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The coming remodelling of Barack Obama | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In six months’ time Barack Obama would conclude his first term as President of the United States. With the election campaign raging, he is a lame-duck president already.

Even his admirers admit that Obama has spent much of the first term talking about the past, blaming George W. Bush for everything that is wrong with the United States.

Talking to Obama’s friends and foes provides what they claim would be the image of Obama II.

So, what will he do with his second term, if he wins?

The president and those close to him claim that, if re-elected, he would reveal his “real self”, unveiling policies he dared not introduce for fear of losing the last election of his career.

If these claims are correct, Obama II would be more to the left than the Obama of the first term. He would pursue his plan to impose the so-called Obamacare under which the US would get a European-style national health service. In the process, the state would gain control of almost 12 per cent of the gross national product, the biggest extension of the public sector since the 1930s.

By massively increasing federal debt, Obama has already tried a European-style economic policy anchored on deficit budgeting.

Obama II would try to counter balance that policy with a dramatic increase in taxes, starting with the abolition of Bush’s historic tax cuts. That would make it easier for him to sell the idea of a mixed economy in which the state plays a leading role. What is left of Reaganomics, created with Ronald Reagan’s de-regulation and liberalization drive, would be consigned to history.

In foreign policy, Obama believes that, on many issues, the United States has acted as a bullying “Imperialist” power and should atone for its sins. Obama did a lot of apologizing all over the world but, facing re-election, dared not adopt policies that would translate those apologies into reality. If re-elected, he could introduce those policies.

Speaking in code, Obama has provided clues to how he really sees the world. He believes that we are heading for a “multipolar” world in which the US is one of many players.

Even where American power is needed to sustain a policy, Obama believes the best course for the US would be to “lead from behind.”

Obama II would be good news for several regimes across the globe.

The Putin set-up in Moscow would benefit because, unlike his putative Republican rivals, Obama is prepared to recognize Russia as an equal in Europe and the Middle East.

Putin suspected the Bush administration of harboring plans for regime-change in Russia. With Obama II those fears would disappear. And that would give Putin a freer hand to restore at least part of the zone of influence that Russia lost when its Soviet Empire collapsed.

In his recent meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama promised to be “more flexible” on a range of issues, notably missiles and nuclear arsenals, after the election. That flexibility would relieve the pressure that Russia feels in its efforts to modernize its military machine.

China’s Communist leaders would also benefit from Obama II. Freed from electoral calculations, Obama II would drop the troublesome Dalai Lama and end Washington’s tunes about human rights in China.

For almost four years, Obama has managed to hide his dislike of Israel, a dislike he formed as a radical youth in New York. Obama II would champion the Palestinian cause and pressure Israel to implement the two-state scenario.

As far as the old conflict with the Khomeinist regime is concerned, Obama II would accept Iran’s nuclear program and acknowledge Iran as a regional power.

Obama II would disentangle the US from residual involvement in Iraq and end the American presence in Afghanistan as fast as possible.

In Latin America, Obama II would throw a bridge to left-leaning regimes that have changed the political landscape in the American backyard.

Well, what do you think? Will Obama II herald a radical shift to the left in the United States?

Having listened to Washington insiders over the past week or so, my answer is: not necessarily.

Obama’s re-election advertisement is built on a claim that he inherited an America on the brink and saved it from disaster. That, however, is a re-hash of the hate-Bush campaign of four years ago. By spreading rumors about a second-term shift to the left, Obama is trying to mobilize his radical base and inject a dose of ideology into the campaign.

In practice, however, for a number of reasons, radical changes in American and domestic policies are unlikely.

To start with, at this moment, a majority of Americans happen to be on the right on most major issues. Obama may still win a second term because the Republicans might not produce an attractive candidate. But Obama would not win a mandate to take a sharp turn to the left. Reagan succeeded in leading the US to the right because he relied on a majority that had already moved in that direction.

There is also the fact that the power of a US president to set the national agenda is less today than even 20 years ago. The kind of social democratic ideology that Obama’s friends and foes claim he harbors is best suited to small European powers like Norway or Sweden not an ailing superpower with numerous enemies across the globe.

More importantly, perhaps, no one knows who the real Obama is. He may have been a leftist pro-Palestinian black radical in his youth. But that may well have been because he needed the mask to find a place in local politics in New York and Chicago. At the same time, he was the beneficiary of an expensive education and rich enough to indulge in politics rather than earn a living.

I think that Obama harbors no dangerous idea apart from getting himself re-elected.