After his first term of presidency, Barack Obama can boast about some successes. Ending the war in Iraq, killing Osama Bin Laden and a successful military intervention in Libya are all triumphs he can make a claim to, but is he worth re-electing? Although he was in office when many these momentous events occurred, they were inevitable. The war in Iraq had mostly finished by 2011 but to leave so soon after the establishment of democracy was dangerous. By leaving, a space for a foreign power (say Iran) to pull strings and incite agitation was increased. Moreover, what has been left in Iraq reflects poor strategy by Bush and a lack of emphasis by the Obama administration to re-address the Bush administration’s failures and shortcomings. With no action taken to limit the damage done, a new dictatorship has become almost inevitable and many are saying that is coming through in Nouri Al Maliki’s (the prime minister) recent manoeuvres. From a US perspective, the war had to be ended. From an Iraqi perspective, it was ‘mission not accomplished’. By 2011, as Osama Bin Laden had become just a figurehead for Al-Qaeda, the group were becoming less and less of a unified force. Moreover, it is safe to say that the organisation had been, since 2001, spreading elsewhere, especially to Yemen and parts of Africa. Compare a video from back in 2001 to the ones produced later on by Al-Qaeda, and it would be fair to argue that Bin Laden’s inheritance was drying up at the point of his death. Many had speculated that as Bin Laden’s wealth dried up, the likelihood of NATO catching up to him would increase and the killing of Bin Laden was inevitable. As for Libya, it is undisputed that is better described as a French action that was supported by the US, not necessarily the US taking the reins and tackling the issue. Furthermore, the lack follow up action has left Libya in limbo and in a state of chaos.
Domestically for Obama, matters are worse. In 2008, the economy took a massive tumble and a black man was running against a woman for the Democratic party’s nomination. History was going to be made, whatever the outcome. Obama campaigned for a change to the establishment and business. Obama wanted to close Guantanamo Bay and raise the minimum wage higher than what was due to come in under Bush. In addition, there were hopes for a public healthcare option. Four years later, Obama is looking to raise one billion dollars for his campaign this year. When 1% of the country owns 40% of the wealth, it is obviously going to be the establishment that will provide the funds for such an expensive re-election campaign. Moreover, many of the Bush advisers remained in the Obama administration, including the head of the Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner, the same head who did not notice an inflated housing bubble, suggesting that Obama does not really care for changing the system. On other issues, Guantanomo Bay is still open and Bush’s change of minimum wage, in 2009, to $7.25 remains unchanged. With regards to the public health option bill, it was altered from a 3 page bill to a 3,000 page bill, and is largely seen as offering just another insurance plan which largely favours the pharmaceutical companies of America.
The Republican alternatives, however, do not offer much hope. There are 4 candidates, and 50 primaries with each primary offering various numbers of delegates to candidates. To win the nomination, you have to be the first person to get 1,144 delegates. The candidates so far are: Mitt Romney (75 delegates), Newt Gingrich (26), Ron Paul (10) and Rick Santorum (8). There have only been 4 primaries with a total of 115 delegates up for grabs so far.
Firstly, we should examine Rick Santorum. He said recently that if a woman is raped, they should not seek an abortion and instead try to “make the best out of a bad situation”. He has been quoted saying that he opposes welfare programs because “they make black people’s lives better”. He also rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, stating that all of the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. “There is no ‘Palestinian’. This is Israeli land”. This is a right wing view than what is widely seen as the Israeli government’s. If these were not bad enough, when addressing the President’s view on abortion, he said: “The question is — and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life [fetus] a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says, ‘no’. Well if that person — human life is not a person, then — I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘We’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.”My question is, did he just say black people are lesser people and get away with it? His views on homosexuality are nearly as bad, equating homosexuality to bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. He argued that allowing homosexuals would be equal to society allowing anything and undermining American society. I really do not know how he is still in the race.
