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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 08/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) THE TEARS for him flowed freely again, four years later this time, four years after Barack Hussein was first elected the 44th President of the United States.

I simply could help it. At 9:54am yesterday, when the TV channel I was watching in New Delhi announced that President Obama had won a second term, there seemed no other appropriate response.

It was, once again, a transformative moment. It spoke to the great possibilities ahead for Obama, and for an America hurt by political warfare and hit by the despair of an economic depression. In his victory speech in Chicago, the president said, "America, the best is yet to come."

He said those words with such power, and in such a cadence, that one had to suspend disbelief that they were, in the final analysis, the words of a political figure who had endured a brutal reelection campaign. The magic of Barack Obama was that he made people live in the moment, that special bit of time when anything seemed possible. His wizardry lay in crafting the right words, and not braying about having beaten a Republican named Willard Mitt Romney.

The president was generous toward Romney. It would have been entirely understandable if his language were sparse, perhaps even one freighted with sadness, on account of the vicious campaign that the Republican ran. Maybe Obama had watched Romney's concession speech earlier Tuesday evening. A lot of people thought that Romney was gracious, even classy - qualities that he did not necessarily display during the long months leading up to the November 6 election.

My own enthusiasm for Mitt Romney was restrained. I thought his words seemed forced, as though he'd just visited his dentist. That isn't a metaphorical stretch; after all, Obama had just pulled out the Republican's political teeth. For his part, President Obama offered that he would meet soon with Romney to see "how we could work together."

Why would he want to do that? And what, anyway, would Romney bring to the table? His election manifesto was so extreme that it would have made Attila the Hun blush. And I doubt that the Republicans in Congress will suddenly smoke the peace pipe with the reelected president. Wasn't it the Republican Minority Whip, Sen. Mitch McConnell, who'd said after Obama's inauguration in January 2009 that the singular focus of his party would be to ensure that the Democrat was a one-term president.

No surprise then that Republicans put up roadblocks. Any time that Obama came up with initiatives on creating more jobs, and providing better health care, they were stubbornly resistant. If Obama was unable to do more in his first term, it was largely because the Republicans always wanted him to do less.

But politics, being the art of the possible, also calls for marriages of convenience. His disinterested critics often argued that Obama showed few negotiating skills, that he was nave and often sulky in his outreach to Congressional Republicans. Suppose he offered Romney a Cabinet post - perhaps as Secretary of Commerce - and asked him to be his emissary to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, where presidential legislative initiatives need to be blessed under the peculiarities of the American system. Would Congressional Republicans work more readily with one of their own? Would that result in a more productive presidency, the second time around? I have a hard time believing that: there's no certainty that Romney would want to be employed by a man who vanquished him in a political tournament.

Obama laid out an ambitious agenda yesterday for his second term. There was work to do on the economy, he said, on getting more people to work again, on protecting the environment, on improving the educational system so that America could be more competitive in the global commons. He spelled out a litany of objectives from rebuilding the infrastructure to reforming immigration.

He said: "Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. Our long campaign is now over. And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, and I have learned from you and you have made me a better president"Tonight, you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours."

Still, President Obama does have a very steep job in his second-term: He faces a daunting task of tackling 1 trillion annual deficits, reducing a 16 trillion national debt, overhauling expensive social programmes such as Medicare, and dealing with a gridlocked Congress that will look, more or less, as partisan as the outgoing one.

If he was daunted, the president did not let on in his speech yesterday.

"We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation," Mr. Obama said. Inspiring words.

A Chennai friend, Krishamohan Ramachandran, wrote to me afterward: "I am a huge Obama fan and have been following the election trail avidly. And why is this so important to me? Beyond the politics and the economics, I believe in Obama because he made me believe that I can make a difference. And he is a decent human being.

"View this against the background of what is happening in our country and in our state where blatant corruption is a way of life," the advertising executive said.

Like Ramachandran, shouldn't we all be savouring Mr. Obama's moment at this time without parsing too much of what he's saying? Of course. There will be opportunities soon enough to dissect his rhetoric. I cannot take it away from Obama that he transported me to a transformative moment yesterday - as he did four years ago - one that seemed far more inviting that the ugly political realities he must contend with every day that he's in office.

My tears were as much of elation over his victory as they were in support of Obama because of the terribly hard road ahead of him.


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