Thursday, November 29, 2012

Berlin: City Of Museums

A German colleague once told me that I'd need ten days to tour Berlin's museum. He was right. The country which had the birth of printing press, the Reformation movement, cradle of Western Classical music, more Nobel laureates than US and UK combined until 1931, country of Goethe, Schilling and Nietzsche, Nazism, Communism, Holocaust has museums for all and it would very well take ten days to satiate a curious mind.

On the day I arrived in Berlin I trekked to Checkpoint Charlie which was 15 minute walk from the Marriott I stayed in. Only when I stood there in a street could I envisage what a brutal gash through a city the Berlin Wall was. Imagine any city you grew up in and then imagine a wall bisecting it abruptly in the middle. A private museum displays all artifacts from that era including a sub-compact car in which a fully grown adult would stuff himself/herself in the trunk to escape from East Berlin. Before I went to Berlin I browsed through Tina Rosenberg's , Pulitzer and National Book Award winner, 'Haunted Lands'. Rosenberg details the devastation of Eastern Europe by USSR. She details how unified Germany is now prosecuting erstwhile soldiers of East Germany who would shoot at fleeing East Berliners.

The Berlin Wall museum details how Peter Fechter was shot on 17th Aug 1962 by East Berlin soldiers when Fechter attempted a futile escape. The US soldiers on West Berlin stood helpless and watched Fechter bleed to death. The soldiers who shot Fechter were prosecuted in the 90's. Note that it is a contentious prosecution because the soldiers did what was legal in that country at that time.

That architecture plays an integral role to a building and particularly to a museum as thematic as Jewish museum was evident when I went to the Daniel Libeskind designed Jewish Museum in Berlin. Given the shadow of a grotesque tragedy it is natural that the architect tries to evoke a poignant gloom but balance is maintained such that the tragic sense is not overwhelming making the visitor run out in despair. The museum has geometrical alleys and narrow rectangular slices for windows with a cement pathway all intended to evoke a concentration camp feeling. A holocaust tower which has large iron doors and absolute darkness transports the visitor to a grim era.

The genius of Jewish Museum's curator is in ensuring that the museum is not only a tribute to an unspeakable tragedy but in also ensuring that a visitor gets an idea that Jews in Germany lived a culturally rich life contributing to the rich tapestry of the country. That the German Jewish community was an intellectually vibrant community and every inch German citizens is clearly brought out by unique exhibits like the glass mannequins that represent German Jews who fought on behalf of Germany in World War I.

The museum traces artfully the history of persecution of Jews in the centuries before holocaust across Christian Europe. 'Salomon bar Simson', a narrative Hebrew history, recounts the persecution of jews in Germany during the first Crusade 1096 AD. Details of how jews were stereotyped and prohibited from various professions are vivid to learn how hatred seeps into minds. Many Jews would change their last names such as 'Cohn' to 'Coen' to escape persecution. Amongst the many geniuses celebrated was Karl Marx too. Marx was of jewish lineage but his father had converted to Christianity. Marx himself wrote very harshly of Jews that he was accused of anti-semitism.

The most interestingly curious display was a collection of 'detective reports'. A prospective groom was investigated in detail by a detective from the bride's side. The notes include whether the groom had a good job, his salary and even about his mother. This museum is a must visit for any one desirous of learning Jewish cultural contribution to Germany and the world in general.

The DDR museum showcases life in East German days. Every house needed to maintain a 'house book' to record guests staying over 3 days. In libraries supposedly subversive works would be kept separately and labeled 'Poison of thought'. One needed a 'poison pass' to read any of those books. School children practiced throwing grenades and girls had to undergo 'Lehre' or compulsory apprenticeship. Oh by the way East Germans hated abortion more than today's GOP in USA, there was only one 'no' vote against a March 1972 law regulating abortion. Communist economy fixed a professional Engineer's salary at 1470 Marks (1988) and a Bricklayer's salary at 1370 Marks (1988). A chemist earned 1300DM whereas a mineworker earned 1444DM (1988).

