Change, Finally – and a Great Big Sigh of Relief

When president-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office next Tuesday – an historic sight if ever there was one, and one that will rivet people right around the globe – it will herald a return to confidence that has long since fizzled out in world-influencer the United States.

The political vacuum in the dying days of the loathed administration of George W. Bush will be filled with a gargantuan swoosh of optimism and hope.

As secretary of stage-designate Hillary Clinton said at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, the incoming administration will use what it calls “smart power” that is based on engagement and understanding. Not before time.

This wise approach promises to roll back the terrible harm President Bush inflicted on America’s image abroad, and the wider turmoil he created.

And as the Los Angeles Times pointed out in an editorial this week, after the president gave his final press conference, “Unfortunately, Bush still doesn’t recognize that holding firm beliefs and sticking to them aren’t nearly as important as being right.”

From swagger to stagger – and many, many lethal blunders along the way: that encapsulates the eight long years now ending. It was bravado that spurned fierce retaliation; it was a presidency that collapsed upon itself, as everything ran out of control, from wars that should never have been started to an economy in tailspin.

Obama’s audacity appears to be based on solid ground. The man has a sense of the people, and they felt that and elected him the first African-American president last November. It’s because the ethnically and culturally versed Obama came from humble beginnings and is not part of the wealthy and privileged political dynasties that have ruled the US that his presidency will be so markedly different, and beneficial.

While the new leader may not be able to make good on all his campaign promises in the short-term – closing Guantanamo Bay, withdrawing from Iraq – because of practical reasons, it is a sure bet that the coming four years starting next Tuesday will be a time of renewed hope not just for the peoples of America, but of the world.

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