24 July, 2014 / Ramazan 25, 1435

Poor choice for Americans

Published Oct 31, 2012 12:20am

IF you have nails, prepare to bite them now. If you are concerned, that is, by the outcome of the presidential contest in the United States. Or worried about the consequences of Hurricane Sandy, which was bearing down on the US East Coast as these words were being written.

A week from today, the damage wrought by Sandy will be manifest. So will the election result — unless there is a repeat of the 2000 scenario, when the loser eventually won, thanks to the Supreme Court.

A week out from election day, most opinion polls give Mitt Romney the edge, albeit narrow enough to be within the margin of error. It was the other way around until a month or so ago, before President Obama sleepwalked through his first televised debate with his opponent. The impression he gave was of someone who really couldn’t be bothered with four more years, although the tactic was presumably intended to convey an impression of effortless superiority.

If so, it backfired disastrously, and the incumbent’s supremacy in the two subsequent debates did not quite succeed in restoring his lead.

Of course, Obama may not have had to rely to such an extent on performing well on TV had his performance as president been largely above reproach. In several respects, it hasn’t come close.

The problem for him is not so much the mindless fanatics who question his eligibility on the basis of his birthplace or, laughably, demonise him as a Marxist. It is those who, back in 2008, expected his presidency to be transformational. Inevitably, that concept meant different things to different people. That most of them cannot muster the enthusiasm they exuded four years ago speaks for itself.

Sure, some of the disappointment can be attributed to the unreasonable expectations raised by the vague promises of hope and change. Following the supremely idiotic and uncommonly disastrous presidency of George W. Bush on both the domestic and international fronts (with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina probably resonating more than the Iraqi catastrophe), any hope of change struck a popular chord.

And although the McCain-Palin ticket sought to steer clear of close association with the eight years of Bush, it wasn’t an easy task, especially given that Sarah Palin, whenever she opened her mouth, was able to trump Bush in the idiocy stakes.

To a certain extent, Romney has gone the same way as John McCain in picking an out-there, rabidly rightwing running mate. That’s largely because many diehard conservatives weren’t convinced of his sincerity. After all, even by American standards, Romney has been a remarkably malleable politician, willing to change colours as eagerly as a chameleon to suit the popular mood. Which leaves plenty of room for doubt about his preferences if he’s elevated to a post he has long aspired to.

A colleague in his venture capitalism firm Bain Capital quotes him as having said in 1994, when he unsuccessfully challenged Ted Kennedy for a Senate seat from Massachusetts, “Dad says first you go into business and make a lot of money, you give the church half of it, and then you go into public service. And then you become president of the United States.”

The church in question, mind you, is the particularly cultish one devoted to Latter-Day Saints such as the founding hucksters Joseph P. Smith and Brigham Young, and Romney in his youth was a dedicated Mormon evangelist.

That dream might come true next week, and Goldman Sachs, for one, has put all its eggs in that particular basket, in the hope that Romney will be even more gracious to Wall Street than Obama, who at least tried to introduce token constraints on the money men.

The Republican contender has also given notice of a $5tr tax cut — which would mostly benefit the rich — and intends to repeal Obama’s modest healthcare reform, which falls well short of the universal healthcare coverage that is the norm in most developed states, but is nonetheless an improvement on the status quo, wherein private health insurers have no qualms about fleecing the vulnerable, and those without coverage can be effectively condemned to death.

Those Americans who vociferously oppose ‘big government’ evidently have no fear of being managed instead by huge corporations whose primary goal is monumental profits. Is there any country where false consciousness is more rife than in the US? Well, I guess Pakistan is a contender — as the only country out of 21 polled by the BBC where respondents favour Romney. Whereas scepticism about the drone-prone Obama is understandable, enthusiasm for the available alternative can only be rooted in ignorance (of which there is plenty in the US, too). Romney, after all, has no issue with the Predator terrorism indulged in by his nation, and would in fact funnel more resources into the Pentagon (instead of healthcare and education, where he’s happy to see the private sector take its toll), and he’s marginally more hawkish on Iran, Syria and Palestine.

Domestically, Obama has been anything but a civil rights president, retaining some of the worst innovations of the Bush presidency. His record on the international front is equally dismal. But yes, it could be worse — just as the unemployment level in the US and the broader state of the economy could have been considerably more deleterious but for his stimulus package.

The differences between Obama and Romney are no doubt exaggerated but, on balance, choosing the latter over the former would be a fairly dumb — and potentially disastrous — way to go. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean the marginally better man will triumph next week.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

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Comments (17) (Closed)


Truly
Oct 31, 2012 11:07am
Ha ha!
Vittal Pyati
Oct 31, 2012 02:32pm
I'm hoping and praying that Obama will win, albeit by a narrow margin. It will prove that the book on racism in the US has at last been closed once and for all. Other benefits are: Protecting the middle-class, Health care for all and ending the winless war in Afghanistan. If Romney wins, he will rekindle the Iraq war and start a new one with Iran at the behest of Israel. Not a drop of oil will flow thru the Straights of Hormuz with devastating effect on India, Japan, Pakistan. For me the choice is very clear.
NASAH (USA)
Nov 01, 2012 09:52am
And the description of an opportunist chameleon Mitt Romney as Mr. Success - highly dubious.
MK
Oct 31, 2012 02:52pm
As a Pakistani-American-Muslim, I find your comments about the Mormon religion highly offensive.
NASAH (USA)
Oct 31, 2012 03:06pm
The republicans are funny people -- they want big government for WAR -- little or no government for education, science teachers healthcare for poor for disadvantaged and disabled for civil rights for womens rights.
Rasheed Mirani
Nov 01, 2012 06:46am
you have rightly pinpointed the issue. Great.
NYGirl
Oct 31, 2012 07:13pm
that is a good one
Think
Oct 31, 2012 11:33am
So Mr Mahir Ali -- how about some appreciation for a country which continues to be a democracy with a right to vote for all. How about some pointers for your own country?
NYGirl
Oct 31, 2012 07:19pm
It does not matter who wins the election as long as gas prices go low with cheap medicare and low metro fares. These basic needs make the common mass happy. Besides the poor debate and Sandy will not effect the voting decision because who ever favors Obama will vote for him no matter what.
Adeeb
Oct 31, 2012 06:57pm
I think the author is biased towards Obama. Just Saying.
andy fr dc
Oct 31, 2012 03:41am
Like all Americans , I look to Pakistan for advice on how to have a successful democracy.
independentthinker
Oct 31, 2012 06:06pm
When the governments are run by big corporations and lobbyist, it really doesn't matter who holds the title. All the decisions are made behind closed doors, with the donors calling the shots. The President says what he is told to say, does what he is told to do, signs where he is told to sign - basically, is at the disposal of these major corporations, who in fact, have bought the president. When Obama first came into politics, he appeared to be someone who is independent of outside pressure. Soon, we all realized it was not so. I think for the rest of the world, it does not matter who the next president is - just remember, you are ultimately responsible for what happens to you - count not on what others can do for you.
Nadeem
Oct 31, 2012 02:33pm
Pakistani's and their addiction to "handouts"! That's a love- affair which will never end. The Republicans love controlling nations by spreading the wealth.......not at home but abroad.
Zymaidar
Oct 31, 2012 01:02pm
America. True democracy? Really? Is it not sabotaged by think tanks, "1%" and behind the scenes pressure groups? How about media controllers? Certainly Pakistan is not even a shred close to any democracy, but if one really wants to see a media democracy, USA is a good example.
Ajaya K Dutt
Nov 01, 2012 01:13am
It is amusing to read this in Dawn, a respected news and opinion source in Pakistan. Yes. Sure, we are not perfect. Butttt, you will not see hords burning building and killing people because somebody called a respectable faith system of Later Day Saints as "cultish". Sure it is not perfect. Buttt, it is better than slaves toiling in factories of Oligarchy of "all season" friends.
Sue Sturgess
Oct 31, 2012 04:23am
Regardless of who ends up US president, it will make little difference. Big money owns most of the politicians, of all parties, and dirty deals are done every day. On the other hand, Hurricane Sandy has been a disaster, with a much greater impact on the nation than the outcome of the presidential contest.
P. Joseph Raju
Oct 31, 2012 02:56pm
Unlike in India or Pakistan, American people expect their presidents to do well during their term in the office. Obama has failed miserably in all fronts and that is why he even changed his 2008 slogan "hope and change". He has admitted publicly that he cannot change Washington. A leader who cannot change Washington can never change America. Romeny is a businessman. Every aspect of his life is a success story. Although 90% of the Americans will disagree with his religion, hardly anyone will dispute his ability to lead. So America will elect him as the next president of the United States on November 6th. This won't be a close election as the media and pundits lead us to believe. He will win this election with convincing margin. That's my assessment.