It was the longest and most expensive presidential campaign in our history. Hard fought within each party and across party lines. The mud and bullshit was thick, at least knee deep most of the time, and Factcheck.org was working overtime sorting it all out on a daily basis.
Sad to say, but there was too much in the way of hate and fear being tossed about during the long campaign. Race, gender, age and experience. They all played a role. But that’s all in the past now, it’s November 5th, and the wheels of transition have begun to turn.
President-elect Barack Obama didn’t waste much time before tackling the issue of building his new presidential team. According to an ABC News report, selections for the transition team are being made and the process of forming his cabinet is already underway. But as arduous as the task was for choosing his running mate, getting ready to lead the nation in eleven short weeks will prove to be an all consuming juggernaut as the possible choices for each critical position have their individual history, capabilities and personalities scrutinized.
In a Washington Post article, staff writer Shailagh Murray comments:
“Obama remains largely a stranger to the vast federal bureaucracy and will be besieged by Washington insiders he barely knows — and whose loyalties are untested — seeking positions of influence.”
Such are the challenges any new president must face when coming into office, but this time around the job will be exceedingly difficult. The issues before Obama are complex, and every seam of this nation’s social and economic fabric has been stretched to the limit. The state of international affairs is also in dire need of repair and Obama will need to assemble an all-star team that can move both quickly and concisely. It’s triage time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Much has happened in the past eight years, and the relationship between the White House and Congress has never been more tattered. Similar to the events leading up to the departure of President Nixon in 1974, a continuous stream of scandals has left our government in disarray.
- Falsifying intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq
- Ignoring Afghanistan and allowing the Taliban to return
- Poor treatment of veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital
- The firing of United States Attorneys without cause
- Outing CIA agent Valerie Plame as a matter of revenge
- Guantanamo and the suspension of habeas corpus
- The handling of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina
- Warrantless wiretapping conducted by the NSA
- The Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals
- Rejection of the Kyoto Protocols on global warming
- The housing crisis and resulting financial market crash
Most damaging is the fact that such issues can no longer be confined within our borders. Instead, they now play out on a global stage, resulting in a loss of confidence in the ability of the United States to play a guiding role in global affairs. World leaders no longer trust our government, and many of their constituents have become disillusioned. In some countries that situation has lead to an increased ease in recruiting terrorists.
Obama must address the dual challenges of rebuilding a seriously damaged government, while simultaneously rebuilding the country’s international image. John McCain would have faced the same challenge, and while I believe he could have made much progress on the home front, his ability to mend fences elsewhere would have been limited simply due to his party affiliation. He was not George W. Bush, as some had claimed, but the fact is, he wasn’t different enough.
In his acceptance speech Barack Obama made reference to those who did not vote for him.
“I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices…“
That statement must extend beyond these borders and apply to all the world’s citizens. While they too did not vote for him, he must still hear their voices, and respond to their questions and concerns.
Taming the Financial Crisis
Much has been done, both at home and abroad, to alleviate the economic turmoil that has swept from continent to continent. Central banks have stepped in and employed extreme tactics, many of which have never been tried before on such a scale. Creative mergers and shotgun financial weddings have kept the monetary ship afloat, yet the end result is even larger corporations that will cause even greater damage if allowed to fail down the road. This does not bode well for any future president.
Recognizing that the root cause of the collapse lies in a lack of regulation and an abundance of greed, the next administration will need to craft critical legislation which preserves the basic ideology of free markets while reigning in the excesses of financial leveraging as a way to maximize personal wealth.
How this plays out within various governments and financial institutions will ultimately create new consequences throughout the world. Developing nations are seeing cutbacks in funding and delays in projects as financial streams are damaged and the threat of diverted funding becomes a reality.
The Way Home From Iraq
The war in Iraq will be one of Obama’s thorniest challenges. Rhetoric on this topic was heated throughout the campaign, with charges offered that a withdrawal would mean defeat, implying that the war was somehow winnable. But what does victory in Iraq look like, and is it even possible to win a war that was started under false pretenses? How can you have victory without legitimacy?
Those were questions put to me during a recent discussion on how the war might end. The point being, that while Americans may have a vision of what victory would look like, the rest of the world sees things from an entirely different viewpoint. Our weapons will never heal the nearly 1,400 year Sunni-Shiite rift. Terrorism will continue to thrive within pockets throughout Iraq. Tens of thousands died and the scars created will take generations to mend. How is that winning?
Mending Our Reputation
Though never viewed as perfect, the United States was still seen by the vast majority of the world as playing the hard-earned role of global leader since the end of WWII. Whether fueling the economic engine, spreading the ideals of democracy, surviving the Cold War, or reaching out to developing countries with a loving hand, we were the benevolent country.
But not at present. Our approval ratings in most places has fallen sharply, sometimes in half. Whenever we utter the phrase “rule of law” the world looks at us quizzically. This isn’t an ‘icing on the cake’ sort of issue. We’re talking about the cake itself, the very foundation of trust, honor and respect.
The world will give Barack Obama a chance, maybe even the benefit of the doubt, because he’s smart, he’s sincere, he’s ambitious, and he represents a fundamental shift in the consciousness of America. That doesn’t guarantee a shift in the right direction, Barack will have to prove that one over time, but at least he has the right attitude for solving the world’s problems -“Yes We Can”
And what will you do to ensure we’re heading in the right direction?