(History News Network, November 2, 2009)
President Barack Obama is having a bad time. The health reforms he so confidently promised have been bogged down in Congress for months; his Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, said the other day that the pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp by January 2010 would take longer to fulfill; Obama’s top general, Stanley McChrystal, appeared to break military discipline by openly demanding forty thousand extra US troop for the Afghan War, warning his commander-in-chief that otherwise the mission would fail; the award of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama brought more scorn and disbelief than congratulations and encouragement; it generated an odd unity of purpose between the Left and the Right, his erstwhile supporters and bitter adversaries out to destroy his young presidency; and two decades after the United States defeated its superpower adversary, a resurgent Russia made plain that sanctions against Iran over its suspicious-looking nuclear program were not acceptable to Moscow.
History is full of contradictions between what American presidents offered and could deliver. Upon the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1789, President George Washington spoke of ‘the eternal rules of order and right’ and ‘the preservation of sacred fire of liberty’ in his inauguration address. In fact, American Indians and black slaves were to endure white oppression for a further two hundred years. One and a half centuries ago, history recorded that Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in 1865. In truth, re-enslavement occurred quickly under different laws and slavery was to persist for another century. More