“ There on the front page, was Osama bin Laden. “Hell of a thing isn’t it?” he said, shaking his head. “Really bad luck. You can’t change your name, of course. Voters are suspicious of that kind of thing. Maybe if you are at a start of your career, you know, you could use a nickname or something. But now….” His voice trailled of and he shrugged apologetically before signalling the waiter to bring us the check.
I suspected he was right and that realization ate away at me”.
Barack : in Arabic ‘ba’-rak means “he who is blessed”
: in Swahili “that one”.
Hussein: A Muslim name that Obama insists he would want to use during his inauguration, though not because he wants to gain support of the Muslim world but because he wants to keep the tradition going.
As luck (?) would have it, Obama got the support of Muslim Americans and Muslims worldwide because of his link (?) with Islam.
Obama’s name sounded “suspiciously” similar, almost identical, to Osama (bin Laden) of al-Qaeda. The fact that he has a Muslim middle name inherited from his father who was by all account a nominal Muslim compounded the prejudice of many Americans, especially with conservative or right-wing views.
Ann remarried an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro, and in 1967 migrated to Indonesia bringing her six-year old son along with her. Obama went to school until 1969 when he was sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Hawaii.
Unlike past US presidents such as his immediate predecessor, Republican George W Bush and even the icon of the Democratic Party, John F. Kennedy however, Obama was not a scion of American and Kenyan aristocrats or oligarchs.
His parents were neither politically influential nor wealthy.
This also meant that its doubly hard for him to raise money for his campaign : Senate seat in Chicago and Presidential nomination for Democrat Party and finally the Presidential Election.
These traits have endeared him to the electorate who sees his charisma mainly as the ability to communicate across the wide spectrum of society, irrespective of background.
Coming from a non-privileged background and spending a part of his formative years in a foreign country with a different culture must have impressed Obama with a sense of empathy and sympathy for the ordinary person irrespective of background.
Furthermore, coming from a mixed-heritage or “bi-racial” background, and living in multi-racial Hawaii, he is able to understand and perceive from the different cultural perspectives.
“ The opportunity that Hawaii offered - to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect -became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear.” Reyes, B. J “Punahou Left Lasting Impression on Obama”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin (8 February 2007)
But it has to be highlighted that these same factors were also simultaneously barriers which he had to overcome in America.
The ethnic cum cultural prejudice which he experienced as an individual (since he would always be regarded as “black” by most “white” Americans or by African-Americans as “a black in a white skin”.
The political prejudice which is “complemented” by Obama’s left-wing leanings and early association with radical figures such as Bill Ayers (communist-anarchist intellectual and educationist) and Jeremy Wright (liberal minister - liberation theology - integrating communist ideals into Christianity)
Most recently in the run-up to his inauguration as the 44th President of the US, lawsuits have been filed to compel Obama to reveal his “true” birth certificate. Although the Governor of Hawaii has publicly confirmed the veracity or authenticity of the local birth certificate, allegations are that it is a fake and that Obama was actually born in Kenya.
So, against all the odds, including the smear campaign (a campaign within a campaign itself) throughout the presidential race, Obama still managed to sway the sentiments of the American people to vote for him.
Perhaps the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Financial meltdown had a domino effect which wiped out liquidity and caused many banking institutions to collapse due to loan defaults based on mortgage-backed securities (MBS) packaged as “credit-default swaps”
A host of complex financial instruments fuelled by speculative greed.
The impact on Wall Street had a immediate multiplier effect on Main Street.
Many consumers lost whatever savings they had, some saw their home re-possessed, personal investments such as shares had their values plummeted since the investee companies had to be re-evaluated according to mark-to-market accounting rules – “fire-sale” value – market sentiments – loss of confidence.
Unemployment rate reached 6.5 percent, the highest since 1994.
President Bush had been losing “moral authority” since his invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Though he enjoyed a boost in rating post-911, his decision to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than to focus on selectively targeting individual al-Qaeda terrorists like bin Laden made him unpopular as this reinforces the negative impression of the US as imposing its hegemony on other nations in the pursuit of self-interests such as securing oil supplies from friendly producers - as the world’s only superpower.
Many Americans at home have been yearning for the return of the servicemen and are fed-up with the negative image of the US abroad.
The mass media as the “Fourth Estate” of the American political system, which is supposed to complement the principle of “check and balance” has been accused of displaying an Obama bias throughout the presidential elections.
· The claim was that Obama tended to be portrayed in positive terms, whereas the reverse was true of McCain.
· The PewResearch Center had conducted research on the media coverage and reported that …
For Obama during this period, just over a third of the stories were clearly positive in tone (36 percent), while a similar number (35 percent) were neutral or mixed. A smaller number (29 percent) were negative.
For McCain, by comparison, nearly six-in-ten stories studied were decidedly negative in nature (57 percent), while fewer than two-in-ten (14 percent) were positive.
Stimulus package to revive the economy – in excess of the USD700 billion voted for by Congress last year.
Obama has said that his administration plans to generate 2.5 million jobs by 2011.
The largest investment in roads and bridges “since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s”.
Experts point out that “an effective stimulus package must provide immediate, temporary, direct economic relief targeted to the people who need it, are most likely to use the funds, and increase the level of economic activity in their communities without permanently increasing the budget deficit”.
a change to the consumer habit and lifestyle of Main Street America - reverse low household savings and speculative activities and promote American exports
A "massive effort" to make federal buildings energy-efficient by replacing aging heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs.
Obama said this could save taxpayers "billions of dollars each year" and put people back to work.
The “most sweeping” programme to upgrade and rehabilitate the nation’s schools by repairing buildings, installing energy-efficient systems and buying new computers for classrooms. The idea is to create “21st-century schools”.
The moderate and progressive Islamic credentials together with the secularism of the nation’s constitution makes Indonesia an ideal Muslim state to be courted by the Obama administration - to carve out his own niche in US-Islamic countries relations.
So, its important to cultivate ties with SEA, – natural and logical “starting-point”.
Malaysia might capitalise on Indonesia’s “special relations”.
Another progressive Islamic country which the Obama administration would want to cultivate friendlier ties.
Malaysia is key in the Obama administration’s fight against terror - strategically located along the Straits of Melaka as a gateway to Indonesia (Jemaah Islamiah), Thailand (Patani insurgents) and the Philippines (Moro separatists).