Belfast Telegraph

Shock! An American becomes President!

By Gail Walker

It's understandable why Americans are excited by the prospect of Barack Obama as president. He's their president, after all. Like the World Series in baseball, it's their game and it's their world.

What's always puzzled me, though, is the media frenzy over the American presidency in Britain. And not just the media. You hear people talking about Obama's impending term of office as if he was somehow a saviour of some sort. He's to save the soul of America, repair the damage done to America and the world by Dubya, restore the Kennedy Camelot factor to the White House, epitomise racial equality in the States, and, er, make everybody feel better.

The most excitement is found among the Left. (But isn't that always the way, no matter what the issue is.) They've always been dreaming of a president who would, let's see, be nice to the Soviet Union, take the side of the Arabs and Palestinians, get rid of right wing tyrants and turn a blind eye to the leftie tyrants, and most of all lift the embargo on Cuba be nice to Fidel.

Amid all the furore of the US presidential race, there's one thing that always consoles me. It's the penchant of the Americans, whatever their political colour, for voting an American into office.

Not some British trade union doppelganger. Not some woolly liberal fence-sitter. But a full-blooded commander in chief of the US Armed Forces on land, sea and air. They've done that again this time, and he happens to be black.

Very soon the British liberals are going to wake up one morning and discover with shock that Obama was a Yank all along. And a GI to boot. Of course, Obama has to pay his particular dues so among his first actions was to wonder how to close the detention camp in Guantanemo. Gratifyingly, he is now doing this by already inquiring of friendly nations around the globe how many of these entirely innocent and harmless individuals they wish to liberate into their own countryside. Nations have been quick to respond in a gesture of goodwill towards the incoming president: "Yes, please, but could we have those who pose no threat to anybody if you don't mind."

It's all politics, of course. And image. And for a while Obama will enjoy the honeymoon incoming leaders do.

The truth is, the reason why so much ‘hope' is pinned on Obama in Britain is because America and its culture actually dominates Britain to a greater degree than any other European country.

Unable to elect a loony left government of their own, the loony lefties here keep hoping the US, in some brainstorm, will do it for them.

It's also a kind of inverted racism on their part. Somehow Obama's blackness, they think, must mean he is more like them in their whitey dreams of equality. (Colin Powell, of course, is also black but had he been elected president, one shudders to think how the left would have responded. He is a right wing republican, and that's far too complicated )

As it is, one wishes President Obama well. I still don't know quite who he is or what he stands for but he is new, he looks good and it'll be interesting to watch him age 20 years in the next four the way all presidents do.

He also has that windy quality we love in all American presidents. Their speechwriters always seem to find new and surprising ways of juggling the same words round and round. "Hope. Dream. Nation. God. Equality. Opportunity. Democracy." Really no one can be forgiven for falling for that stuff, especially in Britain after 12 years of New Labour.

For me, I'm just glad there is still an America. Still prepared to put its soldiers and its money in where nobody else wants to go. It's already a great nation and it makes all its presidents great.

Even Dubya. Even, this early on, President Obama.

Hail to the chief.

Belfast Telegraph


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