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President Obama’s final State of the Union address was long on themes and short on specifics. It clearly was an attempt to secure a legacy of accomplishment. That attempt is at best questionable.
It is important to divide Obama’s record between what he failed to do and what he has succeeded in doing—most of it bad. Either way, it is not a record to be proud of.
Start with his failures. In foreign affairs, he has barely changed course from the disastrous policies of George W. Bush. “Regime change” remains the order of the day: Bush had his in Iraq; Obama had Libya and has tried, but so far failed, in Syria. The “Arab Spring” has become the “Jihadist Winter.” Obama pretends the Islamic State is just a rag-tag band with some pickup trucks—at least he refrained from again calling them the “J.V.” About the only specific difference is that Bush “renditioned” suspected terrorists and water-boarded them, Obama just kills them with drones. The Ukraine crisis, in which Obama’s administration has played a destabilizing role, festers.
This continuity reflects the fact that Obama doesn’t much care about foreign policy. He reads what Samantha Power and Susan Rice (and before that, Hillary Clinton) put on his teleprompter. His real mission is to fundamentally transform America domestically. On that, he has largely succeeded—to the detriment of our country.
His signature “accomplishment” is Obamacare. While perhaps providing some expansion of healthcare availability, it has made health services more expensive for most Americans. It also has expanded the federal purview over previously private activity.
Obama wants to decrease the prevalence of guns in American life. On that score, his leaving office can only help, because every time he opens his mouth, millions of Americans run out to buy weapons. An armed citizenry is fundamental to Americans’ traditional notion of ourselves as a free people. Some people disagree, they would prefer to be more like England or other countries where private citizens don’t have guns, only the police and army do. That’s a legitimate opinion to hold, but it’s not the American tradition. Tens of millions of us distrust Obama when he proposes “moderate, common-sense reforms”—none of which will reduce violence anyway—because we suspect what he really wants is move the ball from where we are now to a disarmed public.
He promised the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will support “more good jobs.” Translation: get ready for massive job losses after the GOP helps pass TPP.
Obama’s contempt for the traditional American identity is palpable. His guests at the speech featured an illegal alien “Dreamer” from Mexico and a plaintiff in the case that forced same-sex “marriage” on all 50 states. He slandered as people who vandalize mosques and bully kids Americans who worry that Syrian “refugees” (most of whom are neither Syrians nor refugees but Muslim migrants from many countries) might include terrorists like the Tsarnaev brothers. He won’t be happy until we duplicate in America what we saw on New Year’s Eve in Cologne care of “Mutti Merkel.” Characteristically, he calls for mutual respect and accord among Americans while caricaturing and demonizing those who disagree with him.
Obama has made great strides in transforming a center-right, basically conservative country with a recognizable national culture and historic traditions into a mini-United Nations: a multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious microcosm of the world with no defining core and devoid of a moral center-of-gravity except a gender-bending attitude of “if it feels good, do it.”
All in all, even with a year left to go Obama should go down in history as our second worse president ever. I make that caveat only because first prize should go to his predecessor. On top of his own considerable errors, George W. Bush made the GOP brand so toxic, we ended up with Obama. So Bush needs to take the blame not only for his own poor performance but for Obama’s too. Of course it might get even worse, if Hillary Clinton is our next president. Or for that matter, most of the Republican contenders.
Jim Jatras, a former US diplomat and foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership, comments on financial and foreign policy topics and on U.S. politics in his publication TheJIM!gram. Tweet him at @JimJatras.
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