Friday, November 5, 2010
“A shellacking,” United States President Barack Obama called the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections, on the administration's saddest day ever, this Wednesday, when he invited 130 American and foreign journalists to a press conference in the White House’s East Room.
Obama’s face was grim, as the midterm results for his administration, while standing up against some tough, if not humiliating, questions and comments from veteran White House reporters. “Is it possible voters can conclude you're still not getting it?” was one of these follow-up questions, from a reporter who thought her first question was not adequately addressed by the president. Even as reporters did their best to extract the headline-making question of the day, Obama’s “shellacking” comment gained prominence among the clash of phrases in the period following the election.
Obama, for the first time in his better known history, came against a crashing defeat which could not be doctored in any way.
Until last Tuesday, the Obama presidency was up to a debate in terms of its domestic and foreign policy initiatives and achievements into the ending phrase of his second year in governing. The historic health care and financial overhaul bills, the Keynesian spending packages, which included hundreds of billions of dollars, and setting the tone to extend the Bush tax cuts for the 98 percent of the American people before the year end, only some of Obama’s legislative victories that are argued as monumental success stories for the country.
However, Obama’s plans and the American political scenery fundamentally were changed, when the majority of the independent voters decided that Obama’s spending policies did not work as envisioned and proved to be shortcoming towards solving problems the of America.
John Boehner, a prospective house speaker, elaborated the results in the following fashion: "When you have the most historic election in over 60, 70 years, you would think the other party would understand that the American people have clearly repudiated the policies they've put forward in the last two years."
Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose posture is boosted but at the same time failed to grab the Senate’s Majority leadership, set a tough tone for any compromise going forward, “when the administration agrees with the American people, we will agree with the administration. When it disagrees with the American people, we won't... If the administration wants cooperation, it will have to begin to move in our direction.” McConnell also stated that his party’s primary legislative goals are to “repeal and replace the health spending bill, and shrink the size and scope of government.” In brief, a perfect recipe for anti-Obama policies.
However, as much the long list of domestic priorities and policy preferences appear to promise for a challenging legislative year ahead for Obama administration against a new Washington, Obama surely knows that he will be hard-pressed on the foreign policy issues by the opposition as well, especially those that are linked to the Middle East Peace Process, relations with the current Israeli government in particular and of course going at Iran.
It is not a secret that the Republican leadership in the Congress, and its own policy writers and strategists at various think tanks tend to defend the hawkish Israeli government. And it will not be a surprising development to see if the newcomer conservative lawmakers tool themselves with last decade’s traditional ‘near unconditional support for Israel” policy in the 112th US Congress.
Obama, on the other hand, finally began his long planned Asian trip this weekend in which he and his entourage are set to visit India, Indonesia, S. Korea and Japan, and will also participate at the G20, G8 and Asia-Pacific Economic Council summits.
After 10 day-long Asia trip, Obama will be in Lisbon, Portugal to attend the NATO summit on the 19th and 20th, during which the NATO alliance is expected to make its decision over the proposed anti-missile shield. Ankara is still assessing the plans, and weighing different options and seeking various returns for, what seems to be a looming limited Turkish cooperation on the missile system.
Obama’s Iran policy will continue to be a crucial test in a Republican boosted Washington environment, and Turkey’s approach to this policy might draw even a larger audience and consequences in there.
I asked Mike Hammer, a spokesperson of the National Security Council of the White House on Thursday about possible Turkish role going forward to the talks between P5+1 and Iran. Some suggested in past week that Ankara will or should play an effective role in terms of facilitating these negotiations, and hosting them in Turkey. Hammer responded, “It is not yet clear that the Iranians have accepted Lady Ashton’s invitation to discuss their nuclear program,’ pointing out to the vagueness of the current status of the talks.
However, Hammer responded what potential role Washington sees for Turkey: “We have constant dialogue with Turkey, even if we’ve had disagreements, particularly as it relates to the vote on sanctions. So I can’t forecast in terms of in the future what exactly Turkey’s role will be or that of other countries. But this process is being managed through the P-5+1. That’s what’s been working so far. The international community writ large supports this effort and Iran knows what it needs to do. And the first thing is to begin by accepting the invitation for talks on their nuclear program, and then we’ll take it from there.”
Analyzing this respond, one prominent observer of the Turkey-US relations noted that Washington wants Turkey to “keep it out,” when it comes to negotiations with Iran, rather than any effective role Ankara expects to play.
At a time when the Russians and Chinese, lend a supporting hand to Washington, the Obama administration feels it does not have a comforting and full-supporting corresponding voice in Ankara.
In post-Tuesday world, Obama acknowledged that he drew lessons from the elections returns.
Would the post-Tuesday world also a good time for Ankara to reckon its own relations particularly with the Obama administration?
More clearly, does today’s Ankara find Obama is a formidable and fitting partner going forward to work on host of regional issues? Or it considers the good-old Republican administration in Washington always would be a preferable choice?
One little detail must be noted though and it is that today’s majority of newcomer Republicans are much different than the traditional Republican voices of the past. Many new conservative newcomers have very rigid views on Islam, and have made inroads into Washington riding the waves of Islamophobia. It will be a certainly an interesting occurrence to observe how newly boosted Republican leadership react to confident, pro-Islamic administration in Ankara, which cozies up with Iran just fine and bickers with Israel, every possible chance it gets, in coming months.
If Turkey believes that it is its own destiny to become a regional power once more in its region, one that will create a Pax-Turca, it ought to start re-considering its relations with Obama administration in this post-election season, while studying the alternative administration of the future, which is in the fast making since Tuesday.
Such a reassessment might help Ankara to view the wounded Obama administration and its policies through very distinct perspectives.