EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Obama: from euphoria to nightmare in 12 months Â…
, February 20, 2010
History tells us that incoming American presidents have a two-year honeymoon period, and are usually re-elected for a second term. Barack Obama's election in November 2008 created a sense of euphoria which was reflected in his unprecedented personal popularity at home, and accolades - including the Nobel Peace Prize - from abroad.
Former President George W. Bush was reviled, and Obama made clear that his presidency would be characterised by a new beginning, not just in rescuing the US economy from the deepest recession since World War II, but internationally, with the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and the promise of a new era of co-operation with America's erstwhile enemies, including China, Iran and North Korea, while ending the stalemate in relations with Russia.
President Obama also promised peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and a new partnership with the Islamic world.
However, just a year after being inaugurated, the dream has largely evaporated. Despite a massive US government spending spree to address the economic crisis, official unemployment has grown to 10 per cent - although the real figure is significantly higher, because many millions of illegal immigrants are not included in the official figures, and part-time and discouraged workers are not included.
The bankers who caused the collapse of the financial system in 2007 are back to their old tricks of paying themselves multi-million dollar bonuses, while billions of dollars of taxpayers' funds are being used to prop them up. After declaring that he would stop them, Obama weakly backed down, on the advice of his Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner who was himself a former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Obama's much vaunted health reforms, designed to provide health care for millions of uninsured Americans, have stalled in the Senate, due to the opposition of the Catholic Church which warned that his reforms would fund abortions, and from many Americans who believed that the reforms would cause a massive blow-out in the Federal Government deficit.International failures
Obama's domestic failures have been matched in the international arena.
Despite repeated attempts to placate Beijing by ignoring its flagrant abuses of human rights, the Chinese remain obstinately unwilling to make any compromises on the huge trade imbalance between the countries, and sabotaged not only Obama's bid to secure a global climate change treaty in Copenhagen (and later admitting that they had done so), but also his efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear program.
Early this month, the Chinese communist leadership in Beijing denounced a $US6 billion deal to sell defence equipment to Taiwan, and threatened unspecified consequences if Obama met the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, whom Obama had declined to meet last year.
Despite numerous concessions from the White House, Iran and North Korea remain obdurate in their plans to expand their nuclear programs, with the real risk that, in the years ahead, they will construct nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbours.
Additionally, Obama's olive branch to Islam has been followed by an upsurge in attacks by Islamic terrorists on Americans, and his promised reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians remains totally unrealised.
The cause of these multiple failures of policy and administration will no doubt be the subject of analysis for years to come. One immediate effect, however, is that they have significantly eroded America's position in the world, and weakened the position of countries for whom the US is the ultimate guarantor of their security. Among these countries is Australia.
The massive US national debt and the soaring US government deficit will make the United States vulnerable to economic and political pressure from those nations which have been running trade surpluses and accumulating trillions of dollars which they are using to bankroll the US deficit. There is little awareness, either in the US or Australia, that this is a consequence of the implementation of radical free market theory.
This ideology caused not only the banking failure which triggered the global financial crisis, but the decline of manufacturing and agricultural industries in Australia and the US, and now America's soaring national debt. Among the countries which now have their hands on the financial levers of power are China and the oil-producers of the Middle East.
Added to this, several economies of the European Union seem to be moving into a double-dip recession, with the likelihood that Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal will join Iceland, whose economy collapsed during the global financial crisis.
Not surprisingly, Barack Obama's popularity has collapsed at home. The Democrats have lost the Senate seat of Massachusetts, held for decades by Ted Kennedy, and face the prospect of losing control of the Congress at elections to be held next November. But there are no real signs of a change of direction.Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.