Saving the savior

Question: What do Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, most American liberal journalists and international human rights advocates have in common?

Answer: They are all pinning their hopes and hearts on Barack Obama...

  • Medvedev wants Obama to "patch up" relations between America and Russia.
  • Geoffrey Robertson, author of Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice, believes that Obama to "right the wrongs" of all previous American administrations.
  • Michael Hirsh pontificating about the failure of unregulated capitalism in this week's Newsweek, thinks Obama "job" is not only to to rescue the American economy, but also to save capitalism itself by acting "as a kind of cosmic broker between the end of one historical era and the beginning of another."

And all this before breakfast. Poor Barry O.

Experienced journalists like Hirsh should know better than to create such absurdly unrealistic expectations for a young man without much political experience. To say, as Hirsh does in "Barack the Savior?", that it "may well fall to Obama not just to save the world economy, but to save capitalism, as FDR did" is not only patently ridiculous but also wrong.  Obama has no grand "third way" strategic vision that attempts to bridge capitalism and socialism. And besides, it was Hitler, rather than FDR, who saved capitalism by causing a war that jump-started a world economy still deeply depressed in the late Thirties.

To misquote Churchill, never has the world expected so much from so little.  One reason, I suspect, both FDR And Reagan turned out to be inspirational Presidents is that few people regarded them as saviors when they came to office. The Obama era will turn out to be disastrous if we invest the young, unproven politician with Hollywood scale cosmic qualities. Under promising and over delivering is a good rule that Obama should borrow from business. And we -- as both citizens and journalists -- can save help the savior by not transforming him into an illusion before he's even come to office.