Thursday, January 21, 2010

Was 2009 really an 'Obamanation'?

Launch of the Transatlantic programme’s first year report on Obama and US foreign policy and some insightful observations from the panellists last night. Chatham House’s Robin Niblet’s said that any US president would find engagement difficult. Even American allies are not as willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. Rob Singh pointed out that Obama has struggled between being more consultative and engaged on the one side and not strong enough on the other. Justin Webb of the BBC highlighted Obama’s failure to connect with the American public (noting a couple of public occasions where he said the wrong thing).

To the first three’s pessimism and gloom was LSE’s Mike Cox who brought up precisely the question I would have raised: what would have been the alternative? We’re perhaps too quick to forget that the Republicans had run out of steam by late 2008 and that we were on the precipice of a financial disaster. Would John McCain and Sarah Palin really been able to offer anything different?

Also interesting were the observations made by the panel about Hilary Clinton, having turned defeat into partial victory both in her end-of-primary recovery and making it as Secretary of State. Perhaps she’s biding her time as Obama’s successor if his presidency doesn’t work out?

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