamentary government, the results of recent negotiations might produce a political crisis, and either a turnover in party leadership or an election.
Whether Obama would be dumped out in a parliamentary regime that focuses largely on domestic issues–with prominent inputs of race and ethnicity–is a question that cannot be answered.
There is no chance that America will adopt a parliamentary structure of government.
For a gripping account of how casually the US has abandoned one of its clients to mass slaughter, follow this link to recollections by the man who was US Ambassador to Cambodia when disaster occurred.
Israelis may see the item as justifying even greater reliance on the IDF, and worrying less that some of what it must do makes Barack Obama uncomfortable.
We’re stuck with Barack Obama for another 20 months, but thanks to ourselves, we are not helpless.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post