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)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans in total opposition to our president simply because he is who he is. They would rather see American fail on all fronts, than attribute a measure of success to the efforts of the President. As presidents go, this guy is giving it his best; but for some his best is not good enough. I wonder what the Muslim view of this country would be if there was not a constant spill of bias and hatred pointed toward this group every day in the media. I have not heard President Obama say one negative thing about Muslims since taking office. Since its happening on his watch though, I do not see the “Leader”, President Obama not taking responsibility for the ignorant racist contributing to this unfortunate statistic. Everyday, I DO MY BEST TO ASSIST THE PRESIDENT MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE. I ENCOURAGE MY IMMEDIATE CIRCLE OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME. I can look back at twenty years of military service, and I have served under presidents I had absolutely no respect for as men; who did not serve, and left the country worse than it was when they assumed office. We all have faults, problems, issues, whatever. And so does this President. However, when I see President Obama the family man (some give more respect to a president who cheated on his wife in the oval office, than they do President Obama who epitomizes family man), the athlete, the courteous person, and the man who leads; it makes me proud to be an American. The funny thing is, things happen in my life when I served under presidents I had no respect for, and I was proud to be an American. So for all the haters, lets do our part to make the world better and stop looking to one man to do all the grunt work.

Posted by 304050 | Report as abusive

@ginchinchili (and everyone other person having more faith in government than God)

My son is currently serving in the Marines, and he has been to both Iraq and Afghanistan. The VAST MAJORITY of the people in those countries love the fact that America has defeated Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but most soldiers agree that President Obama has no clue how to run a war, based on the ridiculous rules of engagement he has imposed. For example, despite having state-of-the-art night vision technology, the US armed forces are not allowed to attack at night based on the excuse that the president does not want to risk ANY civilians hurt. Knowing that, so when do you think the enemy meets, plans and regroups? How great is it that the US military is fighting these wars with one hand tied behind their back! Obama was strongly against the surge in Iraq, and now that it has been proven successful, he is “taking credit” for ending the war – how morally bankrupt is this man?!

And speaking of bankrupt – since the government is in so much debt trouble, how does President Obama propose to fix it? Well, by adding more regulations, nationalizing industries (like auto companys, banks, etc.) which require the continued expansion of government, the printing of more money and the raising taxes – brilliant!

Look at the facts for once and cut past the BS of the “elected elites” – the only industry that has CONSISTENTLY added jobs over the last 10 years is the government!!! (look it up yourself at ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/suppl/empsit.compa es.txt). From Jan 2000 to Dec 2009, the Total Private Employees went from 110,210,000 jobs to 107,107,000 (~3% loss), while Government (All Employees) went from 20,571,000 to 22,481,000 (~10% gain!!!). Just to support a single government worker, it will require about four (4) taxpayers making the same salary as the government worker (they usually make less) to support him/her based on a 25% income tax rate!

The government at ALL levels (especially Federal) is out of control, spending more money than they have because they do have to be efficient or make a profit – all they have to raise taxes! I cannot wait until November 2nd – I pray that America wakes up to the politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle who have no integrity, accountability and/or common sense!

Posted by tonyruba | Report as abusive

A part of Obama’s speech that seems to be overlooked is the first sentence quoted here: “If…we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it…”

That’s IF WE are willing to work, fight, believe. Nowhere in there does it say “bicker, infight, or hamper progress. And nowhere in there does he say “I’m going to fix everything. You just sit back and relax.”

Until we can stop bickering, infighting, and hampering progress due to myopic selfishness, nothing will change, and that’s not Obama’s fault. Few among us seem willing to do what it takes. Fewer in Congress seem willing to let the man do his job without interference or the threat of undoing everything he’s done. Obama is the President… not God, for God’s sake. Stop expecting him to wave his hand and clean up the debt and debris left behind by the previous administration.

And be willing to do YOUR part even if it means having to give something up. It’s our national gluttony that fostered these messes. We can’t fix all that needs to be fixed while living the way we did during the BuSh administration and the two decades leading up to it.

