Goodbye and good riddance Obama.
Obama was a president who came in with a large popular mandate but who managed to squander it within a few short years and with it legislative control of Congress. I don’t intend to go into the exact process of incompetence, blunder and giving offence in all directions by which he did it, but he set the tone on his first day in office.
A bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office which had been presented to George W Bush by Britain was replaced by one of Martin Luther King, but instead of quietly putting the bust of Churchill into storage, it was pointedly returned to the British embassy in Washington. After a needless and studied insult like that, any notion of a cordial relationship with the Obama administration went out the window and accordingly Britain adjusted its stance from day one with regard to him.
Since nothing but hostility was to be expected from him, why should Britain go out of its way to do him any favours? An opportunity to thaw out relations came some years later with the state funeral of Margaret Thatcher but he said nothing beyond a few lukewarm words about her and declined to send over even a junior representative of America to the funeral. I don’t wish to harp on about Anglo-American relations during his administrations, but both incidents do highlight the man’s central character flaw.
He was arrogant.
Someone who is truly strong rarely needs to be arrogant because they don’t need to be, but a weak man pretending to be strong will always lead with being arrogant. They’re all bluff, piss and wind. Other leaders around the world quickly spotted that and faced him down. Everybody took liberties with our bitch, as Putin nicknamed him. Did he get Russia out of the Ukraine? Did he stop a half-assed dictatorship like Iran going on its way to being nuclear? Did he stop the Saudis funding ISIS? Did he stop China flooding America with state-subsidised goods to destroy its domestic manufacturing capacity?
The answer to all those questions is no.
I find it extraordinary that a president who was inexplicably awarded the Nobel Peace Prize two weeks after his inauguration went on to do more drone strikes in the first six months of his presidency than George W Bush did in eight solid years, dropped over 100,000 bombs and then went on to be at war for every single day of his tenure. That’s the sort of mess you end up with when you have a weak and shambolic foreign policy.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter when asked recently how many wars was America currently engaged in, replied “that’s a good question” because he didn’t actually know.
The biggest challenge facing president Trump is to bulldoze the current shambles of foreign relations into the past and restore some respect to an America which’ll no longer be pushed around by second and third rate powers. Trump is nobody’s bitch, so watch out for lots of wailing, pulling out of hair and rending of garments from the legacy media as he kicks Johnny Foreigner’s ass into shape. You read it here first, folks.
If he doesn’t reassert the authority of the most powerful nation on the Earth and rein in some rogue states, then I suspect the first nuclear explosion of the twenty-first century will be over Tel Aviv and the second one will rapidly follow and be over Tehran in response.
Domestically, the overall situation is, despite a lot of feel-good spin by a hopelessly sycophantic media, pretty dire, because that’s where he was allowed to get away with the bullyboy mentality that always lurked underneath that arrogance. There were no strong men to oppose him on the home front.
National debt has doubled without it being apparent where it’s been used since infrastructure is in massive need of an infusion of capital, manufacturing and heavy industry is in decline all across the rust belt and too many more than willing American workers are now scraping along by doing one or more part-time jobs.
The poster boy for eight years of this massive economic decline due to the administration’s mismanagement is the once great manufacturing city of Detroit, which has shrunk down to less than ten percent of its population and has become such a wilderness, that the few remaining policemen there advise people not to visit the city unless it’s absolutely necessary.
But the really deep damage he did to the fabric of America was more subtle and may take years to undo. He tacitly condoned a thug culture of entitlement to attack and intimidate other people who didn’t agree with you. He legitimised it by his failure to condemn it. Everything was pitched at a slightly holier than thou level and if you didn’t agree with us, you better watch out because you’re now outside our righteous fold, you’re fair game and anything goes.
The bully had created his own gang.
Once you were inside his gang, you were free to do things like beat up a homeless black woman for holding up a Trump sign she’d made out of cardboard. You could even film it for social media to show the righteous punishing an unbeliever and nobody would punish you.
You could kidnap, tie up and torture a mentally handicapped child and broadcast it live on Facebook, just as long as you threw in a few obligatory “Fuck Trump” whoops of joy so you’d get away with it.
As for the civil disorder masquerading as street protest outside Trump’s inauguration, it showed the accuracy of Churchill’s uncanny prescience when he observed that the Fascists of the future will call themselves anti-Fascists.
If you didn’t approve of an industry like coal mining that kept small communities in places like Kentucky alive, you could sic the bureaucratic dogs of the EPA onto it to close it down, and screw the effect it was going to have on the working families of those communities. Serves them right.
But the intimidation didn’t just stop there. If you found someone’s political views didn’t agree with yours, you could set other organs of government on them to stalk and harass them. The IRS was used to hound people with relatively innocuous viewpoints but ones with which you didn’t approve. A typical example, and by no means the worst, is given by the harrowing testimony of such bureaucratic terrorism to the House of Representatives by Catherine Engelbrecht.
I suppose the final indicator of how systemic the culture of entitled arrogance had become was Michelle Obama telling an interviewer after Trump’s victory that hope was leaving the White House and not even being challenged on it.
Oh, and by the way, that same delusional arrogance leads Obama to believe he can return to the White House in four years time for a third term. You can bank on it and again, you read it here first, folks.
As if all that wasn’t enough, he repeatedly damaged the spirit of the American constitution by circumventing congressional approval of policies. This was done by obscenely expanding the remit of hitherto innocuous bureaucracies such as the EPA, the sum of whose regulatory rules were in all but name legislation. Trump has already appointed the liquidators to eviscerate bloated bureaucracies like the EPA.
More grievously, Obama’s term in office will be noted for issuing so many presidential executive orders, also known as diktats, that it became a moot point as to whether America was being run by a president or ruled by a king. The best thing about executive orders, which come into force with the stroke of a presidential pen, is that they can be struck off with the force of another presidential pen. Trump spent his first day in office doing exactly that.
All this massive failure was compounded by an overwhelmingly liberal mass media determined to build a cult of personality about him. The faults, failures, incompetence and at times the sheer spite and malevolence that characterised his administration were, like him, above criticism. What was the mainstream media gradually mutated into the legacy media until it finally devolved down to becoming the lying press.
By abandoning its traditional and vital job of keeping a critical eye on the activities of government, it betrayed its readership, who were really the citizens of America who’d hitherto trusted them. Ordinary people realised for the first time in the presidential election how deeply partisan and biased the media were, which is why the terms lying press and fake news have become interchangeable when referring to the legacy media.
As we speak, the legacy media have already begun to spin a web of plausible nonsense about the Obama reign being some sort of lost golden era, rather than the shabby low in American politics and freedom of personal expression that it actually was.
His parting shots as president conformed to a typical cowardly bully’s behaviour. The people he’d always been afraid to say boo to, Russia and Israel, he poisoned relations with and then ran away out of office, leaving Trump to repair the damage which I rather suspect he’s done already.
Trump at his inauguration speech with its no punches pulled denunciation of the Obama years and Obama having to sit through it, was sweet revenge for an old slight. What goes around, comes around.
Incidentally, hours after his inauguration in his first press opportunity in the Oval Office, a bust of Churchill was prominently on display. I do hope the bust of the Reverend King was treated with greater respect than that which was afforded to Mr. Churchill.
Related articles by Pointman: