At last, after eight years of Bush, a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States not only elected a president who would listen to, talk with, and even bow to the heads of other countries, including those openly hostile to the U.S., but as a cherry on top, his middle name was Hussein. Almost as soon as he could get a flight out of the Continental 48, Obama got a rousing ovation in the Turkish parliament and impressed his attentive Arab audience in Cairo. Expectations for this president could not have gone much higher for any human being, with leaders calling him a Messiah and comparing him to God himself. A quarter million had flocked to hear Obama speak in Berlin. Across the Muslim world the rumors had spread like wildfire that Barack Hussein was one of them, a Muslim, or if not at the very least he was a strong sympathizer. He would push the reset button on eight years of flawed diplomacy and bad policy. He would bring hope and change.
Did Obama himself really believe all the hype about him? Did he really think his oratory and charisma would pacify the militants and make people just all around feel better about themselves and the world? It doesn’t really matter if he did or not. Because it didn’t. Now into his second year of the presidency, the massive spin machine has failed to change global attitudes in a fundamental way. Perhaps that’s because people in the Muslim world, for example, have started figuring out the same thing about Obama that many Americans have figured out: his promises don’t line up with reality. Well, you could convince yourself that they do, but only with the help of some fantastic thinking. After all, it was Obama himself who promised the adoring crowds fantastical things like together we would keep the oceans from rising and flooding our coastlines. Obama also promised immediately take the US out of Iraq and catch Osama Bin Laden. In spite of his name and the many documents reproduced in Middle Eastern newspapers and television programs proving that President Obama was raised as a Muslim, the majority of Muslims polled across the region express disapproval and doubt.
This in itself wouldn’t be a major concern. The president doesn’t have to win an international popularity contest. The problem has more to do with two facts. One, with a remaining perception that President Obama may be sympathetic to positions that are anti-American, some radicals might feel emboldened in their militancy. Second, the reality that under the Obama administration the United States has experienced more and more successful terrorist attacks on home soil raise the question of the administration’s ability to protect the country. The Fort Hood attack, the Christmas bomber and Times Square bomber need not have gotten as far as they did. Greater vigilance should be sought by the administration to protect the public.
There’s another problem even deeper that has come from the heightened expectations of the Great Orator. He never was able to meet them, and sometimes people whose hope gets deferred become angry, the feeling one gets when purchasing one of the new, exciting things, only to get it home, opened and unwrapped only to discover that it doesn’t do half of what it was supposed to, and besides that, it seems to be malfunctioning. People can feel tricked. They might be less likely to trust the next time around. With Obama’s rosy overtures of “we’re all one” to the Muslim world, the risk now is that upon recognizing the United States didn’t shortly thereafter morph into an Islamic Caliphate, some will become angry. Is that some of the reason for the increase of attacks on US soil? Could it be behind some of the rage that built up with the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship trying to break the Israel Naval blockade of Gaza? Do many in the Middle East, who thought President Barack Hussein was the beginning of a new era, now feel like a jilted lover who was teased with a flirtatious dance? President Obama’s background and name are certainly not his fault…he can’t change them…but he is responsible for how he uses them in presenting himself and for the polices he pursues on the international stage.