Peeling Bush’s hovering shadow off the American populace
After a fierce battle against Republican presidential candidate John McCain, President-elect Obama has established a Democratic party stronghold on the American political landscape. During his highly charged campaign and even the current transition process, Obama’s central proposition has been “change.”
Looking beyond President Bush’s failed policies and constraining executive orders, Obama has promised a changed — and to him a necessarily better and more balanced — American status quo on both domestic and international levels. But what does such rapid sociopolitical change mean?
While Obama’s severe reversal of Bush’s executive orders could come across as partisan, by redefining issues that have plagued the American psyche for the past eight years, he’ll evoke a positive reaction country-wide. Not only is Bush’s popularity at a low ebb, but so is the morale of the people.
Consider Obama’s opposition to Bush’s limitations on embryonic stem cell research. In August 2001, Bush prohibited research on embryonic stem cells, pulling scientists away from finding cures to deteriorating illnesses. Pro-life conservatives backed him since they believe that extracting cells from an embryo destroys the embryo in the process and therefore terminates a life. Obama intends to revoke those restrictions, allowing scientists to continue their research.
This will upset many conservatives, including those who voted for Obama. But, in light of this change, patients with diseases like muscular dystrophies and Parkison’s will see a glimmer of hope. Armed with the opportunity to reverse Bush’s damaging policies, Obama would have to be logically and strategically inept (which he is certainly not) to shy away from immediate action.
Obama’s reformist approach toward the economy falls on a similar note. Early in his campaign, he addressed it as his major priority, and consistently reasserted his stance when the economy’s fragility was highlighted by the Wall Street collapse. By easing the tax burden on middle class families and shifting it onto high-earning businesses, Obama will stabilize the economy. During his first news conference last week, he again advocated exigent economic reform by calling on Congress to approve a stimulus plan in January if the Bush administration refuses to approve the economic aid package that will be proposed later this month. Congress is most likely to agree because it is already coordinating its steps with Obama’s transition team on many issues like health care and environmental reform.
Obama’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq also sent a shiver up Republicans’ spines. How can America give up instead of continuing to try to win the war in Iraq? Most Americans, though, seem more than eager to put a stop to the massive monetary and human costs of this war. Those who have supported Obama, banking on his promise to end it, demand an end to the bloodshed and hope that America’s reputation will be restored on the international front. It is no secret that the Iraq war was an embarrassing mistake that is, no doubt, attributed to Bush’s strategic incompetence. The unstoppable influence of al Qaeda and the Taliban spread like a disease only after the invasion of Iraq, where the terrorist groups did not have a defensive structure in the first place.
Continuing in this vein, Obama totally reframed the war on terror as well. He shifted attention from Iraq onto the Taliban-infected, decaying borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recounting the Bush administration’s miscalculated effort to get hold of Osama Bin Laden, who is still at large almost eight years after 9/11, Obama has vowed to kill FBI’s most-wanted man. He has also challenged the Pakistani government that if it does not capture Bin Laden, who is hiding in the mountainous north of Pakistan according to the CIA, the United States will be forced to invade Pakistan.
Here, Obama needs to be cautious — not of any terrorist network, but of his country’s own intelligence. Sudden action in this respect may prove even more bloody and fruitless than Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
While Obama addresses the above issues with relative directness and exigence, two issues come to mind that have not yet been touched by the president-elect’s decisive wand: the shut-down of Guantanamo Bay and an intense reassessment of Bush’s intelligence team. The CIA continues to plead its political neutrality, but can intelligence that falsely claimed Iraq housed weapons of mass destruction, was futile in tracking al Qaeda’s financial roots, and demonstrated utmost impotence in anticipating the unfortunate events of 9/11 be relied upon as America turns a new leaf in its political diary?
These are issues that require immediate attention, and have been grossly abandoned during the Bush administration. A harsh disposal of Bush’s policies that haunt the future of America, and the world, is not only necessary, but urgent. Such a reform does much more than signify an abstract idea of change; it announces a new era in American and world politics.
Until and unless Obama lifts his predecessor’s hovering shadow from over the American and global political arena, which he must do early in presidency, he will not have a solid base from which to work. If Obama proves able to handle such detrimental crises early on, he will forge for himself an entirely new base of supporters, a new coalition, in a way very few politicians can manage.