Posted by JohnQPubliq | Report as abusive

“Turn things around? After spending nearly a trillion dollars (and rising), a war that Bush refused to pay for (as better American presidents in the past always did, requiring Americans to do their share by paying for the war with our tax dollars), has left Iraq in tatters and our country broke.”

Now, do you mind telling us which American President EVER paid for a U.S. war?

WHICH war have we NEVER had to pay for since Lincoln took office?

Posted by DannyCarlisle | Report as abusive

Most of what Moses did was pretty good although a few billion arabs would agree that pointing across the Jordan to the “Promised Land” wasn’t wone of them. What Obama has done is take liberty, money, and labor and waste it. Like the meathead he is, his lack of wisdom and practical experience allows just about everyone to run rings around him. Healthcare? no, it is just an insurance grab. Banking? no just more for the bank companies and more headaches for citizens, Bail-out? Stimulus? No it funds things that churn money without providing any leverage. AT least when Bush spent on weapons we could sell them abroad and bring needed cash into the USA and stimulate the education required to make technical things. Obama would have us washing each other’s bicycles and call that two jobs the talent required for that job would be a masters degree in bike washing (another totally useless education which fits into his education poolicy of “teachfor teaching’s sake” or a mind is a terrible thing to waste but we do it with pride.”) Everything he has done either took liberty or wasted money. There are some comparisons with Moses though. “thou shalt not put any God before Obama.” Sounds like the press and his cadre of meatheads have bought into the Obama as their new idol to worship. Dumb, really dumb.

Posted by jabusse | Report as abusive

Most of what Moses did was pretty good although a few billion arabs would agree that pointing across the Jordan to the “Promised Land” wasn’t wone of them. What Obama has done is take liberty, money, and labor and waste it. Like the meathead he is, his lack of wisdom and practical experience allows just about everyone to run rings around him. Healthcare? no, it is just an insurance grab. Banking? no just more for the bank companies and more headaches for citizens, Bail-out? Stimulus? No it funds things that churn money without providing any leverage. At least when Bush spent on weapons we could sell them abroad and bring needed cash into the USA and stimulate the education required to make technical things. Obama would have us washing each other’s bicycles and call that two jobs the talent required for that job would be a masters degree in bike washing (another totally useless education which fits into his education policy of “teach for teaching’s sake” or a mind is a terrible thing to waste but we do it with pride.”) Everything he has done either took liberty or wasted money. There are some comparisons with Moses though. “thou shalt not put any God before Obama.” Sounds like the press and his cadre of meatheads have bought into the Obama as their new idol to worship. Dumb, really dumb.

Posted by jabusse | Report as abusive

I’m Proud to be American, served with 101st, blessed with good health and work everyday. No status of the rich,decision makers,or power to draw lines in the sand that divide one-from-another.Didn’t Vote to send jobs overseas,Loved Magnavox,General Motors; Don’t think it’s a good idea to invest in Japanise goods,Cell Phones,Etc.,I believe WE CAN produce our own, Oooh! I forgot “they”, do-it Cheaper…Do they really! Or is it that those in decision-maker…cut deals that continue to make the RICH…RICHER and the rest of us …well, do your best, with LESS.Sounds like Wal-Mart. On my desk is a calendar of 43 pass/prior Presidents that I look at each time I sit at my keyboard and try to figure which has done anything that SOME have NOT agreed with,cut-ah-deal,do-it Cheaper,make themselves Rich. It is for this belief over my 65 year I have NEVER VOTED FOR PRESIDENTS, and/or ANY Politician…Until 2008, ah NEW voice asking to unite a Country that Grows itself like a ballon over-filled with (air) stuff that will cause it to buss…The voice of no deals overseas,no more cheaper and they get richer, 40acres & Mule equal to Jobs,Education,Health Care. Americans-Helping-America Grow. THAT’S The Best I’ve Heard and I’m proud to have voted for the MAN…Oooh! He’s Black! Yea, the Calendar I spoke of…No Black, Mexican,Asian,or Female and/or any race/gender other than what is viewed as the NORM.The NORM of the USA is where we live,schools, job position,So-Call “Shot Caller”, Deal Makers,Wealth or Embezzlers. Well the ballon is busting and we can’t stop it…PRESIDENT Obama, Keep trying to slow it down, thats the best of the fame “44″, I’ve witness in 65 yrs, Oh! Yea,as a veteran the Commander-in-Chief of the Military,Country, and this Nation is Due RESPECT from all on her shores…American’s Start Showing Respect as you’ve done for the other “43″. I’m Voting for Him Again and will for anyone with his agenda. The Best Is Yet To Come!SOON!!

