---"It was a week like all weeks, filled with the events that alter and illuminate our times. And, you were there". (Walter Cronkite, paraphrased).
While President Obama and Congress wrestled health care reform to a successful conclusion and tacked on Student Loan Reform, Secretary of State Clinton concluded a deal with Russia to reduce nuclear arsenals, and Russia and China signaled frustration with Iran that may result in their joining sanctions. The President, the Vice-President and the Secretary of State practiced 'tough love' to Israel, and stood firm when vehemently attacked, a requirement if the US is going to bring this 60-year conflict to the resolution about which everyone knows not only the general contours, but most of the details.
Without diminishing the skills and hard work of those who brought all these matters to this point, one cannot overstate the impact that this President's election, perspective, and persona had on these outcomes.
Much has already been written about the health care reform triumph. Most importantly, President Barack Obama established health care as a right of every American that cannot be taken away. It meets one of the Founders' stated purposes when they established the Constitution -- "to promote the general welfare" -- and validates the Declaration's assertion that "life" is an inalienable right.
Much to the chagrin of the Tea Partiers, it was a man whom the Founders would only count as three-fifths of a human that fulfilled their purpose and vision.
The enormity of this achievement, coupled with the juvenile savagery of the attacks against it and its supporters, drowned out the other momentous events of this week.
But, momentous, and pregnant with opportunity, they were.
For starters, tacked onto the health care reform measure, was a savings for the Student Loan Program of $50B, just by removing the unnecessary intermediary of banks. That enables the President to increase the number and size of loans, without spending an extra penny. Strangely -- or not so strangely -- Republicans opposed the measure. In one bill, the Democrats were on the side of patients and students, and Republicans lined up with banks and insurance companies. Surprised?
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barack Obama proposed last year in Prague a world free of nuclear weapons. This week, Secretary of State Clinton negotiated a mutual nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia, a deal that would not have been possible had the President not removed the unnecessary irritant of a missile shield, to be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic against the wishes of both populations, pushed by the Bush Administration to protect Europe from a missile attack by Iran.
Hopefully, in the Senate, enough Republicans like Dick Lugar (R-IN) will return to the land of the sane just long enough to enable this treaty to be ratified.
Scholar Barack Obama read (yes, he read!) Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Lincoln, "Team of Rivals", prompting him to include several of his rivals (Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and almost Bill Richardson) in his inner circle. The chattering class predicted government rivalries, paralysis, and, especially, Bill Clinton's brooding omnipresence.
Instead, Senator-cum-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought instant credibility to US foreign policy and restored our image abroad. She has helped form and execute the President's policies without a hint of dissension or disloyalty, to the great credit of both of them.
Perhaps the Secretary of State should have another whiskey with John McCain and remind him what "country-first" really means.
President Barack Obama signaled in his inaugural address that the United States would extend its hand if Iran would open its fist. To show his good faith (yes, I note the pun), this man of diverse backgrounds delivered a speech from Cairo that was so widely applauded by the Arab street that it was denounced by al-Qaeda (and our home-grown versions of that organization, the birthers and Birchers). As Andrew Sullivan first pointed out during the '08 elections, Barack Obama was uniquely positioned to provide credibility to a sharp break with Bush/Cheney's concept of a "crusade" and axes of evil.
The President wisely realized that there were two potential outcomes of his outreach. The best, but least likely, was that Iran would meet his gesture with a change of heart, and embark upon the long process of repairing relations.
The other outcome was the clear message to the rest of the world that the United States had sincerely tried to engage Iran, to lower the temperature, to meet its diplomats without preconditions and was, nonetheless, rebuffed. This week it appears to be paying off -- Russia and China, who would never support a Bush/Cheney initiative, seem ready to support sanctions that may result in real progress. Nor can it have hurt that the President appointed the Governor of Utah, a Republican fluent in mandarin, to be his Ambassador to China, and that the Secretary of State has engaged in broad contacts with their Chinese counterparts at every level of government.
While the neocons feign apoplexy -- itching to send other peoples' children to another war--their real complaint is that sincerity and humility (you betcha, humility) and the real toughness required to take rebuffs and remain steadfast may be better, less expensive, and more durable weapons than bunker-busters.
Finally, Diplomat Obama, with his eye firmly on the prize of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, showered the Israelis with tough love. By remaining steadfast in its conclusion that the US needed credibility with both sides, and that each side had to start showing good faith (again, the pun) to the other, the Vice-President, the Secretary of State, and the President showed Israel how serious it was about the irritant of in-your-face settlement building--resulting in a 70% approval rating for the President among Israelis.
Of course, all these forward steps have stirred the forces of reaction, both here and around the world. It was no coincidence that bin Laden resurfaced threatening the US homeland. Irresponsible Republican leaders whipped Tea Partiers into a further frenzy over their loss of "liberty"--without, of course, indicating just what was lost other than their right to have others pay for their high-cost care when they arrive, uninsured, in emergency rooms--whereas their real beef is that their failed ideology of lying about the world to preserve taxcuts for the wealthy is now in great jeopardy.
Missions accomplished? Some yes, some still in progress, but...
Not a bad week, President/Nobel Laureate/Scholar/Diplomat Barack Hussein Obama.