11:11 PM EDT
well …… we have had the russian reset, the asian pivot, the arab spring, the crimean caper, the egyptian flip flop, the benghazi coverup, the yemeni success story, the ISIS jayvee team, the defeat of al qaeda, the Fort Hood “workplace violence,” the iranian nuclear deal, the syrian red line, chinese expansion into the south china sea, north korean nuclear threats, the brilliant bo bergdahl trade, putin’s adventurism, the “successful” iraqi pullout, four secretaries of defense in seven years, the callous response to europe’s islamic terrorist agonies. but what the heck, the leader of the free world has enjoyed lots of golf, and some high jinks at a cuban baseball game. well ….. guess what folks? OTHERS HAVE NOTICED what a U.S. leadership vacuum really means.
Obama shot to prominence at the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a rousing speech about boldly moving past our barriers — red and blue, black and white. But those divisions are more pronounced than ever. So now he brings people together and gets things done when he can, like importing modernity to Cuba and inveigling China on climate change.
During the 2012 presidential debates, President Obama mocked challenger Mitt Romney for identifying Russia as the “No 1. geopolitical foe” of the United States. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” Obama quipped. Four years later — after Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, along with a political crackdown within its own borders — there’s broad consensus that Russia is indeed a serious threat to the United States and its allies. But there’s still widespread misunderstanding of what Russia is about….Putin has peddled Soviet nostalgia and anti-Western rhetoric since he first entered office 17 years ago. When opportunities to attack former Soviet states have presented themselves, he has used them — in 2008 Russia effectively annexed a chunk of Georgia, and in 2014 it annexed part of Ukraine. Putin is driven by a very real desire to expand Russia and by the need to hold on to power. Neither of these factors has anything to do with the United States, Russia’s habit of blaming all its troubles on America notwithstanding.
Only amid the most bizarre, most tawdry, most addictive election campaign in memory could the real story of 2016 be so effectively obliterated, namely, that with just four months left in the Obama presidency, its two central pillars are collapsing before our eyes: domestically, its radical reform of American health care, a.k.a. Obamacare; and abroad, its radical reorientation of American foreign policy — disengagement marked by diplomacy and multilateralism.
…What’s left of the Obama legacy? Even Democrats are running away from Obamacare. And who will defend his foreign policy of lofty speech and cynical abdication?
In 2014, Obama said, “Make no mistake: [My] policies are on the ballot.” Democrats were crushed in that midterm election.
Victor Davis Hanson commentary: Obama’s legacy will be soapbox of the left
Monday September 19, 2016 7:26 AM
On his recent Asian tour, President Barack Obama characterized his fellow Americans (the most productive workers in the world) as “lazy.”
In fact, he went on to deride Americans for a list of supposed transgressions ranging from the Vietnam War to environmental desecration to the 19th century treatment of Native Americans.
“If you’re in the United States,” the president said, “sometimes you can feel lazy and think we’re so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people.”
The attack on supposedly insular Americans was somewhat bizarre, given that Obama himself knows no foreign languages. He often seems confused about even basic world geography. (His birthplace of Hawaii is not “Asia,” Austrians do not speak “Austrian.”)
Obama’s sense of history is equally weak. Contrary to his past remarks, the Islamic world did not spark either the Western Renaissance or the Enlightenment. Cordoba was not, as he once suggested, an Islamic center of “tolerance” during the Spanish Inquisition; in fact, its Muslim population had been expelled during the early Reconquista over two centuries earlier.
Obama returned to his theme that ignorant Americans “typically” become xenophobic and racist: “Typically, when people feel stressed, they turn on others who don’t look like them.”
Most recently, Obama seemed to praise backup 49ers quarterback and multimillionaire Colin Kaepernick for his refusal to stand during the National Anthem, empathizing with Kaepernick’s claims of endemic American racism.
What is going on in Obama’s home stretch?
Apparently Obama is veering even further to the left, in hopes of establishing a rhetorical progressive legacy in lieu of any lasting legislative or foreign policy achievement. Turning the presidency into an edgy soapbox is seemingly all that is left of Obama’s promise to “fundamentally transform” the country.
The Affordable Care Act, born of exaggeration and untruth, is now in peril as insurers pull out and the costs of premiums and deductibles soar.
