Barack Obama’s election was a remarkable triumph of political entrepreneurship. The great disrupter and a breathtaking orator whose “outsider” message suited the angry times we live in.
The most jarring aspect of his emergence was his old ties with the Left, in American terms at least, sometimes the far Left. It made many mainstream and leadership Democrats – the kind of folks who exert mostly strong control over the Labor Party here and in England – wince with concern that the great insprirer could be an anti-Israel, protectionist, big government, elitist law school professor.
But the simple truth seems to be that he played to the Left when he needed to build a grassroots army to steal the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton. (And prior to that when an aspiring Democrat politician in Chicago) But once he won that prize, he sought to reassure that – contrary to previous rhetoric- he was not going to get rid of free-trade agreements like NAFTA and to make promises like proposing multi-billion dollar tax cuts for most Americans. Indeed, even his bizarre pledge to bankrupt the coal industry was tempered by a huge commitment to develop “clean coal” which of course would save the coal industry from its enviro-critics.
In that most important test of his bi-partisanship and common sense, his earliest appointments, he appears to be set to reach across to the other side of politics with speculation that Obama will re-appoint President Bush’s well regarded Defence Secretary Robert Gates, a Texas Republican formerly of the CIA.
Other Republicans like Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel will be considered too.
A FRIEND IN NEED
And those concerned that Obama’s lefty past might make his Administration less than friendly towards America’s great ally Israel might be relieved to hear that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has been offered – and has reportedly accepted – the White House Chief of Staff job.
A former Clinton White House senior adviser, Emanuel is the son of Israelis who moved to America. His Dad helped fight for Israeli independence in the 1940s. Emanuel speaks Hebrew and when Israel was under attack by Iraqi missiles in 1991, he volunteered to go there to help during that lengthy ordeal.
By electing Barack Obama, in many ways, the American people were expressing their dissatisfaction with the world as they see it in 2008. An economy under serious strain and a country exhausted by a conflict in Iraq that once seemed endless and pointless.
But this is not a tin-pot South American republic where there are great lurches from Pinochet style rightists to crazy lefty statists. It’s America. A great country whose economic strength is built on small government and open markets. Mostly. A powerful force for freedom that has been tested in Iraq but eventually found a solution called a surge that appears to have stabilised the liberated police state and given it some hope that it could emerge from this transition a relatively free nation.
Barack Obama could very well make an inspiring and inclusive President who can help rebuild confidence in America at home and among its friends. And, in so doing, it’s easy to tell already that many of the starry-eyed leftists who claim him as their own will be sorely disappointed.
And they may well be disappointed with the eventual verdict on President Bush too if Iraq emerges free and safe and loyal to those who sacrificed so much for their liberty.
Barack Obama will be looking back into history for inspiration in these days ahead. His inspiration: Republican president Abraham Lincoln.