The German history museum is breathtaking in scope and could very well take one full day by itself. Indians always haughtily talk of what they 'taught' the world. One exhibit in this museum spoke of what Germans 'learned' from technologically advanced Orient. The city of Augsburg in 1526 regulated aid for poor ensuring they are not dependent on charity by the church. Interesting exhibits on Luther and Reformation impress the vast scope of how the world was changed. Modern day unions have their roots in professional guilds that were established centuries ago for the same purposes. The guilds regulated who practiced a profession in order to stifle competition. Workers guilds practiced pretty much what todays trade unions do.

One very little known museum is the 'Medical History Museum' named after the father of Pathology 'Rudolph Virchow'. This museum has very little exhibits that have an English note. Students of medicine can benefit from a visit. Here too the German's unflinchingly face up to the the dark chapter of medical experimentation in the Nazi era. Twisted beliefs in Darwinism and eugenics led doctors to kill disabled and the mentally challenged in addition to evil experiments on children in Auschwitz and elsewhere.

I'll cover Hitler's last bunker, Holocaust museum and Topography of terror in my next post for the sake of readability.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Leipzig: Music, Repression and Rebellion

I'd like to take a detour from the grim topic of holocaust to an interesting visit that could be called a quintessential German city that reflected Germany's genius and its travails under Stalin's jackboot. Leipzig is little over an hour away from Berlin by train. This city is where Bach, Wagner and Mendelssohn lived and worked. Goethe studied in Leipzig. Leibniz discovered calculus there. It is in Leipzig that the Stasi, the East German Secret Police, unleashed a regime of terror leaving behind 180,000 kilometers of documents. The grass roots movement that finally brought down the Berlin Wall came to a boil in Leipzig.

The recurrent theme of Germany seems to document and face up to its past ghosts whether they be of its own creation like Nazism or imposed from without like Communism. Though Berlin has a STASI museum too it is the Leipzig museum that's more famous.

If we think Orwell predicted the repressive nature of communism we are wrong. Orwell did not even scratch the surface. Here is East Germany the state controlled every aspect of a citizen's life. A spouse or boyfriend could very well be an informer. Children were encouraged to tell on their parents. Here in this museum one comes face to face with an array of exhibits that were the tools of Big Brother. Most exhibits do not have English descriptions but the handheld audio guide comes handy.

The movie 'Lives of others' depicts the STASI vividly. A STASI interrogator would describe the art of interrogation. The suspect is made to sit on a chair upon an yellow cloth and questioned for hours together. After completion of questioning the yellow cloth, suffused with the suspect's body odor, would be sealed in a glass container and indexed clearly. When a subversive pamphlet turns up a police dog sniffs that paper. Depending on where the paper was apprehended bottles of yellow cloth collected from suspects in that area would be given to the dog to sniff and match a cloth. Here at the museum I saw such original glass containers with yellow cloth. At the GDR Museum in Berlin I saw notebooks that East German households had to maintain to register guests staying for more than 3 days.

The taping system was pretty extensive and thousands of phones were bugged. The tapes, the transcription system, vaults for safekeeping of tapes were all on display. The Stasi had elaborate equipment for breaking into houses that included counterfeit machines to duplicate eye, bugs, portable copiers to copy incriminating documents, polaroid cameras. As the movie 'Lives of others' depicts how mail was opened and read the steaming equipment used to steam and open envelopes was show cased here. Just 2 weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall a Stasi official wrote on Oct 31st 1989 to monitor a suspect.

After nearly 2 hours of a depressing peek into the nature of communism I then headed for Johann Sebastian Bach's museum next to St.Thomas church (Thomas Kirche).

