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Mon 16 Nov 2009 05:37 AM

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Barmy about Obama

Joanne Bladd questions whether the global plaudits for US president are deserved.

It’s official. Along with being the President of the United States, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and generally the shiniest star in the political firmament, Barack Obama is now the most powerful man on the planet.

In the annual listing by Forbes magazine, Mr Obama faced down tough competition from the Chinese President, the Pope and a Mexican drug lord with a $1.3m price on his head, to win the coveted mantle of the world’s most powerful person. His winning qualities included the ability to unleash a nuclear apocalypse at the push of a button; being head of the world’s “richest, deadliest army”, and – most importantly - “general awesomeness”.

According to Forbes, he was “unanimously...the world’s most powerful person, and by a wide margin.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz also made the top ten, impressively beating out the boss of Goldman Sachs (which, last time I checked, ruled the world) and both the British and French premiers.

I realise this might not be a popular view. But – whisper it – I have my doubts about Obama. This is less of a reflection on the US president himself; more a worry that no-one can possibly match the hype that Obama-mania is generating. In any other context, it would be a cult.

Take his first year in office. In the last 12 months, commentators and celebrities have competed to heap praise on Obama in ever more lavish and creative terms. In one of the best magic tricks I’ve seen a politician perform, he has neatly sidestepped the media blowtorch that has torn strips off every other Western leader since the economic crisis hit, and emerged smelling of roses.

His wife, in a move that made global headlines, managed to embrace the Queen of England without being taken out by SAS bodyguards. (As one headline noted; ‘She came, she hugged, she conquered.’)

There is even- and this is so ridiculous I can barely type it – a ‘Knitters for Obama’ group, which spreads the good word on the president, via the power of crocheting.

And this is not restricted to America.

Worldwide, Obama-mania has proved far more infectious than the H1N1 virus is. Whether in New York, Paris or Berlin, we love, amour and liebe Mr Obama. Even the most acerbic anti-US critics admit to having a soft spot for him.

Clearly, this is unchartered territory.

But it is getting farcical. There is an air of desperation in the way we are hurling accolades at a man who hasn’t really done anything yet. And while we’re all deliriously grateful that he isn’t George Bush, there still remains a Grand Canyon-style gap between Obama’s hype and his actual accomplishments.

The worst offender is the Nobel Committee. Admittedly, they have a track record that is less hit and more miss, but awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize takes the biscuit. The glaringly obvious problem is that, from a peace-making perspective, his CV is pretty bare.

Yes, he’s a dab hand with a speech, and he’s said some important things about Iran and the Middle East – if he’s lucky, some of his plans might even come to fruition – but unless he is healing the sick and feeding the hungry in his spare time, the Nobel people were a touch premature. They nominated him twelve days into his term.

The rise and rise of President Obama is fascinating. But what goes up, must come down, and nowhere is that truer than with popularity ratings. It’s largely our fault for turning him into a political deity, but the premier needs less style and more substance.

‘General awesomeness’ might be enough for Forbes, but in the longer-term Obama will have to earn his accolades the hard way.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Gerhard 10 years ago

You write: "... the premier needs less style and more substance". Heh. Watched a segment on Sky News this morning where schoolkids in China wax lyrical about Obama. The world is hungry for positive icons, especially political ones, and Obama is a lodestone, a dowsing rod and a tabula rasa for a weary, cynical, battered world. It's sort of like a planet-wide application of the Mandela Effect. And sometimes hope is enough.

Simon 10 years ago

Obama is a man of rethorich, of little and no substance. Some basic facts prior to Obama being made president (I refrain from the word 'voted' President) that Obama made as pre-ellection PROMISES: 1. Obama said there would be NO tax rises for any household in the USA that didn't have an income greater than $250,000. He has gone back on his word. Taxes are going up across the board for everyone. 2. Obama said he would not have lobbiests in his Administration yet his administraion is full of them 3. Obama said he would be independent of Wall Street. Ex-Goldman Sachs Exec's control the treasury! 4. Obama said he would NOT use presidential signing statements to circumvent Congress/Senate. Within a month of office he started using Presidential signing statements. 5. Obama said he would make sure every proposed Legal Bill would be put before the ellectorate and the Congress/Senate for a 'working period' of 5 days before a vote would be taken. OBAMA now tries to push Bills through in less than 1-2days!! Sometimes without time for Congrss to read them!!! or with sections of the Bills missing but still a vote expected!! 6. OBAMA said he would withdraw US troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan...he has increased the US's military forces there! Obama, if you research what he has done to date...has actually achieved very little, if at all anything positive. In fact he has carried on Bushs policies and agenda but at a greater pace. The USA, even though this sounds like a wild statement, is turning into (slowly) a police state. Everyone appears to be looking at the 'outer shell' because everyone is so thankful that Bush is out...but OBAMA is definately NO better. When you look under the shell you find another Bush but better marketing. His ratings in the USA have dropper from over 80% to the low 40% range. That tells its own story. The USA people have woken up to OBAMA's broken promises. Its about time the international community took note and looked for action not false words. Obama is also trying to destroy the USA Constitution so he can push through his 'police state' policies. If you don't believe me...RESEARCH Obama. Don't be fooled b the hype.

