Obama assumes U.S. presidency
The country need not wait any longer for the inauguration of the 44th president, Barack Obama. While Obama and his supporters rode a message of hope and change to the White House with the slogan ‘yes, we can,’ Obama’s change is more easily promised than delivered, said Christine LeVeaux, assistant professor of political science and African-American studies in The Honors College.
‘When you are the president, you can influence and try to persuade Congress members, but in the end the president is facing 535 men and women with individualized and personal agendas,’ LeVeaux said. ‘Conflict is inevitable.’
Obama’s first order of business will be to gain control of the remaining $300 billion of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), with a goal of bringing some relief to citizens.
‘It is difficult to deliver on a promise of universal healthcare, for instance, when there is no money to carry out such a policy,’ LeVeaux said.’
Congress may be a formidable foe for the Obama administration, but Timothy Howard, a lecturer in the department of political science at UH, said the biggest obstacle to overcome will be others’ expectations.
‘The power of the president is the power to persuade and negotiate with Congress, the press and the public, and (Obama’s) considerable oratory and intellectual skills should serve him well, (but) the euphoria of his election will fade and its symbolism become less relevant the longer he is in office,’ Howard said.
Obama will inherit the White House during a tumultuous time in international relations as well, and foreign policy will be a difficult area to try and forge an independent path, said assistant professor of political science Timothy Hellwig.’
‘The situation in Gaza is particularly problematic. We rely on Israel for a lot of intelligence on potential terrorist activities aimed against the West, so President Obama will not be able to roundly condemn Israel without jeopardizing our access to Israeli intelligence,’ Hellwig said. ‘Conversely, not condemning Israel makes it more difficult for the U.S. to win the war on terrorism … real battleground is for the hearts and minds of Muslims everywhere.’
Despite economic trouble at home and paradoxical problems over seas, LeVeaux is optimistic about Obama’s immediate impact on U.S.’s image.
‘Many world leaders welcome his election because of this.’ However, there will be some that will continue to strike out against the U.S. for what it represents and for past actions,’ LeVeaux said.
Hellwig agrees, saying that most’ ‘ countries overseas were hoping for the Obama victory.
‘As news of Obama’s election spread across the country and across the world on election night, spontaneous demonstrations of joy broke out, much like when the astronauts landed on the moon, or when the Berlin Wall came down,’ Howard said. ‘People’s faith in America, that we are at heart a good nation, will be restored to an extent we haven’t seen since JFK.’
However, others’ reactions may be of concern for the first black President. Howard fears that conservatives will use Obama’s election to argue that racism is dead, thereby discrediting the need for affirmative action in college admissions and the workplace. The good news, Howard said, is that many on the political right have become overtly apprehensive and in so doing exposed the racism inherent in conservative philosophy, making it easier to expose and discredit.
Obama has more than just big shoes to fill – he has blazed a trail no other president has had to walk.
‘Even (for) young people who have only heard stories about racism and discrimination, (this election) is inspirational,’ LeVeaux said.
From a global perspective, other countries have become just as inspired about the election as The U.S.