This Tuesday is the inaugration of Barack Obama. Finally we will see the end of on of the most disastrous, destructive, and lately, inneffective presidents in memory. Finally, we'll see the beginning of the president who comes in with incredible expectations and incredible challenges.
Read this article about him from a guy who turned my heart toward Obama over a year ago.
"The goal, it now seems clear, is what some deduced many months ago: Obama wants to become the leader of an American version of the national governments that Britain relied on in the depths of the last Great Depression. "
"We cannot know whether he will succeed, whether partisanship and America’s culture war will slowly eat him up, or whether in government, as he makes decisions with winners and losers, his aura will evaporate. But what we can say is that, so far, he shows every sign of meaning what he said about leaving that divisive, destructive froth behind. Just reading the papers every morning, we see every sign that the gravity of the crisis his predecessor bequeaths him makes this necessary. "
"What he gets, what he seems to intuit, is how to make others feel as if they are being heard. This is simple enough in theory but hard to pull off consistently in practice. His model is to figure out what another person needs and, if it helps Obama to get what he wants, to provide it. "
And he writes eloquently about the challenges and the real and expected approaches to those challenges, from our current economic troubles, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to Afghanistan and Iraq.
And concludes it this way:
"If you close your eyes and imagine what this combination of fiscal and foreign policy realism portends, you will come to a pretty obvious conclusion. This Democratic liberal is actually, when it comes down to it, a man almost entirely within the mainstream spectrum of the European centre right. Imagine a Cameron-style Tory becoming president of the United States and try to come up with something he would do differently.
This blend of pragmatism and realism reminds me in the American context of Eisenhower more than any other recent president. Obama has the unerring instincts of a conciliator and a moderate Tory. But he has the rhetorical skills of a Kennedy or a Churchill. That’s a potent combination.
It may be, of course, that the relief at the end of the Bush era is colouring our hopes. It may also be that events conspire to derail the man, or that the habits of the past two decades in Washington will return with a vengeance and do to Obama what was done to Clinton, another centrist Democrat who came to office on a tide of goodwill. But I don’t think that, given the immense crises we all face, it is unreasonable to hope for more.
There is something about Obama’s willingness to give others credit, to approach so many issues with such dispassionate pragmatism, and to shift by symbols and speeches the mood and tenor of an entire country that gives one a modest form of optimism. Even now, as the outlook seems so dark, and as the inheritance seems so insuperable, three words linger in the mind.
Yes, he can.
And two words echo back at me.