“8 years. No scandals. No mistresses. No impeachment hearings. Just class and grace, personified” – that was what someone posted on my Facebook page the other day regarding outgoing US President, Barack Obama. Although my friend knew I was not a particular fan of Obama, unlike many other friends some of who idolise him, I thought it was a fair point, and there it remained.
I suspect words like these are unlikely to be written about incoming US President, Donald J Trump when he steps down. The latest two controversies concerning him are ethical questions when he hands over his business affairs and sexual shenanigans with a Russian / blackmail connection. I have made no bones about it; while I preferred Trump over his rivals as being better for the world at large, there is much about his personal life to be desired. Yet Obama and Trump will both leave legacies when they do leave office. Whether good or bad, it is for posterity to judge. Thinking about it, legacy is one of the most important things any of us can leave.
I have already posted twice concerning Obama’s legacy, and in the second post especially I have tried to be generous despite my misgivings. One thing I didn’t know at that time (bearing in mind the posting was on November 6th, two weeks before the US Presidential election) was that Trump was going to win. Moreover, I did not at that time expect Trump to win and consequently his political legacy, irrespective whether good or bad, would remain more or less intact if Hillary Clinton, Obama’s favoured successor, had won, for she would have continued many of his policies. As it now looks, when in a week’s time Trump takes over, many of these will be overturned. That is not to say Obama is not leaving without a final flourish. His actions around Russian hacking and in order to implement his ideas on Israel, may have yet profound implications.
This brings me to Obama’s farewell speech in Chicago, where his political activist career begun. I enjoyed the speech despite my misgivings, for it was a polished performance. His comments about engaging with our communities and with disparate groups made me proud to be a fellow community activist. Like most of us, if we were in his position, he tried to defend his record. While the speech went down well with his supporters, it didn’t go down so well with his detractors. One of the most succinct and incisive critiques of his eight year record came from veteran broadcaster Bill O’Reilly.
I have no doubt that after Obama steps down, discussions regarding his legacy will continue and will no doubt polarise opinions. I will not take away from him what he did achieve but I can’t help feeling by voting in his nemesis, Donald Trump, was because the hope and change that Obama promised did not materialise. I agree with O’Reilly, and add my own criticisms, e.g. regarding three principles I keep banging on about, encapsulated in the Manhattan Declaration – marriage, pro life and religious liberty. Obama has done much to undermine this in his tenure, and as for Israel, what he is doing now, even if well intended, could have disastrous consequences, and as for doctrinaire political correctness and appeasement tendencies, it crushes rather than liberates the human spirit, and as for world peace (bearing in mind his Nobel prize) he detracted from rather than contributed to – to cite but four – and I could go on.
In the end posterity will give its verdict on Obama’s legacy and he along with the rest of us will stand before Almighty God, the final arbiter of all our legacies – and that is my final salutary thought.