Archive for May, 2008

Never Mind America: The World Needs Obama!

Funny the way things go: I’ve just returned from spending the winter months in Spain, well away from the Internet and all its temptations -few e-mails, no blogs, no surfing, no buying- and during precisely that time Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been tearing lumps out of each other in the hope of securing the Democratic party nomination. Every time I picked up a newspaper there they were: inching ahead in the polls, or falling slightly behind, losing this primary by a fair margin, winning another by not very much, see-saw Marjorie Daw, Johnny Doe shall have a new master. My fingers used to itch and yearn for my computer keyboard. I wanted to blog like no man has ever wanted to blog before. I wanted to warn the world against the Clinton woman, I ached to tell them to take the leap of faith and throw in their lot with the untested Obama. But I couldn’t.

Now that I’m back it seems that Obama cannot be stopped. After the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, it would take an act of such monumental skulduggery on the part of the remaining superdelegates to swing things Hillary’s way at the last minute that Washington, even at its most unprincipled, wouldn’t stand for it. Obama it is and if I were collective America I would heave a big sigh and say: ‘Phew! That was close. Saved by the bell!’.  I’m well aware that a November vote for Obama is a shot in the dark. But it should be -has to be- better than four years of Bush with a human face. For that is what John McCain is: a gun-toting Republican just like Dubya, only with more intelligence, gravitas and an honourable military record. I’d rather have him for a next door neighbour than Bush -obviously!- but I’d still worry about men who believe there are military solutions to difficult problems.

Hillary Clinton, although she did vote in favour of the invasion of Iraq at the time (hey! didn’t everybody?) would now like to end it. If she should make it to the White House, what better way to continue the great Clintonian tradition of ‘make love, not war’ than a withdrawal from the death trap that is post-liberation Baghdad? If she doesn’t make it, who knows which way she’ll bend in the future? The answer is: whichever way political advancement and a place in the history books lies. For make no mistake: the Clintons may have a few policies that might benefit ordinary Americans but their ultimate purpose is to achieve lasting greatness for the Clinton name. You only have to take one look at young Chelsea to know that, with Hillary’s presidency far from in the bag, they’re already grooming her for a shot at the White House in the more distant future. Like the Kennedys and the Bushes, the Clintons are firm believers in their dynasty’s natural right to govern.

Such boundless ambition, when thwarted, tends to bring out the darker side of the Clinton persona. At the start of the primary season, Hillary seemed a shoo-in for the nomination: riding high in the polls she could afford to treat her rivals with kindness and respect. Sweetness and light she oozed; was there any doubt she was going to be carried all the way to the party convention on a wave of adulation? A Clinton -and a woman at that- for president! Good old Bill back in the White House for a word of advice and some moral support, what voter could resist? Who’d believe that, in the course of the next few months, she would resort to womanly wiles, brazen lies, racist slurs and other dark manipulations to keep her campaign on the road?

Enter Barack Obama, a jug-eared, mixed-race senator from Illinois, with a family background linking him with such spooky places as Kenya and Indonesia. A man who took his religious instruction from a fiery black preacher with extreme anti-white views. To whom could he possibly appeal, except a few disadvantaged black voters of the lower middle class? Ah, but then a strange thing happened. Barack Obama opened his mouth and out came a message of change and hope that Americans hadn’t heard for a very long time. A message, moreover, delivered with resounding authority, couched in colourful rhetoric and with the potential to reach straight into the hearts of all who bothered to listen. Obama was not only new, he was different. He could persuade audiences that the way things are is not necessarily the way things will always be. God, how I long for somebody like that in the Netherlands, where things have, depressingly and unalterably, been the way they are since time immemorial! In no other country that I know is the democratic exercise of casting one’s vote in a general election so predictably futile. But I digress.

The fact is that, in November, America must have a real choice. Not the traditional toss-up between two candidates of the old school of politics, each with their long-established constituencies and well-known priorities and policies. It has to be a choice between the yawn-inducing predictability of what we’re used to (McCain, Clinton) and the exciting newness of the untried and untested (Obama). Lack of experience (of which the senator from Illinois has been accused by both his rivals) is no problem. Even the greatest of statesmen were once rank beginners. No great leader ever emerged, fully developed and Athena-like, from the head of Zeus. So take a chance, America. This man can reach across every divide: racial, religious, economic, educational and cultural; and I, for one, believe he will. Trust him to sort out your nation’s ills. And once he’s done that, he can start sorting out the ills of the world. A win-win situation if ever I saw one. Not to put too fine a point on it: instead of stumbling on as a mistrusted, feared, widely disliked, faltering and self-serving superpower, the USA has a unique opportunity to become, under Barack Obama, the powerful force for true freedom, prosperity and peace it once was… a distant, near-forgotten past. Don’t mess up, friends.


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