Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our Intransigent President

Obama's approval rating has dropped in recent days from a glowing 70 percent to a disquieting 50. The US economy is still flailing and the Democrat's health care plan is not going very well either. Troubled times.

Our president's popularity has flagged too in recent days, plummeting from 64 percent when he came into office a year ago to a dismal 32. Zardari's constant waffling on the judges’ issue and the seventeenth amendment has cost him the support of the Pakistani public. The government's deplorable mishandling of the sugar crisis this month will probably hurt him further.

But where Obama is facing the challenge head on, reaching out to ordinary Americans through town halls, appearances on talk shows, a Congress address and so on, Zardari has either absconded on pricey foreign tours or remained locked up in the presidential palace. Obama it seems is back on the campaign trail just a few months after assuming office, doing his best to reassure Americans and rally them to his cause. He is taking serious flak from detractors: some 2000 protesters besieged him in Portsmouth, N.H., where he addressed a town hall meeting in August, some chanting "Euthanize Obama!" But Obama remains undeterred. Conversely, Zardari’s approach has been to whine endlessly about some uncertain minus one conspiracy against him. He has decided to deal with the barrage of criticism by petulantly threatening to arrest Pakistanis who make fun of him in personal emails and text messages.

The vast difference in the maturity of these two leaders should be quite obvious. Zardari has so far made no concerted effort to reach out to the public. Hell, he hasn’t even bothered to visit Swat since Operation Rah-i-Rast was launched in April. It is extremely ironic that a democratic leader should have such antipathy to the people he was elected to serve. One can only hope that on his latest two-week foreign tour, which will culminate in a visit to Washington, Zardari will use his time productively and learn a thing or two from Obama (instead of chatting up married women). Zardari has to realize that, short of abandoning Pakistan's latest foray into democracy, the only way to keep him and the PPP in power in the long run is to give the people what they want.


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