Category Archives: Barak Obama

Four more years

So the mud-slinging is over for now, in the US at least, with President Barack Obama winning a second term, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney by gaining more than the 270 votes needed to win.

In general that means that Europe will be waking up this morning with a general sigh of relief.   Opinion polls have always shown President Obama to be more popular than Governor Romney – but for most governments continuity in Washington is better than a changing of the guard.   The US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, as well as the President himself, has been closely involved in discussions on the eurozone.   Added to that, the EU is so embroiled in its internal debates on the eurozone crisis that it doesn’t want any external distractions.   The EU has also been working closely with the Obama administration on a variety of foreign policy issues – Iran in particular.   Even if some of the key personnel change in a second Obama term, the President’s victory means there will be no dramatic change of course for us to deal with.

But what about the loser?  What ought to pain Republicans most about Obama’s victory is that 2012 was entirely winnable for them.   In European elections over the past few years, voters have thrown out leaders who were in charge during the worst of the financial crisis, whether those leaders deserved the blame or not.  That Mitt Romney lost nonetheless is in part a tribute to his own weaknesses as a candidate.   The Obama campaign put Romney on the defensive early about his work at Bain Capital, and left him there.   The Republican nominee made any number of horrendous gaffes and never found a way to talk about himself or his agenda in a way that middle class voters could relate to.

But even a clumsy candidate might have beaten Obama if he’d played his cards right.  Romney is not a right-wing extremist.  To win the nomination, though, he had to pretend to be one, recasting himself as “severely conservative” and eschewing the reasonableness that made him a successful, moderate governor of the country’s most liberal state. He had to pass muster with his party’s right-wing base on taxes, immigration, climate change, abortion, and gay rights. Many of his statements on these issues were patently insincere.   His pandering to the base made it possible for the Obama campaign to portray him as a right-wing radical from the start of the campaign.  According to exit poll results, Romney won men as expected, but lost among women by 11 points—too large a gender gap to be overcome.

So we have President Barack Obama for another 4 years, saying “I have never been more hopeful”.

But perhaps Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times sums it up best: “If we’re lucky, we will find that we elected a different Obama from the one who won four years ago – not just a grayer Obama but a wiser one too.”

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Independence Day

And so to the 3rd in my series of “On this day in History”.

Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence on July 4 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. 

Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies.  In addition there are usually various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States. 

Historians have long disputed whether Congress actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later confirmed that they had signed it on that day.  Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.

In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.  Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third president in a row who died on this memorable day.  Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.

Poor Barack Obama – he was born on 4th August 1961 – exactly a month too late !!!

‘Ground Zero Mosque’? The reality is less provocative

Things seem awfully heated in America just now; so heated you could probably toast a slice of bread by jabbing it on a stick and holding it toward the Atlantic.  As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, millions are hopping mad over the news that a bunch of triumphant Muslim extremists are about to build a “victory mosque” slap bang in the middle of Ground Zero. 

The professional exaggerators who initially raised objections to the “Ground Zero Mosque” keep calling it the “Ground Zero Mosque”, incidentally, because it’s a catchy title that paints a powerful image – specifically, the image of a mosque at Ground Zero.

When I first heard about it, I imagined it was just a rumour that had grown arms and legs in the telling – I was wrong.  The “Ground Zero Mosque” is a genuine proposal, but it’s slightly less provocative than its critics’ nickname makes it sound. For one thing, it’s not at Ground Zero.  Also, it isn’t a mosque.

Wait, it gets less interesting. It’s not being built by extremists either. Cordoba House, as it’s known, is a proposed Islamic cultural centre, which, in addition to a prayer room, will include a basketball court, restaurant, and swimming pool. Its aim is to improve inter-faith relations. It’ll probably also have comfy chairs and people who smile at you when you walk in the door.

To get to the Cordoba Centre from Ground Zero, you’d have to walk in the opposite direction for two blocks, before turning a corner and walking a bit more. The journey should take roughly two minutes, or possibly slightly longer if you’re heading an angry mob who can’t hear your directions over the sound of their own enraged yelling.

New York is a densely populated city and there are lots of other buildings and businesses within two blocks of Ground Zero, including a McDonald’s and a Burger King, neither of which has yet been accused of serving burgers and chips on sacred ground. Nevertheless, for the opponents of Cordoba House, two blocks is too close, full stop. However, they haven’t produced a map pinpointing precisely how close is OK.

That’s literally what I’d ask them given the opportunity.  I’d stand there pointing at a map. That hasn’t happened. Instead, 70% of Americans are opposed to the “Ground Zero Mosque”, presumably in many cases because they’ve been led to believe it literally is a mosque at Ground Zero.

According to a recent poll, one in five Americans believes Barack Obama is a Muslim, even though he isn’t. A quarter of those who believe he’s a Muslim also claimed he talks about his faith too much. Americans aren’t stupid. Clearly these particular Americans have either gone insane or been seriously misled. Where are they getting their information?

Sixty per cent said they learned it from the media. Which means it’s time for the media to give up.  Seriously, give up now because either you’re making things worse or no one’s paying attention anyway!

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