First hun­dred days

Amer­i­cans have no re­grets for elect­ing Obama

The Compass - - OPINION -

Af­ter his first 100 days in of­fice Barack Obama is al­ready prov­ing him­self to be a force for change in Amer­ica. And most Amer­i­cans have no re­grets for hav­ing voted him into of­fice last Novem­ber. In light of how things have turned out so far, our Scrib­bler wanted to re­peat the col­umn be­low, which first ap­peared on this page in Jan­uary, 2008.

There’s a huge po­lit­i­cal rum­ble across the United States; there’s some­thing quite in­ter­est­ing stir­ring in the air and it’s not a hur­ri­cane or tor­nado.

Why am I writ­ing about U.S. pol­i­tics and in par­tic­u­lar the run for the White House? I’m keenly in­ter­ested for two rea­sons. A, be­cause I am in Florida and caught up in the hoopla and B, be­cause I and ev­ery other Cana­dian should be in­ter­ested and con­cerned about who will be the next pres­i­dent of the United States.

An­other Kennedy?

I have my eye on the youth­ful Demo­crat pres­i­den­tial hope­ful (phe­nom­e­non) named Se­na­tor Barack Obama. The 46-year-old African-Amer­i­can from Chicago re­minds me of a young stylish or­a­tor by the name of John F. Kennedy.

Obama is, to me, the most ex­cit­ing and most provoca­tive pres­i­den­tial can­di­date I have seen since Pres­i­dent Kennedy and his brother Bobby. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are say­ing the same as this young se­na­tor from Chicago stamps his in­deli­ble mark on the 2008 U.S. pres­i­den­tial race.

Here in Florida vot­ers are buzzing with chat­ter about him, over cof­fee, at the su­per­mar­ket, on the golf greens and all over Florida news­pa­pers and on the


air­ways. He has al­ready pro­vided a rum­ble so big it is echo­ing from Cal­i­for­nia to Maine and no doubt across the Cana­dian bor­der.

In the 1970s Pierre El­liott Trudeau used his flower power ap­peal to pro­mote unity with: One vote one na­tion; then, who can for­get: Fud­dle-dud­dle; and when he was fac­ing the FLQ cri­sis, he is for­ever rec­og­nized for spew­ing forth an­grily: Just watch me (when ques­tioned by mem­bers of the na­tional me­dia on how far he would go in fight­ing the FLQ (Front de lib­er­a­tion du Que­bec). Trudeau was bril­liant and like Sen. Barack Obama, dif­fer­ent.

In New­found­land (1971) Frank D. Moores be­gan his his­toric cam­paign to de­feat Joey Small­wood and the Lib­eral Party stran­gle­hold-regime with slo­gans like: The time has come, and: It won’t be long now.

A. Brian Peck­ford later ut­tered the words: Some day the sun will shine and have not will be no more, to de­scribe what oil would do for the prov­ince.

They worked well for both Moores and Peck­ford. And, how can any­one for­get Joey’s: The (Lib­eral) tide has gone out, used af­ter his in­cred­i­ble de­feat?

Back to the United States, who can for­get Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s poignant call: “Ask not what your coun­try can do for you; ask what you can do for your coun­try.

Obama is in­spir­ing vot­ers in Amer­ica with his cam­paign slo­gan: Time for change — yes we can! No doubt he’s re­fer­ring to his re­plac­ing Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush who, it is com­monly agreed, has led the U.S. into a war that should never have been fought and the U.S. econ­omy into a loom­ing re­ces­sion.

Obama’s goal is to lead his Demo­cratic Party back into power in Wash­ing­ton and with the first African-Amer­i­can at the helm. He wants to fi­nally rid the coun­try of the Clin­ton-Bush era.

World sit­u­a­tion

If ever free coun­tries of the world needed pres­i­dents who are strong — it is now. Since the tragedy of 9-11 the world sit­u­a­tion is volatile like never be­fore. The sabre rat­tling from Iran to pos­si­bly use nu­clear weapons against the west is just one ex­am­ple of the pow­der keg we in North Amer­ica are sit­ting on.

The re­cent as­sas­si­na­tion of Be­nazir Bhutto, the one­time real pres­i­dent of Pak­istan, is an­other sign of just how pow­er­ful the en­e­mies of free­dom are.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are con­tin­u­ing with Cana­dian and U.S. mil­i­tary ca­su­al­ties re­ported al­most weekly adding to the thou­sands al­ready. Young men and women are fight­ing a war that most ex­perts agree will never be won.

Else­where in the Mid­dle East Is­raelis and the Pales­tini­ans are still en­gaged in their per­pet­ual ter­ri­to­rial war. Pres­i­dent Bush is once again at­tempt­ing to me­di­ate a peace set­tle­ment.

Mean­while Ira­nian boats, on Jan. 7, ha­rassed and pro­voked three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hor­muz (while the U.S. ships were legally op­er­at­ing in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters). Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the Ira­ni­ans said they would blow the ships up in min­utes if the U.S. Navy didn’t get out of the area. For­tu­nately it never hap­pened but the dam­age in U.S./Ira­nian re­la­tions has been dra­mat­i­cally height­ened.

