NEW YORK – I have never been so close, for so long, to Barack Obama as I was last week at the closing meeting of the G20 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Obama is an ace, but he is also a man under visible and unimaginable pressure.
His jaw and teeth were noticeably clenched so tightly that it could be seen through his dark skin. His level of concentration was also visible with a stare into the void, which preceded each of his words.
Obama is dealing with problems in a dimension that none of us can experience.
Obama is facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930’s and an unemployment rate that is fast approaching 10 percent. Therefore, his initial approval ratings have fallen faster, to about 50 percent, than any other president in recent history.
Domestically, Obama is also struggling to push through universal healthcare to all who live in the U.S., the only developed country that does not provide everyone this basic benefit.
Internationally, the president has seen hundreds of Americans die under his command in two wars. Wars, and economic problems, for which George W. Bush is responsible
Furthermore, increasing geopolitical difficulties (also instigated by Bush unilateralism) were quickly revealed, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan. The most recent was the discovery that hidden inside a mountain, Iran was secretly building a nuclear power facility for alleged military purposes.
Obama carefully revealed news about Iran’s facility alongside the leaders of France and the United Kingdom. He does not want to repeat Bush’s mistake of announcing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction—weapons that were never found.
This U.S. president has behaved totally different from Bush and has been more open to the world.
He supported the consolidation of the G20 as a forum for global economic discussions at the expense of the great powers of the G7 and IMF reform, buried the idea of installing Bush’s anti-missile program on European soil (a concession to the Russians) and has even adopted a stance of more compromise and less confrontation with Cuba and Venezuela.
The real shame is that the U.S. may not be ready for Obama.
The president has been the target of a systematic campaign to deface his image and policies. In an era of media sensationalism, these distortions are being formed, voiced and exercised by the conservative media because of American conservatism inherent in the country.
The effect is not negligible.
In the midst of an acute economic deterioration in the U.S., where signs of recovery are still very limited, well-coordinated smear campaigns have already painted Obama as a Nazi, a socialist and even satanic.
Obama has been in power for less than a year. There is still time ahead, and there will be senate elections in 2010. The biggest setback to Obama’s Democratic Party would be the loss of the strong leadership it has today in the House and some senate seats.
If the economy does not take off soon, Obama runs a serious risk of going from a great improvement to a false caricature.