Sanity is Returning in America, Especially in Foreign Policy

Are Americans ready for sanity? After decades of policies driven by special interests and greed, will the nation be able to adjust to governance based on common sense? I hope so because it looks as if that’s what we’re getting with the Obama presidency.

obamasWith every passing day I am more and more impressed by the new President (arriving in Europe with wife Michelle at right). His words are temperate, his views rational, his policies based on intellect instead of prejudice and fear.

Of course I don’t agree with everything he does or says. My own instincts are more radical, my patience less enduring, my emotional buttons easier to push. I am filled with rage, for example, by the rampant looting exposed in the bailout scandals, and in his place I would have reacted more drastically. I would have wanted to nationalize the financial system, the banks, the automakers, the utilities – in fact all of the fossil fuel companies – in retaliation for centuries of massive exploitation of the public by these vested interests and the politicians in their pockets. But in my more rational moments I realize the vast majority of Americans would rebel against such “socialist” acts. The chances of getting such radical policies past the “checks and balances” of the American political system would have been remote. Obama recognizes that politics (as Otto von Bismarck said back in the 1800s) is the art of the possible, and he is acting accordingly.

Nowhere is his clear-headed approach more evident than in foreign relations. His initiatives (already!) are too many to describe in detail – his efforts to curb nuclear proliferation, to foster international cooperation, to ensure global financial oversight, to combat climate change… On topic after topic his policies are rational and fair-minded, his approach pragmatic and sure-footed.

There will be political costs, I am sure. With every reform, someone’s toes get stepped on. Big Oil, for example, is waging a ferocious campaign to convince the world that the threat of global warming is bogus. The last thing the oil cartels want is emergence of a clean-energy industry. They want to drill, baby, drill. And with the obscene profits they’ve made in the past, they can afford to swamp the media with pseudo-scientific “studies” and manipulative television commercials.

castroYou can also expect protests against the Obama Administration’s plan to abolish limits on family travel and cash remittances between the United States and Cuba. Hatred of Castro’s Cuba runs deep in Florida.  My doctor talks bitterly about the deprivation he experienced when Fidel Castro (see photo at left) dispatched him to a remote rural area and forced him to work round the clock without adequate food, water or sleep. My son-in-law’s family tells of the injustices their parents experienced when Castro targeted the Cuban middle class, machine gunning hundreds, seizing their property and forcing them to flee the country, leaving their livelihoods behind.

But that was then; this is now. Old grudges must eventually be shelved in the interests of a more rational future. After half a century of hostility, it is time for the United States to join the rest of the world in normalizing relations with Cuba. Jamaica (where I was born) and Canada (where I spent my youth and part of my middle years) long ago opened up travel and trade with Cuba. (My son, Ross, who lives in Toronto, vacationed in Cuba a couple of Christmases ago.)

Sure, there will be special-interest voices raised in fury as the Obama Administration pursues policies to benefit the greater good. You can hear the losers whining on radio and television. You can read their special pleading in newspapers and magazines. You can see their political lackeys lining up against the President’s policies in the House and Senate. Sadly, this includes Democrats – such as Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska – who betrayed their party to vote against the Obama budget, choosing instead to be loyal to their campaign contributors.

But I am confident that with Obama’s intellect and character, sanity and decency will prevail, the common good will triumph over the machinations of special interests, and America – and the world – will be a better place in which to live.