Sunday, October 11, 2009

What happened to Obama's pragmatism?

The fact that a president with an unprecedented level of support, both nationally and internationally, takes charge of America's highest public office is no guarantee for a successful presidency.

I for one, have nothing but admiration for Obama the Man, but whether Obama the President can live up to the expectations thrust upon his shoulders by the superstar aura that so naturally comes to him is another question altogether.

Now I am by far not the first, nor even the millionth, to be bringing up the 'expectations vs results' dilemma. The more expectations you have to succeed, the more pressure is on you to demonstrable concrete results. And this usually means that your adversaries are all the more determined to see you fail.

This is all the more reason to question Obama's decision to bring up the military's controversial Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy regarding gays and lesbians. I have nothing against supporting gay rights, but as one of Obama's supporters, I want to see him succeed.

When the President is facing such a difficult environment at home (see economic crisis and health reform), complex problem abroad (see a stalled Middle East Peace Process, the continuing saga of the Iranian nuclear crisis, and a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan), and when the Right is fighting tooth-and-nail to delegitimize him, the last thing he should want to do is create opportunities for his adversaries to unite around.

It could very well be that Obama and his team have come out in favour of rescinding the Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy for exactly this reason: to rally liberals and progressives at a time when the right is increasingly vocal and unwilling to compromise. But for a president who approaches governing from a centrist philosophy of pragmatism, it would not change the fact that Obama already has much on his plate to chew, and adding another controversial issue on his convoluted policy agenda simply doesn't seem very 'pragmatic' at this point in time.

(Photo from AP)

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