The U.S. is slowly slip­ping into sec­ond place as a world power. China is rapidly be­com­ing the most pow­er­ful and most pro­gres­sive na­tion on earth.

Was it Win­ston Churchill that warned: Be­ware when the yel­low dragon awakes...?

Obama is very aware that the yel­low dragon has been awak­ened.

Fright­en­ing job

It is that kind of po­lit­i­cal volatil­ity world­wide that Obama is pre­par­ing to en­ter. He re­al­izes the se­ri­ous and danger­ous sit­u­a­tion his coun­try still faces and how the en­tire free world’s demo­cratic na­tions are at risk of be­ing drawn into a Third World War.

But the young Har­vard Law School grad­u­ate feels he is ready. “I’m ready for real change,” he shouts of­ten th­ese days.“We can do it...we can do it,” is his re­frain.

Mem­bers of his party and vot­ers ev­ery­where are lap­ping it up. “We have to take back our coun­try,” he in­sists,“and there is only one way to do that — by elect­ing me as your pres­i­dent,” he adds with con­vic­tion.“It’s about peace not war,” he preaches.

Illi­nois Se­na­tor Barack Obama is an in­spir­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for a na­tion dis­cour­aged by the par­ti­san war in Wash­ing­ton.

Obama makes a large num­ber of Amer­i­cans — young and old, black and white — be­lieve their coun­try can ac­com­plish any­thing it sets its mind to. He talks open- ly about re­plac­ing the pol­i­tics of cyn­i­cism with the pol­i­tics of hope.

He was the first African-Amer­i­can ed­i­tor of the Har­vard Law Re­view. He grew up in Hawaii and In­done­sia and is the son of a black fa­ther and a white mother.

He even­tu­ally set­tled down and prac­tised law in Chicago where he was elected to the Illi­nois Se­nate. In Jan­uary 2005 he be­came the Illi­nois State Se­na­tor and it was in Wash­ing­ton that he spoke out against the in­va­sion of Iraq. How­ever, since he ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton he has rightly sup­ported fund­ing for U.S. troops.

The young Wash­ing­ton se­na­tor has changed some of his lib­eral po­si­tions, moves he has been crit­i­cized for, but peo­ple ine­bri­ated by his prom­ise of “hope” for real change are not con­cerned with such triv­i­al­i­ties.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­cently stated that peo­ple are at­tracted to him like iron fil­ings to a mag­net. They don’t ask where is the beef they say,“here is the real beef.”

Obama magic

I en­joy lis­ten­ing to Obama in pub­lic ral­lies and in TV’s one-onone de­bates. It is widely con­sid­ered that Obama is one of the most up­lift­ing or­a­tors of his gen­er­a­tion and he isn’t afraid to tell an au­di­ence (ei­ther Repub­li­cans, Democrats or In­de­pen­dents) what he thinks they need to hear in or­der to ef­fect real change.

He says it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to raise dif­fer­ences and dis­agree without be­ing dis­agree­able (world pow­ers in­cluded).

As an African-Amer­i­can he avoids, as much as pos­si­ble, the pol­i­tics of race. He was forced to en­ter a heated de­bate re­cently with the Clin­ton’s (Hi­lary and Bill) over neg­a­tive com­ments they al­legedly made about Dr. Martin Luther King and a fan­tasy in O’Bama’s mind. Hi­lary Clin­ton went on na­tional tele­vi­sion and apol­o­gized for what she said was a big mis­un­der­stand­ing. Bill Clin­ton did the same on pub­lic ra­dio, blam­ing it on the me­dia, who are anx­ious to blow things up, he said.

Obama fol­low­ers say the young se­na­tor doesn’t suf­fer fools. He did for­give the Clin­tons and they de­clared a truce.

Are we watch­ing his­tory in the mak­ing? I think so.

The day (and it just might hap­pen) an African-Amer­i­can stands on the steps of the U.S. Capi­tol — built with the labour of slaves — and takes that oath of of­fice so im­por­tant to the free world (Canada very much in­cluded) will be a mo­ment of blind­ing, hope­ful bright­ness.

In my view Barack Obama can do it both in terms of raw po­lit­i­cal tal­ent, cred­i­bil­ity and mass ap­peal. I think Obama has it over the other com­pet­ing Democrats (Clin­ton and Ed­wards) and for that mat­ter lead­ing Repub­li­cans cur­rently in the race to the White House (McCain, Gi­u­liani, Huck­abee and Rom­ney).

On Nov. 4, 2008 the whole world will know. My bet is on the young bright hope named Obama. Watch him blos­som.

New­found­lan­ders and all Cana­di­ans should tune in. It is a very im­por­tant time in our his­tory as we ride along with our Amer­i­can neigh­bours as they con­tinue through trou­bled wa­ters at home and abroad, hope­fully with a new pres­i­dent with in­sight and real lead­er­ship qual­i­ties.

Gold bless Amer­ica!

Bill West­cott writes from his win­ter re­treat in Florida.

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