This article (and accompanying bertoon) appear in today’s Malta Independent on Sunday.
Mister President the First
In the coming week Barack Obama will be sworn in as the next President of the United States of America. There was almost a baptism of fire for the first black President when a United Airways plane hit a couple of geese too many and was forced to make an emergency landing in the freezing waters of the Hudson River metres away from the towering Manhattan blocks. Thankfully the gods must have thought that this would be one leftover disaster too many for the brand new President and they made sure that none of the passengers on board perished.
Barack Obama’s kids can peacefully choose the pooch that best fits the White House setting without having to attend sad funerals of Connecticut citizens before taking seat at King Bush’s Court. The time of the Madness of that King George is over – if you are willing to suspend your belief and compare a president to a king for a moment – while over in the island of milk and honey a new symbolic reign of another George is about to begin.
Mister President the Second
Symbolic yes, because the role is largely symbolic and mostly ceremonial. Which does not in any way mean that this latest in the line of PLPN Presidents does not come with any of the baggage and innuendos that this kind of appointment has gotten us used to hitherto. None of the bios about George Abela mention any second name so we do not have a clue whether, like his predecessor, he will insist on a more presidential kind of name. If you ask me I’d go for George Frederick Abela. He does have the look of a George Frederick… don’t ask why though… it’s just pure instinct.
If truth be told (and you do not have to dig too deeply this time) the reasons for George F. Abela (yep, I’m sticking to my invention) taking over at San Anton from the sweet FA’s (see there’s poetry in the FA continuity – the mind ALWAYS finds a good justification) are not exactly the stuff of which Dan Brown’s mediocre mysteries are made of. It does not take the mind of a sleuth nor does it take the intellectual capacity of a pink paper paparazzi to add two and two together to understand the goings on behind this latest of moves for the nation by the ever so magnanimous duopoly of ours.
Before I proceed to dedicate a large portion of this article to this matter let me place hand on heart and say that I do not dislike George Abela. Nor do I like him. I cannot hold either of the two feelings towards a man I barely know and with whom my closest connection has probably been exchanging blows, kicks and shots with a son of his during some football match among law students (again I may be completely wrong on that count too). In any case my point is that what I have to say transcends the subject of George Abela the person and politician and to a certain extent the suitability of the incumbent to the role of President.
What I have to say follows the not too indifferent amount of print that was dedicated over the past two weeks to the subject. I had a couple of favourites when it comes to the reasoning behind it all. One writes for a rival Sunday (Mark Anthony Falzon and his wonderful piece “Neither Philosopher, nor King) and the other writes a blog (Fausto Majistral – malta9thermidor – in his post “A New President”). The first directed his piece mainly at explaining that choosing presidents from among the milieu of veterans of the parliamentary scene may not be too bad an idea after all. The second dedicated his usual style to outlining three criteria which would make someone a good president. Bravo to both… I recommend them both for your perusal.
To fast forward this part of the thinking, when it comes to examining the suitability from an objective point of view, George Abela fits the bill without hesitation. Political acumen he has, political experience too and – hear this – he is liked by the people that count. Now there is much to be read in that last bit of the sentence (and I hasten to add that it is my own and not attributable to the good men whose works I referred to above). The implication is there for all to see among the declarations on “national unity” and “a man for all parties” and the like. Suddenly every flag waving cognoscente of the partisan kind has been silenced to acquiescence and prepped for admiration of this President of the Partisan Tribes.
The irony is there clear enough for all those with eyes to see. The first curtain that has to fall in this charade is all this drama about “national unity” being solely something that finds consensus among the two behemoths that are Malta’s excuse for political parties. They’ve told the lie once too often and now they believe it all too readily. So long as they will not be up to their usual tantrums of naysaying whatever the opponent is up to then that means that Malta has its moment of national unity. Which is a bit like saying that because Hamas and Israel both decide not to shoot or explode bombs on one day of the week then that means that we have everlasting peace.
Oftentimes J’accuse feels that it is its duty to yell to all and sundry that the Emperor is running around in his birthday suit. This is one of the oftentimes. Here’s the naked truth – at least as we see it without any rosy or blue tinted glasses.
In the blue corner we have GonziPN. They survived a couple of scares over the past seasons as those guys down the road from Pieta’ looked poised first to snatch the seat of power and then, having failed to do so, these guys looked poised to re-embrace and choose as leader a man who seemed to have the brawn and brain to match Gonzi’s Men in Blue. Such Man was George Abela. Do we know the PN feared his becoming their number one opponent? We cannot know for sure in a way because what we do know is that in the folly that is local politics, George Abela is the nationalists’ number one choice for Labour Leader so the hard working guys at Pieta were not prepared to risk having an affable man as the Labour daddy.
