At the beginning of the year I produced part 1 of 2 of a blog reflecting on the legacy of current US President, Barack Obama, with every intention of producing part 2 before his term as America’s 44th President has come to an end. While in three days time we will know who the 45th President is going to be, Obama will not relinquish office until 20th January 2017, and if it happens to be one Donald J. Trump who is down to take over one might expect a good deal of final throes activities prior to that by President Obama. My intention was to do some serious reading and provide some thorough analysis of what Obama’s legacy has been, but I fear that is not going to happen (life is too short). Even so, I feel confident that what I am going to say is pertinent. It is meant as an honest (albeit personal) reflection on these past eight years of Obama presidency.
I first began to be aware of US Presidents back in the day of John F. Kennedy, as a schoolboy starting out at secondary school. I remember what I was doing when I learned of his assassination and the grief that many felt at the time. I also recall something of his Camelot persona, with his youthful appeal, lofty ideals, idyllic principles, optimistic outlook and fine rhetoric (reminding me somewhat of Obama), becoming aware later there was a darker side. As I reflect on US Presidents that followed, I remember things about almost all of them, although the President that impressed me most, who in my view left the greatest legacy, was Ronald Reagan. Positive legacy is something (I would have thought) most right thinking people would want to leave, especially in the case of Presidents, but it is for those who follow to pronounce what that legacy is. (One book I would love to read because of the fascination, if it exists at all, is a reflection on the legacies left by all 44 US Presidents to date.)
As one of those who was disappointed when Obama did get voted in eight years ago, I might be expected to give a more negative assessment concerning his legacy, yet surprisingly there are positives also. I can sympathize with those who dislike Donald Trump (which comprise the majority of the people I come across) and yet have severe reservations concerning the character of Hillary Clinton. While these are quite different personalities, many of the character flaws associated with Clinton do not apply to Obama, and I would expect if Obama were able to run for a third term that he would be successful. I also recall the optimism and expectation which surrounded Obama’s first election, and while the change hoped for was nowhere near enough becoming a complete reality, he had done enough to be comfortably re-elected for a second term. While Obama was up against it by not being able to count on a majority of support in the legislature, the discontent that many Americans feel over the economy (trade and jobs), security (illegal immigrants and attacks by extremists usually Muslim), the decline of American influence in the world (in the light of disastrous wars), “Obamacare” which while well intended does not work, and the adding to the national debt is partly down to Obama decisions.
A lot has been made of him being the first black man elected to office, and while I thought having a black President would be a good thing, I was more interested in what he stood for. But Obama has done much to dignify his office and likely more than most to empower minorities. I understand he was a community activist before becoming President and I see him as a good role model. He has not been tainted by scandal in the way Nixon and Bill Clinton were and Trump and Hillary Clinton would be. He is an example of a good family man, and along with wife Michelle they are class acts, showing extraordinary humanity and at times surprising wisdom. “President Obama Calms Crowd After Trump Heckler Disrupts Speech” is the latest example in a long line.While there are things I profoundly disagree with, Obama has been attacked sometimes abominably and has withstood these with great dignity.
When it comes to what he has achieved while in office, there will be those who will argue it has been a good deal, despite the opposition of the Republican majority Houses of Senate and Congress. Yet I reckon the qualms I had before he was elected not to be misplaced. I agree with what one person wrote: “For eight long years, traditional Christians have fought with the Obama Administration as he tried to force Christian business-owners to pay for birth control and abortifacients, decreed that all schools had to bend to the knee to the brand-new transgender ideology or lose their funding, and began speaking of “freedom of worship” rather than “religious liberty.”” In my latest blog giving my personal perspective on the US Presidential contest currently taking place, putting to one side considerations on the personalities involved, I gave ten policy related reasons why I preferred Trump over Clinton. I suspect if I were to substitute Obama for Clinton, most of those reasons will still apply, as Clinton would merely be carrying on Obama policies. I expect there are additional Obama specific matters, for example every time he issues an executive order, I wonder to what extent he has over reached his powers and is further advancing a liberal agenda which will lead to tyranny. [I realise here we are back to the culture war subject where people often hold strong views and that a proper analysis and understanding is needed concerning use of executive orders and comparison made with past presidents. But an example of the concerns I have, especially regarding religious liberty, is this article: “Executive Overreach: Why Obama is Wrong on the Transgender Bathroom Controversy” – ed]
As I said at the outset, I would need to do a lot more analyzing to come to a definitive view concerning Obama’s legacy, and then only in the context of what my own views and prejudices are. I am mindful that often a President is merely reacting to events over which he has little control. Yet, while I feared the worst when Obama did become president, and have in my view witnessed the further moral and other decline, including American influence, it was not as bad as I predicted and the truth is that even if the President does have a lot of power and influence, e.g. in being able to appoint his preferences to positions of power and influence, in line with his own views and who it is he is most beholden to, there is a lot he cannot do because of the way the Constitution and its inherent checks and balances work. Time will no doubt tell, yet despite my misgivings, I have to concede he has also done a good deal of good, and I suspect history will not look on him too unkindly.
Addendum: Since first posting this, we now know the new President will be Donald J Trump, who will undoubtedly try to undo several of the things Obama began and thereby aspects of the legacy Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, would have built upon if she had won. The argument as to whether this is a step in the right or wrong direction will continue for some time and only history will be able to serve a fully dispassionate verdict. What seems clear to me. who thinks in the main Trump would be right to do so e.g. if he carries out his promise to reverse every Obama Executive Order, is Obama has continued to act with decorum to the end, evidenced by his gracious acceptance of the verdict of the American electorate and his commitment to work toward a smooth transition of the reigns of power. My abiding memory is of a man who is well intended even if wrong, and a class act, who perhaps more than any I can think of has shown more than any why race should be a non issue when electing leaders – ed 15/11/2016.