Like many others, I am happy that a black man has become president, if for no other reason than it may remove “racist” from the string of epithets America haters throw at us. In Africa last week, I told a national leader that racism was no longer a force in our society, and that the issue was not whether a black could be elected president, but whether this particular man was worthy of the presidency. And that remains to be seen. I certainly hope he is.
What if he fails? What effect, if any, would that have on racial questions? I don’t know, but it worries me a bit. But only a bit. Other things worry me more.
Obama will now have to do something he’s never done before: manage a huge, complicated, and very fractious organization. Up until now he’s only had to manage friends and followers. He goes in with many advantages, above all the huge Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. But he faces enormous problems, both at home and abroad, and even a highly experienced president would have a tough time. He now has to make decisions of all sorts, from personnel to policies. We’ll soon see his Cabinet, which will tell us a lot about “the real Obama.”
Was Joe Biden right when he predicted a major crisis within six months? And did he know anything about Obama’s response to it when he (Biden) said to the faithful, “you’re not gonna like it”? We’ll know more when he names his national security adviser and his secretary of state.
Will Obama really go down the redistributionist path? I think he probably will. I think he’s convinced himself that he can make anything work, even an economic system that has bankrupted some very rich countries. We’ll know more when he names his Treasury Secretary and the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Governing is very different from legislating or giving speeches. As often as not, presidents end up doing things they denounced during their campaigns, and, often as not, that’s a good thing. But it’s very hard, and very rare, that anyone in a high position in the executive branch learns something fundamental about the world. There just isn’t time for it. Kissinger once said that you usually come out of office with the same cultural baggage you carried in. Let’s hope this president is different, because the culture he seems to have is ill-suited to the world he’s going to be asked to lead.