Posted by roos | Report as abusive

Two things went wrong for President Obama; one, republicans never had any intention of ever working with him and two, Many Americans are predjudice, and while they hide behind accusing him of being muslim, they are really just afraid because he is black. America has become weak, crooked,and the republicans are an embarrassment. If I could move from the USA, I would.

Posted by sunnydale | Report as abusive

In no prticular order:

The First Gulf War was primarily paid for by payments from a number of the middle Eastern countries (Saudia Arabia,etc.), as well as airspace and land passage for logistical staging of military forces. These contributions came with conditions, primararily that the coalition NOT invade Iraq. Thus Bush Senior was bound (by some degree) to honor this constraint, as well as understanding the longer term quagmire that an invasion would entail.

Secondly, Democratic legislators backed Bush Jr. beause they were presented with the rationale that in order to be taken seriously by Suddam, “W’s” administration had to be viewed as having the backing of Congress to use all means..including war, to adevance our demands on Iraq. A number of Democratic legislators have stated on the record that they were assured by “W’s” administration thatthere was no real intention to “actually” invade Iraq.

Posted by Tellit | Report as abusive

I totally agree with ginchinchili. He is very informed and he knows what he’s talking about.
Now, I will make use of my logic and say this:
1. Since Bush 2 took the power, ah, what a gentleman was Clinton and how he turned the country to Bush with no debts– he claimed that all the world is US enemy. He started to threaten left and right whereby the attack from 9/11 and all the subsequent hate he inseminated in the middle east. And all this continued with the war in Iraq and with spending and spending of tax payer money and loss of human lives to serve a few Oil Kings, whose hunger to get richer and richer never ends.
2. The Republican Party exported our jobs overseas (computer field belong to Bangalore, the commodities, food, clothes, kitchen-ware — all made in China) for higher profit margins between their cost and the selling price to whom, to us, the middle class Americans who kept being devoid of more and more job opportunities.
3. It all culminated in September 2007 with the Wall Street, and the House Market bubbles which caused a big turmoil all over the world, and for us here it meant the end of the ‘American Dream’.
4. Obama is elected in the middle of this disaster, and we all expect him to make miracles overnight. Let’s be serious about it, no one will be able to handle the hole in which we are now and if you think the Republicans are up to the task, well, guess what, they won’t care about creating jobs for you guys, they will care to restore their wealth, their American Dream, on the back of all of us. They will resume the export of jobs overseas, and for sure won’t put our nation back to work. However, I wish they do the right thing, but I very much doubt. The education of our children will suffer, the Health Care will suffer, small companies won’t be able to pay for health care in such a fragile economy and they will shortly succumb under financial pressure and lack of marketability for their products and services – if you buy cheaper from China, or if the Operator from India costs less why should we employ our own ? The big Corporations will laugh of how stupid we were. I hope I don’t know what I am talking about, and that this won’t happen, but I bet we will end up worse and worse with them Tea Party-ers.

Posted by gheorghiua | Report as abusive

1. If we had a Republican President, how would he change the economy? Does it matter what political party President we have in this Bad Economical Time.
A. It would be hard for either Presidential Canidate.

B. In 2 years, can you change your economical status from poor to rich? My bad, that was a huge question.

C. Can you do better?

D. If you were the only one in your house that tried to better the family could you make it work?

E. If your spouse was cheating on you, could you stop them from cheating?

Posted by perkinsgo | Report as abusive

The expectations for any President of the US are and should be high. Obama wanted the job but could not deliver on his promises. He said he would fix the economy that was taking a downturn under Bush and instead he made it far worse. The election results reflect his poor performance. I hope he is the one to pay the price in the elections of 2012, but the electorate who is on the public dole could put him back in office. We can only hope reason prevails.

