Mr. Obama will be replaced by the new president who will be elected in the early November vote. For thoughtful Americans and for thoughtful citizens across the globe, you could sense the setting in of a feeling that shifts between awe and sadness. Even from far away, and from my status as a small farmer and a certified Everyman, you can’t be but struck with the feeling that extraordinary leaders like Mr. Obama should not be term-limited and should be voted president-for-life.
Why should great leaders working for and dreaming of a better world be term-limited?
Mr. Obama is a once-in-a-generation leader. He is not the “Muslim-Kenyan-Socialist” bent on ruining America with his “otherness” as many Republican leaders and conservative radio talk show hosts portray him to be. Or the arrogant interloper in other country’s affairs – which is the current portrayal of Mr. Obama in our country today. You know what? No great American cartoonist has turned Mr. Obama into a caricature and he is about to end his two terms. Do you still remember how the late, great Herblock turned Mr. Nixon into a brooding president with dark thoughts and a permanent two-day stubble?
With his White House stint yet to end, Mr. Obama is already considered by most intellectuals and political scholars as “one of the most consequential presidents of the US.” The most significant social safety net legislation since LBJ, the ACA, was passed during his term. He shook the hand of a surprised Raul Castro. He closed Guantanamo. The tributes and acknowledgements will soar in the early weeks of his post-presidency. Of course, he is red meat in the Red states, but that is essentially a race-driven story.
Mr. Obama’s two terms primarily served US interests, yes. There is no leader that is a global citizen first and a national leader, next. But in the whole process of serving American interests. he made the world a much better place.
On the alleged meddling of Mr. Obama on the affairs of other countries. Which is how we view Mr. Obama today, this fact stands out. Mr. Obama’s eight years ended the reckless foreign policy of the neocons that dominated US foreign affairs during the term of Mr. Bush, his predecessor. Gone was cowboy diplomacy, the invocation of “mushroom clouds “to justify the invasion of Iraq and the selling of that war by marketing it as a success. And having a photo shoot of a chicken hawk-president in a fighter pilot jacket to provide the faux optic to that failed war’ supposed success.
Bravado phrases such as “ Coalition of the Willing” and “Axis of Evil” never cropped up during the term of Mr. Obama, a recognition that foreign policy and international coalitions to fight terror are very serious affairs and that hollow phrase — making and jingoism should have no place in those serious affairs.
Yet, it was Mr. Obama who green-lighted the serious tracking and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Mr. Bush, just a few days after the Twin Towers bombing, cleared airspace to allow a planeload of visiting Bin Ladens to leave the US safely.
In retrospect, had Mr. Obama failed to try to bring Iran back into the international mainstream, what could have been the price of oil now in the global market? Today, Iran is prodigiously producing oil for the export market thanks to Mr. Obama’s dogged Iran initiative. As OPEC tries to flex its muscles and act like a cartel anew, the Iran oil production — along with the US production — act as counterfoil to OPEC’s muscle flexing. From all angles, this is a type of “interloping” that is aimed at a better world.
It is not really hard to appreciate the importance of Iran’s prodigious oil production, especially oil-dependent countries like ours, in the context of OPEC’s game plan to raise global oil prices anew. How would the Philippine economy fare under a $100-per-barrel pricing regime?
Mr. Obama was one of the first global leaders (along with Pope Francis) to recognize that inequality is the greatest and most important issue of our time. For many of us, whose feeling is that the greatest evil in this world is the massive rich-poor divide, we admired Mr. Obama more after that declaration. He scrapped the signature policy of Republican presidents, which was to center their agenda on cutting the taxes of the rich. He recognized the importance of higher minimum wage, strengthening the social safety nets and appointed two brilliant women lawyers to the US Supreme Court.
Without Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor on the US High Court, the constructionist interpretation of the law by Scalia clones — Alito, Thomas etc — would have overturned even the Civil Rights Act and Roe vs Wade.
Mr. Obama, the son of aN Ivy League-trained Kenyan economist and a white mother, made history by beating the long-held and very much alive prejudices against blacks, to win the US presidency two times. That he won over two white sons of privilege – John McCain and Mitt Romney – made his two victories more spectacular.
From a personal realm, from where I sit as a typist, you can only appreciate Mr. Obama’s love for the written word.
Read the compilation of his speeches. And you will only see humanity, statesmanship and great leadership.