Jonathan Raban: Nobody now mentions the colour of his skin

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The Independent Online

Well, the air sure tastes different now. One can wake in the morning comforted by the thought that the United States has returned to its proper place in the world, as a senior colleague, not the feared bully-boy, among nations, while at home there's a widely shared sense that the Obama administration is doing everything in its (limited) power to cope intelligently with the Great Recession.

Obama himself has set an admirable tone of reason, fairness, caution, and cool in its best sense. There's been an invigorating appearance of effortlessness in his transformation from unseasoned senator and candidate to President of the United States. Nobody now mentions the colour of his skin: he's simply – and commandingly – The Prez.

I think it's disappointing that he didn't take a stronger lead on global climate change at the G20 summit, I fret over the administration's plans for Afghanistan, which are still impenetrably squishy, and it's way too early to begin to see the impact, or otherwise, of the $787bn stimulus package. What Obama has achieved so far is more psychological than actual, but this change in mood is a powerful tonic, and a promise, I very much hope, of more substantial things to come.

But then, in the rearview mirror, I catch sight of a month-long visit to Britain in August 1997, when the dew still glistened on the new Blair government as it passed the 100-day mark, and what bliss it was in that dawn to be alive. For Obama now as for Blair then, two cheers are certainly in order, but three would over-egg the pudding.

Jonathan Raban's books include a collection of post-9/11 essays, 'My Holy War'