To explain the first, let me tell you a little story. When I was living in Israel friends forced me to paint a portrait of a mayor of a little Israeli town who thought a great deal of himself. As I handed my work to the beaming recipient he exclaimed: When I am the prime minister of Israel you will brag to your friends that I have your work! Not missing a beat, I retorted When I am a world renowned artist and you are still a mayor here, you can brag to your friends that you have my work! I have had a strong antipathy to politicians and their hypocrisy and arrogance ever since.
But, some may say, Obama is different. He is a man that inspired billions of people on this planet with the ideas of hope and change. As an artist, I am not inclined to underestimate the value of inspiration. However, if I want to get paid, I have to take my brush, paint and get the job done. I expect, perhaps naively, no less than getting a job done from the public figures as well.
Is Obama a man that can deliver, can he get the job done? I had my doubts even during his electoral campaign. How could a candidate of the party running on the record of total disaster, John McCain, be even competitive against a candidate running on the record of relative prosperity of the Clinton years? If you ask me, if not for the banking disaster a few weeks before the election, McCain could have won. Obama ran a bleak, overly cautious campaign, always afraid to step too far, to take too much risk. No doubt his victory only made him interpret his luck as wisdom and dismiss the criticism of his indecisive strategy as baseless envy.
This makes me think of another president who came in the time of crises and upheaval with a message of renewal and change: Michael Gorbachev. Much like Obama, Gorbachev talked about the new era yet surrounded himself with the stalwarts of the status quo. Like Obama, Gorbachev thought of appeasing the opposition much more than of advancing the agenda of his own supporters. Gorbachev was terrified of going too far too soon and was moving the chairs on the Titanic as the ship of the Soviet state was going under. Similarly, Bill Maher, commenting on Obamas audacity of hope noticed the profound lack of audacity to back up the hope. Will the change we can believe in turn into a change you can believe in, if you do not expect too much? It seems for me, it already has. Harpers magazine amply commented that Obama looks less and less like Roosevelt, more and more like Hoover. overly cautious
What about you, the readers out there? May be I am too pessimistic? Would Obama, with all his contradictions, be a good artistic project regardless of his achievements or the lack thereof? Do let me know.