Posted by BelieveNothing | Report as abusive

Was i the only one listening when obama said that the problems we had were going to take more than 4 years mabe even 10 to fix which meant that even if he had 8 years it wasnt going to all get done. he is not a miracle worker. thats the problem with americans never want to invest time in anything you want something immediate. well the economy didnt fall over night so now its suppose to be fixed faster than it fell? until people stop thinking republican democrat, and the promises that come out of everyones mouth when they run for election. and actually think about if the change can really occur. your going to continue to be let down.I could promise you wealth, good health, and happiness to will you vote for me?

Posted by bcwilson | Report as abusive

I understand the frustration that the economy and unemployment are in the ditch right now, but what I don’t understand is why do people keep voting to put people, like John Boehner,in office when all they do is say “NO” to everything and sit back and do nothing at all. If I had a job where my paycheck came from the taxes everyone paid I would feel some pressure to get things done in congress and senate…to see some progress. But it upsets me to hear Republicans just say that they are just going to oppose everything the democrats are for and then sit on their ass and do nothing else. What the hell are we paying these people for.

Posted by wildlycyte | Report as abusive

For everyone who is Against PRESIDENT Obama and I capitalized president due to respect he is the president whether you like him or not. Rome wasn’t built in a day , and America can’t be fixed over night. The mess that was handed to Pres.Obama when he was put in office is alot for anyone to deal with at any given time. So if you feel it can be done better, by all means run for office.
As far as the war is concern unless you were, or are a soilder. Your comments about that mean nothing to me because I served and seen first hand what war can do to people no matter who you are.In my beliefs there is Absolutly no justifiable reason to be at war.God created the World to be at peace it was man that disruppted that peace and continues to do so until this day. Because of my loyalty to my contry I did and said things that I am not proud of but I have asked for forgiveness from GOD and owe nothing to anyone else.

For ChinMusic, speak for your self unless you have sat down in every African Americans living room as talked to us you have absolutly no idea what we think. How do you know he is non-cultural, because some one on T.V., the radio, or the internet told you so. Have you sat down and talked to him your self.Do you really know anything about him. Unless you lived in Chicago,IL and talked to him face to face found out what his true veiws are Dont assume that you know all the answers because someone put a DEAD bug in your ear. Because what you see and hear in the media has been edited, revised and edited again 10 times over way before it hits your ears and eyes.
It has only been two years since he has been in office alot of the things he has done won’t be felt until later on down the line if you knew anything about politics and history you would know that.

As for everyone else that doesn’t like the President, Sooo you feel like Republicans are the saviors of our country.Just about every Republican I know is a racist, a bigot, they are deceitful, a untrust worthy people that will turn on their own kind to save their own behind and to get ahead.But you don’t see me walking around saying I hate them and I dont judge them because they are still people. Almost about 85% of all our presidents were Republic and as history has shown they care about one thing lining their pockets and how rich and fat they can get off the sweat,blood and tears of another Human being.

Face it the only reason the Republicans are so upset is Because our president is Black there are to many Innuendoes to say other wise. Just a couple of hundred years ago white People (here in America) Mostly Republic thought black people were animals and uncapable of being educated let a lone run for office. Republicans fought against the abolishment of slavery while Democrats fought for it, seeing that it was truly inhumane.And here it is a well educated Black man, who graduated with honors (unlike our former “C” student president) has been elected president and trying to clean up a mess that has gotten out of control way before he took over. Ever heard of the saying ” it will only get worse before it gets better”? He is only doing the best he can as have his predicessors. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. At least he as the gumption to at least admit some of his unlike others who sweep it under the rug and hope no one is looking.

