Barack Obama: The Weakest President in history?
Let us cast our minds back to those remarkable days in November 2008 when the son of a Kenyan goatherder was elected to the White House. It was a bright new dawn – even brighter than the coming of the Kennedys and their new Camelot. JFK may be considered as being from an ethnic and religious minority – Irish and Catholic – but he was still very rich and very white. Barack Obama, by contrast, was a true breakthrough president. The world would change because obviously America had changed.
Obama’s campaign slogan was mesmerisingly simple and brimming with self-belief: “Yes we can.” His presidency, however, is turning out to be more about “no we won’t.” Even more worryingly, it seems to be very much about: “Maybe we can… do what, exactly?“ The world feels like a dangerous place when leaders are seen to lack certitude but the only thing President Obama seems decisive about is his indecision. What should the US do about Libya? What should the US do about the Middle East in general? What about the country’s crippling debts? What is the US going to do about Afghanistan, about Iran?
What is President Obama doing about anything? The most alarming answer – your guess is as good as mine – is also, frankly, the most accurate one. What the President is not doing is being clear, resolute and pro-active, which is surely a big part of his job description. This is what he has to say about the popular uprising in Libya: “Gaddafi must go.” At least, that was his position on March 3.
Since then, other countries – most notably Britain and France – have been calling for some kind of intervention. Even the Arab League, a notoriously conservative organisation, has declared support for sanctions. But from the White House has come only the blah-blah of bland statements filled with meaningless expressions and vague phrases. Of decisive action and leadership – even of clearlydefined opinion – there is precious little sign.
What is the Obama administration’s position on the protests in the Gulf island state of Bahrain, which the authorities there are savagely suppressing with the help of troops shipped in from Saudi Arabia? What is the White House view on the alarming prospect of the unrest spreading to Saudi Arabia itself? Who knows? Certainly not the American people, nor the leaders of nations which would consider themselves allies of America.
The President has not really shared his views, which leads us to conclude that he either doesn’t know or chooses, for reasons best known to himself, not to say. The result is that a very real opportunity to remove an unpredictable despot from power may well have been lost. Who knows when or if such an opportunity will come along again?