Just before Chinese New Year I ventured into the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) in Hong Kong to give a lunchtime talk - "Seeing the Forest from a Tree". An attempt to inject some perspective into the way the next few months and probably years might pan out, rather than focus on the news headlines of the day which tend to be short term and sensational.
The only piece of my speech subsequently to see the light of day came from the New York Times which quoted my "negative" comments about the "Obama Effect", when I said, "Personally speaking, I am less than convinced that the "Obama Effect" will be so quick and so significant"
Thank you guys!
[This was the same newspaper, which incidentally in April 1997 interviewed me while I was visiting New York and with whom I spent 45 minutes explaining in painstaking detail why I believed Hong Kong would prosper after the resumption of sovereignty. At the end of the interview the two journalists present put down their pencils and said - "Gee, that was fascinating. Now, off the record, what's the real story?]
I will be happy to share with you the context of my Obama remarks, mentioned above, but you will need to go to the bottom of the page.
The point of all this, though, is to illustrate a lesson I should have learnt a long time ago. Beware "pre-programmed" minds! As I was leaving the FCC a lady came up to me and said, "Why don't you like Obama?" I pointed out that I had not said I didn't like Obama, but she was not to be denied expressing clearly what she thought she had heard. It was obvious I did not care for the incoming President!
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but even as a non-American and therefore a non-voter I still happen to have an opinion and, guess what - I do actually like President Obama; so far!
That he is a great orator does not seem to be in doubt. He is different, and every day there are new revelations about his work style that are encouraging. He may actually understand the people he is to serve as President, and he has made some interesting choices as to the people who will be working with him. His initial actions in doing something about the financial crisis seem to be somewhat more enlightened than those of the previous administration. His review of the Middle East has taken a somewhat different tone from that seen in recent history. So, what is there not to like? This world is short on charismatic leadership - perhaps we have someone here who will fill that mantle.
BUT, I am not about to be drawn into making statements that fall into the category of our newest oxymoron, "instant analysis".
What I have seen I like. However, his Presidency does not, overnight, mean that the economy is going to improve. That job losses will automatically stop. That world trade will suddenly pick up. If job losses continue throughout the country will he need to look at going down a protectionist route? Will he draw back a step from accusing China of currency manipulation - and perhaps run the risk of the Chinese investing their money in a currency other than the US$?
Lets face it; Democrat-led administrations have not been known to be international in outlook, although President Clinton may have heralded some changes in that direction. In today's interlinked world, what happens in one country can have a profound effect on what happens elsewhere. You cannot, anymore, disconnect the globe and pretend that you are in isolation.
Enough on this subject for now. I think I have made myself clear on what I think of President Obama, if anyone actually cares.
As I said at the outset, though, beware the minds that hear only what they want to hear. If you say to someone in the communities in which I generally hang out, "Let's go for a drink" - the automatic assumption is that you mean something alcoholic. Well it shouldn’t but, like Pavlov’s dogs, we are so conditioned! And I am going for a drink now - a coffee. Have a good weekend, and for reference, the context of my "Obama Effect" is given below.
Words of a realist trying to bring perspective to a situation, or words of someone who doesn't like the incoming President? I personally think the words would have applied to any incoming President at this time, but then I would say that, wouldn't I? You make up your own mind!
"Likewise, I expect others to be too optimistic in believing that after today, all will be better. 43 will be out of the Oval Office. And the so-called ‘Obama effect’ will kick in. Certainly when I was in the United States a few weeks ago, there was still considerable optimism about Barack Obama’s ‘new New Deal’. High hopes in his “ability to inspire confidence and put through effective policies” to use the words of one Wall Street analyst.
It is a sense of optimism that seems to have been exported here. With local editorials noting that “our expectations for a strategy to lead the world out of its financial gloom” rest on Obama. And with columns in local newspapers suggesting Obama’s arrival at the White House could “herald a new era of competence, fresh thinking and realistic planning.”
Personally speaking, I am less than convinced that the ‘Obama Effect’ will be so quick and so significant. After all, as others have pointed out, when the first New Deal was launched back in the 1930s, the worst was largely already over. Consequently, FDR was credited for the subsequent rapid recovery. Unfortunately, the American President incoming later today has probably been elected a year or even two too early. Even 44 himself is now going to great lengths to dampen expectations of implementing immediate fixes. Of being seen as the healer of all that ails America."