The Obamians

By Phar Kim Beng
Strategic Pan Indo-Pacific Arena
Twitter: @indo_pan

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The amazing presidential victory of President Barack Obama in 2008 has long come to a close, especially in light of President Trump’s shocking victory in 2016. But how did Obama gain the ballast to win the presidency in the first place?

James Mann, a superb investigative journalist, argued that the seeds of Obama’s victory laid in American aversion to foreign military ventures which the Republican elites in Washington DC often put in motion, only to lose the ability to systematically control them all over the world. For the lack of better words, American soldiers and their families missed having them back home.

In this sense, it was the visceral aversion to the Vietnam War in the 1960s that characteristically morphed into a large scale aversion to the second Iraq War in the mid-2000s writ large launched by the predecessor of Obama, especially when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

Thus, even though, President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat only held the White House for a mere four year between 1976–1980, before President Bill Clinton became the first Democrat since 1945 to win his tenure twice between 1992–2000, it was during the interregnum of forty-odd years since the 1960s that many Democrats honed their legislative skills and public rhetoric, all of which built up neatly to favor Barack H Obama, who too, was re-elected twice.

When he campaigned on the back of the “audacity of hope”, at a time when America was in another state of drift, his willingness to take America back from foreign military ventures, caught a popular chord in the United States. It is ironic that much as President Trump hates Obama, the former is also poised on taking US troops home, although the Sino-US rivalry seems poised to place at least a few 100,000 American troops in the Indo-Pacific arena to stabilize the oceans in Indian Ocean a d South China Sea.

Indeed, this was an idea that first germinated in the presidential campaign of George McGovern, too, whose rallying call was “Bring America Home”. History, however, showed that George McGovern was badly battered and defeated by President Richard Nixon, argued James Mann.

Richard Nixon won 501 electoral college votes to the 17 received by George McGovern in 1970. But in spite of the massive defeat of George McGovern many democrats in Washington DC, or, throughout the college campuses, were appealed to his idea anyway. One of them was Barack Obama at Columbia University, prior to going to Harvard University for his law degree.

In the “Obamians: The Inner Struggle to Redefine American Power in the White House” James Mann wrote that many old-timers, such as Joe Biden, Anthony Lake, Leon Panetta, and new strategists, such as Ben Rhodes and Michael McFaul, were doing their utmost to prevent the Republicans from claiming that the Democrats were perennially weak on military campaigns. Hence, some tried to expand the warfare in Afghanistan, successfully killing Osama Bin Laden, while others called for the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The whole idea, no less, was to do a one-up on the Republicans, who for years had been successful at winning the White House time and again since the days of Richard Nixon, despite the ignominy of his sudden resignation over the Watergate scandal.

As the victory of President Trump showed, the Democrats have failed again to recapture the White House. Once again, the Republicans have shown the Democrats to be weak, and in favor of enlarging the size of the government through Obamacare. Hilary Clinton, feisty as she was, could not project the same military appeal, partly because President Bill Clinton preferred zero casualty air-war over ground campaigns, which affected Hillary Clinton’s own image as a decisive Commander in Chief.

Come what may, James Mann is the ultimate reader on US foreign policy, having written on “The Rise of the Vulcans” that described the foreign policy advisers of the Bush administration, and ranks well with the investigative journalism of presidential historian Bob Woodward.

With James Mann still around as a scholar-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University, President Trump is in for a major roasting in future, as time and time again Trump has appointed the wrong team of advisers in office, especially his son in law Jared Kushner who is widely known as the “Secretary of Failures”. James Mann will take notes, and produce a careful study of where their failures laid, as the United States struggled with the pandemic which China has contained as early as April 2020.



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