Obama, Moses and exaggerated expectations

By Bernd Debusmann
October 25, 2010

-Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own-

President Barack Obama is close to the half-way mark of his presidential mandate, a good time for a brief look at health care, unemployment, war, the level of the oceans, the health of the planet, and America’s image. They all featured in a 2008 Obama speech whose rhetoric soared to stratospheric heights.

“If…we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I’m absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth.”

The date was June 3, 2008. Obama had just won the Democratic Party’s nomination as presidential candidate. He was also winning the adulation of the majority of the American people, who shrugged off mockery from curmudgeonly Republicans who pointed out that the last historical figure to affect ocean levels was Moses and he had divine help when he parted the Red Sea.

Obama took to the campaign trail again this month to help Democratic candidates for the mid-term elections on November 2 and he would need divine intervention to prevent his party from losing control of the House and possibly the Senate.

The vote is in part a referendum on his first two years in office and the adoration has faded, not least because it would have been difficult for anyone to actually meet the high expectations he raised in dramatic speeches.

There is a certain symmetry between next month’s mid-terms and those four years ago, when Democrats took control of both houses of Congress (and consolidated it in 2008). The result stemmed from dissatisfaction with the economy, with the Republican Party and with President George W. Bush. Now there is dissatisfaction with the economy (much more troubled than in 2006) with Democrats, and with Obama.

And how does today’s reality match the exuberant pre-election promise of 2008? Better care for the sick, provided by the controversial health care reform bill Obama signed into law in March, is on the way but will not kick in fully until 2014. Good jobs for the jobless? The unemployment rate is stuck at around 10 percent. Slowing the rise of the oceans and healing the planet? The prospects for ambitious climate change legislation are bleak.

Ending a war? The number of American troops in Iraq has been cut from a peak of 176,000 to 50,000, whose role is to assist Iraq’s armed forces. As American forces pulled out of Iraq, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan swelled to around 100,000. They are to begin withdrawing next summer but the U.S. military presence won’t end.

Securing the nation? Time will tell whether America is more attack-proof now than it was when Obama took over. Finally, restoring America’s image. This is the one lofty promise that comes closest to reality. As global brand manager-in-chief, Obama can claim credit for having softened the image of the Ugly American in large parts of the world. This is no mean feat – being disliked makes diplomacy more difficult and is bad for business.

There are no polls on how many people around the world see the United States as “the last best hope on earth” but there are extensive surveys on the popularity, or lack of it, of America, Americans, and their president. The Pew Global Attitudes Project, which has monitored such sentiments since 2001, shows that the number of countries where a majority of citizens hold favourable views of the U.S. almost doubled from 2008, the last year of George W. Bush, to 2009, Obama’s first.

Foreign policy is the most important factor in shaping foreign opinions but a president has considerable power to affect perceptions. Or to disappoint by failing to match soaring words with actual deeds. For example, the new chapter in relations between the United States and the Muslim world Obama promised in a much-lauded speech from Cairo in the summer of 2009 turned out not all that different from the old chapter.

As a consequence, the Pew survey noted, Muslims grew disillusioned about Obama and confidence in him fell sharply, from 41 percent to 31 percent in Egypt, for example, and from 33 percent to 23 percent in Turkey. In Pakistan, the most anti-American country monitored in the survey, it dropped from 13 percent to 8 percent. That’s just one point higher than it was under George W. Bush in his last year.

In a series of campaign appearances on behalf of Democrats in danger of losing their seats in next week’s elections, Obama appealed for patience to achieve the changes he promised in lofty speeches. “In a big, messy democracy” like that of the United States, “everything takes time.”

(You can contact the author at Debusmann@Reuters.com)


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manstro…-what a fine peace of writing, i usually never join in on something like bloging,however, your statement took me to heart, it is turely good to read good statements,good writing!!! such as yours.

I find everyone on this site has good input in what they are saying and beliving.I am usually a reader of some blogs and sites when I have the time to do so. I happen to be home today, I watch cnn often,but I am usually a computer person,I sold my 46 inch tosheba,because I was beginning to lose insight of what is real and what is not.

This is not the first time I stop watching tv,last time it was 16 months. I enjoy reading your statements.they are so ture.

Posted by glory316 | Report as abusive

Amabo, (real cute; is that Obama backwards?)

Incompetency knows no racial boundaries.

This president has handled most issues with Chicago-style politics–slick talk and bullying. With a Demo congress, he was elected on the promise of bipartisanship, but upon being elected, had ignored Republicans in any decision processes and despite majority opinion, steam-rolled cap & trade through the House, and the HB bill into law.

Now that about half the U.S. population has a voice in Congress again for the first time in 4 years, he’s talking about “working together.” Just like the playground bully, he backs down when someone stands up to him. As seen on a recent Jon Stewart show, in real-world situations Obama cannot think on his feet; he stammered through almost every answer and seemed intimidated by Stewart. Our Chief Executive needs to be able to answer questions with confidence and knowledge. He needs to live up to the respect commanded by the Office of President. He failed that respect quiz miserably.

In contrast, former President Bush handled tough and aggressive questions from O’Reilly last night with a great deal of confidence, …and O’Reilly didn’t pander to Bush with his questions. Bush directly answered tough questions without stammering or changing the topic. Yet, haters like to refer to Bush as an “idiot.” In a real-world debate based on issues, not ethereal academic ideals, Bush would clobber Obama. I also noticed how gracious Bush was by not responding to Obama’s continuous blaming for all the world’s woes (that was the only time he did change topics or give vague answers, but that was out of respect for the current president, not fear of giving a wrong answer).

