A Failed Presidency

10 Feb

A failed President is one who is no longer creditable during his term in office.

-John Reilly.

History will not be kind to Barrack Obama.

44_barack_obama[1]

It is early, far too early, to pass final judgement on the Obama Presidency. As the old observation goes, the worst President in history is always the guy occupying the Oval Office at any given moment. And yet, with the world sliding remorselessly towards chaos, it is worth taking a look back at the past eight years and how they have affected the rest of the world.

Obama won, at least in part, because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton. He didn’t have the baggage Hillary had, even back in 2008. He was personable and genuinely charming – being black didn’t hurt either, as there was an understandable desire to prove that anyone could become President – and made one hell of an impression. And yet, one does not need to question his birth certificate or religious leanings to realise that Obama was very ill-prepared to be President. If nothing else, a rather less pleasant term for ‘community organiser’ is ‘rabble-rouser.’

Like Trump in 2016, Obama was the ‘change’ candidate. He promised hope and change. What he didn’t have was the experience necessary to translate his ill-formed goals into reality. That didn’t seem to matter, back in those heady days. The world swooned over Obama – he was given the Nobel Peace Prize for doing absolutely nothing; comic books put out special issues pairing him with Spider-man and Captain America – but, like Tony Blair, Obama never seemed to realise that adulation doesn’t necessary translate into political influence. In short, Obama was told he was wonderful so many times that I think he actually started to believe it.

The problem facing the American President – any American President – is that while he is the most powerful man on the planet, that power has limits. Often, those limits are set – accidentally or not – by his predecessors. Bill Clinton’s weaknesses – and his reluctance to commit himself to deadly force – hampered George W. Bush during the early years of his presidency. Other limits are shaped by geopolitics, by ground truths that are often hidden from policymakers in Washington. The intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, is defined by realities that are often ignored by outsiders. There are limits on just how much influence someone a few thousand miles away can have on such problems, even if he is the president.

Obama rapidly ran into a series of stone walls, one after the other. His attempts to ‘reset’ relations with Russia, for example, were futile because nothing he could do could change the situation on the ground. Putin, a far more capable personality, had far more understanding of the geopolitical realities. Obama was essentially caught between doubling down and reinforcing NATO or striking a deal with Russia, both of which would have proved extremely unpopular. Instead, he tried to steer a course between them, accidentally making the situation a great deal worse.

(One of the reasons why Putin is so admired – and this isn’t a good thing – is because he is an efficient head of state.)

As the honeymoon ended, Obama struggled to cope with a number of problems that would have cowed a far more capable man. On the domestic front, his attempts to push health-care reform were a major disaster; on the international front, he actually made the global population long for George W. Bush! In Iraq, for example, Obama pulled combat troops out, thus keeping one of his major promises. But this left Iraq’s reconstruction incomplete, allowing Islamic State to rise to power. And while there was a great deal of satisfaction to be had in aiding rebels in Libya, it created yet another power vacuum and spread chaos across the region.

Obama was not the first POTUS to have problems in the Middle East. It is a complex region at the best of times. Indeed, it is never easy to judge the best time to abandon one’s former allies and make peace with their replacements. But Obama made no attempt to admit, let alone correct, his mistakes. Even when he finally authorised action against Islamic State, it was laughable – so laughable that Russia managed to make a splash by sending combat troops and aircraft to support Assad.

As Obama entered his second term, his narcissism became more and more apparent. Instead of embracing the dignity of his office, he could not resist injecting himself into all kinds of situations, from the George Zimmerman case and the infamous ‘clock-boy’ provocation to BREXIT. In all such situations, he invariably made matters worse and ended up with egg on his face. (Indeed, Zimmerman would have had excellent grounds for appeal, if he’d been convicted, thanks to Obama.) And yet, he also spent vast amounts of time (and public money) on holidays.

