January 28, 2010


One can only hope Obama 2.0 will fare better (Rajeev Srinivasan, 29 Jan 2010, Indian Express)

Obama’s deliberate, Olympian style suggests — perhaps unfairly — paralysis by analysis. The dithering over Afghan policy for eight months, and the plan to ‘surge, bribe, declare victory and run like hell’, have hurt India’s interests. An Obama, desperate to pull out of Afghanistan, is leaning on India to cave in on Kashmir, in order to appease Pakistan.

It appears that Obama has allowed his agenda to be hijacked by several factors: an exaggerated internationalism, a certain hubris, a permanent campaign mode, and an unwillingness to rein in ideologues.

Internationalism is good in theory, but not at the expense of domestic agendas. Obama may have overdone the reaching-out bit. He spent more time abroad than any other US president. Obama chose to alienate America’s friends and appease its foes. India was shown that it did not matter, but Obama was the picture of charm with China, militant West Asians, and Iran: predictably, he got little in return. He reached out to the Islamic faith in his Cairo and Ankara speeches, but this was construed as weakness, and al-Qaeda/Taliban are rampant. The Chinese disdain him: they humiliated him in Copenhagen.

Obama seems to have some trouble switching from campaigning — where he can make promises — to governing — where he has to deliver. Some of his actions seem predicated on PR: the timetable for the pullout of troops from Afghanistan is meant to give him a boost in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Finally, Obama is not reining in his more rabid supporters. Some of them believe that there was a permanent shift to the left in 2008. No, especially as a result of tough economic times, there has been a shift to the right.

I've been listening to the book Game Change, about the 2008 campaign, and it opens on the night of the Iowa primary. There's a great scene in Hillary's hotel room where her reaction to the Obama victory is so "bitter and befuddled" that a senior staffer realizes she should not be president. Even better, Bill goes off on a tirade that makes the case against the UR in a way that neither she nor John McCain ever did--for obvious reasons. He rages about how Barack Obama is nothing but a junior senator with no experience relevant to governing the country. Hillary snaps at him about Obama being a US Senator, which people take seriously. Bill, of course, was right. She wrong. But the only three people who ever had a shot at the presidency in '08 were senators. It's unlikely the other two would be performing any better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2010 2:58 PM
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