BTW, just exactly what would you call the black commentators who don’t agree with Obama? Racists? Do they hate themselves because they are black while disagreeing with Obama?

Your statement above is exponentially more racially devisive than statements made by anyone who simply thinks Obama is incompetent (as was accurately addressed by his current Secretary of State before he won the Dem’s nomination). There are many of us who can see past the color of skin, but people like you drag our society back to the 60′s when you speak [write] the foolishness printed above.

Posted by mbm64 | Report as abusive


you took the words right out of my mouth!

Posted by horsesense | Report as abusive

If barry persists, the military must be prepared to step in,arrest him and remove him from office.

Posted by evilsodomite | Report as abusive

i do not want to blame either party. the blame goes to both. i was more republican until they had control and they were as bad or worse than democrats what is happening now has been years in the making. maybe decades is better. i have made a commitment to stop doing nothing and griping to start paying attention. i started doing that the past year and am amazed at what happens openly b/c no one watches these politicians

Posted by marytexas50 | Report as abusive

Glanced at comments…It’s unfortunte that people who have no concept of the bible, and the messages in it, choose to refer to the bible to express their ignorance and hate. The reason Moses’ people wandered is because they chose to do things their way, and not follow the way of God as instructed by Moses.

People, your hatred blinds you. You are the wanderers, lost in your own minds. Moses did finally lead his people the promise land, after they received the ten commandments, and the people denounced their worshiping of false idols. Do I need to say more?

Posted by DwightRobinson | Report as abusive

President Obama’s speech clearly defined the possibility of what could occur for the people, by the people if you have a people that are willing to work together collectively. Not for personal gain.

Since the day of President Obama’s inauguration, I have consistently witnessed a plethora of unwarranted negativity being hurled against him on every side, for attempting to accomplish that which is good, just and honorable for America. It is more than commendable and honorable for him to have taken on the undaunting task of fulfilling the Office of the Presidency, considering the mess that was left by the previous administration.

Each and every topic that is cited in this article is a direct result of the rampant and blatant disregard of the lives of the American people, which was caused by the latter administration. Corruption, deception, untruths and those whom upheld them, are the reason that America is in the shape it is in now. This is proven by the actions of those which are adamantly opposed to any effort to move this country forward.

The hatred, discrimination, and every form of evil that is being perpetrated against President Barack Obama is also being carefully scrutinized by God, and just as God used Moses to lead a people to the promised land, He will also use President Obama to lead America to its destiny.

God’s destiny for America is to be productive and prosperous, as well as a leader among nations. That includes all people of all nationalities, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and political affiliation.
God does not favor anyone individually, we are all equal in His eyes.

Posted by JeffWyatt | Report as abusive

Forget spreading the wealth – Spread great work ethic Go learn a skill and get your own wealth. Get up every morning and go to work.

Posted by BeFree1 | Report as abusive

I am surprised that the Republicans got back in. It is like watching a Communist Scapegoating court session back in the day of Antisocialist witch burning regarding the people of American giving up on Obama and voting for the Republicans. I cannot believe Americans are still scared of the word Socialist, and are so scared of any socialist policies or responsible taxation that they would have the Rebulicans back in office after they created the disastrous mess that America finds itself in right now. There are 3 facts that people in American don’t know but should. America is the only 1st world nation without a proper Socialized health care system. Ask the people in Hawaii how they like theirs and you will see how well a good socialized health care system can take care of the people. America is the only country in the world not making tax increases and making huge spending cuts right now, its a global recession caused by American, or should i say Republican policies and Americans are scaring the world right now, by voting the same foolhardy, selfish politicians back into power. The rest of the world can see the mistakes America is making but Americans cannot. The third topic is that in 2 years Obama has done a lot towards what he promised and if given 2 more years of support you would see the changes start to evolve and after his first term see that he would have changed the world. Now America has crippled the government with its beliefs and put a bunch of selfish politician into the game again whose sole purpose is to make sure these last 2 years and the next two years are completely undone and useless.

the article states that Obama said “If…we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it then I’m absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth.” And America stopped believing, and wasn’t willing to fight for it, and make the necessary sacrifices for what needs to be done for the future. It seems Americans instead wanted to go back into the past, and believe those that got the American nation into this mess in the first place and give up on the future.

Posted by Politican | Report as abusive

The instant!! United States of America!!! your credit cards and loans maybe an instant push of the pen, but paying back what youve spent is getting to cost your fourth generation grand children.
You want quick instant fixes to your pain.You want want your cake before it even gets to the oven.
you are an emotional rollercoaster type of a people. who are aimless and easily swayed by the neon lights and the flishy flash unsteady insecure and looking always looking toblame or rationalize your way arround facing issues one at a time.

Posted by efes | Report as abusive

To the die-hard Democrats, just one more thing: Where are the anti-war protestors now?

Posted by silverer | Report as abusive

@efes: Yes, some Americans are like that. And so are you and your countrymen. Perhaps your country hasn’t developed yet to the point where you can indulge yourselves in such banal things, but you will. I love when non-Americans criticize Americans, as if they were any better. You are not. Get over yourselves. And thank god that the USA has the power it has, and not some other government, like yours…

Posted by Welred | Report as abusive