Bach symbolizes the Baroque era of western classical music. He lived in Leipzig between 1723-50 where he taught at the Thomasschule, St.Thomas church. The museum is a gem for music lovers. The visitor starts of by getting acquainted with the Bach family tree of musicians stretching back into the 16th century. Music is played softly over the display and as each piece plays the respective composer on the genealogy tree is highlighted. Another room has a map on the floor with markings of what Bach composed in each location. Stunning. A virtual orchestra helps us understand orchestration in Bach's period. An instruction manual for the boys in the dorm tells them not to urinate from windows. At a suitably lit room original scoring sheets by Bach are displayed. Bach was contracted to compose for weekly church services. No church in history ever had in its employ such a prolific composer whose music spoke across ages. What is a Bach museum without a piano? We see how Bach enjoyed learning and playing different instruments. The cafe adjacent to the museum served delicious thin pancake layered with warm crisp thinly sliced apples dusted with nice sweet sugar.

From Bach's home I headed towards Mendelssohn's home. Mendelssohn's 'wedding march' is the most played bridal march. A map tells us of Mendelssohn's travels hither and thither in Germany and even to Edinburgh. In an earlier blog I had wondered about the impact of traveling wide and imbibing wider learning on Bach's music compared to the provincial life led by Thyagaraja, the patron saint of carnatic music.

Architecture is a key aspect of museums in Germany. The museum for East German life is dark and evokes the repressive nature of that era. Unfortunately not a single exhibit had English descriptions.

Recently Wall Street Journal had an article that said the fall of Berlin Wall could possibly be due to a miscommunication amongst the police and rulers. Many who are unfamiliar with the communist history think that some strange catalytic event crystallized in the fall of the evil empire. No. Not at all. Come to Leipzig to understand how a people's movement brought a regime to its fall.

Leipzig city of Bach, Wagner and Goethe was enslaved for four decades. I wondered how could a people with such intellectual history be enslaved. How long could any machinery, even the one as brutally repressive as the communist machinery was, hold down a people? In US we often read about Reagan and Pope John Paul II combined forces to combat the Red terror. In Leipzig I learned of how the church played a central role in anti-communist protests.

St.Nikolai church in Leipzig was the womb of many protests including the string of protests starting in the fall of 1989. Tens of thousands milled around the church and challenged the might of the Soviet empire.

Just before I decided to head to the train station for return I figured out that mathematician Liebniz is honored with a statue at the University of Leipzig. Leibniz invented Calculus but was cheated from being recognized by Isaac Newton. Newton also had invented the calculus but as head of Royal Society Newton indulged in pettiness to rob Leibniz of due credit. Today historians recognize both as having independently inventing calculus and changing how we live for centuries to come. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jeyamohan and Holocaust: The poisonous edge of skepticism

I just returned from a history tour in Germany centered mostly around Third Reich and Holocaust. I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau concentration camps along with visits to Berlin's fabled Jewish history museum and holocaust museum. As an avid reader of Jewish history and holocaust a tour like this was long desired. Did I learn anything new beyond what I know through reading books by survivors and historians?

Crematorium Ovens at Dachau, Near Munich in Germany

Contemporary Tamil fiction writer Jeyamohan visited USA in 2009 and toured Boston for a day. He happened to visit a small holocaust memorial in Boston and in his role as public intellectual he sought to raise some questions. The 'proof' for holocaust appears to be based more on hearsay and memoirs of victims and we do not know if they were subject to historical analysis. Holocaust deniers like David Irving have not been answered decisively. Is American government promoting talk of holocaust in order to not discuss America's own nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Jeyamohan is not an anti-semite though these questions have been all posed by deeply anti-semitic haters. I'll assume he was posing as a skeptic seeking to appear as an intellectual who is disapassionately questioning deeply held ideas. I'll seek to answer Jeyamohan's question only because they give a framework.

We all think we know holocaust simply because we watched 'Schindler's List' or 'The Reader' or 'The Pianist'. A few discerning readers might add Elie Wiesel's book 'Night' or even fewer might refer Primo Levi's 'Survival in Auschwitz'. Some may have watched one or two documentaries even. All of those give only a glimpse into a horror that remains, fortunately, unparalleled in human history. Of course some also ask 'why is holocaust unique? should the word 'holocaust' be used only to refer to those killed Jews?'.

