ON REFLECTION – Second term likely for Obama
AS UNITED STATES President Barack Obama rides the crest of the celebratory wave following the death of Osama bin Laden, the symbol of terror for the last ten years, can the man whom many Americans have been calling a fluke president for the last two years take the euphoria of this success into another presidential term?
Can Obama take the current resurgent image and aura of being a hero to the poor, homeless, jobless and grieving to the polls in November, 2012?
Yes, he can! Seriously, I’m convinced that bin Laden’s death has instantly changed Americans’ image of their president, even if analysts want to call last week’s special forces’ operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan “murder” and even as questions are being raised about how Enemy No. 1 of the world’s greatest superpower could be caught between sleep and wake, as we say, apparently unarmed among his family in comparatively simple, defenceless living quarters.
One of the main reasons this successful operation will put Obama in a different light to what had been cast – that of a poor leader who was weak on implementation but was merely warm, friendly and good at communicating, according to recent surveys – is that the risky helicopter raid of May 1 could have gone awfully wrong.
Ask former President Jimmy Carter. In 1980, Carter approved a mission to rescue American hostages in Iran. Eight American servicemen were killed and that mission still bears the blot of infamy today. It was also a historic disaster that became a major factor in Carter’s defeat at his re-election bid.
Carter himself recently contrasted that failed mission with the successful killing of bin Laden in a CNN television interview, noting that it had “substantially enhanced” Obama’s political standing, particularly among those who “didn’t think he was a strong, competent person who could carry out a mission successfully”.
In the meantime, President Obama has been remarkably self-effacing, giving total kudos for the successful assault to elite American Navy SEALs and operatives.
His laying of a wreath at Ground Zero in New York last Thursday, among those who lost relatives and dear friends who were innocently going about their business on the fateful morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, will lift Obama’s previously faltering image even more.
He also held a meeting last Friday at Kentucky’s Fort Campbell with participants in the bin Laden raid and later met with troops returning from Afghanistan – both important but excellent public relations moves.
Add these to the praise grudgingly given over the weekend by erstwhile detractors, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who placed credit for bin Laden’s death squarely on the shoulders of Obama and his national security team.
So unless something now goes unbelievably askew, Obama will be seen for some time as a decisive leader who is willing to take risks for the good of his country and, in many people’s eyes, for the sake of global security – particularly since reprisals from al Qaeda and others are considered to be very likely.
The death of bin Laden and its aftermath in the last week smack of a triumphant reintroduction of the United States President to his people. He has suddenly become a leader with whom the world can feel safe in these perilous times, in contrast to his position as the scapegoat in the last two years for all the woes of the United States’ economy, the rise in fuel prices and the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In fact, the blame for matters under his watch became so skewed in recent weeks that the call for his birth certificate to determine whether the man who had already ruled America for two years was American, now seems absolutely ludicrous!
Raised by Republican candidate and business mogul Donald Trump, the issue was another lash from the anti-Obama whip on the back of the United States’ first black president, who would probably have been later told something tantamount to “You’re fired!” – Trump’s favourite phrase and possibly the most shameful words any son or daughter of Africa could hear from one who represents the oligarchy, plantocracy and whatever else has been built on the slave labour which helped to make Britain great and America rich.
It happens to Blacks and other minorities every day, but that’s another story.
In the end, Obama also won that silly little battle by producing the long-form certificate that proved he was born August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
But after the current celebration and joy that has filled American streets for an entire week, what? The mammoth challenge of the United States economy won’t go away. Over 18 million Americans are still unemployed, over 55 per cent of workers are under-employed since wages have been declining and the housing market has failed to rebound as families across the US?face bank foreclosures daily.
The construction industry is also on the verge of collapse; the new 2010 Health Care Law has actually increased health care costs; the country’s debt is expected to exceed US$15 trillion by next year; and the two wars started by the former administration continue to bear a high price tag in currency and human lives.
But for now, President Barack Obama is back in his people’s favour. And as far as next year’s presidential election is concerned, there is still no credible Republican heavyweight to face him.
A second term is almost assured.