At the same time, he amassed vast amounts of executive power that wouldn’t remain in his hands indefinitely – those worried about Donald Trump wielding such power should thank Obama for setting all the precedents Trump could possibly need – and oversaw a colossal growth in the federal bureaucracy. Michelle Obama’s involvement with school lunches – note that her own children didn’t have to eat them – was just another unnecessary intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans, one that caused far more problems than it solved. And, at the same time, problems with the EPA went unpunished. He meddled freely in military affairs, weakening America’s military at a very dangerous period in world history; he hampered the military when it needed to destroy a lethal enemy. And he forced through a bargain with Iran that basically boiled down to giving a very dangerous regime everything it wanted – for nothing.

He also lashed out, more and more, at his enemies. Again, this proved disastrous. Playing the race card and supporting Black Lives Matter – and implicitly accepting the lies they use to justify their existence – only undermined race relations within the United States further, while turning the IRS, ATF and other federal services on his enemies undermined trust in the government itself. Internationally, he single-handedly crippled an alliance structure that the US had built up since 1945, convincing America’s oldest allies that America could not be trusted. Interfering in foreign elections – and the BREXIT vote – came back to bite him, hard, when Russia was accused of meddling in the US election. No one was particularly inclined to believe him.

And, in his last days of office, he spitefully set out to make Trump’s early days as difficult as possible. (And he is already hectoring his successor, defying the time-honoured tradition of not doing anything of the sort.)

The problems facing any POTUS – particularly today – are immense. Mistakes happen … and some of them can have quite serious consequences. No one, least of all me, would claim that being President is easy.

And yet Obama, who needed to learn on the job, failed to learn from his own mistakes. A strong man in his position could have accomplished much. Instead, he weakened America, both internally and externally. The consequences will haunt the Western World for a long time to come.

To be fair to Obama, he avoided personal scandals. But it was the political ones that destroyed any hope he had of a decent legacy. In the end, Obama will be remembered as the ‘divider-in-chief’ – and as a failure.

Maybe this is a harsh judgement. Maybe Obama will look better after two years of President Trump (just as Bush looked better after Obama). But I think it will pass the test of time.

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28 Responses to “A Failed Presidency”

  1. Billy February 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    I will say I almost voted for Obama. That is almost. he has a lot of charisma.

    During the election , he kept acting like he would work with both sides.

    After the election, the moment that I knew that was 100 percent a lie, was when he had his first meeting with the Republicans and I think it might ave been Paul Ryan with a big folder of ideas that they could find common ground on.

    Obama dismissed him, and would not even look at his ideas or tell him to leave that stuff on a table and he would glance at it later.

    He basically kicked the Republicans out of his office , telling them that elections have consequences.

    I thought that was as rude as you could get. He (Obama) could have been polite and said leave all that on the desk and I may look at it later. Even if he did not want to read that stuff.

    But he was very rude.

    From that moment on, I knew it was all lies on being everyone’s President and working with both sides to find compromise.

  2. Bewildered February 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

    I’d suggest your point about “… turning the IRS, ATF and other federal services on his [Obama’s] enemies …” also establishes the precedent for Trump to use federal services against his enemies. Ironically those already screaming about Trump being a fascist didn’t have a problem when Obama actually was using government to oppress opponents.

  3. E.G.S February 10, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    I AGREE Completely 100,000%. Obama was the WORST President we’ve EVER HAD.

    • Tim February 12, 2017 at 3:48 am #

      Chris’s initial comment “Its too soon to tell how history will judge Obama” is right. It takes decades for the worth of a president to be known. By then, all these partisan comments (on both sides) with have faded into their justly deserved oblivion.

      Tim

      • chrishanger February 16, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

        True.

        That said, modern tech does make it harder to sit back and wait .

        Chris

      • Geri Palmer February 22, 2017 at 7:28 am #

        It certainly wasn’t too soon for the initial historical judgment; the American people were so tired of failed, wildly-out-of-control, anti-American liberalism that their necks nearly snapped from the booming repercussion of voting for the complete opposite of what they’ve endured for the past decade. And I sure hope the momentum continues.

  4. bretwallach February 10, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

    When Obama said that his nomination “… was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…” I knew that a narcissist of epic proportions was headed to become the most powerful person on the planet and that it was gonna be a rough ride.

    • georgephillies February 10, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

      He was seriously wrong about ocean rise, which is accelerating.