Author of the book 'German genius' points to a historical anomaly with regard to holocaust. Every historical event is usually much talked about in the immediately succeeding years and slowly fades from memory. Holocaust on the other hand was talked very little in the immediate years after the end of the war but has seen a phenomenal amount of talk in recent decades. This is an inversion of historical process. There are several reasons for this.

In the immediate years after the end of the war the world, particularly the two emergent super powers, were more intent on carving up Germany and Eastern Europe and locking themselves in a deadly ideological battle. While the Nuremberg trials progressed and several Nazi leaders were executed as punishment for war crimes many more escaped and resettled in African or Latin American countries. A vast majority of the Nazi death camps, especially the ones in Poland like Auschwitz-Birkenau etc, fell behind the iron curtain.

USSR was more keen on talking about how communists were killed by Hitler and downplaying the rest of the victims, most notably the jews. USSR, after all, was a deeply anti-semitic country that donated to the world the word 'pogrom'.

What of Israel itself? A nation for the jews did not come about for another 3 years until 1948. In those days the Jewish community did not have the time to sit and mourn its losses but had to lobby for a nation. The UN vote only promised a nation to Israel alongside Palestine. Nobody, not even the US, guaranteed a secure Israel let alone any means to survive. The grand Mufti of Jerusalem declared 'we will push you into the red sea'. Armies from Jordan, Syria and Egypt raced towards Israel to snuff it out at its very birth. In this context Israel itself hesitated to talk of holocaust and the millions  of Jews killed only because they were afraid that it would be seen as a sign of weakness and a lack of man power. Accepting that nearly 2/3rd of entire Jewish population perished without any resistance was too apalling to even accept in the face of an onslaught.

Further complications arose from talking about a little known aspect of holocaust that is not talked about much even today. The Jewish councils in the ghettos that were in charge of selecting people for trains to Auschwitz and the 'sonderkommandos' that worked in gas chambers cleaning out the dead were only barely mentioned and that too as 'collaborators'. Today they are looked at as much a victim as those who died. Memoirs by sonderkommandos detail what emotional scars such duties leave. Those memoirs, Mr Jeyamohan, are not vacuous exaggerated tales but cries of tormented hearts that have lived through an inhuman tragedy that words cannot capture.

We think seeing Amon Goeth in 'Schindler's List' shoot people at random in the midst of having sex somehow captures the horror. No. He was more evil. He was more deliberate. A documentary details the meeting of a girl who worked at Goeth's home with Goeth's own daughter in Plaszow, Poland where Goeth ran the camp. Death was not a random careless accident. It was deliberate and it stalked every inmate. Some critics have demurred that Spielberg simplified the horror by depicting Goeth as an impulsive, careless murderer.

There are parts of holocaust that Hollywood would not even dare to touch. The medical experiments on children and women by Dr Joseph Mengele are too horrendous to even recount. I visited the Medical history Museum in Berlin. There they have recounted unflinchingly how the medical community sold its soul to the devil. At Dachau there is a photo that depicts the 'high altitude experiment'. In order to find out the odds of a survival of a Luftwaffe pilot who ejects from his aircraft at high altitudes a prisoner was sent into a pressurized room and, with doctors observing, the pressure was lowered to the point where the prisoner died in front of their eyes. The photo was amongst the thousands taken by the SS themselves. Experiments were conducted to see how TB spread in human body, how human body reacted to extreme cold, lamp shades were made of human skin, twin children were killed for eugenics study.

Jeyamohan wonders if such tales were scrutinized by historians. Every museum in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany and in Auschwitz functions under the highest standards. Jews know very well that even at the slightest whiff of exaggeration there are heartless people waiting to white wash the entire horror. The letters displayed, the admission cards at Auschwitz, the train tickets, invoices for poison gas Zyklon B, remnants of gas chambers, intact crematoriums, mobile gassing vans, the death registers, population census of jews before and after the war in each neighborhood all tell a grim story.