The health care bill may have been a bit much, but you know what it was only a bit much because we were use to the old ways, in life everything has to change thats why its called a life cycle. Everyone should be allowed healthcare no matter what.It works in Canada. People walk around and complain about Pres.Obama, so I guess they would have rathered have Sarah Palin in Office right? Talk about poorly educated in politics and in history. Ooh, but lets see, alot of Republicans voted for Pres. Obama because they rather have a man in office than a woman and the fact that no one really wanted the seat at such a crucial time in history. But now that the major spot light is off of Plain they wanna revert their negative ways and thinking back to Pres. Obama. The way I see it Politics is a game and a big joke. they used Pres. Obama as a scape goat because of the economy being so bad, and america has been flipped upside down and really no one really has the slightest clue on what to do to fix it.

You people call yourselves christians, uuuummm funny because all I hear and see is a bunch of people being judgemental to a person they really Do Not know outside of what they see and hear in the Media. He who is without sin and flaws cast the first stone.
At the end of the day the American people have to be responsible for themselves because when its time to stand at the pearly gates and attone for your sins, God isn’t going to ask “WHO DID YOU VOTE FOR IN THE 2008 ELECTION” he is not going to ask “WHAT POLITICAL PARTY DO YOU FALL UNDER” He is going to read from his book of judgement and see all the wrong or right you have done in your lives and past judgement period.Will you be ready?. And last time I read my Bible only God himself can pass Judgement on any person. Too me the world is the way it is because people are too busy being judgemental and selfish, instead of helping less fortunate people around them, they step on them or by pass them and look down on them. If I were God I would be dissappointed in the world I created. Because God created the world and people to help one another and be at peace not to hate and do only for self. Maybe if we were to try to help the situatons at hand we wouldn’t have such a big mess. We got to many Chiefs and not enough Indians.
There is only one true ruler, king, president whatever you wanna call him and that is GOD. Im quite sure God did not intend for people to have someone to dictate to them what they can and can not do, because as a person created in GOD’s image you should know right form wrong.

So say what you want about me or Pres. Obama cause GOD is the only being that can Judge me. I will not lose sleep at night and Im quite sure Pres.Obama being the GOd Fearing person he is won’t either.

One thing is for certain about people, THEY ARE GONNA TALK AND SAY NEGATIVE STUFF ABOUT YOU REGARDLESS IF YOU DO POSITVE THINGS OR NEGATIVE THINGS , so its darn if you do and darn if you don’t. Heck people talked about Jesus so why expect anything less.

Start focusing more about self and what you can do to help a fellow Human being succeed in life, then what the President is or isn’t doing. The change starts from within. Get your “house” and “lawn” in order first before you go passing judgement on someone elses…. PERIOD

President Obama, You keep doing what your doing cause God got your back and I lift you and this country up in prayer all the time.

Lord God keep him and this country grounded, guide him onto the path on which he should go. And open the minds and hearts of those who are ignorant to you and your world. AMEN

Posted by mrsolawumi | Report as abusive

Well said. I Agree! Double AMEN.

Posted by MinL4JC | Report as abusive

Returning to Iraq, not one American in a hundred ever heard of Project for a New American Century. This was a right-wing study group that believed America had the means and the moral right to rule the world through military might. They advocated a massive military build-up and such things as small scale nuclear weapons for ground combat, placing nuclear weapons in orbit, and the invasion of Iraq for the purpose of controlling their oil and using the country as a permanent U.S. military base.
Founding members included Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others who formed the core of Bush 2′s administration. PNAC was active before 2000, yet the American press completely failed to alert the public to the dangerous views of someone running for Vice President. What we got from these people was much of what PNAC was proposing. Bush just kept tossing various phony reasons for invading Iraq until one of them stuck. The true reasons were oil and military presence, plus the fact that various contractors including Halliburton, who bought Cheney, walked away with billions. A tragic situation for America, Iraq and the Middle East.

Posted by hotspringsfreak | Report as abusive

Its not Barack Obama or Obama….He is the president of the united states and you and everyone else needs to repect that and call him President Obama, Mr. President or whatever and stop disrespecting the Man.

Posted by marcussalaam | Report as abusive

Of course Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3) No doubt that put him in a better position to receive divine help :)

Posted by AndThenAgain | Report as abusive

Your comments are well said.

Posted by Amadeus12345 | Report as abusive