Or if there is one, it will be short.
The nearly universal consensus, amidst the rejoicing on Barack Obama’s landslide election victory as the 44th president of the U.S., is that he has his work cut out for him. With the American economy in shambles and wars under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, the continuing threat of terrorism and festering domestic issues like health care and energy, his plate will be full even before day 1.
Expectations are high around the world as well, as political leaders look to Obama to help forge a new “era of renewed partnership and a new multilateralism”, in the words of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy said that Obama’s election had raised “enormous hope”. Even our very own President Arroyo, whose congratulatory phone call Obama did not accept, expressed confidence that Obama will “strengthen regional cooperation” and address the concerns of Filipino World War II veterans. She was referring to the Veterans Equity Bill still pending before the U.S. legislature which seeks to increase the benefits accorded Filipino war veterans. There seems to be no constituency, near or far, which has not looked upon an Obama presidency for salvation.
There is therefore no time for the usual period of goodwill and tolerance accorded a transitioning administration, the traditional “first 100 days” where a new government is given the leeway to get its feet wet and lay a foundation for future successes. A Democratic Congress might cut him some slack but the public won’t. President Obama will be expected to deliver on his campaign promise to bring about change almost immediately, and if he stumbles, will be set upon mercilessly not only by his conservative foes but also those who pinned such high hopes on him.
As pointed out by the New York Times:
As a result, the shift from campaign trail rhetoric to halls-of-governance reality could prove turbulent. And Mr. Obama’s soaring speeches have created such a well of anticipation that there is a deep danger of letdown.
And he knows this. It’s no wonder that, as noted by U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney in an interview on radio station DZBB, the president-elect, amidst the euphoria and jubilation of his supporters as he spoke in Chicago’s Grant Park, was reserved, even somber.
Added to the dangers he faces is the undercurrent of racism still prevalent in America. I’ve heard it expressed a number of times that Obama will probably be the target of many assassination attempts simply because of his color. Indeed, early attempts by fringe groups to murder him have been uncovered.
And the campaign, brutal through it may have been at times, was waged under an environment of controlled conflict. In this, Obama was cool and collected. Now comes the hard part, getting his act together under unforgiving, real-life conditions.