A recent documentary by BBC tells the story of 'Kindertrains'. Jewish children were sent by the hundreds from France to Britain to escape oncoming horror. A book based on that documentary is not a he-says-she-says type but a heart rending historical document. A million jewish children died in the holocaust.

Evil holocaust deniers like David Irving have played mischief with conspiracies like 'where is Hitler's order for Final solution?'. While some were implied some orders were not. At the 'Topography of terror' museum, erected at the very spot in Berlin where the Gestapo headquarters once stood, an audio recording of the chilling words of Himmler calling for extermination is available for willing ears to listen. To cite Irving as source for intellectual skepticism is a shame. It only shows the danger of what happens when Jeyamohan wades into territories beyond his expertise. Irving's book on World War II does not even have entry for 'holocaust' in the index instead it only has an entry "Jewish Problem".

Rudolph Hoss, commandant of Auschwitz, has written his own memoirs titled 'Commandant'. If Jeyamohan thinks tales by survivors are just tales let him read that. A doctor who aided Mengele has written "Eye witness at Auschwitz". The doctor details in graphic manner of how he once saved a small girl who happened to survive inside a gas chamber. Hoss details how mothers, fully aware of what was coming, used to play with children before stepping into gas chambers. What else can they do?

Photos by the thousands are in archives. Every photo displayed in museums is credentialed and authenticated. At the 'Topography of terror' museum I was astounded to see a photograph picked for a unique depiction. Amongst hundreds of people giving the Hitler salute just one man would stand defiantly with folded arms. The museum had a note that the man's identity was not known for sure. Imagine sifting through thousands of photo to exhibit just that one very unique photo and what professionalism in saying that the identity is not known. The museum also had originals of Gestapo interrogation transcripts in binders for interested visitors to read and understand the regime of terror. Is this what Jeyamohan calls 'hearsay'?

While top Nazis were investigated and executed at Nuremberg notorious ones like Josef Mengele and Adolph Eichmann had escaped capture. Eichmann was later abducted by Israel is a movie like operation and arraigned at an Israeli court. Writer Hannah Arendt's 'Banality of evil' recounts that trial. Interestingly the road adjacent to where Hitlers last bunker once stood is named 'Hannah Arendt'. Mengele was never captured. Many nations who sheltered these Nazis were anti-semitic so Israel and international law never reached them.

Many lesser Nazis slipped into public lives too. In an embarrassing incident Soviet run Eastern Germany released a list of 16 judges in West Germany who were known to be Nazis. Later they were dismissed. Only after 20 years was a trial conducted in Frankfurt to bring to justice the killers at Auschwitz. Most were only awarded 5-7 years imprisonment. In a very unique display at the museum of Terror we are shown how only in 1972 just 16 officers of Reich Security officers were investigated by the prosecutor in Berlin . Of that only two were sentenced.

The fall of Soviet empire, opening up of Poland and the Nazi death camps in Poland like Auschwitz and Treblinka have spurred further scholarship in holocaust. That is why as recently as 2008 a book on holocaust, 'The years of extermination' by Saul Friedlander, was considered fresh with details that it was awarded the Pulitzer. Elie Wiesel's novel, Primo Levi's memoir, Anne Frank's diary are all not just memoirs but historical documents. At Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam there are originals of their parents admission cards to Auschwitz. At Bergen-Belsen Anne Frank met her friend who later survived  the war to corroborate the tales. Anne Frank's own father, Otto Frank, was the sole survivor in that family. 140,000 Jews lived in Netherlands before the war. Only 30,000 survived. At Lvov out of 120,000 Jews just a few less than 1000 survived the war. Prior to war Jews were nearly 5% of the population in Hungary. Nearly 400,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in Auschwitz alone bringing their survivors percentage down to 1.4%.

The Nazi regime organized death on an industrial scale using methods of industry to achieve mass killing by the thousands at an instant. Dachau alone had more than 50 sub camps. Prisoners from far off Italy and interior Russia were carted into Auschwitz. Auschwitz was a camp established for only one purpose, to exterminate, at the heart of Europe.

