Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States and as most presidents are when they leave office, they are concerned about their legacy. There are, of course, those reading this article that thought Obama was a great president and those that are glad he is out. I am one of the latter. Obama’s presidency was one of the worst this country has seen in a long time. After eight years, President Obama will be remembered as leaving a country with a crushing national debt which doubled under his watch, worsening race relations, a disastrous foreign policy, a domestic policy that has done more than just strip jobs from hard-working Americans and a sheet of White House scandals.
In remarks at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 23, 2009, President Obama vowed to “cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.” This is one of many empty promises President Obama made in the early days of his administration. The national debt in the past eight years has nearly doubled from $10.6 trillion to $19.3 trillion. Even though federal spending has not increased as much as it has in past years and it is unfair to blame any president for all of the debt, Obama’s policy has greatly contributed to the debt, nonetheless, with Obamacare and rising trade deficits consisting of trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Obama inherited a fiscal mess from George Bush, admittedly, but Obama is leaving President Trump with a much greater mess than he had eight years ago.
One of the major issues in 2016 was this country’s widening racial division. It’s ironic that the nation’s first black president (as well as two black attorneys general) has presided over the worst racial tension since the LA Riots. Obama even addressed it himself in his farewell address — his election should have signaled a post-racial America, but it certainly has not. This type of incitement has come with its costs, especially since President Obama has shown great disrespect for our police officers, emboldening anti-police, race radicals to take action. At the memorial for Dallas police officers who were killed by one such radical, President Obama turned his speech into an opportunity to push gun control, more government spending and statistics to indict police officers. President Obama had the ability to fix the problems in this country, or at least provide some healing. He failed, however, to use his power in a way to bridge our divisions.
Obama’s foreign policy was less than spectacular but I will give him credit for eliminating Osama Bin Laden and adopting the Paris Agreement for climate change. But let’s talk about the Middle East. Obama and his administration mistakenly saw the Arab Spring riots as a population thirsting for democracy and supported it, underestimating the power vacuums that would occur, like in Libya and Egypt, and tried to oust Assad in Syria too quickly. The absolute mess this made caused radical Islamic terrorist groups, like Islamic State Group, to move in and take advantage of the turmoil. President Obama also promised to bring our troops home from Afghanistan but backed down on that promise as well. Our soldiers, under Obama, have increased their combat role in Afghanistan, Syria and Africa to fight the Islamic State and affiliated groups. His policy greatly prolonged our role in the Middle East without much success. Obama’s stance toward Israel and Palestine was also less than ideal. Obama promised a two-state solution but constantly backed down every time he tried to negotiate with Netanyahu, and Kerry came into the talks after he succeeded Hillary Clinton with too much zeal which drove away the Israelis. It also doesn’t help conflict in the region knowing Obama signed a $38 billion agreement with Israel for arms assistance over a 10-year period, the largest arms deal in American history between two countries.
My favorite event in the past couple of weeks was in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” when White House Chief-of-Staff Denis McDonough claimed Obama had a scandal-free administration (Obama also claimed this in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Jan. 15). Obama’s presidency has been plagued by scandal after scandal; for example, Fast and Furious where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sold guns to Mexican drug cartels so they could be recovered at crime scenes, the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeting conservative activist organizations, Benghazi, the NSA and Edward Snowden after Obama promised he would limit government surveillance, the Justice Department targeting a Fox News reporter, paying ransom to Iran and many others that the mainstream media barely reported on. Not only do these instances contradict a simple statement, they show a corrupt administration doing what it does best—pursuing power for power’s sake.
Last, but most certainly not least, is the Obamacare debacle. Obama failed to keep his promises about the Affordable Care Act, chiefly that it would not add anything to the deficit and that you could keep your doctor. Obamacare increased premiums, decreased the quality of insurance people received and severely limited the number of highly qualified specialists people could see. Obamacare’s architects set this law up to fail and though the idea of universal health care may be appealing to many, enacting it remains an entirely different dilemma which the administration did not handle well.
President Obama did make history. I will certainly not demean the president as an individual or through the title he held because it would be hypocritical of me to advocate respect for President Trump but not for President Obama. The presidency is definitely not easy and I’m sure President Obama acted in what he thought was the country’s best interest as misguided as it was. The facts still remain, however, that Obama made grievous errors throughout his administration. This is not exclusive just to President Obama—even the greatest presidents in our history have made huge mistakes. It is not easy living in the White House, and we all owe President Obama, and all our presidents, a debt of gratitude.