23 December 2016

Obama will be only a footnote in America’s history


With the Trump presidency looming, the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the liberal media have been burning the midnight oil to confabricate an appropriately effusive “legacy” for the 44th President. President Obama has stoically endured the longest press conference of his presidency (there were “successes” to inflate and blame to spread around) and graciously condescended to a long list of interviews, invariably conducted by his most slavish admirers.

Obama’s interview with Trevor Noah, who hosts The Daily Show on Comedy Central, is an example of the sort of “hard-hitting” journalism that normal Americans have come to expect from the liberal press corps.

Noah, who has moved from South African obscurity to American fame and riches, regularly obliges his progressive audience’s hatred of all things American. In one interview, he declared that as a mixed-race man (his mother is black and his father is white), he is more afraid of being killed by a policeman in the United States (homicide rate 3.9 per 100,000 people) than in his native land (homicide rate 33 per 100,000 people).

Meanwhile, on planet Earth, here is a headline from South Africa’s most respected newspaper: “South African police are twice as deadly as American cops.”

As The Atlantic, which venerates Obama with the fervour of a religious cult, observed: “Perhaps Noah’s most pressing question about what happens next is what Obama will do as a private citizen.” (Was that really the most pressing question on the day when Bashar Al-Assad’s troops were on the verge of recapturing Aleppo?) Watching Noah scrutinise Obama’s time in office made me appreciate Denis Healey’s famous remark that being attacked by Geoffrey Howe was “like being savaged by a dead sheep”.

It was not supposed to have come to this, of course. Hillary Clinton’s victory over Donald Trump should have cemented the Left-wing domination of the Executive. A large enough landslide, progressives hoped, would have gained them the Senate and, perhaps, delivered the House as well. And, if the Good Lord called upon enough conservative justices over the next four years, the Supreme Court would get a liberal majority lasting for a generation. A  Clinton victory would affirm Obama’s greatness and propel him into the Pantheon of progressive divinities. Tricky things, these elections.

So, in the spirit of giving (it is Christmastime, after all), allow me to take a more critical look at the Obama legacy.

The economy is humming along at a clip that, although sluggish by American standards, would make many a European leader glow with pride. The unemployment rate is below 5 per cent – roughly half of that in the eurozone. Unfortunately, the recovery took eight long years to reach what everyone hopes is escape velocity.

In the meantime, Obama has doubled the national debt from 10 trillion dollars to 20 trillion. As a percentage of gross domestic product, debt is approximately where it was when Franklin Roosevelt fought the Nazis.

In 2008, Obama ran for the presidency promising to create five million green jobs. How ironic, therefore, that the struggling US economy and, consequently, Obama’s dimming reelection prospects, were to be rescued by the much-maligned fossil fuel industry. For it was fracking, not green energy, that halved the price of energy, thus cutting production costs and increasing US competitiveness.

Obama had nothing to do with the renaissance of American energy. If anything, he and his Administration spent eight years trying to diminish the fossil fuel industry – something that the voters in Middle America would not forget in the 2016 election.

As for the low unemployment figures, let’s not forget that the labour participation rate is at its lowest since the Carter presidency. Obama’s low unemployment numbers are impressive, because so few Americans are actually bothering to look for work.

No account of the Obama presidency would be complete without taking a closer look at foreign policy. Our cool and cerebral President, as the admiration-oozing US media constantly reminds us, does not do stupid shit! Except, of course, in Libya, where the Obama Administration supported the overthrow of an admittedly insane, but fully neutered, dictator, and delivered the country to a motley crew of terrorists and religious fanatics. And then there is Syria…

Teddy Roosevelt, no stranger to foreign interventionism, believed that America must “speak softly, and carry a big stick”. Obama, ever the innovator, reversed that dictum. He bestrode the globe, drawing red lines in the sand and spewing fine-sounding platitudes. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” he claimed. His opponents were “on the wrong side of history”, he assured us. This verbal diarrhoea played well with his core supporters in America’s colleges, but failed to impress the ISIS lunatics and Russian Chekists.

As someone who opposed the Iraq War, I am not in favour of getting involved in Syria. Much more importantly, the American public is opposed to another costly (and let’s face it, likely disastrous) adventure in the Levant. But, Obama wanted to have it both ways!

By talking about “red lines” and demanding that Assad had to go, Obama implied that the United States was going to intervene. Moreover, Obama’s belligerent rhetoric emboldened the rebels, dissuading them from seeking a compromise with the Syrian regime. The Russians waited for years before finally deciding that it was safe to intervene on Assad’s side.

The war was, most likely, prolonged because Obama spoke loudly and carried no stick. And that brings me to the sorry spectacle of the US Ambassador to the United Nations, who earned some progressive brownie points by eviscerating the Russians in the UN Security Council, but accomplished little else.

Speaking before the imminent fall of Aleppo to the Assad troops, Samantha Power said:

“To the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran – three Member States behind the conquest of and carnage in Aleppo – you bear responsibility for these atrocities… Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?”

Impotent rage. There, in a nutshell, is Obama’s foreign policy.

I could go on and talk about Obama’s other “triumphs”, including, for example, the poisonous legacy he leaves in the domain of race relations. When Republicans refused to go along with Obama’s domestic policies, the President invariably chose the path of least resistance and accused his opponents of racial prejudice. That they should oppose his policies on substance has never, apparently, crossed the mind of our “cerebral” President.

Time is short, alas. Suffice it to say that when Obama enters history books, he’ll do so, most likely, as a footnote. Let us hope that when Americans look back at the Trump Administration, they won’t think of the Obama presidency as the golden age.

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of www.humanprogress.org