21 de Feb de 2020

Nacional

A sympathy vote that went missing

While pausing at a campaign stop at a bachanalian festival in the midst of a presidential election campaign, someone hurls a full can of...

While pausing at a campaign stop at a bachanalian festival in the midst of a presidential election campaign, someone hurls a full can of beer at your head and the resulting cut calls for an uncomfortable visit to hospital where 25 (plastic surgery) stitches are inserted, near the lips that have been much puckered kissing the people.

Suspicion naturally falls on a supporter of another candidate. The public is indignant and rallies around with a sympathy vote that quickly wipes out the deficit you are suffering in the polls.

A happy scenario, but in the real world of Panamanian politics it hasn’t quite worked out like that. The target was PRD candidate Balbina Herrera or the Cartier boutique spectacles the heart of the people likes to sport.

The hurler was, according to some sources, known to the victim, but in a land where the law is the law and applied equally to all citizens, that wouldn’t save him. But this is where the script starts to blur.

TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK. The candidate forgave the offender and reminded him that on May 3 “I will be president” (not quite true, even if she wins, she will be president elect). So no charges. A receptive electorate changes its mind about rival candidate Ricardo Martinelli and stands by with its sympathy vote for the abused La Chola.

Not so, if the callers to a local radio station are to be believed, they were outraged. A crime is a crime, and if a candidate can absolve it with a wave of the hand, what would happen if she became president? Justice side-tracked again? The comments were pity and strong.

Compare the forgiveness for a physical injury to what happened to the Iraqi journalist who threw a couple of light weight worn out shoes at lame duck former President George W. Bush. His aim twice over was a way wide of the mark, and he probably had more justification for his actions that the Penonome hurler.

He was thrown to the ground, arrested and according to his brother roughed up in jail where he has lingered for months awaiting trial. He faces a potential long term jail sentence if convicted. But within the Iraq population he is a hero.

NEW HOPE. After a day of kiss and let’s make up, in Panama the spotlight turned last night to Washington where President Barack Obama spoke to lawmakers, the judiciary, military and to the people of America.

It was a return to the feisty style that propelled him to the House, which seems to have lain dormant since he assumed office. He was forceful, confident, humorous, frank, and optimistic, all rolled into one call for unity in the fight to overcome the economic crisis he inherited.

He talked of his determination and the strength of the people to prove that the US is not a country that surrenders to adversity, and that after the battle the country will be stronger.

He received uncounted standing ovations, that at times seemed orchestrated as House Leader Nancy Pelosi , sitting behind him, kept leaping to her feet to lead the applause. Even VP Joe Biden seemed to be taking his cues from her. Obama used some phrases from the past to underscore his message, including a reference to President John F. Kennedy’s “Ask now what we can do for you” speech and linking it to Senator Ted Kennedy’s legislative record and his battle with cancer.

Not so apt, I thought, was his reference to Americans not being quitters. “I am not a quitter” was the memorable phrase used by disgraced President Richard Nixon , before his memorable departure by helicopter from the House.

But that aside it was a challenging speech that has given hope to many, and lays the path to a return to stability on the foundations of Health Care, Education and moving from oil dependency.

Would that someone running for office in Panama could match his words and actions. But inspiration is lacking in a campaign dominated by dirty tricks and mud slinging and a voting populace that seems to be infected with the “throw the bums out” malaise. And in the shadows the sycophants lay waiting to claim their paybacks when the voters hand the keys of the till to a new president.