Barack Obama’s presidency is now history and like all history, the story will be continuously rewritten. But, there is one unmistakable trend becoming obvious: the swooning continued love affair with Obama by many in the media and academia. The political landscape is vastly different when comparing 2008 and 2016- some say not for the better. But, it is Barack Obama who stands in the center of that vortex.
Obama was ushered into office amid a financial crisis- the worst since the Great Depression. It was preceded by eight years of “compassionate conservatism” domestically and “nation building” abroad. It is unnecessary to rehash the mistakes of the Bush administration other than to note that they set up the scenario for a do-nothing Senator to rise to the highest office in the land. In short, the stage was beautifully set for a “transformative” president to assume the Oval Office. Of course, to the party of identity politics, Barack Obama fit the bill perfectly.
The Left will try and IS trying everything in their ability to lionize Obama. But, not looked at through the rose-colored glasses of the Left, one has to conclude at this early stage that Obama was, at best, a mediocre president- perhaps on par with a Franklin Pierce.
And it started almost from day 1 in the Oval Office. Obama spent two years of his first term ramming through Obamacare not with political leadership, bipartisanship and compromise, but by numerical advantages in Congress and budgetary sleight of hand. Not to be outdone, he put forth and passed a $1 trillion economic stimulus plan that failed to stimulate. He handed over foreign policy to Hillary Clinton which destabilized the Middle East and elevated two-bit players to major players in the region. Those who believe these are the hallmarks of being a great President are also the very ones now portraying Trump as the second coming of Hitler.
One could say that Obama expended his political capital on Obamacare, but that would be false. Through the budget reconciliation process, there was no need to expend that capital. But, it bought Obama a Republican House, a Tea Party movement and irrelevance in 2010.
In foreign policy, his legacy will be that initial apology tour through Muslim countries. Perhaps he needed something to justify that Nobel Peace Prize. When push came to shove, his foreign policy translated into Teddy Roosevelt’s in reverse: “Talk loudly and carry a little stick,” as one pundit recently put it. Obama ran as an anti-war candidate and as such ignored the realities of foreign policy. When he took office, there were 175,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; today there are a paltry 15,000. The result is the evolution of ISIS and the resurgence of the Taliban.
His top two foreign policy “achievements-” the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Change Agreement- are jokes. Regarding Iran, it put off the inevitable for about a decade. As for climate change, the percentage of Americans considering it a major topic actually decreased during his tenure. Today, it ranks about 17th on the list of voter worries.
Obama will be remembered for leading with his pen. The MSM will trot out statistics showing that previous presidents may have issued more Executive Orders than he, but those statistics are misleading. His administration has produced a record number of regulations- at least 600 costing $100 million or more. Josh Earnest crowed about the 805,000 manufacturing jobs created under Obama. That number was debunked by the liberal Politifact who noted that a net 303,000 manufacturing jobs were lost under Obama.
The federal debt has almost doubled to $20 trillion. Yet they pat themselves on the back and consider it “success” because the growth of the rate of debt has decreased. In fact, Obama oversaw an economy with the worst growth rate since Herbert Hoover and never saw a GDP in any year near 3%. While touting the lowered unemployment rate, they gloss over the number of Americans who have simply given up. They rail against income inequality, but median household income has decreased 1.5% in real dollars over the past eight years. Home ownership has declined from 67.3 in 2009 to 63.5% today. And of course, there is Obamacare. This is Obama’s economic legacy.
In perhaps the best news, Obama’s political legacy is that he has decimated the Democratic Party. Most of their leaders- Warren, Hillary, Schumer- are eligible for Medicare with another, Bernie Sanders, eligible to be measured for a casket. Under Obama, 1043 federal and state level Democrats have been voted out of office. The Democrats have lost 12 Governors, a net 69 House seats and 13 Senate seats. The GOP is the most politically powerful it has been in 80 years. In terms of political office gains, Reagan ranks first and Obama dead last.
During the Obamacare “debate,” Obama invited GOP leaders, but neglected to tell them that the Democratic Senate had already drafted a law. The election of Scott Brown got in the way, so they resorted to budget reconciliation. Likewise, the stimulus was passed without GOP input or support. In 2011, the so-called “grand bargain” between Obama and John Boehner went down in flames when Obama insisted on billions more in tax increases prompting Boehner to state he could not trust Obama to honor a deal.
Worse yet, the Democratic Party has come to emulate and define identity politics at its worse. They have become the party of the aloof insider that seems to take glee talking down to the ignorant peons. When a billionaire who brags about taking advantage of bankruptcy laws can portray himself as “a man of the people” and win the Presidency, that Obama legacy and image seems rather tarnished.
Part and parcel of this is the fact that Obama contributed to racial politics at every opportunity. Whether it was the Beer Summit, Trayyvon Martin, Michael Brown in Ferguson or Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Obama had a comment. More ominously, he had a Justice Department willing to inject itself into local issues in the name of “civil rights violations.”
Obama leaves behind a polarized nation. In an effort to justify that Nobel Prize, he has left the Middle East in flames and an unstable international order. He has ushered in a Congress and President who have staked their political futures on dismantling any of his “achievements.” Perhaps that is why Obama and company were so fearful of a Trump win since he and the Left were convinced Hillary would win and preserve his “legacy.” Obama’s only true legacy is twofold: Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump.
This writer will not wax poetic about Barack Obama, nor be wistful about his departure from the White House, nor pine for the Obama era. Nor will I dance on his grave given who now occupies the White House. But, I am thankful for the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.
When the best thing this writer can say about Barack Obama’s presidency is that he was a good father- something he shares with countless other fathers throughout America- that is hardly a legacy. In fact, Franklin Pierce may have moved up a notch.