At last, elections

It has become a cliche that the whole world is watching the US presidential election as if it concerned the leader of the whole planet. Whoever is elected on Tuesday will have George W. Bush to thank for that – not any of the presidents of the «Free World» of the previous decades. The 43rd president managed to make such a mess of the planet in the eyes of so many that his successor inherits the task (and embodies the world’s hopes) of guiding the Earth toward a better direction. By default, the American president will now be the global leader. George W. Bush cast an imperial shadow over the planet, not because of his great victories but because his inadequacy, his mediocrity, can be blamed for creating a climate of unease around the globe. We have all been united by fear, not through imperial conquest. As he sits out the final two months of his eight years in office, Bush cuts a sorry figure – that of a man who rose way beyond the level of his competence, who wore a suit that was far too big for him. He has no one to blame but himself: He chose to seek the presidency and, by whatever means, he won it. Viewing his presidency from its twilight, it is clear that the man was never in a position to shape the future of his country, let alone that of the planet. All that he did was surround himself with people who had their own agenda (such as the neo-conservative ideologues and the lobbyists) or who were incompetent (as the Katrina disaster revealed). To be fair, not many governments are without these traits. But in the case of America over the past eight years, the imposition of mediocrity in key positions has created a crisis of competence of planetary proportions. Not all of today’s problems were caused by Bush – but some were of his doing while others he simply allowed to happen. The most traumatic event of his presidency, at least on the surface, was the attacks of September 11, 2001. No one could have expected it, according to conventional wisdom – yet the breakdown in intelligence before the attacks and the faulty logic behind the later invasion of Iraq all happened during Bush’s watch. Climate change is not the work of the past eight years, but there has been no government so impervious to the warnings of a changing Earth than that of George W. Bush. The collapse of the international credit system, again, was not Bush’s doing and his government has done what it can to contain the damage, but the meltdown occurred during a presidency in which deregulation and greed were part of the state religion: No one would have done anything to prevent the disaster. All of these momentous events have created a world in which everyone feels less secure. And, let us not fool ourselves, an America weakened for any reason does not make for a safer world. So, as far as the rest of the planet is concerned, anyone who is not Bush will be better than Bush. Like the Greeks, most prefer Obama, for what he is – and for what he is not: a Republican, like Bush. Bush’s cavalier attitude toward Greece – displayed most spectacularly with the recognition of «the Republic of Macedonia» right after his 2004 re-election – will ensure that most Greeks remember this particular «planetarch» with the disdain reserved especially for those who did harm to others and their own country. January cannot come too soon.