The president of the U.S. is using his last months in office to demonstrate international responsibility with climate targets, as well as the conflicts with Iran and Cuba. In so doing, he is helping to contain the blind anti-Americanism that has also shown resurgence in Germany.
Hello again, Barack Obama! Nice to see you’re back with us. Of course, the president of the United States has been in charge of the country for over six years. But only now are we seeing the Obama who arrived in the White House in 2008 on a wave of enthusiasm and hope — enthusiasm and hope in the U.S., as well as in many other countries throughout the world. He was, however, burdened with such an excess of expectation in view of the legacy left by George W. Bush, that he very quickly shrunk from a hoped-for messiah to a normal politician struggling with the daily routine.
Barack Obama has now passed this phase. He’s got nothing to lose anymore — like an election. He doesn’t have to be considerate of the ignorant Republican majority blocking him in Congress or have to fight [to make] degrading compromises with them. He can only win, and evidently that’s what he intends to do. In contrast to other presidents in the last phase of their term in office, he’s not going to hunker over his memoirs, he’s going to actively engage in political events. Suddenly, his old rallying cries have a new ring to them: “Yes, we can” and “Change we can believe in.”
Obama himself won’t be able to accomplish much more in terms of his ambitious climate targets and the restructuring of the American energy sector. But he has placed the topic on the political agenda, and the agenda for the election campaign next year. Against massive political resistance, he’s initiated a change in policy, which a Republican successor would first have to revise in the face of conflicting international opinion — [a revision] that would be preposterous and nonsensical. But in the case of a Democratic successor, he’s paving the way for them to pursue this course.
Political Culture Is in a Pitiful State
Six years were not enough to really change the country; who could have seriously believed it was? The U.S. is split deeper politically than ever before; in view of candidates like Donald Trump, the political culture is in a pitiful state. But nevertheless, the social debate has changed and there has been progress, as the recent battle over the Confederate flag has shown. Over a hundred years old, this symbol for racists is no longer an inviolable holy relic; its iniquitous persona has been exposed.
Even that is the work of Barack Obama. In a speech after the massacre in Charleston of nine African-Americans by a white extremist, which was as moving as it was rousing, he condemned racism as a cancer of American society, more definitively than anyone has before. These were words that people had waited in vain for so long to hear, his black voters above all.
Here again, Obama presented himself as if freed from fear and tactical obligations, not as a president of black people, but of all U.S. citizens. This meant his words were [heard as] those that any upstanding democratic and humanely disposed citizen would say. The pictures of the grieving president singing “Amazing Grace” will forever be a part of his history, his legacy. These are pictures of a political leader who doesn’t see his responsibility limited to daily politics and the well-being of his party, but someone who is capable of giving comfort and hope to a deeply wounded society.
Resurgent Blind Anti-Americanism
However, these are also pictures whose effect reaches beyond the borders of the U.S. They help to amend the U.S.’ worldwide reputation. Of course, this is the same president responsible for the questionable Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, the unbridled spying of the National Security Agency and the drone attacks. No one can expect the president of the United States to transform the capitalistic world power into a pacifistic social romantic. In addition, in Barack Obama one sees a leader who is using the last months of his term in office to demonstrate the sort of international responsibility that was totally alien to his predecessor.
This is particularly applicable to his climate protection plan, which will play an important role in the success of the Climate Change Conference this fall. But it also applies to the disarming of the conflicts with Iran and Cuba, which have been burdening international relations for decades.
In so doing, he is helping to contain the blind anti-Americanism that has also shown resurgence in Germany and is overshadowing the major role the U.S. continues to play in the struggle for peace, freedom and democracy. How nice that Barack Obama has remembered this again. And how nice that he still has a year and a half left in office.