Keeping promises is not easy, Mr. President …

[This post was originally posted in The Dragon and The Eagle on 25 January 2009]

This week a big event, a remarkable achievement was recorded in history. Barack Hussein Obama took oath as the 44th president of the United States, in an inauguration ceremony witnessed directly by no less than two million people and another hundreds of millions of television viewers. On Tuesday, 20 January 2009 Obama, the first African-American leader of ‘the Free World’, was a brilliant star. He looked like a magnet that attracted attention from either supporters and opponents. Obama’s success means a lot domestically and internationally; indeed, it is a case that deserves to be – accompanied with various expectations.

Obama’s victory over his rival in last year’s presidential election was all because he promised changes. He promised changes for the people who have been suffering from the economic crisis that culminate in recession, which nobody could know exactly for its end. He also promised changes to a country whose international image was badly damaged during the eight year period of the previous administration. It was this ‘changes’ mantra that brought him the victory and undoubtedly is serving as a powerful ammunition for his call to ‘remake America’, as he mentioned in his inauguration speech that Tuesday.

In the first days of his leadership, Obama soon won many people’s hearts when he ordered the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay (but, see also Four Reasons Obama Won’t Close Gitmo Soon). Nevertheless, hopes were already ruined when Obama reportedly asked Hamas to stop its rocket attacks against Israel to end the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In this last case there are many who hold pessimistic view to Obama, an acceptable attitude if we are to consider carefully Obama’s long-standing position on Israel-Palestine relations (see my previous posting ‘A New, Changed America’? – Don’t get too excited …). True it is still too early to assess Obama’s presidency, but a track record on his campaign promises and their implementation should start from now.

I argue this is, among others, behind the reason for St. Petersburg Times, a Florida media, creating a website entitled The Obameter: Tracking Obama’s Campaign Promises. At the same time with this posting is written, the site records that from his 509 campaign promises, Obama has met 5 promises and compromised 1 promise, while 14 promises are still in working and 1 promise stalled. This is a very good way to assess what Obama’s administration has been working to meet his mantra of ‘changes’. If Obama would look forward to continuing his leadership for the second time, he certainly should strive to minimise the broken promise and increase the number of promises that he can fulfill.

Obama is a smart person, so we probably will not smile or laugh quite often again when we learn his reaction to many issues, as we did when we found out Dubya’s ‘ignorance’ during his eight-year presidency. The former Texas governor will always be memorable not only because his warring tendency, but also for he had produced many scores of Bushisms, ‘ridiculous’ quotes of his speeches or comments. Take these for examples: “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.” (Townsend, Tenn., 21 February 2001); “You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” – Interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric, 6 September 2006); and “I’m telling you there’s an enemy that would like to attack America, Americans, again. There just is. That’s the reality of the world. And I wish him all the very best.” (Washington, D.C., 12 January 2009). Oh, I don’t know about you, but I will miss these Bushisms as perhaps the only ‘positive’, amusing thing from his time.

The Bush era has ended, the era of change has arrived. To become the president of the most powerful country in the world at the time of crisis is very difficult indeed. For that, we need to give credits for Obama’s courage to take up this challenge. Although the road is still long and full of uncertainty, but I am certain that Obama wants to be recorded as a president with SUCCESSES, be them domestic or international. The world has changed very quickly and the United States is no doubt one of the determinant actors. However, if its jingoism won’t fade out, we can expect that The Obameter would record negative results, particularly in the context of America’s international role and position. A ‘dictum’ I heard from my former American politics lecturer quite a long time ago – the U.S. will be more likely to take the road of war and conflict to settle international problems if led by a Republican – will face a difficult test during Obama’s time.