Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, Germany
Exorbitant Hope —
Obama as Crisis Manager
By Markus Günther
Obama, the divine, faith healer-–the joke only touches the surface of what is actually there: unrealistic expectations and exorbitant hopes.
Translated By Jacqueline Audet
10 February 2009
Germany - Mitteldeutsche Zeitung - Original Article (German)
This joke arose during the days of Barack Obama’s inauguration as U.S. President: “What will Obama do once he has been sworn in? In the first six days, he will solve the problems in America and around the world. On the seventh day, he will rest.” Obama, the divine, faith healer-–the joke only touches the surface of what is actually there: unrealistic expectations and exorbitant hopes. Although the first weeks in office, the first setbacks, mistakes and disappointments of the Obama era should have shown even the most exuberant fan that Obama is only human, too.
Of course the prolonged enthusiasm is understandable. The spirit of optimism that Obama initiated has gone around the world; his message of hope and a fresh start, his own ascent has inspired and encouraged millions. He walked onto the political stage at a time when the public had been waiting so long for a hero, a savior. Obama encourages, and that is a good thing.
But sometimes global tears of happiness blur the clear view. Obama is going about it energetically, so much is true. But more and more from day to day, he is faced with gigantic problems. His vision of a new, more just America is fading into the distance; his room for maneuvering is more restricted than he expected and it is narrowing itself down even more. The fresh start is being overshadowed by the monstrous economic crisis.
The crisis shows that even the most powerful man in the world cannot simply arrange the course of events in his interests and that that is why messianic expectations of healing, which are being projected onto a politician, are so dangerous. The U.S. president himself is often only a game ball of history, more so one who is being driven instead of one who is driving. Obama started as a visionary and a reformer; but now he is a crisis manager in a national state of emergency.
There is one very practical reason why the crisis is bringing Obama distress: it is forcing him to hand out money that isn’t even there and to bet like a gambler on a rapid economic recovery. The gigantic stimulus package, which Obama is pushing through the official channels with all his might, does not correspond to his political beliefs or to the financial possibilities of the debt-ridden USA. It is a desperate rescue attempt. Obama is also using exactly those financial possibilities, which he needs for other large reform projects. Even if the bill works out and the economy starts up again, the new debts will overshadow the Obama presidency.
Is the stimulus package right? Does Obama stand the test as crisis manager? How much do the mishaps outweigh the appointment of his minister? Much of this will first become apparent in retrospect as good or bad. In the meantime, Obama deserves a sober escort. But for a veneration of saints and blind approval, there should also be no room in politics to follow a politician’s doings with sympathy.
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