1.3 Million People were killed in Auschwitz. 1.1 Million were Jews.
In a letter I wrote I objected to Jeyamohan that it is a grave mistake to equate Holocaust with the bombing of Hiroshima. One is memorial to the murder of unarmed women and children by a country where they lived as citizens for no other sin than being Jews. The other was an act of war against a country that initiated war. Japan was a cruel, very cruel, imperial power that refused to end the war even after Hitler was defeated. It is good to ask questions that provoke in order to illuminate lesser known dark angles but Jeyamohan seems to ask these questions only to provoke. Skepticism towards anything that comes to be seen as 'common knowledge' is good. It is not a sin to ask "did 6 million die". An intellectual skeptic would take it further to understand and study. Just to ask a question and smugly leaving it at that only betrays an ulterior motive of seeking to appear dispassionate and intellectual. By the way why does no one ask "could it have been more". In any riot, any genocide anybody wonders 'could it have been more'. Only when it comes to holocaust do people ask "was it really that much"? Unlike Jeyamohan most of those who ask that are sheer anti-semites.

The worst part was where Jeyamohan says he has watched hundreds of movies regarding holocaust. The horrors like the medical experiments are not captured in any movie. Rudolph Hoss lived with his family just outside the Auschwitz camp. He spends time with his children and came to the camp to kill children. Educated Nazi officer would fling a child into a wall and watch the brains splatter across. A group of Nazi officers once played football with a one year child and made its mother wipe the blood of their boots. Can any art form, words or painting or movies, capture such a horror? Is there any explanation in any psychology or philosophy for any of that? Nazis would advertise why killing the disabled was good for the economy. What movie has even depicted that?

What were my ideas when I ended the tour? What is the impact of Holocaust on Israel today? What have the Jews taught the world by talking about holocaust? All that and more later.


Interested readers can see my photographs with notes at

History of the Jews in hungary
Lvov Ghetto

Links from Jeyamohan:
Jemo in Boston

Monday, November 5, 2012

Obama's Second Coming: Learn Humility and Leadership

Things fall apart; The center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

                                                  ----- "The Second Coming" by W.B.Yeats

Just a month back who would have thought that come election day Obama would be in a dead heat with Mitt Romney? The race is statistically tied. Opinion polls are all over the map. Barring an Obama win by a whisker any other outcome, including an Obama landslide, would grab the headlines and rewrite US political history. 

It is political campaign principle to try and define one's opponent before he/she has had a chance to define himself/herself to the public at large. Bill Clinton used it to great effect in 1996 to define Bob Dole before Dole could define himself for the electorate. Bush repeated it in 2004 defining Kerry as 'flip-flopper'. Romney had to take a very rough beating all through spring and summer when Obama pummeled him on airwaves as a corporate raider, a leech on the poor, called his economic philosophy 'Romneyhood: Reverse Robinhood" and more. All that worked as expected until the first debate.

I belong to a distinctive minority who do not think that Obama is a great orator and not an articulate person when it comes to explaining policy. On October 6th at the first presidential debate the world came crashing on Obama worshippers, especially those who think that words were invented to be spoken by Obama's tongue. Just 30 minutes into a 90 minute debate the twitter verse exploded with anger and disappointment at the pathetic listless performance of Obama. Overnight Romney became a viable President. Obama had spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince people that Romney was a rapacious get-rich-by-looting guy who was completely heartless. All that came undone. Obama never recovered his commanding lead after that.

70 million Americans tuned in to discover that Romney is not a fire breathing monster with two horns. Probably Obama's caricature of Romney went too far that seeing a semblance of normality in Romney an electorate hungry for change got converted by the thousands. Even if Romney loses this election the debate and how it changed a race will go down in history books along side the fabled Kennedy-Nixon debate. 

Romney will lose Ohio and thereby the presidency due to the notorious oped he wrote for New York Times titled, so ominously, 'Let Detroit go bankrupt'. Incidentally oped writers do not choose the title, the title was given by New York Times. If an oped sunk a Presidential candidacy it would be that. 