  5. David Graf February 10, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

    At the rate Trump is going, I think we’ll think about Obama’s time in office as the “good old days”. He still does not understand the difference between government and a business and the difference between a CEO and a President. And, unfortunately, he’s shown no inclination to learn from his mistakes.

    • sjallen343 February 10, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

      Unfortunately there was no better option. One of the two was going to be President. Better the devil that will probably screw a things up than one who will intentionally screw everything up.

      When the Government sets out to destroy and denigrate the working middle class, you get extreme candidates on both sides. One crying out for more Government to save them from, well, things the Government did in the first place. The other just wants the boot off their necks and will vote for anybody who promises to do that.

  6. G February 11, 2017 at 12:31 am #

    Too simplistic–Obama’s policies were continuations of multiple presidencies on trade policy–how you did depended on your own self-interest–the average working class guy in manufacturing lost, the well educated working in services and hi tech–the people working in investment banking, consulting, aerospace (Boeing), medtech, technology, etc. did very well…voting patterns were largely similar…

    • G February 11, 2017 at 1:11 am #

      The cynic would point out that Wall St. will continue to reward companies who cut headcount–they’ll simply automate more and outsource more work to independent contractors–while Silicon Valley, less able to bring top foreign tech workers into the U.S., will move more hiring outside the country in subsidiaries…More future tech start-ups and jobs will be headquarted in Singapore; Dublin, Ireland; or Bangalore, India…

  7. voradams February 11, 2017 at 4:37 am #

    The rise of Executive Power under Obama did not occur in vacuum. The dysfunctional Congress and it’s inability to do its work lead Obama filling the gap.

    The problem is the US system is not designed to be self correcting like Westminster system where the executive and parliament can chose the structure that suits (from national unity govt to a Duumverite as Gough Whitlem formed in 1972). In the US the executive and Congress are divided. So if one section fails, there is no correction mechanism like the dismissal in Australia in 1975. No mechanism to short circuit a constitutional Chris like budget shut downs.

  8. PhilippeO February 11, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    Only on Conservative Media.

    in all situation you mentioned : Zimmerman, Russia until Ukraine, Syria, Obamacare, Libya,etc Obama opinion is ‘moderate’ opinion among Liberal/left-wing/city/metropolitan/coastal/european view.

    Bush still highly reviled among both coast and in Europe, the idea that anybody long George W Bush is exist among deep conservative circle.

  9. Lala February 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    i think that as a writer you should not comment or this or that…bad or good.Whatever you do or say may cause you to loose readers and i doubt any writers want to do that…right? but like he said only time will tell.I dont like Trump because the way he act,say or do but i also didnt like Hillary but i think she was marginally better because she didnt try to “grab them by their pussy”.She also didnt leave people broke because she didnt have the decency to do the right thing.Yes she screwed up with the email thing (whats going on with that now by the way?havent heard a single thing about it after Trump became the president.Easnt he “supposed” to jail her?) but i think DT is a worse lying sob then HC ever was.However let the history be the judge.I may be all wrong and DT will do a tremendous job (hardly think so but…) and if i do i will appologize when his term is up.

    • Kell Harris February 13, 2017 at 8:17 am #

      I enjoy his commentary on politics and the world. That’s a problem in society. People can’t have a political or religious opinion and express it for fear others with disagree and critize them for it. Heaven help a person have an opinion even if you don’t like it. Freedom of the speech. This isn’t 1984 yet.

    • T February 13, 2017 at 10:32 am #

      I can see your point about him losing readers but at the end of the day if someone decides they don’t want to read his books because he has a different political opinion to them then really that is their problem. I find I personally don’t agree with Chris’ opinions quite often but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying his books.

      • Sprout February 13, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

        Pretty much my position. Even though I disagree with him quite often his positions are always well thought out and articulate. We all live in a bubble of a sort, thus it’s healthy to expose ourselves to alternative thinking from time to time and reconsider our position. If I want to feel better and have someone reaffirm my opinion for me I can always read a blog that shares my views.

        Besides, his books are indeed very good.

    • chrishanger February 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      It’s a balancing act.