Even presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not really defending the Obama administration’s past “red line” in Syria, the “reset” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the bombing of Libya, the Benghazi tragedy, the euphemistic rebranding of Islamic terrorism as mere “violent extremism,” the abrupt pullout from (and subsequent collapse of) Iraq, or the Iran nuclear deal that so far seems to have made the theocracy both rich and emboldened.
The U.S. economy — with its record-low growth over eight years, near-record labor non-participation rates, record national debt and record consecutive years of zero interest rates — is not much of a legacy either.
Racial relations in this country seem as bad as they have been in a half-century.
Given the scandal involving Hillary Clinton’s use of a private, unsecured email server for official State Department communications, the politicization of the IRS, the messes at the GSA and VA, and the current ethical confusion at the FBI and Justice Department over Clinton’s violations, Obama has not made good on his promise of a transparent, efficient and honest government.
Near energy independence through fracking is certainly a revolutionary development, but it arrived largely despite, not because of, the Obama administration.
The sharper the sermon, the more Obama preps himself for his post-presidency as a social-justice warrior, akin to the pre-political incarnation of Obama as a community organizer.
Following the Clinton model, a post-presidential Obama will no doubt garner huge fees as a “citizen of the world” — squaring the circle of becoming fabulously rich while offering sharp criticism of the cultural landscape of the capitalist West.
What, then, is the presidential legacy of Barack Obama?
It will not be found in either foreign or domestic policy accomplishment. More likely, he will be viewed as an outspoken progressive who left office loudly in the same manner that he entered it — as a critic of the culture and country in which he has thrived.
But there may be another, unspoken legacy of Obama, and it is his creation of the candidacy of Donald Trump, an angry populist, fueled by the promise that whatever supposed elites such as Obama have done to the country, he will largely undo.
Obama’s only legacy seems to be that “hope and change” begat “make America great again.”
A homeless woman sits bundled against the cold as she receives a handout from a passerby on East 42nd Street in the Manhattan borough of New York City, January 4, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters
Why sunny views of the economy are misguided
No wonder people are discontented. The median income of part-time workers is $246 per week — for an individual, that’s barely above the poverty line. Moreover, there are many people who are so discouraged that they don’t even bother looking for a job, and as a result, they aren’t even counted as unemployed. To be considered officially unemployed, one must have looked for a job in the past four weeks. That’s the statistician’s sleight of hand: find a reason to exclude the unemployed from the unemployment statistics. The difficulty of finding a decent job is why the number of prime-aged adults in the labor force between the ages of 25 to 54 is down by 7 percent since 1999 . Some 4 million people have dropped out of the labor force; these millions are clearly too young to have retired and likely dropped out due to frustration. That hardly leads one to infer that “employment prospects are good.”
The U-6 underemployment rate, at 9.9 percent of the labor force, is still high. That amounts to some 15.6 million people who cannot find full-time employment. Add the 4 million who have dropped out of the labor force, and you end up with approximately 20 million adults who are frustrated with the labor market. And that does not include those who are working at or near the minimum wage. And let’s recognize that minorities are hurting much more. The underemployment rate among blacks is 16 percent, and among Hispanics, it’s 13 percent. That means that one out of six African-American adults are not working full time for a lack of jobs. Moreover, the share of the officially unemployed who were jobless for longer than a year was still 22 percent at the end of 2014. So there are plenty of people for whom employment prospects are miserable. These numbers reflect the pain and suffering in the U.S. economy today much better than the official unemployment rate of 5 percent.
…There is precious little evidence to support Professor Feldstein’s sunny view of the economy — unless, of course, you are in the top 1 percent of income earners. While the rest of the population scrapes the bottom of the barrel, the top 1 percent of income earners has increased their income by a walloping 9 percent per annum for 32 years (from 1979 to 2011). Compared to the bottom 20 percent of the population, they’ve increased their income from a factor of 21 in 1979 to a factor of 51 in 2011. One has to consider that it is one thing to be poor among the poor and an entirely other feeling to be poor amidst the conspicuous consumption of the superrich. That is why there is so much malaise in the economy — malaise that Professor Feldstein missed. GDP growth is irrelevant if the benefits accrue primarily to the 1 percent, and there is no indication at all that this distribution will change any time soon. Rather, the “hollowing out” of the middle class will continue.
Food Stamp Users Near Record High Despite Low Unemployment Rate
In an Improving Economy, Places in Distress
STRATEGIC SNAFU 02.23.16 12:01 AM ET
How Obama Lost the Mideast to Putin
Vision, strategy, and courage might have prevented the disaster we see today in Syria. But those elements were nowhere to be found.
