I wish Barack Obama and his family all the very best in their lives going forward. May they be blessed with joy, love, grace, and prosperity. I will not, however, miss his presidency, and to it I say farewell and good riddance.
There are two reasons. First, Obama has been an abysmal chief executive, both domestically and abroad. As such, there will be little to miss from his presidency. Second, the obscenity that was Donald Trump’s candidacy has ensured that his forthcoming presidency will retain the worst of Obama’s.
It is rare that I find myself compelled back into the substance of conservative politics for purposes of this blog. Yet I nevertheless feel it important to relay my thoughts and positions once again as we enter a new and controversial administration, and begin reconsidering the old one with ever-clarifying hindsight. The past eight years have been an embarrassment in nearly every conceivable way, reflective of an embarrassing 2008 candidacy that our nation’s voters deluded themselves into believing was the harbinger of a promising new era. The years have featured a painfully juvenile clown show of a reign whose awfulness only Shakespeare can find the words to describe: “We are as a candle, the better burnt out,” and the past eight years have been almost nothing but burning.
At home we observe a national debt that now nears $20 trillion, entitlement programs that are bankrupt and lopsided beyond recognition, a healthcare market model for insurance and pharmaceuticals that few find affordable, fewer still believe can be sustained, and that has resulted in the uprooting of entire industries, and an inflated economy with the bottom of the education bubble sure to drop out once it catches on that those unfortunate kids who don’t study technical, substantive, or analytical skills get lemons for degrees. With Obama now having been in office for the same stretch of time as his predecessor, this failure is as much his own if not more so. His government is not the reason for the growth in the job market, but a towering obstacle stifling the progress he is now too eager to take credit for. From Solyndra to Dodd-Frank, he has wantonly misdirected agency after agency in pursuit of amorphous agenda items. His Veterans Health Administration has abandoned the needs of many military veterans and falsified documents in attempt to conceal their negligence. And he has presided over the biggest, most frivolous and disharmonious amplification of the administrative state in recent history.
Not only does he have effectively nothing to show for it beyond more burdens of debt, not even an ideologically loyal successor to steady his own reckless course, this expansion has both paralleled and promulgated the demise of the rule of law. Perhaps the Obama era’s most destructive and regressive consequence is the civil unrest that was on display before our eyes last year and, to those paying attention, the many years before that with ever increasing inflammation. Since the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama and Attorney General Holder have enacted a kind of pretend authoritative vigilante justice across the nation. They have woefully disregarded those laws of the nation they disapproved of, and have failed in their sworn duties to uphold the Constitution in all of its enactments, including but not limited to the Second Amendment. They have, with clear intent to bully and provoke, mocked and denounced their fellow countrymen who value the rule of law, their faith, as well as their personal firearms and right to own them. They deserve no such pardon by the American people for this just because their opponents started doing it too.
Speaking of pardons, if his injuries to the legal and prosecutor professions weren’t grave enough, Obama has now chosen to end his term by granting clemency to the sentences of the traitor Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Puerto Rican communist seditionist Oscar Lopez-Rivera. Manning, who attempted suicide twice last year due to gender dysphoria, had served not even seven of the given thirty-five years sentenced for leaking classified military operations in 2010 and thus placing American soldiers, agents, and intelligence personnel in immediate danger. Regardless of how one feels about American intervention abroad, this is not how its efforts should be undermined. To be relieved of twenty-nine remaining years not only demeans the valiant work our military tribunals do, but also effectively creates a loophole in the justice system for those who can make a convincing enough case that they identify as a different or new gender, and face everyday distress in their confinement because of it. The President’s commuting of Manning’s sentence also drips with malignant irony due to the President’s own condemnation of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and WikiLeaks in general for their hacking of the NSA, the Democratic National Committee, and the inbox of John Podesta. Meanwhile, Lopez-Rivera, who had served only thirty-six years in his sentence of seventy for terrorist activities, among which included arms and explosives trafficking with intent to destroy government property, and then an attempt to solicit an armed breakout, has now seen his sentence effectively cleaved in half. This is particularly insidious given that Lopez-Rivera himself once refused a pardon offer from a previous president in part because it included a condition that he renounce terrorism as a tactic to achieve independence for Puerto Rico. If no reason exists to show that Lopez-Rivera has changed his attitude on the subject (and indeed he has not), his pardon only legitimizes further acts of violent insurrection. Even in transition, President Obama proves himself determined to use every remaining minute of his tenure to placate his politically-correct coalitions at the continued expense of the rule of law.
