Barack Obama

We need Obama and we need to work together

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 January, 2010, 12:00am

In these tough economic times, few leaders can claim to have an easy job. US President Barack Obama undoubtedly has one of the hardest of all: as head of the richest and most powerful nation, the world expects him to help solve all its problems. His first state-of-the-union address plainly showed the challenges and what he is up against. As he rightly pointed out, though, it is in nobody's interests that he fails.

Obama took office just over a year ago with optimism high that the catchword of change with which he won election could be translated into action. His to-do list was daunting and his reform agenda ambitious. But despite his Democratic Party having a strong majority in both houses of Congress, his efforts have been littered with defeats. He still has an in-tray from hell: a crippling budget deficit, 10 per cent unemployment, a constituency deeply divided on bailing out the corporate titans, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and controversial economic stimulus and health care packages.

Whatever the expectations, no leader could emerge a year later with his popularity intact. Obama's has been hit hard, most spectacularly by the opposition Republican Party in this month's election for what had been the safest of Senate seats in the state of Massachusetts. The president took to the stage with this firmly in mind, telling heckling Republican lawmakers that the only way the nation could pull out of the mess was by all sides working together. He urged them to be loyal to the American spirit of not giving up and told them 'not [to] allow fear or division to break our spirit'.

We have grown used to Obama's oratorical skills. His address was engaging and free-flowing, focused on difficult domestic matters but with a smattering of foreign-policy wishes and promises towards the end. He sparred good-naturedly with his political rivals, but the overall tone was serious - as it should be.

The US faces grave problems and in consequence, so does the global economy. It is essential that political divisions are overcome. No matter what we may think of Obama, his call for setting aside differences makes perfect sense. This is the way to recovery.