PRAGUE, Czech Republic, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Well, well, well — who would have thought! Who would have thought indeed!
Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko — the leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, poisoned and disfigured by his enemies, a darling of the West — is not-so-surprisingly ousted in the first round of presidential elections by two pro-Russian candidates — one more corrupt than the other. And in Massachusetts — a mostly liberal U.S. state — a Senate seat held by the Democratic Party for 40 years goes unmistakably Republican.
The Orange Revolution — which should have brought Ukraine a democracy and free-market economy, closer to NATO and the European Union — is all but dead.
Yushchenko succumbed to his own arrogance failing to make the runoff for president and leaving the field to the ever corrupt Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her equally corrupt predecessor Viktor Yanukovych. In 2005 Yanukovych, who had nearly stolen the disputed presidential elections through ballot stuffing before the Ukrainian Supreme Court threw out the results, was forced into a rerun won at that time by Yushchenko.
Tymoshenko, one of Yushchenko’s allies, was always the power behind the throne. Not to be underestimated and with an ego the size of Jupiter, Tymoshenko slowly took the reins of power around her and forced herself to be appointed Yushchenko’s prime minister. Yushchenko would have been better off remaining Ukraine’s Central Bank governor where he was actually doing an outstanding job. Tymoshenko became a billionaire in the early days through dubious business dealings. Yanukovych is a convicted criminal and former Soviet apparatchik.
Nonetheless, in this choice between cholera and typhus — and I know both — I go with Yanukovych.
Meanwhile in the United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was supposed to shore up President Obama’s “filibuster proof” majority in Congress. It was supposed to make the Democratic Senate impenetrable to Republicans. It was supposed to give President Obama his great healthcare victory. Oh my, the topsy-turvy world of U.S. politics has just blown a nice big hole in that strategy.
Waiting for her anointment only a few months ago, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley sleep-walked through the holiday winter season. She awoke in January to find she was not the newly elected junior senator of Massachusetts. The seat held by Edward Kennedy for four decades fell to a barely known neophyte Republican member of the Massachusetts Legislature. Well done Ms. Coakley. Well done Democratic Party. Well done Mr. President.
There were many issues in Massachusetts, many of them local. There was corruption in the state government and unpopular taxes that had been pushed through the state Legislature. While being mostly a Democratic state in federal elections, Massachusetts has had several Republican governors over the past years including Bill Weld and Mitt Romney — two Republicans with national reputations and the latter a once-and-still potential presidential candidate for 2012.
But to anyone who had not fallen out of bed onto their heads, the special election to fill Kennedy’s seat was going to be a referendum on the new federal government and on Obama. The November midterm elections had already sent foreboding signs. Evidently they were not clear enough for candidate Coakley — who must take the most blame for running a campaign so incompetent it even makes the 2007 presidential campaign of Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., seem like a strategic wunderkind.
But it wasn’t just Coakley who missed the boat. Evidently believing in his own legend, Obama rode into Massachusetts to save the day — much like with the U.S. Olympic bid in Copenhagen, and with similarly disastrous results. While the Republican candidate did some good old-fashioned hand shakin’ and barn-stormin’, the Democratic Party rode in on a wave of self-congratulatory overconfidence, simply waiting for the final bell to ring to take the prize. What an absolute botch-up.
The Republican Party knows it cannot be too smug.
A year before President George H.W. Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992, he was sitting pretty in national polls with an 82 percent approval rating.
And lest we forget Britain’s 16th century Thomas Cromwell — they too could lose their head.
As for the Democratic Party — in yet another choice between cholera and typhus — does it stand behind a damaged Obama and a healthcare bill that still leaves 17 million U.S. citizens uninsured?
Or does it drop the president — and his ideas — to prevent an even bigger disaster in November?
I go for the latter.
(UPI International Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin, Copenhagen and Sydney-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. He has advised political personalities and is a founding trustee of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council.)