Saturday, October 31, 2009
Once More unto the Breach, Dear Friends
Much remains for Obama to do – but what's remarkable is how much he has achieved in the face of financial crisis
o Ian Williams
o guardian.co.uk, Saturday 31 October 2009 13.00 GMT
There is little doubt that, if UN staff and ambassadors could vote, Barack Obama would have won by an even bigger landslide than he achieved. From his speeches they expect him to negotiate where possible, to build consensual international alliances. They may not get all that they want.
(Winning back hearts and minds, 6 November 2008)
After Obama's election I wrote here: "It may not be the second coming, but to use the eschatological phraseology of the Palins of this world, it is certainly the end of the reign of the Antichrist." I also recalled what I'd said during the campaign: "The world looked upon these elections as an IQ test for the American public. The electorate has aced the test. It has put centuries of racism behind it and elected a president who shows signs of knowing where the rest of the world is."
Frankly, while still far from euphoric, I feel vindicated. The coalition of not-so-covert racists, teabaggers, birthers and defenders of Medicare against the state should be a reminder to the purist Obama-detractors of the left just who could instead be staffing the US government now.
OK, Rush Limbaugh's "magic Negro" did not wave a wand and change everything immediately. But in many ways it is remarkable how much Obama has achieved in the face of financial crisis. And no one who saw how much money and support he got from Wall Street can be honestly be surprised at the shape of his response.
The current plans for healthcare reform leaves a lot to be desired, above all a public option. But it is happening, at least. One hopes that Obama is biding his time to come in and leash the Blue Dogs of Capitol Hill to get it through. But even then he has breached the wall of opposition, and another term and "once more into that breach" should bring in reform – if only because of the fiscal costs of not doing it.
Guantánamo is not closed, but it is closing, and with it the lawless domestic and international doctrines of the Bush-era justice department. US troops have been pulled from Iraqi cities, and we can be reasonably sure that if the Iraqi government asked them to leave the country, they would go. Yes there is talk of a build up in Afghanistan, but that is, after all, what Obama promised, even if he certainly should take a more active role in revising the tactics and strategy there. He has scrapped the son-of-Star Wars missile defence programme in Europe that was expensive, ineffective and needlessly provocative to the Russians.
The UN dues are paid up, and Obama has adopted a multilateral outlook. On the Middle East, he has quietly confronted Binyamin Netanyahu, held firm on Israel meeting its own promises on settlements and, relatively un-noticed, told Israel that it should do as Richard Goldstone says and hold an impartial inquiry into Gaza.
When he backslides, by all means let people shove. But let them remember how far up the slope he's pushed us in less than a year.
To read the rest of the Cif America series looking back on Obama's election victory, click here