The twentieth of January is upon us, the end of a four-year cycle. This means that later today, the USA will have a new chief executive. Many people are looking forward to the forth-coming installation, either with gladness or grief, but for me the day holds one flicker of eager anticipation: the end of the reign of President Barack Obama. As he leaves office, there are so many retrospectives already written that go into the details of his eight years, both critical and in praise of; I won’t do that here. What I will do is openly reflect on what the Obama’s Presidency has meant to me, as well as give what few general highlights important enough to mention from his misbegotten management.
When Barack Obama was inaugurated, I didn’t feel grief-stricken nor celebratory. Though I wasn’t a supporter, I did have an appreciation for the historicity of the first non-white President taking office. I think many were, at least in some small way, desirous of this, even if (like myself) one didn’t think race added much to one’s inherent qualifications. For the most part, it was a bit like routing for an underdog football team, and for no other reason than that a win for them would mean more than for a perennial victor. Still, beyond this was the whispered promise that his election and leadership might deliver something towards making race in the U.S. more insignificant. This was tantalizing, to have a national catharsis of racial grievance, allowing the American people to move past the pain of the past and start viewing each other as individuals rather than groups. I don’t know exactly how much hope I held for this, but I was open to its possibility. Undoubtedly, believing such an idea was encouraged in the Obama camp. However, I certainly didn’t predict Obama being the active participant in furthering racial polarization that he turned out to be. Call it naivety, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In addition to Obama’s failure on being (as Colin Powell put it) a “transformative figure” for the country, the achievements of the Obama administration are abhorrent. Because he was too weak a President to work within the existing legal structures, and since his lack of humility precluded his working with the loyal opposition to hammer out any real compromises, most of his legacy was written on an etch-a-sketch rather than chiseled in stone. That which will survive Obama’s Presidency is the damage he’s caused. He matched the worst recession since the 1920’s with the worst recovery since the same, and this while he held all the cards of government. He played fast a loose with the law, illicitly rewriting passed legislation and ruling through executive fiat. He politicized departments of the executive, such as the Justice Department and the IRS, becoming the reality of what was feared under Nixon. He illegally expanded the powers of the Presidency, setting precedent that he now passes to incoming President Trump and any successors. With his party, he greatly increased the authority of the federal government over the ordinary citizen, taking decision-power out of their hands in unprecedented ways. He doubled the national debt, enlarging it to such an extent that it now exceeds our own GDP. He engineered the US’s decline in the world, emboldening our enemies while discouraging our allies. He squandered our military victories abroad, birthing new threats, leaving a world on fire for his lack of steadfast leadership. He crusaded against nuns and people of conscience while praising and coddling murderous dictators. His administration was fraught with incompetence and scandal. He leaves behind a government more corrupt, life more difficult and expensive, and the citizenry less free. And in a seeming farewell rebuke, he is pardoning and commuting the sentences of as many rapists, terrorists, traitors, and murderers as he thinks prudent, unleashing them upon us and the world. One would almost think that this was his way of rewarding a country for failing to grasp his dubious splendor.
The reason for the almost complete fiasco of Obama is a doctrinal one. If a computer has faulty programming, it can only produce error. Obama’s blind faith to progressive philosophy, beliefs that proceed from false premises and lack of understanding, guaranteed that he would repeatedly miss the mark. However, like a bad factory machine left unrestrained to churn out monstrosity, he continued as planned, sure that the results he wanted would come despite failure being his constant companion. For as weak as Obama was, his political adversaries were still weaker and could not, or would not, stop him. In Obama we have a superlative example of the terrible nexus of confidence and incompetence demonstrated in the way that only power can tell.
I don’t know how the eye of history will judge the Obama administration. Who can know what historians will dispassionately record when distanced from a contemporary media and academia that are determined to make the first black US President a resounding success, even if they must change the English language to do so? Nevertheless, this is my epitaph for the Presidency of Barack Obama: few US Presidents (perhaps none) were swept into power with higher approval, well-wishing, and (dare I say) hope; and no other President failed as badly to justify his people’s faith in him as did he. Obama leaves the USA and the world worse off for his inept stewardship than when he came in, by every estimation that matters. I can’t say that I’m glad to see him go; glad’s not the right word. I mourn the fact that he ever was President. His absence is welcome, but can never truly compensate for all the mischief he’s made in this country. The Trump Presidency’s history has yet to be written, but Barack Hussein Obama is leaving the bar for an American President so very low that it will be a challenge for Trump to fall beneath it. Time will tell if Trump meets that challenge or not.
– Ryan Thorson