Barack Obama was an atrocious president. His ideas, his attitude, and his effect on the country were almost exclusively negative. Even for someone ill disposed to his politics, there was, for me at least, a hope that his very presence would lead to a moral renewal among black Americans and a rejection of the corrosive “blame whitey” attitude that is so inimical to self-improvement. Furthermore, while doing so for mostly leftist reasons, I hoped that his rejection of the Iraq War would lead to a broader embrace of foreign policy minimalism. Both of these possible silver linings turned out to be made of tin. On race relations he was terrible, fomenting racial troubles at home, while getting us involved in new conflicts abroad. Thus, he was bad in the ways I expected because he is an extreme liberal, and he was not even good in the ways he suggested he would be. He was simply a disaster across the board.
It’s easy to forget all the ways he and his presidency was a disaster, so let’s recap some things we may have forgotten.
Obama’s domestic record, particularly in his first term, has been characterized by standard issue liberal causes–more government, Obamacare, Obamaphones, more spending, big deficits, a heavy tax burden–with newer and more exotic ones, such as transsexual rights, continued mass immigration, vaguely technocratic globalist free trade views, and a loose monetary policy that has only slowly raised the stock market and done little to help the “real economy.”
While the economy is undeniably better off today than at the height of the Great Reset in 2008, the growth was slow and the number of structurally unemployed has been significant. The massive growth in the market and confidence since Trump’s electoral victory suggests Obama’s pro-regulation and big government views were holding things back considerably. Furthermore, his use of executive orders and failure to recognize and adapt to his opponents made the style of his presidency imperious and hostile.
While he came from a Constitutional law background, Americans probably don’t realize how radical the law schools are, often hostile to the civics-style understanding and respect they have for law and government. He exemplified the cynical legal realism of his Harvard education.
We saw hints of Obama’s racial attitudes during his 2008 Campaign, where his toxic pastor Jeremiah Wright’s “God Damn America” sermon was revealed. A prelude to later events, we may also forget how Obama made excuses for the Jena Six crooks and was soft on crime generally. Throughout his presidency, whenever there was a black-white conflict, the insecure mulatto took the black side, right or wrong. In the process, he encouraged lawlessness and made the job of police officers more difficult, leading to race riots and increased violence against cops and people in general. We saw this embrace of the worst kinds of lawlessness and hostility with the incident of Officer Crowley and Professor Gates, Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Baltimore, etc. In his “let’s understand their anger” schtick, he constantly flattered blacks and, in the process, made whites more nervous, cohesive, and aware that minorities are tribal and somewhat hostile, whereas, by contrast, whites are chiefly concerned with justice defined in universal terms.
Obama hates guns. He hates guns because he hates freedom and hates white people. He knows white people out in the Red States love guns and freedom and fear their government. He wants the government to be able to control white people, and he knows it will hit a brick wall eventually if whites still have guns. He also thinks, against much evidence, that it’s a winning electoral issue. And he knows, in his heart of hearts, that as much as he hates (mostly white) cops, that minorities with guns are very dangerous, and scare little old ladies and urban white liberals, so disarming them is also popular and necessary.
He tried hard after Newtown to ban assault weapons–rarely used in crime, but useful for grinding a tyrannical government to a halt–but he failed. His hatred of guns, gun culture (i.e., white culture), and historical American freedoms was always manifest. The Supreme Court gave those who support gun rights a useful tool in Heller, but it met with no help from Obama and his buddies in Congress.
Spending and Regulation
Obama was in love with government spending and regulation. His stimulus package after the 2008 economic crisis has almost nothing to show for it, other than nearly a $20T deficit, almost double than when he took office. He’s gotten the DOL to push higher wages through new overtime rules, the EPA to stop useful pipelines and to hamstring American business for dubious fears of global warming, the DoD to shake down local police departments and schools for various racial justice reasons, and the Education Department to push schools to allow boys in the girls bathrooms, when it’s not harassing them for inevitable racial “gaps” in testing.
He has little respect for business, especially small business. He has weighed them (and individuals) down with Obamacare, and given little moral support for the American free market system. He never worked in the private sector in a meaningful way, knows little about it, and has little sympathy for its virtues and its challenges. Naturally, he and his wife acted like royalty the minute they got money, much like the Clintons, jet-setting on the taxpayer dime when they’re not cozying up to celebrities. For him money is to be spent; the idea of capital, thrift, and hard work as a virtue eludes him.
The one area where he might have had some moral authority in this area was to reign in the casino-like activity of Wall Street and the Investment Banks. He didn’t do this. Whether out of laziness, conflict of interest, or just it not being a priority, it seemed an area where he could do something both popular and useful, and he mostly abjured.
