El Universal, Mexico
Obama in His Labyrinth
By Enrique Berruga Filloy
Translated By Tristan Foy
30 January 2014
Edited by Kyrstie Lane
Mexico - El Universal - Original Article (Spanish)
In the shops in Washington that sell political objects, the best-selling item is a small digital clock that counts Obama’s remaining hours as president of the United States. Fifty-seven percent of Americans are unsatisfied with his work as head of the White House. His popularity ratings are comparable to those of George W. Bush in his saddest stages. Has Obama really been such a bad president?
The first black head of state in the history of the United States has had two great difficulties he has been unable to overcome. The first was the expectations people had about him: a different man, fresh and barely marred by Washington’s political customs. The second and perhaps more serious one has been his inefficiency at negotiating initiatives with Congress. While President Peña Nieto in Mexico has played judo with his Congress, Obama, in America, has been tainted by practicing karate. Peña has gotten out, while Obama has provoked a continuous train wreck and, ultimately, a serious political paralysis in his country. After five years with the government, the man from Chicago has not succeeded in passing important reforms in immigration or in gun control, and much less in the polemic Social Security and health care package.
In Tuesday’s address to the nation, Obama insisted that, although it is not working, karate shall continue to be his technique and he threatened to use it more directly. He announced that, from now on, he would govern his country through executive orders, which is to say with all the powers granted to him by the Constitution, avoiding most of all the need to submit his proposals for the Capitol’s approval. Ted Cruz, the ultraconservative Texan senator, immediately called this decision the start of “imperial presidency,” where Obama would govern by decree behind the legislation’s back. It remains to be seen, but it is probable that the Democratic benches in Congress are also not pleased that their president is pushing them to the sidelines of the decision-making process.
Obama is showing that the ideology of a statesman — sophisticated and assertive — has little point if not combined with an efficient political operation. Over the course of his term of office, he has insisted on putting limits on unbridled capitalism and on the abuses of the financial system that contributed to the crisis of 2008, as well as using diplomacy rather than war in conducting relations abroad. That is no small thing. Domestically, he proposes to project a more human and public face onto economic management and, most of all, gain international respect through empathy rather than fear. These very lofty objectives will remain, soaring high.
In the next midterm election, the Democrats could lose the majority in both houses of Congress. The political standstill would therefore be guaranteed. That’s bad news for the world, since the worldwide economic recovery requires a functional United States.
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