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     Volume 7 Issue 29 | July 18, 2008 |

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Can we Believe it?

Nader Rahman

Obamania, I doubt if I've coined that word but it seems to fit the storm that has taken over America. From his snappy ads on TV to the seemingly ubiquitous posters and stickers that emblazon his face as some sort of agent of change. It is easy to get caught up with the wave of enthusiasm and hope that seemingly propels his presidential campaign, but for those who scratch a little deeper there are often more questions than answers regarding the so called change he believes in.

What has happened in America is the ultimate magician's trick, distract the audience with a bang (which Obama's campaign has created) while wheeling an elephant on to the stage. Before people can come to their senses there is the 'taa daa' moment and seemingly out of nowhere a pachyderm appears. It's amazing how simple the trick is and how easily millions can be distracted with a simple bang, but then again this is the era of attention deficit disorder (ADD) where people can hold their concentration for about as long as it takes to read this very line. And who has been routinely blamed for this increasing ADD epidemic, our good friend the TV, which is precisely where Obama has engineered his bang. The amazingly interwoven appeal for Obama stems from the television, celebrity endorsements and 15 second clips which supposedly show the gist of his speeches and policy. While I am not saying that Obama is two faced and will turn out to be anything like Bush, what I am saying is that substance behind his drive for change is questionable. Essentially he didn't need a bang for his election trick, the bang was the trick.

This week he made it to the cover of Rolling Stone and well, it was his true rock star moment. The picture of him on the cover gave one a warm and fuzzy feeling, his broad smile, tinged by the slim wrinkles around his eyes with an American flag pin on his lapel. Inside there were no fewer than three articles on him and his campaign and without doubt I can say objectivity was the last thing on people's minds when they wrote about him. He is glorified, firstly by idolising him as essentially the perfect candidate and then he is made real when he talks about the music on his iPod. The same can be said of Jesus, what made him great was that he was both divine and real. This one issue of Rolling Stone is emblematic of all things Obama, it is all about his image and full of rhetoric yet there is very little insight into to the change he has everyone hooked on.

On the website there is an interesting comment posted by a reader which says “The exact problem with today's so-called journalists is captured right near the beginning of this breathless, softball puff piece: '...despite their evident admiration, Obama has held the press at a respectful distance.' Their admiration is not supposed to be evident. All semblance of objectivity has completely disappeared from the mainstream media. The author (apparently, I'm not allowed to mention his name; nice censorship, RS) seems to assume anyone who doesn't fall all over him- or herself in the rush to enshrine Obama is a driveling idiot. Really, I'm surprised there isn't a halo over the candidate's head in the cover photo (and let's remember, he still IS only a candidate). The article might as well have been titled, 'Why Obama Is Totally Awesome and Will ROCK the White House.'

A view, with which, by the way, I wholeheartedly disagree. I have yet to hear him say anything truly substantive, and he doesn't do well in extemporaneous forums - no wonder he doesn't want to do town hall-type debates with McCain. McCain may not be the perfect candidate (there is no such animal, if the truth be told), but at least he's not naive enough to think that we can reason with those who hate us for our freedoms. And the others here who've stated that their taxes would skyrocket under an Obama regime are absolutely right. But that's ok - as long as the president has a 'dazzling smile,' I guess that's all that matters.”

That one comment says a lot about Obama's campaign and I salute it simply because it is refreshing to see people who actually care more about a person's deeds rather than his words. While I don't quite agree with everything in the comment it does raise some pertinent issues such as the media's coverage of Obama and how they talk of his brand of change. To me it comes off as far too reactionary rather than the revolutionary he was seeking. Everything is a reaction to Bush and how America has been run. Bush gave tax breaks to the rich, so I'll give them to the poor, Bush started wars and I'll end them. His portfolio for change also includes unilateral decisions on bombing foreign countries such as Pakistan, hmm I wonder where that has been hard before? What is admirable about his policy is standing up for universal healthcare and in many ways trying to make the government more accountable to the people.

But with that comes his flip-flopping, last week Obama voted yes on a surveillance law which grants legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the wiretapping programme, a move which is seen as a flagrant abuse of privacy rights. Now aside from that fact that he is running as a liberal the vote was even more questionable because a few weeks earlier he had claimed that he would not okay such legislation. Over and above this shocking turnaround there is also his stance on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. After making it one of his campaign promises he has recently stated that he would think over such a decision, claiming it would happen, just not as fast as he had promised on his campaign trail. This flip flopping and obvious movement towards a centrist policy highlights that in the end he may be all talk and no game. The question is whether he is posturing for the polls, basically promising the world and everything in between just to get elected, or whether he will really be an agent of change. His move to the political centre could turn out to the either the smartest thing he has ever done or the dumbest and to some it is symptomatic of the change he believes in, which is promise the world and just get elected. I am not willing to say he is the opportunist that many make him out to be, that is, I am not willing to say that yet, but he needs to ground himself before he goes any further.

W.B. Yeats famously wrote in his poem The Second Coming “Things fall apart, the centre will not hold”, and maybe Obama should pay attention to his words. But then again in this rollercoaster ride of an election campaign the switch to the centre may just be his second coming, larger and more powerful than ever before. It leaves us with one question is the move to the centre the change he has been talking so much about? For the sake of his voters and followers, I hope not.


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