In January 2009 I drove to Buffalo, boarded a plane to Washington DC and spent a few days there to bear witness of the birth of a new era: Barack Obama was sworn in as the most promising US President ever.
During the campaign, he said the right things, he made credible promises and he seemed genuine -- a serious breath of fresh air into an American political system where even Hillary Clinton was perceived, in comparison, as too much of a politician with all the bad connotations. Obama was "different" in every aspect.
A week later the new President Obama nominated Timothy Geithner, from the NY Federal Reserve Bank, as his cabinet's Treasury Secretary and that was the first clue to me that Obama is not exactly the political Messiah I was waiting for. Instead of bringing the promised change and cleaning up the system, he melted in, little by little. But at that time, anything was better than George W. Bush, and I remained cautiously hopeful.
Over the next 5 years I kept being disappointed by Barack Obama, who in my opinion, has become not just as bad as even his predecessor, but I dare say he's now getting worse than Bush! According to the last installment of unbelievable headlines starring the US President, it turns out that he is the head of a more diabolical police state than the whole cold-war era Soviet bloc combined, including KGB, Stasi and Securitate.
He now claims that every government engages in spying, enemies and allies alike, which is most probably true and everyone knows it. But how about the sheer dimension, intrusiveness and reach of the NSA spying program, getting reputable private companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft involved, giving blatantly 'erroneous' testimony (a.k.a. lies) in front of the Congress through the government's intelligence chief, spying on American citizens as well as heads of foreign states and pretty much every soul on this planet -- and on top of everything, getting away with this enormous scandal, which dwarfs the Watergate! Where's Bernstein and where's Woodward? Well, it turns out that the journalists are muzzled under Obama Administration more than they were during the Bush era.
As a presidential candidate, Obama promised to "protect whistleblowers," saying that "often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out." Few years later and no longer a presidential candidate, Obama is now calling in the 'communications statute' (Snowden case) pushing the definition of a "secret information leaker" to the journalists who would be making it public, hence threatening to prosecute journalists under the espionage act. Without a free press and critics, the public will not be able to comprehend the gravity of this situation, and the government will be able to spin this scandal into a positive story.
The NSA has already started telling the world how many plots they managed to foil, and even making the unthinkable claim that 9/11 could have been prevented by a well "informed" NSA. Well it could have been, if G.W. Bush would have read the reports that came to him via a less intrusive intelligence program. But one can still make the claim that, if NSA somehow manages to know absolutely everything about everyone on this planet, they would be able to prevent all evils! This (originally) anti-terrorist program can easily be extended to FBI and Police. Arguably they could also prevent murders, robberies, all sorts of crimes, just like the plot from the 'Minority Report' film. A series of recent spy movies seem to have got us used to the idea that the government is of-course monitoring everyone. So when the reality hit, it wasn't such big news.
The reach of the US Government's influence in the world was revealed on July 3, 2013, when the presidential airplane of Ecuador was denied airspace transit by a number of European countries, forced to land in Vienna and searched by the authorities looking for Snowden. Even in the middle of the NSA scandal, all these European countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal have responded quickly to a very transparent US Government request, breaking international protocols and insulting the entire South American continent.
I lost all the hope that was left from that cold day of January 2009 when the hope for change kept hundreds of thousands of people standing to watch Obama's inauguration. A sign of the eroding popularity was shown recently in Germany, where the number of people gathered to greet Obama was a far cry smaller than it was a few years ago. I can't wait for the end of Obama's presidency, but I'm also afraid to think what's coming next.
The silver lining in this story: the Arab Spring has shown the world how the Internet can bring about change. Web-based direct democracy organizations have taken root in many countries and they're on the rise. Online Party of Canada is now federally registered, and similar organizations have already caught the attention of German and Australian voters. I no longer hope for a change 'from within' the system, but I hope that the voters in Canada and elsewhere will embrace a new political system based on Accountability and Transparency enabled by the Internet.