PARIS: I have written a few
times in the pages of Folha about the acceleration of time, which is one
of the great characteristics of the contemporary era. But I'm frankly beginning
to doubt if time is actually accelerating, or if journalism has adopted the
“fast food” model - fast to manufacture and eat.
The most recent case centers
on Barack Obama. Just a year and two months ago, he took over like a new kind
of messiah, a man who had come to make this thing called “change,” whatever
In fact, Obama began full
steam ahead, launching initiatives here and there, both domestic and foreign. Before
long, his prestige began to drop, down, down, down, until earlier this year he
lost the election to fill the open Massachusetts Senate seat made vacant by the
death of Ted Kennedy. That was it. That was enough for Obama to be pronounced
dead and buried, and for extreme-right and extremely reactionary movements like
the "Tea Party" to pop up.
Not even two months have
passed and the House of Representatives has approved Obama’s health care plan.
Not the original one, it must be noted, but the possible one - the best under
it is. In a more or less agreed-upon analysis, Obama has been resurrected.
In other words, in one year
and two months, the president of the United States went from glory to the tomb
and from there directly into the heavens. It seems like very little time for such
movement. The most reasonable thing to believe is that Obama had neither died
nor, consequently, has now been resurrected.
After all, a Democratic
majority still exists in both houses of Congress. One more senator wasn’t that
fundamental if you take into account the result of the House vote: 34 Democrats
voted against the health plan that was eventually approved. It's reasonable to assume
that, with 60 Senators, which was the size of the Democratic caucus before Ted
Kennedy's death, or with 59, as were left after the defeat in Massachusetts,
there would be no defections as happened in the House. But the majority wins,
as they did.
And the victory doesn’t mean
there will be no more “tea parties” or that polling results will again be
favorable to the president. Moreover, it's good not to forget that having lost
prestige according to the polls doesn't change the fact that what counts is the
popular vote, not polls.
Obama can follow the
rationale that French Prime Minister François Fillon made about the outcome of
France's regional elections on Sunday, which was a disaster for the government
of Nicolas Sarkozy (the opposition won in 21 of the 22 regions of the country):
he conceded defeat but reminded people that rather than regional numbers, the
government is guided by national results, which elected Sarkozy nearly three
With these observations, I don't
seek to minimize the favorable impact for Obama of Sunday's vote, nor the
unfavorable impact for Sarkozy of the same day's results. I just think it’s
prudent to put things in perspective: it was a historic victory, yes. But that's
not to say that for Obama, this will mean victory in the Afghanistan War, the
imposition of sanctions on Iran or obtaining peace in the Middle East.
I hope he's able to do all that,
but let’s be reasonable: presidential deaths and rebirths rarely occur at the
speed in which Obama's have.
Clóvis Rossi is a special correspondent and member of the Folha
editorial board, is a winner of the Maria Moors Cabot award (USA) and
is a member of the Foundation for a New Ibero-American Journalism. His column
appears on Thursdays and Sundays on page 2 and on Saturdays in the World
Notebook section. He is the author, among other works, of Special Envoy:
25 Years Around the World and What is Journalism?
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