TO shamelessly plagiarise from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, it is the best of times and the worst of times for President Obama.
Putting aside for a moment his shambolic failures on the international stage – viz-a-viz the Syrian civil war, Arab Spring and the risible ‘talkathon’ of hot air that poses for negotiations with nuclear, hell-bent Iran – many US government functions shut down last week in what appears, ostensibly, to be a Congressional brouhaha over the nation’s budget.
It is not unprecedented and last happened 17 years ago under the Clinton administration.
Meanwhile, without boring you witless with the technobabble of this, basically Republicans refuse to sign the blank cheque imposed on them to pay for the Democratic President’s flagship initiative, dubbed Obamacare.
There’s no arguing about its laudable aim to bring 30 million impoverished Americans a quality of cover approaching that enjoyed by a majority of the population, whose workplace insurance gives them access to much-prized medical treatment.
The questions are: is it an apt time to introduce such a far-reaching commitment and, when the US economy is only just rising from its knees after the worst economic slump since the 1930s, how many trillion of dollars will it cost?
The problem is the price-tag is a guesstimate, depending on which bean-counter you believe in a country long resistant to anything smacking of ‘socialised’, NHS-style welfare.
Plus, with Medicaid – a system the poor can to tap into – already in existence (along with Medicare for the elderly), Republicans ask why it’s not beyond the ken of the White House to introduce something less devise and more affordable, especially as polls show a majority of Americans disapprove of it.
The Right-wing’s rather naïve gambit, however, has played straight into Obama’s hands. And, for once, he’s caught the ball, artfully outmanoeuvring the opposition with something along the lines of, ‘See, I told you Republicans don’t care about the poor.’
That is more than slightly disingenuous as several conservative administrations of recent times have consistently outspent their Lefter-leaning counterparts on poverty relief.
Regardless, it’s one-nil to Mr. President and he should go on to win this showdown, thereby boosting his approval ratings, which are abysmal for a two-term winner.
However sweet is victory, it could be short-lived, because Obama’s next financial hurdle comes later this month, when Congress will debate whether the US can borrow more than $16.7-trillion, known as the ‘Debt Ceiling.’
While the President was able to railroad through his outline plan for Obamacare during his first term – when Capitol Hill was pre-loaded with loyal Democrats – that case no longer applies.
And, gaffe-prone as they are, the Republicans won’t fluff this next chance to give the President a monumental lambasting.
While all this is internal, US politicking and of passing interest to the rest of the world, the collateral damage could do immense, further harm to American flagging prestige.
Firstly, with an ego the size of the Empire State building, Obama doesn’t want to go down in history as merely America’s first black leader; he wants to leave an enduring legacy, which Obamacare would be.
If it fails, his tenure in the White House will solely be distinguished for the colour of the occupant’s skin.
Because, such is the dearth of Obama’s achievements, few but the most purblind loyalists can argue the merits of his presidency, other than point out he’s telegenic and a compelling orator (even if most of his words ring hollow).
At home, he’s floundered as an economist; overseas he leads from the rear, a pushover for any tyrant with the temerity to call his bluff and ignore his warning (i.e. Assad, the Butcher of Damascus).
Woeful White House indecisiveness over the Egyptian uprisings has witnessed the country lurching back into a military dictatorship – still a far safer bet than the Islamic headbangers of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Next, the President virtually relinquished US foreign policy over Syria to Vladimir Putin. This was based on a vague non-commitment by the Russian leader to talk his client, Assad, into halting the gassing of innocent Syrians and, perhaps, come clean about the extent of the repressive regime’s arsenal of nasty weapons
Then, to compound his litany of spectacular miscalculations, Obama has now fallen for the charm offensive of Iran’s smiley, new president, Hassan Rouhani, who claims the oil-rich Islamic Republic want nothing more than to utilise nuclear power to energise a few tellies and vacuum cleaners.
Despite snubbing Obama during his recent visit to the UN, Rouhani – who freely admits to lying to UN arms inspectors – the pair held a president-to-‘president’ telecon, which greatly enthused the reluctant leader of the Free World.
The trouble is, like his odious predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani is barely in charge of his own turban, let alone the country. The real – and only – power in Iran lies with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who could be realistically described as the organ-grinder to Rouhani’s monkey.
At least Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, isn’t deceived by Iran’s duplicity and doesn’t go along with Obama’s new-found optimism that the nuclear impasse can be sorted in a couple of months.
Netanyahu warned the UN on Wednesday that Rouhani is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing, pulling the wool over the West’s eyes’, determined to engineer a political thaw, end hard-biting sanctions and advance dangerous nuclear ambitions.
He added that Israel believes Iran already has enough enriched uranium for an atomic bomb, if it is processed further into weapons-grade fuel.
And Netanyahu emphasised that Tehran, which has threatened to ‘wipe the Jewish state off the map’, is building long-range missiles to deliver nuclear payloads, a conclusion the US government shares.
Nonetheless, the gullible Obama continues to be an avid believer in ‘peace in our time’, a slogan which will no doubt resonate with older readers (I suggest younger ones Google it).
Meanwhile, I wonder if the US President is interest in buying my car – an ageing, but thoroughly roadworthy VW, with only 120,000 kilometres on the speedo?
To him, it’s a snip at $100,000 or near offer. Heck, I’m sure he’ll be bidding.