…This is how it came to be that the region now stands precariously at the cusp of World War III. But so much of this could have been avoided, if President Barack Obama had displayed two qualities in his foreign policy: leadership and strategic vision.
It is not new to say that the war in Syria has become a complex mess, spiralling out of control.
Analysts – and many American diplomats who have left the administration, some in disgust – say that the mess is a consequence of President Obama’s decision to support the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, but only half-heartedly.
He sent in weapons to support the rebels – including in Marea. But he also refused to confront Russia and the regime, who had far more weapons, leaving the rebels lightly armed sitting ducks.
This is the source of the panic that Sanders causes the much-maligned Democratic elites. It’s not about ideology; it comes from a fear that having Sanders as a nominee will decimate progressive candidates down the ballot — and leave Republicans in control of the House, and state capitals, for another decade or two.
The Obama presidency has been a disaster for the Democratic Party nationwide. Clinton has pledged to rebuild the party and has begun to make good on that promise. Sanders, by contrast, has shown little concern for the very real crisis the party faces beneath the presidential level.
Since Obama’s election in 2008, Democratic losses at all other levels have been staggering: 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, 910 state legislative seats, 30 state legislative chambers and 11 governorships. Democrats are at their weakest position in state capitols in nearly a century; they have unified control of only 11 legislatures, while Republicans control 30 (31 if you include nominally nonpartisan Nebraska).
America has been run for nearly a decade by a clever incompetent. It’s hardly surprising that the voters are revolting
I had seen Obama at the primaries, and at the Democrat Convention. I had waited for him to speak intelligently and practically about the state of America and how he would put it right, but I waited in vain. The cliché at the time, which became more relevant later, was about how he campaigned in poetry but would govern in prose. Some prose can be magnificent: but not his.
His stump oratory – especially his convention speech, delivered from a preposterous mock-Grecian stage set in Denver – was vacuous. He is clever and has a way with words: but his words contained little. He entranced audiences, first in his own party – which is why he beat Hillary Clinton, arrogant and boring then as now, for the nomination – and then in the wider electorate. John McCain – old, white, Republican and with the media’s hate figure, Sarah Palin, as his running mate – didn’t have a prayer.
As Lehmann’s sank, political leaders, including potential presidents, met to discuss what to do. Mr Obama said nothing: and the liberal media praised him for his silence, suggesting it showed his wisdom by reserving judgment on so complex a matter. Perhaps it did. Or perhaps it showed he didn’t have a clue. America’s slow, stumbling path to recovery, and its awesome level of debt – just under $19 trillion, or 104 per cent of GDP – suggest the latter. The great stimulus the Democrats then engineered disappeared and achieved nothing.
…Racial tensions, which a black president was supposed to heal, seem worse than ever – remember Ferguson – and Mr Obama’s interventions have often been clumsy and grandstanding. He has failed to control immigration, even though (unlike in Britain) he has the sovereign power to do so. And America has largely rejected Obamacare, which displays all that can go wrong with massive state intervention.
But if Mr Obama’s economic legacy is poor, his other achievements – or failings – are alarming. He has largely removed America from international conversations. After the disastrous interventions in the Islamic world after 2001 it is quite right it should think more deeply about such expeditions: but that does not mean the superpower’s global responsibility can be abdicated completely. The Kerry intervention in Syria last week was typically, and tragically, late. Mr Obama’s international legacy is the repulsive sight of Vladimir Putin, whom he underestimated, ruling the roost, the barbarians of Isil (for dealing with whom he had no strategy) and a Europe mired in introspection.
Barack Obama created neither the poverty, nor the suspicion and loathing with which America was regarded in the world after George W Bush. However, he promised to cure the first, and has been found wanting; and he has used the second as an excuse to do nothing except withdraw. His role as President is now little more than as a spokesman for the bleeding heart and the bleeding obvious. When he is gone no one will miss him, least of all the one-time allies who feel he has spurned them. He has made America much less relevant.
Obama’s cool relations with European leaders is partly a product of his style — even in Washington, the president is known for his frosty relationship with fellow Democrats and big donors. He disdains neediness and sometimes struggles to empathize with allies. It’s also a product of an era in which Western leaders have been focused inwardly on domestic politics.