Economist magazine endorsed Obama outlining their deep misgiving about the protean shape shifting character of Romney. The editorial praised Romney's tenure as governor and wondered if he is capable of being that common sense pragmatic person or would he be controlled by the right wing in GOP. In what is the most counter argument for an endorsement Economist said they preferred Obama as he is a 'known devil'. Literally. In 2004 the same Economist overlooked Kerry's far left flip flops as part of campaign to gin up the base and endorsed him.

In its very back handed endorsement Economist voiced deep concerns about Obama. In the 104 rounds of golf that Obama played just one was with a Republican. Obama's aloofness is legendary and the fat that he does not foster any long lasting relationship with anyone beyond the close knit coterie from his Chicago days is the stuff of parlor gossip in DC. 

Obama is famously aloof even with congressional leaders from his own party. As senator he was highly impatient with the arcane procedures of the senate and did not form any real friendship.  He visited his alma mater Columbia University to deliver a commencement address and surprised many by not spending a minute more than necessary in a college that shaped him. He did not visit any old haunts, the dorm or the neighborhood as any college student would have done going back to deliver a commencement address. He had no lasting friendships from even his college days. Bill Clinton on the other hand formed last relationships at Yale and Oxford. Clinton fell in love at Yale, his classmate Robert Reich was later Secretary of labor, Strobe Talbot from Oxford was later Ambassador to Russia. In an interview Obama confessed that he would rather spend time with his children than hobnobbing with Congressmen. 

Even Obama's left wing fellow travelers have noted with frustration his aloofness. Gail Collins, columnist for New York Times and therefore an Obama supporter, noted that the "President goes to a country, gives a speech and gets out". Given the adulation he receives for his oratory Obama does hold his ability to sway audiences by speaking in very high esteem. Unfortunately for him speeches rarely sway anybody let alone a country or an opposition party. Clinton and Blair formed a great friendship. Obama has not developed any real relationship with any foreign leader. 

The famously non-partisan Bob Woodward chided the President for not showing 'leadership' during the debt deal negotiations. Woodward detailed how Obama could not even convince his own party leadership. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, both democrats, showed scant respect toward the President. 

According to current projections it appears that the lower house will remain in the hands of the GOP and the senate will have a threadbare democratic majority. That makes working 'with' congress an imperative. A second term Obama needs to address that. For that he needs to learn from Clinton, his new found best supporter and advocate.

Obama has a tendency to be arrogant and dismissive towards the GOP that he often tells them "elections have consequences and I won". Yes he won a massive landslide victory in 2008 but he won only 53% vote. 47% voters rejected him. Amidst the excitement over the historic election most lost sight of the fact that he won lesser states than Bill Clinton. Obama came to his inauguration like a Caesar riding a crest of euphoria. When Roman generals take a victory lap, according to legend, a slave would often ride along side whispering in their ears "remember you are a mortal". Unfortunately Obama's coterie keep whispering in his ears that he is 'messiah'. 

Obama's win tomorrow by all means will be a very narrow one and he needs to remember that nearly half the country rejected him. Injecting that humility into his perspective will restrain him from running amok with ideology. Else voters will deliver another rebuke like they did in 2010. In a deeply divided nation the winner would do well to remember that the victory was only eked out. 

Above all one expects the US President to be serious about his job. It is all very well to play partisan politics to win an election but to govern in a partisan way will be disaster. US has serious problems that need serious answers. Pandering to unions with rhetoric about taxing 'millionaires and billionaires' is childish. If puerile talk becomes policy it would not serve the country. Obama's tax fetish will yield revenue that can only fund 72 hours of US federal spending. Between reforming entitlement spending and killing Osama Bin Laden the latter needs lesser political courage and leadership. For the sake of the nation let us hope that he gets serious and honest.

If Obama's second term is to be unlike George W's second term then he needs to learn to be humble, learn to be more inclusive of ideas from opponents, learn to lead. I am, however pessimistic of Obama's ability to learn. I worry like Yeats and wonder what kind of candidate will 'slouch' towards DC.