Monday, December 8, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Atlanta, Georgia
December 8, 2008

An American journalist, David Corn, Bureau Chief for Mother Jones Magazine in Washington DC is a good analyst of the Obama Politics.

Early this week, in an article to the Washington Post, Corn had very interesting things to say about Obama’s Change politics. And it was not just Corn’s views that interested me.

It was a stark reminder to me of my politics back in Kenya since 2002 when we voted to a man to create the change we could believe in. At that time we sincerely believed that all our problems were embedded in the Moi regime. If we could send Moi home, all would be fine with Kenya.

And yes, the Rainbow Coalition roared to victory and handed Moi a resounding defeat. Mwai Kibaki took over two days later in a humiliating send off for Moi. People danced, jeered and pelted Moi with mud in full view of the international press. Yes, Kenyans believed that change had surely come.

However, as David Corn in his article says, the more things change, the more they stay the same!

In the case of Barack Obama presidency, it is increasingly beginning to look like conventional wisdom is triumphing over radical change that Obama followers had hoped for.

This scenario reflects precisely what the Rainbow Coalition went through when Kibaki opted for the tried hands of the Kenyatta and Moi old guards. In the Kibaki regime, the liberal progressives that wanted to break away with the past lost out to old guards. It was easy to hear voices of dissent accuse Kibaki of recycling the old guards at the expense of those who fought for change.

A s for Barack Obama, Democratic progressives are questioning the appointment of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State, who supported the Iraq war until she initiated her presidential bid. They are also concerned that GW Bush's second defense secretary, Robert Gates, will become Obama's first defense secretary while James L. Jones will become his National Security Advisor. They say that although the retired general was not hawkish on the Iraq war and seems to be a non-ideologue who possesses the right experience for the job, he probably would have ended up in a McCain administration anyway.
Critics of the Obama's economic team say it isn't particularly liberal or progressive either. They point out that Lawrence H. Summers, former President Clinton's Treasury secretary opposed regulating financial instruments that greased the way to the financial meltdown, therefore unfit to chair Obama's National Economic Council. They also accuse Timothy F. Geithner who as president of the New York Federal Reserve, helped oversee the financial system as it collapsed. And that each is close to Robert Rubin, another former Clinton Treasury secretary who is also a director of bailed-out Citigroup. They are annoyed that Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board will be guided by Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman whose controversial tight-money policies led to a nasty recession in the 1970s.

It's no surprise that many progressives are disappointed and irritated. Sure, they acknowledge that Obama's appointments do represent change -- that is, change from the widely unpopular Bush-Cheney status quo but they doubt that these appointments amount to the kind of change that progressives, who were an essential part of Obama's political base during the campaign expected.

Now the labor officials who toiled hard for Obama during the campaign are also crying foul. They are wondering aloud that after all their efforts; they should not deserve at least one Cabinet appointment! Does this remind us of the vijana for Kibaki and dons for ODM back in Kenya’s last elections?

While on Kenya, one is reminded of the deafening complaints that greeted Kibaki’s first cabinet appointment in January 2003 when the liberals in Kenya felt shortchanged. That was after they realized that Kibaki had included 11 former Kenyatta and Moi associates into his new cabinet; some of them in key positions like Treasury, National Intelligence Services and Defense.

Five years down the line; and even after a negotiated Coalition Government on a 50-50shared portfolio between PNU and ODM, the Coalition still appointed 12 Cabinet Ministers from the Moi regime alone! Had KANU returned to power through the backdoor?

During the Obama campaign, progressives called for ending the Iraq war, closing Guantanamo Bay and restoring the United States' image abroad. Now the position has changed. Those are now consensus positions.

In Kenya we were promised food security, jobs, free secondary education and better healthcare among other things. Are we getting them?

So much for political promises both sides of the Atlantic!