Week 51: Hero – Barack Obama

by Jackie_South on December 21, 2014

US_HeroThis week, Barack Obama receives our Hero of the Week award

2014 has hardly been a vintage year for President Obama: last month saw one of the worst Democrat performances since the Second World War in the mid-term congressional elections.

Eight years ago, George W Bush had a similarly calamitous set of mid-term election results: then the Republicans lost control of both houses for the first time since 1994. His last two ‘lame duck’ years in the presidency were chastened ones: ditching Donald Rumsfeld as defence secretary, railing back on the aggressiveness of foreign policy and having little control on domestic policy.

The Democrats have so far acted very differently. Last week, the Senate won our Hero of the Week award for using the last gasps of Democrat control to release the damning Intelligence Committee report into the use of torture by the CIA. This week, the President wins the same award for his historic announcement of a diplomatic thawing in relations with Cuba, and for taking a stand against both the behaviour of North Korea and Hollywood’s lack of a backbone in response.

I’ll leave the comments on the actions of Kim Jong-Un and Sony to others, but we should not underestimate the significance of the first.

The US embargo on trade with Cuba has lasted fifty-four years – initially put in place by the Eisenhower regime in October 1960. Since then, Congress has agreed no less than five subsequent pieces of legislation to extend the scope of the embargo or to strengthen the penalties: trade now carries a ten-year sentence. The most recent three have all been since the UN started to annually condemn the impact of the sanctions 22 years ago. The Helms-Burton Act of 1996 includes action to punish non-US companies that trade with the island.

Obama’s announcement this week not only sets out to re-establish diplomatic relations, but also to loosen the economic sanctions. As a ‘lame duck’, one advantage is that he no longer needs to pander to the anti-Castro zealotry of Cubans in Florida: there is no longer a political price for him to pay in that key swing state.

This is just the start of a long journey of normalisation of relations between these neighbours, and it is long overdue. But it should be welcomed wholeheartedly nonetheless.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fred Middle-East December 22, 2014 at 7:26 am

Have to agree with the article but you spoilt it by including the joke clip which is the sort of Asian stereotyping that usually gets your average UKipper councilor into the headlines

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George_East December 22, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Of course it’s offensive, but as with all of the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone their primary target is the American attitudes they are satirising and they have always been utterly undiscriminating in those they have targeted. Team America: World Police is one of the finest bits of satire to have been produced in the last 20 years in my view.

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