Diary

Viktor Yushchenko - A Prototype for the Impending Tragedy of Barack Obama?

As regular readers probably know, one of the portfolios your humble correspondent holds here at RedState is the portfolio for eastern Europe; this is because I have numerous business-related interests there, and visit many of the countries regularly.

One of the countries pretty high up on that list of “regulars” is Ukraine; thus, during my morning browse-around, I visit a number of English-language media outlets based in Ukraine.

Over at today’s Kyiv Post (I’ll provide the link below), there’s a feature story entitled, “The Rise and Fall of [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko.”

When I saw the piece during my morning browse-around, I tabbed it for later reading. When I got back to it, I found that it wasn’t as interesting as I first thought it would be – it was mainly focused on the “inside baseball” of Ukrainian politics.

But later in the morning, it occurred to me that this story might provide a prototype for what is going to happen to Barack Obama, given the trajectory that he’s already on….

Victor Yushchenko’s growing number of political foes and even some of his remaining friends agree: He is not the leader everyone thought – or hoped — he would be. What went wrong?

Does that sound at all already familiar?

And what about this?

Some believe that fame and conceit overtook him, that top-level isolation led to paranoia, which in turn fueled political combat with people who could have helped him. Amid the relentless infighting and slimming record of accomplishments, Ukrainians have overwhelmingly turned on their president.

This already seems to be happening to Barack Obama.

I feel queasy about mentioning Viktor Yushchenko and Barack Obama in the same breath; Mr. Yushchenko is a genuine hero of a genuine popular uprising (the “Orange Revolution” of December 2004) against a corrupt and rigged system – he also survived a still-unsolved dioxin poisoning that disfigured his face and nearly killed him.

The Orange Revolution was a genuine (and non-violent) against a truly fraudulent election. I was in L’viv (in western Ukraine) only a few weeks later; I actually was able to dredge up an e-mail I had sent to an interested friend shortly after my return:

I was in western Ukraine (L’viv and the Transcarpathian region) on business last week. I wasn’t there for political reasons of course, but it was still interesting to be there to see the state of affairs following the “Orange Revolution.”

There was a lot of interest in whether or not Americans even had heard about it; while it was going on, actually, I was in almost daily e-mail contact with friends in L’viv and was telling them that it was the lead story almost every night on the American network news.

My main concerns, though, were that the Ukrainians might succumb to two problems which tend to blight “revolutions” of various sorts – 1) An over-investment in a belief that a charismatic leader can magically overcome all problems immediately (followed by an unpleasant backlash when that doesn’t happen); 2) A revolution becomes “permanent” with horrid consequences (which is usually the case). The pleasant surprise on these counts was the basic sense of “normalcy” which pervaded everything. On the first count, there seemed to be no expectations that Mr. Yushchenko and his team will be instantaneous miracle workers; the sense I got was that this was all very straightforward – he was the legitimate majority choice in the voting and this verdict must be respected. On the second count, it was as if the “revolution” had been done right – having achieved its objectives, the revolution disbanded and went home. There was still some spray-painted wall-graffiti in L’viv “Yushchenko – President” (L’viv is about the most “orange” part of the country), and when we were strolling down the “main drag” in central L’viv (Shevchenko Prospekt) last Sunday you could still see a few faded orange ribbons tied in tree branches; my friends told me that back in December all the trees were gratuitously festooned with orange ribbons.

This was actually nice to see, since “permanent” revolutions have a bad habit of eating their children (and everyone else within reach). But I guess that Ukrainians have learned from the past 100 or so years about that – all too well.

Given the sanity of the Orange Revolution, it’s sad to see the deep disappointments which have followed.

I won’t belabor the point any further – you can find the entire article here. It’s dense read, but it’s worth the slog. Feel free to comment below on other parallels you might have noticed.

But reading this piece on Mr. Yushchenko, I couldn’t help but think that I was reading a re-cap from the post-Obama era – one written about four years from now….