Uncle Sam 10 years ago

My dear Simon, it is painfully obvious that you have entrusted more than the fair share into President Obama and perhaps feel disappointed that the actions are not as quick as they may suit you. It is imperative that the citizens of any country support their leadership and work together with their leadership for the benefit of the country. Believing that President Obama is the fix for everything is immature. I revert to a great President of the days past who said it best: "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." To this day, President Kennedy is seen as one of the greatest presidents ever. I leave you with a quote from President Obama, which I sincerely hope will have an inspirational effect on your future actions. "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

Simon 10 years ago

Dear Uncle Sam...Your assessment of my views could not be FURTHER away from the truth even if you tried. I am an 'objective Brit'. I have no emotional trust in Obama. I purely see him for what he is...A man of rhetoric and NO substance. A man who reneges on ALL of his important pre-elective promises just to get the presidency. That is not a man to be trusted. I don't believe you read my comments properly or the listed promises that have been broken. If you had, your comments wouldn't sound so lame. You didn'taddress ANY of my points. Like an Obama lover you conveniently gloss over i all...why? do you fear the truth I am glad you quote the great JFK. You obviously know little about him or his political views on society. If you did, you would know that JFK would applaud what was in my previous original comments. I suggest you listen to his 'secret society speech'...a speech where he welcomed open criticism, voicing of descention, questioning of his administration etc, etc. JFK speaks of 'secret societies' that had infiltrated the very heart of America and its politics. He was against it and wanted to work to destroy those secret societies. JFK wanted an open and free society...Obama wants the opposite and his actions prove it to be the case. I wrote a pevious retort to your lame comments but it appears not to have been approved. This is a condensed version. What Obama is, is hype and deception...not a leader. Don't believe the hype...believe reality. Reality is very sobering when you find it. I could go on and really go deep into the Obama and visibly where Obama headed...all backed up by documentary evidence in the public domain and from USA govt websites etc, etc but this isn't the place for such indepth analysis.

Uncle Sam 10 years ago

Dear Simon, I thank you and respect your opinion. I shall let you believe your cause is right as I see that you have already made up your mind. It disappoints me you revert to personal attacks as opposed to diplomacy and thus I shall not continue with this conversation. History will judge the actions of each of our presidents. I remain positive and believe President Obama will do what is right for his country and his fellow citizens.

Simon 10 years ago

I do take your commens on board re: personal attacks and if i over indulged then I apologise. I will concede that I can be opinionated...but opinionated objectivity based on the analysis of the facts as they stand. If people can refute what I say based on fact then I can stand corrected. What I find with Obama, no one can. What i wouldn't apologise for as the facts stand is my opinion of Obama. We don't have to look to history to judge him...the last 12mths has been enough. I am not talking about his inabiltiy to turn the USA economy around...NO ONE could have ever done that. I'm talking about the promises he made to get himself elected after which he has broken them all and done the complete opposite. I sometimes find it difficult to understand why people refuse to look facts in the face. I can never find anyone who supports Obama to actually refute what he has done. Many are actually ignorant of all the facts I have posted...and I think that is the main problem. Obama is firstly a 'celebrity' rather than a president...and is almost a cult figure. People don't want to believe Obama could have lied his way into the presidency...they won't accept it. They don't want to feel the HOPE they put in him could have been wasted and lost. But facts are facts. I just ask people to look at the facts and not just sweep them under the carpet as though lying and reneging on electoral promises is acceptable. If people think it is acceptable then I believe we are on a very slippery slope. I'd like people to tell me what he has actually done yet in his first year and tell my why they don't question the promises he has unrefutably broken...Obama's YES WE CAN has actually turned a full 180' into NO WE CAN'T AND NO I WON'T. Other than the offer of FALSE hope...what is Obama offering. where is the substance? why has he broken his promises? why has he done the opposite of what he said he would do? By the way, the road to hope leads to a town of nowhere. Only by structured policies and positive action can hope be turned into reality. If Obama's hope for the people of the USA was based on the promises he made pre-election then his hope was false... Please...if ANYONE can refute my comments constructively, I'd greatly appreciate it...am I the only one in the crowd who can see the 'emperor is naked'????