Next, we have the libertarian Ron Paul, who used to be a doctor and is strongly opposed Obama’s healthcare reforms, saying that if they came in, there would be no point in becoming a doctor because there would be no incentive. He also published a series of newsletters called the ‘Ron Paul Newsletter’ which was published during the 1980s and 1990s. In them, articles were released which stated that the problem with black people is that they are too fast, so once they steal your purse, you are unable to catch them. He also stated that AIDs was something the government was spending too much money on. In one of these newsletters there was a quote which became a big hit. It read as follows: ‘We don’t think a child of 13 should be held as responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such’. Paul also published that every American should be armed for the upcoming race wars. He is known for being highly in favour of returning to the gold standard. This would mean that we would be sent back to the dark ages of countries fixing their currency unit to a specified amount of gold, which means there can be no fluctuations in currency prices and trading currencies essentially becomes broken. Moreover, there is not enough gold in the world to serve as a monetary base and it will inevitably favour countries that can mine gold and fix the system in their favour.
However, Newt Gingrich, makes is a more erratic character. He recently hit a chord with public opinion when he suggested that poor children should take the jobs of caretakers in schools, since they are often lazy and it would allow them to develop a better work ethic. When asked if he could see that his statement could have caused offense to poor people and black people, he said no. This got cheers from the crowd. Newt Gingrich used to be speaker of the House of Representatives while Bill Clinton was president. When Bill Clinton was caught having an affair, he called for Clinton to be impeached. While Gingrich was married to his first wife (his old high school Geometry teacher), he was having an affair with the woman who would become his second wife. While married to his second wife, he had an affair with a staffer at the house of representatives who was 23 years younger than him and his affair was running the whole time he was calling for President Clinton to be impeached over his affair, claiming that he was damaging America’s Christian family values- hypocrisy. Gingrich also agrees with Santurom that “there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire…I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons, we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it’s tragic.”
Lastly, the front runner Romney- a fund raising machine. By the 31 December 2011, he had raised $57.1 million. The rest of the field had only raised $41.0 million at that point, with Paul accounting for $26.1 million of it. He currently stands at the front of the field, and is equally dangerous as any of the other candidates. Romney is not the first person in his family to have run for President, his father ran for President too, and lost out on the Republican nomination due to his lack of organisation. In contrast, Romney junior is widely seen as being too much of an automaton; too plastic as a person, too flexible and unprincipled as a politician. A prime example of this is his position on a public option for healthcare. Romney is well known for bringing in a public healthcare option in Massachusetts, however, he strongly opposes the public healthcare option that Obama pushed through congress, despite Obama stating that he based his bill on what Romney set up in Massachusetts. Romney has also recently become famous for stating that “I’m not concerned about the poor. We have a safety net there; if it needs repair, I’ll fix it…We will hear from the democrat party the plight of the poor.” In other words, if you are poor, vote democrat. He is also seen as out of touch by most Americans with his $21.6 million income which he made at Bain Capital, a company that makes its money by taking over failing companies and bringing them to their end; firing employees and declaring them bankrupt. Moreover, he only paid a 13.9% tax rate in 2010 on his $26.1 million, compare that to the 35% he should be paying if he were earning it in wages rather than dividends. He is a proponent of tax cuts for the highest earners (which includes himself) and many say that he is in favour of a 0% tax on dividends, meaning he will never have to pay taxes again. Mitt is also seen as being somewhat awkward. His family were advised to tell journalists about a ‘funny’ family story to try to humanise the candidate, so they decided to tell a story about the time Romney decided to strap the pet dog to the top of the car on a family trip, because there was not enough space inside the car. But it is alright because he made sure there was a plastic sheet to protect the dog from the majority of the head wind. He has even been quoted as saying “Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.” Another good one is “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” a voter favourite.
So as another election year begins, the America and the world can look forward to more ineffective leadership. This year was prophesied to be a catastrophic year by the Mayans and the prophecy does not seem to be far from the truth. If Americans do not vote for the incumbent, we can look forward to dangerous, ill thought through moves by idiotic religious zealots who appear to be trying to mirror the stupidity and lack of thought shown by Bush and Reagan for a minimum of 4 years. At least with the incumbent we will get business as usual.
Contributed by Kayani Mohammad Kayani