President Obama and former Attorney General Holder have yet to answer for the gunrunning initiatives along the southern border that resulted not only in an increase in cartel-induced death in Mexico but also of border patrol agent Brian Terry. They, along with Lois Lerner, have yet to answer for the IRS’s practice of maliciously targeting conservative 501(c) organizations, and their tacit endorsement of the shameful acts through their failure to investigate and prosecute. They have brought the pulpit of the Executive Branch to such jurisdictions as Sanford, FL, Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD – pressing for prosecution upon presumption and little more. Their joint efforts have slowly sown the seeds of what is a decidedly sinister social movement that twists facts and invents fiction to make martyrs of violent or troubled criminals before their bodies are cold. The result far eclipses the palpably greater liberties that men and women of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations now enjoy with little thanks to the President and his 2012 virtue signaling. The nation has thus seen relations within its would-be ostensibly color-blind society violently suffer largely due to the coloring of law by President Obama, and that is the true measure of his domestic legacy.
But if his domestic affairs weren’t bad enough, overseas, the Presidency of Barack Obama has resulted in even greater unrest throughout the globe, hardest felt in the Middle East, particularly by our allies. He talked tough about the moral direction of history in his in-country lectures, but abroad his moral and political relativism have long eclipsed his reason. His great promise in 2008 was to restore America’s standing in the world by making it popular again. But in practice, his apology tours and acts of genuflection, countenance of regime upheaval in the Middle East, and naiveté in signing that treaty with nuclear Iran have gone far beyond his statesmen theories of respect for sovereignty and complex cultural identity. In reality they have led only to greater volatility in that region, making it ripe for exploitation by Russia. His policy has been an eerie concoction of the impotent restraint spurred by those on the leftmost flanks of his allies and the misapplied militancy of the Bush Administration in championing the golden pipe dreams of democracy as prescription against Islamism. The result is as messy as that probably sounded and we have bled for it, literally, as have so many Syrians, Iraqis, and Jordanians that have fallen victim to ISIS – that “JV-team” we apparently sent “on the run” after it rose like the phoenix from the power vacuums the Obama Administration helped create. It has not been held adequately responsible for the carnage in the chaos.
Not only has Obama contributed enormously to the instability and danger of the Middle East, he has likewise declawed the nation’s ability to counter the re-ignition of violence there. From his effective abandonment of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi to his cutbacks of our operations at Guantanamo Bay to his classification of Major Nidal Hassan’s jihadist rampage upon his unsuspecting fellow American soldiers at Fort Hood as “workplace violence” (in the same showing of his will to employ political correctness in place of justice as he just now did again with Manning and Rivera), to his outright and ardent refusal to call radical Islamic terrorism by name, his actions are now as inept as he has made his own words.
And if ever there was the sin of all sins in President Obama’s debauched presence abroad – an ultimate hallmark of our weakened position in the world and an act so damning that not even the successful killing of Osama bin Laden could possibly make up for, it is the constant snubbing of the sovereign nation of Israel. These are the kind words to describe President Obama’s attitude and policy towards that nation. The years have made clear that there were no depths to which he would not sink to see Israel, its security, its interests, and its strength sapped, denied, and undermined. From treating Prime Minister Netanyahu with unadulterated condescension to actively working to undermine his re-election, with apparently no room for the irony of his justified indignity when news broke of Russian efforts to influence our own, Obama’s failure in the tail end of his presidency to veto the U.N. resolution splitting Jerusalem is the sum of his spite. And the doubling down on this ignorance by State Secretary Kerry quite literally added insult to injury. It will take months, if not years, for the next president to repair U.S. relations with Israel thanks to Obama’s misdeeds there, and that only scratches the surface of the true problem. Supporting and maintaining good relations with Israel was never supposed to be this partisan. It was a basic assumption in the alliance our nation forged with it that we would not forsake that country, no matter how difficult our domestic affairs became. We weren’t just honor bound to stand with Israel and uphold its right to exist as we have done since its creation in 1948; it was always in our interest to do so. Obama’s and Kerry’s prioritization of ideology over the security and well-being of one of our nation’s strongest allies is not only a choice that should be anathema to any political party that stands to represent such a large and active Jewish community in America, but is also unbecoming of our nation as a whole. What does it say about our solidarity and national identity if potentially every pact we make and alliance we forge is inherently contingent upon the next president’s party being the same? This is a dangerous political precedent to set, a flagrant desecration of nearly 70 years of steady, mutually beneficial friendship, and a severe blow to our international credibility. On the international stage, the eye-rolling ambivalence President Obama showed Israel ranks as perhaps his gravest error.
It is rich to see so many in the President’s party and coalition express their lament for the end of his era, most of which has nothing at all to do with his policies and everything to do with his personality and speechifying. One of his better and more underrated qualities, apart from his generosity in bequeathing so much of his personal income to the troops every year, was his grace during the holidays. Not just the year-end, Christmas et al. holidays but throughout the year he’d wish everyone – including me and my family on Diwali, India’s festival of lights. That was kind of him. It was also nothing. Yet to so many that was the importance of his presidency.
