In 2008 lots of people around the world – including me – were thrilled by the campaign of Obama, using grass root approaches to overcome the old establishment. He presented himself as someone who could change the way the United States are ruled because he was a man of the folks and not of the establishment – accountable only to the main street and to the constitution of his beloved founders of the modern America.
My first disappointment even during the early campaign came with the learning, that Obama had no scruple to use legal tactics in favour of his advancement, even if it was not necessary. In 1996 during his first race for office he had ousted three democratic candidates for the Chicago Senate seat based on juristic formalities – including the incumbent Alice Palmer. (Obama played hardball in first Chicago campaign.) It was his right to do so, but it did not fit to the picture he was presenting. This game repeated itself but with opposite prefix in the primaries of Florida and Michigan 2008. (Democrats Approve Deal on Michigan and Florida: One of Clintons chief advisers said «the outcome for Michigan was a hijacking of voters’ intent because it assigned delegates to Mr Obama even though he did not win them as his name was not on the ballot.») Even though I disapproved these tactics, I ignored them because I was in favour of Obama becoming the next president to change politics.
The next disappointment came as Obama reneged on his promise to be more transparent to get input from ordinary people. The day after his inauguration, he gave a speech welcoming senior staff and cabinet secretaries to the white house: «Let me say it as simply as I can, transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency. Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that’s why, as of today, I’m directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans — scientists and civic leaders, educators and entrepreneurs — because the way to solve the problem of our time is — the way to solve the problems of our time, as one nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.» But he closed doors on openness for meetings with lobbyists, he did not keep his explicit promise to televise healthcare reform negotiations on C-SPAN, and he did not put «sunlight before signing» of new bills to get feedback from ordinary people, especially at the beginning. It now has improved but only to every second bill he signs.
There were other promises that I considered imperative for his campaign – especially Guantanamo and Torture. Even though there is no easy way out of this mess not caused by Obama, he should have done everything to restore the global values of freedom, human rights and the dignity of people – and by that the self-esteem of all us Westerners.
But the final game changer is his unwillingness to not even ask the Congress for the approval of the engagement in hostile activities in Libya. It is not only a humiliating juristically hair-splitting and constitutionally questionable – it is even stupid. At the beginning of the slaughters in Libya, everybody including a partisan Congress would have approved help to the then still peaceful protesters.
How does Obama think he will be re-elected by going into wars without even asking Congress of approval – as a president who was elected significantly because he opposed a war against a slaughtering dictator Saddam Hussein and who pledged to not only include elected representatives of ordinary people but ordinary people themselves into his decision process. This is a game changer of momentum, because ordinary people see, feel and cannot understand this contradiction.
And this is the deciding puzzle bringing together the big picture of how Obama handles politics. It is a big disappointment that overshadows the good he has done.