“Yes we can!” Six years ago, these words were proclaimed wholeheartedly and stridently from the thrilling democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. It inspired his campaign so much that the experienced Hillary Clinton (owing to the long presidency of her husband), the promising counterpart candidate within his own ranks, had to leave the arena prematurely and unexpectedly. The phrase delighted Obama’s many supporters — and those following his climb from Europe — and impressed an entire nation.
To say that disenchantment is backward would not adequately describe the situation because only deep disenchantment is left. A distinct majority of U.S. citizens believe that Obama doesn’t lead, and say so. A disillusioned “Can’t get the job done” has replaced “Yes, we can.” “A president has never been lamer so soon after a magnificent re-election,” wrote Uwe Schmitt in Die Welt.
The fans were fooled by the slogans of the showman who was inexperienced with government affairs and had never held an executive office before entering the White House. But to be fair, with the appointment of his former rival and extraordinarily superior Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, he made an exceptionally lucky find.
Hardly anyone could realize how hard it is for Clinton to serve her country under this president. Now that she has freedom to play, she has basically delivered a damning verdict: Regarding Gaza, she stands so close to Israel that tissue paper doesn’t fit in between. Unlike the president, she only condemned Hamas for being guilty of the human tragedies resulting from the recent armed conflict. In The New Yorker, John Cassidy recently accented Clinton’s clear position and her distinction from Obama’s mindset. Clinton sharply criticized Iran and its nuclear program, while the president praises the results of his own negotiations.
Obama once dramatically threatened the murderous despot of Syria with a red line. But Clinton implies that in this conflict, which is the seed of something much bigger, he became a travesty of Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator.* His indecision has demoralized the enemy, but Obama’s indecision strengthens militant Islam and the brutal disciples of Jihad, the Holy War, which still rages on the Euphrates and Tigris, and could perhaps bring fear and terror to the people in Europe.
Only now, much too late, the president reacts — and nothing in his reaction indicates that he follows a long-term plan. The congressional election in November is coming up; it will be his only interest. Obama seems to have read his Grillparzer** and conveyed to himself, “To strive at half-ways and at half-acts with half-average hesitation.”
On the island of Martha’s Vineyard, where the Obamas enjoy their vacation (when, if not now?), people cherish the illusion that the disagreements between Clinton and Obama are gone. The Obamas were seated at a table with Bill and Hillary Clinton; they smiled for the camera, mimed light-hearted small talk, hugged one another in a friendly way — no one saw the clenched teeth, the balled fists in their pockets.
Hillary Clinton has the will and the strength, if she will be given the gift of confidence to turn things around in two years. And if she is not, someone else must take over to give the world’s leading nation powerful policy perspectives for a free world. Europe’s future depends on it.
*Editor’s note: The Roman politician Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cuncator is often acknowledged to be the father of guerrilla warfare.
**Editor’s note: Franz Grillparzer was a 19th century Austrian writer.