Which brings us to Joseph “Inhobbkom” Muscat. Ok, his plans to rapidly reform Dar it-Transparenza are not going as smoothly and quickly as he might have hoped but still he is there in the driving seat (straddled as he is by two anachronisms) and he got there by beating George Abela in an election campaign that was not all that easy. Be that as it may the living spectre (if you will allow this pathetic fallacy of an oxymoron) of George Abela hovered over every potential mistake of the bearded saviour from Burmarrad and this might have made Joseph sweat a tad bit more than during his regular visit to the Ta’ Qali Workout museum.
So George Abela was in an unenviable position of being popular with the wrong kind of people. Many nationalists liked him. Many labourites liked him. Hell even the New Greens under Arnold seemed to like the guy. The only people who had a problem with all this popularity were those scheming elves at Dar Centrali and those who felt GA could become a threat to Inhobbkom-J. As in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar I pictured Gonzi and Joseph with their respective minions standing on some quickly assembled scaffolding singing “Must go, must go,this Georgie must go!” (must die would be too much… even for the macchiavallian spinmeisters).
So here they were: one worried for his PM seat, the other for his seat as Leader of Labour… and for once the paths of duopolisic destiny intertwined and their interests were as one. George for President became the unanimous call. Inhobbkom-J felt he had had a say in picking a man for all (partisan) people. Gonzi could feel he had duped the Labourites into thinking he can heed the other side and that he had given them the chance to pick a leader – when in actual fact he had handed them the sword with which to slay the only credible alternative should Inhobbkom-J falter in any way.
So far so good… but then they began singing plaudits about how it’s a President for the people and a man of unity. No sirs. It’s a President of partisan combobulation – a likeable one at that but the parthenogenetic manner of his birth is there for all to see… once again the two primadonnas of Maltese politics converged to illude themselves that theirs is governance for all the people and they had their baby without the necessary spunk to give authenticity to their claim. Mater semper certa est (or in this case sunt), pater nunquam …. It’s Madness, George, but not through any fault of your own. Congratulations.
Mister Prime Minister – Ehud the Sorry
I’ve taken up too much space on that matter and so will have to forego writing about why I think AD might be about to lose the plot and how we will lose another chance to break the damaging hegemony of PLPN on Maltese politics. Instead I feel obliged to dedicate a few lines to Ehud Olmert who should henceforth be known as “the sorry”. It was one of those nights when I plonked myself on the sofa watching the repeating news on BBC that kept switching from the heroic efforts of a US pilot to the ghastly bombardments in Gaza. The international press had received incontrovertible proof that Israel was using white phosphorous on civilians and then we heard that Israeli troops had opened fire on a UN food compound.
The news then switched to a not too contrite looking Ehud Olmert meeting a lost Ban Ki-Moon and blurting out a “sorry”. Sorry? Now this is no time to take sides. Life is taken by a Hamas driven rocket as much as it is taken by an Israeli warhead. Taking sides only fuels more controversy as it did on Italian TV when (leftie) journalist Lucia Annunziata walked out on Santoro after having claimed that his programme was too biased in favour of Palestine. Even Reuters came under attack by some readers who felt (contemporaneously) that it was both too pro-Israeli and too pro-Palestinian. The situation is sad whichever way you look at it. The virtual impotence of the international community is evident and the main victims are innocent lives.
My last word comes from the technological corner. The news that Steve Jobs has had to take a sabbatical from work hit the Apple world like a tsunami. Shares in Apple immediately shook at the idea of the guru’s sabbatical becoming permanent. Microsoft’s Bill Gates had faded out of the business side of affairs without too much damage to the gigantic firm. It seems that Apple might be a bit too Jobs dependent and memory of the previous turnarounds to its fortunes orchestrated by Mr Jobs might be still too clear for any confident imagination of life after Jobs. We shall see.
No new blogs to signal for now so I will suggest a good music streaming site: www.lastfm.com. Excellent for discovering new bands (and for exchanging musical thoughts with your darling). That’s all from J’accuse for this week… next week we’ll be in Brussels for the European Journalism Centre blogging conference. I leave you with this ditty I wrote:
Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Thrilled the partisans, low and high
So to get Georgie out of the way
In San Anton they bade him stay