      On one hand, i may lose readers. I’ve never judged a writer by his politics, but that seems to be the minority opinion these days. But on the other hand, people have to have the freedom to speak their minds and debate matters openly. That’s how we make progress. I may disagree with someone’s opinion, but that doesn’t give me the right to shut their mouths.

      Chris

      • Conrad C Bassett, Jr. February 18, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

        Well since you posted this. The historical survey came and out Barack Obama came out 12 of the best presidents of the US. While I recognize that many non-historians will disagree with this. So far based on comparison, the statistical accomplishments and failures have been tallied. Now that may rise or fall as more is revealed in the coming decades and centuries but so far that’s his record.

      • Geri Palmer February 22, 2017 at 7:21 am #

        I enjoyed your SIM series (hope #12 will be out soon), and I just now happened onto your site, and opinion, here. I have to say that I think you are spot on in your assessment of Obama – a hot mess. Trump was not my first choice, but he is infinitely a better choice than Hillary would have been, and I think that his treating our government as a (hopefully, successfully run) business may be exactly what is needed in order to make the most repairs in the least amount of time, at this point – something a career politician would not have been capable of doing; I think Trump will make mistakes (who wouldn’t), but that he will ultimately do extremely well. His main qualification, as far as I’m concerned, is his patriotism – that he is putting America and Americans first – and that has not been done for a very long time. I wish him well.

  10. Kell Harris February 13, 2017 at 8:09 am #

    The problem is the average american doesn’t understand just how bad he was as a President. People still respect and like him despite of His bad policies.

    • Sprout February 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm #

      It’s always relative. They understand how and what he was, but they’ve come to expect the worst and so are willing to make excuses for him/give slack for merely being bad.

    • Conrad C Bassett, Jr. February 18, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

      Please explain what bad policies are you referring to?

  11. Charles February 15, 2017 at 3:48 am #

    Like most people who comment on politics Chris tries to seen reasonable in his assessment but the brevity of the post given then complexity of the modern presidency makes one wonder why he cherry picked the handful of data points he does.

    Truth be told most of you who read this comment would be hard pressed to pick 15 or 20 policy issues handled in the past 8 years, despite the fact that they would only represent a tiny fraction of the president’s portfolio. The reality is that Chris is writing more about his feelings than objectively passing judgement. In fact, I suspect Chris would agree as he throws his hands up and covers himself with the comfort that history will likely be viewed differently than he sees it today. I differ though in why. It is not just time. Historians tend to look at the entire picture including the context in which events occur and people act. The only real barrier to doing this today is our bias.

    That said. I think all rational people can agree that anyone claiming now that President Obama was the best or worst is likely just a partisan with little interest in critical thinking. The same must be said for those claiming President Trump is uniquely good or bad.

    All partisans should remind themselves that reality cares little for your spin. Or put another way… No matter what you want if it can’t be, it won’t be, so it isn’t.

  12. ChaosDancer February 15, 2017 at 10:22 am #

    It really boggles my mind sometimes, not a US a citizen but Bush left the US with two maybe three wars, the economy in tatters and the beginnings of a depression which would have left the world economy in the gutter.

    Now comes Obama which mapped a road to lead the economy in new heights (sucks to be the little guy, but such is the way of the world, the rich get richer and the poor get fucked), he gave health insurance to 20 million people but getting the rest of the US to pay for it and left Iraq which would have bogged down the US army for decades and all that with half maybe 2/3 of the US government working against him because what, he was black.

    He left the office and people complain about what, that he wasn’t strong in foreign matters. I mean who the fuck cares if Russia gobbles Ukraine, i don’t and except half the people living there no one else does. The rise of ISIS and other terrorist organizations was precipitated by Iraq and Bush and i agree the situation is Syria is bad but honestly except for a few high minded people which assure you 99.99999999% of earth are not no one is going to do anything, people are going to keep dying until one or two things happens we develop a mind reading device or everyone there dies.

    I was always under the impression that if you improve the things you found that makes you good but people thing he was the worse leader ever, so fucking weird.

  13. William Jones February 15, 2017 at 7:28 pm #

    I like your fiction work. But after reading this right wing filth, I will never read it but one of your works again. Enjoy the new President. You and he deserve each other other.

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