And yet that is precisely the problem. The seduction of Obama is a lust to be on the cutting edge of “history” with your favorite identity group included along for the ride. But as I mentioned last summer in another article, I do not associate myself with such childish gimmicks. And I do not grade disastrous presidents on a curve in accordance with them. There is nothing to miss about the presidency of Barack Obama. A relentless storm of endless horribles, its closing cannot come soon enough and I, for one, am glad to see it so.
But even if I resigned myself to ignore the tsunami of failure that is the Obama executive tenure because of his incessant flattery of me and mine for my color and heritage, I still would not miss him because the worst of it is not actually over. Obama has not simply been a terrible president whose adverse effects can be diluted with the right formula of governance. The political landscape that he has reshaped now reflects his own narcissism and hubris back at him, a fact that would be hilarious in its irony if it wasn’t so innately tragic. The day Obama exits the White House won’t be some magical moment of trajectory reversal that many who enthusiastically welcome his successor hope it will be. It promises to be a sordid continuation of so much that made his presidency the most contemptuous of my lifetime. We have traded one loudmouthed cult of personality for another, and thus much of what I and those conservatives like me despised about the past eight years threatens to remain.
It is true, of course, that with Donald Trump and the Republican Party now gripping the reins of power, the political shoe rests comfortably on the other foot. But over the past few years, we have seen both feet, not just one, race toward the abyss. It is not simply the state of both parties that is regrettable, though that itself should not be understated. The Democratic Party has gone from being the party of the working man to a party of oligarchy and social justice one-uppers that sneer at the working man after taking their votes for granted. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has gone from being the Party of Reagan, who stood in Berlin and, with the might of a united, proud, and virtuous nation backing his words, told General Secretary Gorbachev to tear down the strongest symbolic landmark of communist tyranny – the Wall – to a party that seeks to have a wall of our own built along our southern border. These are both disturbing and even vomit-inducing policy platforms on their own merit, but they are mere outward extensions of the new social condition.
The candidacy of Donald Trump and the movement built around it grew from anger – righteous anger – in the face of such baffling incompetence, morally and politically grotesque priorities, and smug gamesmanship by the Obama Administration and its connected cronies, as well as the increasing disrespect, insolence, and malice loudly demonstrated by the rank-and-file young Left operating in his very example. Yet by haplessly following Trump’s lead, it morphed into the very mockery it was supposed to repudiate. This was the mirror image of 2008 candidate Obama – same shallow phenomenon but flipped (“Yes We Can” became “I Alone Can Fix It”); same Teflon candidacy but reversed (Obama’s prompted articulation and faux-heroic appearance made the Press itself his Teflon armor, and eight years later, the public’s disgust for such practices latched to Trump as its own Teflon). Obama’s snide self-importance and Trump’s uncouth, gaudy, and megalomaniacal egotism are each in the same infectious vein.
It should go without saying that no conservative should ever have supported this, no matter how desperate they thought they were. Those who did, especially early on, may take comfort in Hillary Clinton’s much-deserved defeat but they owe themselves a look in the mirror to see if the sycophancy they embraced for Trump was truly worth it. Donald Trump is not yet in office, and he is no fitter for it today than he was when he announced his candidacy. Just like with Obama, come 2020 Trump will be able to boast four years of experience that (god willing) only 5 living men truly know. That much will surely change for him, but his sullen character and leadership defects may very well not. They didn’t under Obama, and, worse, the condition of both men as “leaders” now infests the nation at large.
And that is why although the policies may change in the immediate, the worst, most insufferable aspects of Barack Obama’s presidency are here to stay. One demagogue leaves and another enters, full of fanfare from the horse of hot air he rode in on just as the first did. The fraudulence, the censorship, the targeting of opponents, the lies, the ignoble desecration of the rule of law, the wavering of our commitment to our allies and trade partners, the trolling, the race-baiting, the belligerence, and the vanity all have a home in the White House now, and I cannot miss what is not going away. The next four years promise to reflect the last eight, and because of that, I can neither lament the departure of Barack Obama nor embrace the arrival of Donald Trump.
I’ll conclude by quoting Shakespeare again: “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” Regardless of who he is, I believe in granting the president an inherent floor of respect due to the gravity of the office he enters. Barack Obama had neither my trust nor support for the vast majority of things he did in office, but he will forever have my respect for braving the office in the first place, and I believe he deserves yours as well. And come January 20th, barring some unforeseen event, Donald Trump is my president, just as he is yours. I believe in giving him a chance to govern and test his own mettle, and I believe in placing faith in him and the nation as a whole to endure and thrive like it always has. That is the America I believe in, and I maintain that faith today.
And I hope I don’t end up writing this all over again when Donald Trump’s time in office is finished.