Comparing US and Philippine presidents Unit 1012

Comparing US and Philippine presidents Featured

NOV. 30, 2018 saw the passing of George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. The last of the US presidents to see combat in World War 2, Bush was a navy pilot who was shot down in the Pacific but was rescued and survived. He was an authentic American Hero of a generation that produced thousands of heroes.

President Bush was the US President I am most acquainted with as his trajectory from being Ronald Reagan’s vice president to president coincided with my schooling at Harvard from 1988 to 1989. The Kennedy School of Government (KSG) was one of the centers of academic discourse on political economy and many of our professors were engaged as part-time consultants to both Democratic and Republican candidates. Thus, campus partisan debates were heated but lively and we, foreign students, were privileged to be assigned “case analyses” involving election campaign strategies. I had a front row seat in the 1988 presidential campaign and a glimpse of the US democratic system through the lens of both theoretical and pragmatic politics.

Both houses of the US Congress then were controlled by the Democratic Party. It is to his genius that Republican President Bush, shaped bipartisan support for his foreign policy-driven administration. His “regime change” military operations in Panama booted out the dictator Noriega installing a US-friendly democratic government. It was considered then as heavy-handed. But his crowning glory was perhaps “Operation Desert Storm.” He hammered a coalition force of three dozen countries of the United Nations and defeated the Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein that invaded and annexed Kuwait.

After just one four-year term of George H.W. from 1989 to 1993, four presidents followed; Bill Clinton, 1993 to 2001; George W. Bush, 2001 to 2009; Barack Obama, 2009-2017; and Donald Trump, 2017.

Coinciding roughly with these periods, we’ve also had four Philippine presidents; “Erap” Estrada, 1998 to 2001; Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, 2001 to 2010; Benigno “PNoy”Aquino, 2010 to 2016; and Rodrigo Duterte, 2016.

I can’t help contrasting the administrations of American presidents with those of our own during each parallel incumbency. Clinton was impeached by the US Congress on his sexual dalliances with a White House intern but acquitted by the Senate and went on to spark a US economic growth that produced budget surpluses. Despite his impeachment, he left office with the highest approval rating of any post-war president and is now ranked among the great American presidents.

Erap, a populist president started a career in movies and his exploits onscreen propelled him to various elective offices. His base “the masa” never could quite differentiate between his fictitious and real roles. As a superb thespian, he projected the image of a man of the masses concealing his incompetence and camouflaging his corrupt administration. He was impeached but his Senate trial was aborted as a “people power” uprising ensued, causing him to abandon the presidency. He was later convicted for plunder but got a presidential pardon from his successor, president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He is now the mayor of the city of Manila.

The daughter of a Philippine president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an economist, was touted as the most prepared for the highest office. But her administration was marred by electoral fraud and corruption, which eclipsed her achievements. Her watch was weighed down by accusations of her husband’s alleged meddling; their conjugal partnership was labeled as second only to the Marcoses. She spent years after her term incarcerated not in a prison cell but in a hospital bed. She was acquitted of plunder charges and has staged a comeback as a congressman and is now the Speaker of the House.

Her US counterpart was George “Dubya” Bush. The September 11 Twin Towers terrorist attack in New York City and his response defined his presidency. His “war on terror” and the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaida terror architect, drove him to wage war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The American forces were bogged down in a war in the Persian Gulf whose reverberations are felt to this day. It is now the longest American war. His administration ended with the US housing market crash precipitating the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2009 that infected the world economy and nearly caused a total US economic collapse, were it not for the financial stimulus applied by his successor president Obama, which was echoed by major massive stimuli from Europe and China.

Barack Obama, 44th US President and the first Afro-American to hold that office, engineered the US economic recovery, tapered down US troops presence in the Persian Gulf, and carried out the killing of Osama bin Laden. The last had unintended consequences, giving birth to the IS, a much deadlier international terrorist group.

The Philippine counterpart was another son of a president, Benigno Aquino 3rd who, in his six-year incumbency, caused the dismantling of his mother’s already flawed people power legacy. He was just an entitled scion of a political clan totally unprepared for the rigors and discipline of the presidency. His administration was marked by retribution, bribing a subservient Congress to evict a chief justice of the Supreme Court. He likewise allowed subalterns to conjure faulty and corrupt financial instruments for rent-seeking endeavors. He may yet go to prison.

Generally, US presidents were not smeared with personal corruption. Clinton, Bush and Obama left office with heads held high. Not with their Philippine counterparts — Erap, Gloria and PNoy.

Which brings us to the current presidents, Trump and Duterte. The jury is still out on these two. The Donald has a flawed personality that the US press, whom he accuses of being the “enemy of the people and purveyors of fake news,” has fact-checked a compendium of lies from his social media tweets and public pronouncements. His former defense secretary described him as one “who does not read and suggests policy actions that could be illegal,” inferring that this American president is not qualified to lead the great American people.

The Deegong has been unfairly compared to the Donald. His colorful language sometimes bordering on obscenity tends to shock people either to capture attention (claims he’s joking) or simply to stress a point. But to his admirers and sycophants, this is part of his genius as a political strategist.

Dr. Pedrito “Toti” Morales, a Fil-American and an astute observer of Philippine politics, has this to say on their qualifications: “Trump never had any position in government service, being more of a businessman real estate developer billionaire with a record of 10 bankruptcies. Duterte is a trained lawyer, fiscal, prosecutor, and had 23 years as mayor and one term as a congressman…He focuses more on the uplift of the poor majority in terms of delivery of government services…”

Dinky Munda, an artist and a political blogger, has this to say: “Trump will be impeached by a Democrat Congress. Digong may survive politically, but may not last (end) his term (stroke, cardiac arrest).”

That is one helluva prediction considering the rumors about the President’s health. But Munda has this rejoinder: “Digong is possible to be our best president, but he is squandering his political capital needlessly! Of the 16 million voters who voted for him, 50 were women, while 90 percent Christian. Why is he pissing on them off?”

Why indeed?000
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