Captain 10 years ago

Simon, do you blog? I hope you do, you have interesting observations that I agree with. Keep up the good work.

Sandjockey 10 years ago

Finally, a journalist who isn't blinded by the halo of light that surrounds President Obama, a halo of light that while dimming still obscures so much that has gone wrong. Understanding the desire for hope and how this blinds people I can understand President Obama's election. I cannot, however, understand how others are still blinded by his aura and can't see the reality, that of a President who has made promise after promise and has failed to meet a single one. Since we are quoting Presidents, let me quote LBJ (and I might be paraphrasing slightly)..."I feel like a hitchhiker on a Texas highway in the middle of a hailstorm. I can't run, I can't hide, I can't make it stop." Rather than continuing to heap accolades on a man who has done little, if anything, let's instead hold his feet to the fire and demand that he keeps the promises he made. SJ

Quicksmile 10 years ago

Dear Joanne (and Simon) Tho I can't fault the writing style, (in fact, the article is rather well written!), I do have an issue with the substance. I have to jump to the defense of the US president. Failing to do so would negate the assertion of cult following, and two, to let this opinionated article go unchallenged would make the author (and Simon perhaps?) think that their views are potentially correct or justified. Firstly, I struggle to see the news bit in this article, so I cannot really classify this as journalism, I can concede it being an opinion, but the fact that an opinion gets published does not necessarily render the opinion to be fact or truth. In my view, President Obama was voted into office, (and note it wasn't the courts that appointed him president!) notwithstanding and despite the still prevailing bigotry and racism in the US, because the majority of the American people was just simply sick and tired of eight years of George Bush and the Republican style of government. In fact, I would venture to suggest that the Americans were embarrased by their president, and what Obama brought was an opportunity to redeem themselves. And indeed, he did redeem the USA as a nation! The fact that he brought hope to the US (and indeed the world!) is indisputable. The fact that people (and indeed Obama himself!) are now realising that he cannot rule like a dictator and that he is constrained by the American political system is also indisputable. The world (and indeed Obama!) have begun to realise that the problems of the world can not be solved by one man, notwithstanding how strong his resolve is. Take the issue of the Healthcare bill... He has tried desperately to bring about the change he promised during the election, but the vested interests in the Health Insurance industry have made it virtually impossible to date to challenge the statu quo. The fact that he had some sort of bill pass through the House was in itself a minor miracle. Take the issue of Palestine. Not even the halo above the head of Obama could prick the conscience of the powerful Jewish lobby and steer the region to a just peace. But to blame him for trying is to give the man no credit. He has even managed to give the region hope, in a region where the situation is totally hopeless! You are quick to want to point out what he didnt achieve, (tho the article does not raise one such failure...!!!) but fail painfully to point out the achievements... The fact that the world is falling over itself to heap praise on the President should prick your faculties as to why this is so... yet your faculties seem to remain unpricked. He has changed the way the world view the only remaining (for the time being at least!) superpower. I am in fact living proof of that. As a Muslim, I loathed the US, and anything that reminded me of the US, simply because of the actions of their leaders. Now, we view them as equal citizens of the world, who has a potentially meaninful contribution to make. The credit for this change in me, and many millions like me, can almost singlehandedly be attributed to the inspiration of a man called Obama.

Amira Smith 10 years ago

Firstly, that was less a comment and more an essay. But in the interests of following your logic, that to allow your comment to go unchallenged would make you think you were correct, here we go. Firstly, unless you are very poorly read, you will know journalism takes many forms. This, as clearly marked, is a comment. So it's not news - although the 'most powerful' list came out recently, which is why this is topical - it doesn't claim to be. Secondly, the fact the world is falling over itself to praise Obama doesn't mean a thing. It merely proves the world, for the most part, has a herd mentality. You, Quicksmile, are a sheep. And I don't think the point of the article is to highlight failures - but more to ask what Obama's successes are. In concrete terms, he hasn't achieved anything. In global terms - and the Nobel Peace Prize is a global award - he's done nothing. He might go on to - I hope he does. But prematurely praising him isn't going to help with that. (The US healthcare bill is irrelevant to the vast majority of the world's population, so I don't really see your point there.) Oh, and on failures. I count his reneging on his claim that Israel must stop building settlements - which he has now watered down to, 'excluding natural growth' - as a failure.