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Time for a Change?

Barack Obama was preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of his presidency with relative confidence and the feeling of a job fulfilled. Specifically

Barack Obama was preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of his presidency with relative confidence and the feeling of a job fulfilled. Specifically, he was counting on getting the definitive Senate vote on the emblematic reform of the health care system in very short order, which was the great political battle of his first year in the White House.

Consequently, the victory the Republican candidate has just scored in the Massachusetts Senatorial by-election is a stinging affront for the American president. The symbol is, indeed, cruel: the Democrats have lost one of their fiefdoms and the seat occupied for 47 years by Ted Kennedy, who, right up until his death, was one of health care system reform’s warmest supporters.

Also See: Fabrice Rousselot | Some Time

As for the political consequences, they are various. First, this defeat makes the president lose the qualified majority his party just barely enjoyed in the Senate. His task will be that much more arduous in consequence. In the immediate future, the very fate of health care reform becomes quite uncertain. Secondly, this failure testifies to the swing in American public opinion. In November 2008, Americans’ anger against the disastrous conclusion to George W. Bush’s term contributed in large degree to Barack Obama’s election.

Today, that anger has turned against Obama: although the signs of economic recovery dispel the specter of a “Great Depression,” unemployment remains above 10 percent, which is exceptional in the United States; as for the tsunami of public debt, it places the country in a relationship of dependency with its foreign creditors, notably the Chinese. Finally, by transforming the Massachusetts election into an anti-Obama referendum, Republicans have demonstrated the effectiveness of the incessant and violent campaign they have waged against him since summer 2009. Ten months from the midterm elections, it’s a very bad omen for Barack Obama.

It’s his credibility – undermined – and his ability to act – impeded – that he must now restore. From now until the State of the Union address, he has a week to decide: must he put the brake on, even renounce, his reforms? Must he in his turn surf the populist wave, as he has recently attempted, at the risk of destroying the credo of national unity on which he built his victory? How to escape the “Clinton syndrome:” failure of health care reform in 1993, then a great electoral failure in 1994? The American president will have to respond on January 27.

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.

Le Monde, founded in 1944 by Hubert Beuve-Méry, is generally considered the French “newspaper of record.”


Some Time
Fabrice Rousselot, Libération
Wednesday 20 January 2010

What can he do, really? Right when it’s time to blow out the first year candle, the “Yes, we can”-president is not necessarily enjoying the anniversary he had hoped for. If one is to believe his detractors, once ensconced in the Oval Office, the brilliant campaign orator has not measured up to his promises. In the United States, the ultra-conservatives are back on their feet, invigorated by quasi-racist arguments and partisan political hysteria. Yet, in twelve months, Barack Obama has established himself as an historic president. He is the architect of a health care reform that America did not even dare to outline just a few years ago. Also, without forcing it, he has changed the image the world held of a premier global power damaged by eight years of unbridled and unilateral Bushism. Obama’s America has returned to the concert of nations as a partner open to dialogue and directed towards the future. Of course, not everything is settled, far from it. But who could really believe that within a few months Obama was going to work miracles on Afghanistan, Iraq, the crisis or the environment?

At the White House, he proceeds by the method that has been his signature for three decades, that of the Chicago community organizer and Illinois legislator, who navigates by negotiation and research to arrive at a solution. The rupture does not have the facile sparkle of Sarkozyism, but will be measured over time. Nobel Peace laureate in wartime, Obama was the first to emphasize that he did not deserve the reward and that it would be necessary to judge him by his actions. Let’s give him a little more time.

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.

Founded under the aegis of Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, Libération was once the newspaper of the far left in France, but has moved to the center since changes in ownership and management during 2005-2006. Principal shareholder Édouard de Rothschild owns a substantial minority position in the paper.