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Oh yes, we Canute

From pragmatic to dogmatic, from post-partisan to party hawk: that's how US President Barack Obama has trended from his inaugurations in 2009 to 2013, as he has set himself up to lead from the left. Anirudh Bhattacharyya writes.

columns Updated: Jan 26, 2013 00:15 IST

From pragmatic to dogmatic, from post-partisan to party hawk: that's how US President Barack Obama has trended from his inaugurations in 2009 to 2013, as he has set himself up to lead from the left.

The magazine Newsweek, now out-of-print and reincarnated online, got a little carried away, though not from newsstands as it may have liked to, and featured a story before the inauguration: 'The Second Coming'. The president probably took that to heart as he undertook two swearing-ins, the first in the White House on Sunday, before spending Monday at the Mall.

There's been plenty of commentary on the second term curse as Obama begins his, since re-elected American presidents in recent history have left the White House limping. Bill Clinton was Lewinskied, Richard Nixon Watergated, and George W Bush had his meltdowns in Iraq, New Orleans and Wall Street. The exception was Ronald Reagan.

Reagan, of course, was the only president with a hotline to an astrologer, thanks to his wife. And the stars aligned for him, as he supervised the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Curiously enough Obama may just have spent time on his own horoscope before he stepped out to the Mall for his inauguration speech, as that day's forecast for Leos on astrology.com reads: "You are feeling avaricious today - which isn't always a bad thing! You may find it easier to ask for what you want, though that doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get it. Keep asking, though!" If Obama does believe in the stars, beyond a lip-synching Beyonce, there were ominous portents that day, since the person delivering the invocation, Myrlie Evers-Williams, erred by blessing the 45th president of the United States, that being whoever gets elected in 2016.

In his speech, Obama was all for planetary realignment, as he promised to "respond to the threat of climate change", a noble sentiment. Just as he did fours years back, promising the halt the rise of the oceans, to admiring cries of Yes, We Canute! Canny observers may have a presentiment that for global warming to cool, the climate first has to change in Washington, a place where fossils fuel legislation.

Obama also indicated that immigration reform would be high on his agenda, or in the Democratic calculus, taking the ill out of illegal. A couple of Congressional election cycles earlier, an Indian-American candidate, Raj Bhakta, rode an elephant across the US-Mexico border, accompanied by a mariachi band, to demonstrate how easy it was to cross the border. That issue remains the elephant in the room. With America's largest state California turning Hispanic-majority this year, this isn't an issue the party with an elephant as its symbol, the Republicans, can ignore. The question though remains: Will the Obama administration work across the aisle to take the sting out of the nasty amnesty word? Though, of course, this tide of cross-border infiltration has reversed in recent years, since even the prospective undocumented see scant percentage in undertaking an arduous journey to partake of an economy where the unemployment level is exactly at the high figure it was when Obama was sworn in four years ago.

But you can't blame the Obama administration for a lack of comic economic relief. For instance, to preempt a debt ceiling battle, it did consider minting $1 trillion coins in case the US Congress didn't raise the limit, the next round of the fiscal fisticuffs. If the debt ceiling is raised any further, it ought to bring down the roof on the house of cards the Obama economy has fashioned. All this, while the American economy remains out on a limbo.

Speaking on the birth anniversary of civil rights icon, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, the American president was in full preacher mode, using his newfound bully pulpit to lay down his commandments for the Republican heathens. Perhaps he missed one of those, which partly warns against coveting "thy neighbour's ass".

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years
The views expressed by the author are personal