Category Archives: Barack Obama

The Guardian view on the next head of the Commonwealth: think big | Editorial

Succession planning for the next phase makes sense. It is time to move on from the link with the British crown

In the years since the British Commonwealth dropped the “British” bit in 1949, two people have held the title of Head of the Commonwealth: George VI until 1952 and Elizabeth II until now. The world has changed out of recognition in that time, and the Commonwealth with it. The Queen, though, has been a constant. She has carried out her role assiduously. But the title is not hereditary.

So, what should happen next? The question is being asked, discreetly and decorously, in London this week as part of a review by a seven person “high-level group” of Commonwealth officials and former ministers. The review is a sensible exercise in succession planning. It is particularly important for an organisation that has been embodied for so long by one person, but which has itself undergone transformative evolution during those years.

Continue reading…
Source: gad

Presidential portraits: from Washington to Obama – in pictures

Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled their official portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington on Monday. Painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald respectively, they are the first official presidential portraits by African American artists

Continue reading…
Source: gad

Official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled

  • Pictures to hang at National Portrait Gallery in Washington
  • Official portraits painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald

Official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled on Monday at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

The Obamas were there to see the unveiling of the gallery’s first commissions of official portraits by African American artists.

Continue reading…
Source: gad

The epic failure of our age: how the west let down Syria

The seven-year conflict has marked a tipping point in the balance of power between the US and Russia, and has triggered a strategic disaster whose ramifications are still playing out

It was a sunny morning on Saturday 31 August 2013 – Labor Day weekend in the US – when Barack Obama strolled into the Rose Garden of the White House. The last thing most Americans were thinking about was war in a far-off Middle Eastern country.

But Obama faced a dilemma. The decision he was about to announce would come to be seen as a defining moment for his presidency. It also marked a tipping point for the international strategic balance of power. It was a moment that would transform the civil war in Syria into the epic failure of our age.

Continue reading…
Source: gad

The Guardian view on Trump’s State of the Union: platitudes, few plans and plenty of division | Editorial

Trump happily applauded his own address to Congress. The rest of us should not

Rituals are designed not merely to embody but preserve and perpetuate a community’s beliefs. One danger is that they are hollowed out, form superseding substance as people forget their meaning. This was the risk Thomas Jefferson identified when he abandoned the State of the Union address as disturbingly monarchical, and judged that the constitutional requirement to inform and make recommendations to Congress could be satisfied in writing. It was not until over a century later that Woodrow Wilson – pursuing a stronger, more forceful presidency, in part via publicity and press controls – would reinstate it. An event that theoretically focused on accountability became a moment of showmanship: ideal for Donald Trump, who through his years as developer, reality star and now president has projected an image, pocketed proceeds and indulging his whims, while those around him get on with their unsavoury business.

On Tuesday he basked in the limelight. He was applauded (including by himself) merely for being Teleprompter Trump, not Twitter Trump, as the shorthand has it: sticking to a speech that repeated all the platitudes expected of an American president. These occasions rarely prove memorable, let alone groundbreaking; but previous administrations have at least tried to set a course and send a clear message of priorities. Despite its length and grandiosity, the address was mostly self-congratulation, laying out little in the way of plans. The pro-forma calls for bipartisanship and unity, designed to make him more palatable to the wider public, were garnished with winks to his base. It was designed to provide only enough (very minimal) respectability to allow Republicans to continue pursuing their goals without having to oust him. It was a presidential speech in the sense of being “in the style of a president”, rather than in rising to the office. It was a speech that talked of “all of us, together” while furthering the cause of division with the comment that “Americans are dreamers too”; the attack on “disastrous Obamacare”; the announcement that “we have ended the war on clean coal”; the dig that “we proudly stand for the national anthem”.

Continue reading…
Source: gad

The Final Year review – Trump looms over poignant portrait of Obama’s farewell

Greg Barker’s respectful film, shot behind the scenes at the White House, documents the end of an era – and the shock of what happened next

There is an unintentional sadness to this film from Greg Barker. It’s a respectful documentary about Barack Obama’s final year in the US presidency, and everyone in front of and behind the camera clearly assumes that the baton is about to be euphorically passed on to Hillary Clinton. This feels like a feature-length season finale to TV’s The West Wing.

The title reminded me a little of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay collection We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy – yet that sense of an ending is very different. The mood here is not complacency exactly, but with hindsight we can see a kind of innocence, or even naivety, as everyone earnestly goes about their legacy-defining projects as the hour of Hillary’s coronation draws near. When we witness Donald Trump’s victory in the final 10 minutes, the film seems to go into shock, to become numb, like the people whose unassailable political superiority it had been quietly celebrating. Barker is unable to look back and reassess the story he has been telling. Things change, and there’s incidentally an uncomfortable moment at the beginning when Aung San Suu Kyi is glimpsed placidly waving: a globally revered Good Thing.

Continue reading…
Source: gad