Obama was an extreme leftist on all social issues, pushing beyond the 2008 boundaries for gay rights and gay marriage, to the new frontier of normalizing mentally ill transsexuals. He ignored statutes and constitutional limits on immigration law and brought about the Dreamer executive order, which legalized millions of young (and not so young) illegal immigrants. And he not only was pro-abortion, but in totalitarian fashion aimed to coerce religious institutions and businesses opposed to abortion to provide them in the form of his Obamacare mandate. On a great many issues the distinction of public and private is under assault, and Obama did nothing to defend the freedom of conscience, the right not to participate in that which one abhors. The goal, of course, whether it’s abortion or making people celebrate gay marriage is to normalize one point of view and, more important, label more conservative views as retrograde and unacceptable. In this he is quite simply a typical leftist fanatic.
The end result of all this social issue ferment was to accelerate the very tangible assault on the family. A social revolution has transpired since the 1960s, reinforced by an economic revolution that hurts working class men through deindustrialization and wage stagnation. These events conspire to accelerate the breakdown of the traditional family, which has real consequences: impoverished single mothers, mass unhappiness, cut-throat economic competition between the sexes, the economic obsolescence of men and fatherhood, the failure to socialize and contain men and women to do their duty to society and posterity, and a decline in family formation among the most talented. The assault on the family is dysgenic and disorienting.
These social and economic costs are most pronounced among minorities. Instead of recognizing and doing something to address this genuine social problem, he has instead doubled down, denigrating heterosexuality with the cult of the transsexual and the gay. This movement is simply another unfolding of the Marxist sexual revolution, which aimed above all to destroy the family and delegitimize the past. By normalizing and celebrating the abnormal and failing to recognize we must restrain this powerful passion, the traditional family becomes one option among many, harder to support than ever, rather than the socially encouraged best path for the good of the community as a whole.
Mainstream Republicans criticize Obama, in part, for his deviation from neoconservative orthodoxy. While realism of one kind or another was the dominant view in the first Bush administration, neoconservative reigned in the Second, and many Republicans became uneasy with this au courant combination of idealism and interventionism. Far from undoing this legacy, Obama pursued the worst of all worlds, a chaotic hodge podge of deviations from our traditional core interests, a redefinition of the genius of our American system as a fundamentally leftist order, forays into idealistic wars based on dubious and sentimental concerns for the “oppressed,” and cynical support for the Saudis in the Great Game of the Middle East. Most important of all, he has downplayed the threat of ISIS and al Qaeda terrorism to paint his mediocrity as a success story, and throughout his presidency he has, like his predecessor, avoided noticing that immigration control is a more important and more efficient means of vouchsafing our security than playing whack a mole in the Middle East.
On foreign affairs, Obama’s rhetoric has been decidedly anti-American and anti-Western. Obama’s said ridiculous things about how Islam is an integral part of America, gave back a Churchill Bust to the English in a symbolic rebuff, shown no ability to make sense of nationalist leaders like Putin and Duerte, and made a big show of trying to close GITMO, which he failed to accomplish. He restored relations with Cuba with no counter-balancing benefit to the United States, even as he incorrectly labels democratically elected leaders who thwart his plans as dictators, especially Putin. His preference for the Third World over Europe is manifest.
The theme running through all of his speeches is that America had a bad past, which it must renounce, and that it’s only getting better now, in part because he was elected. His abiding belief was that the U.S’s disproportionate strength, global perceptions of our arrogance, and our shoddy record all combine to make the rest of the world hate us. If we only show that we understand them and are sympathetic, so this thinking goes, they will respond by scaling back their venom.This was not patriotism, but rather messianic utopian liberalism, and judging by all the countries in our grill these days, it didn’t work. Far from being a strategy, it was more of a psychodrama originating in his conflicted feelings about a country that he felt treated him and his people badly. It was silly to think an alienated minority would look out for those whom he deemed an oppressor class.
We are quite simply less safe, as are our European friends. Obama audaciously announced a lack of foreign terrorist attacks in his speech at MacDill Air Force Base in December of 2016. He somehow forgot Pulse, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Boston, San Bernardino, and several other incidents, which he dismissed as merely home grown. These attacks are home grown in the sense only that the killers lived in the U.S. for five minutes before immigrating, or maybe their parents did. Their victims are just as dead. And the killers all thought, reasonably enough, they were doing it for Allah. Obama’s refusal to connect the dots of Islamic terrorism at home to immigration and Islam itself has been a disaster. He never showed moral clarity or intelligence on this issue, and his happy clappy talk, far from assuaging our enemies, emboldened them.
Obama ran on a platform of pulling out of Iraq, which was a popular part of his program that I agreed with. He did do that, but afterwards he illogically got us more deeply involved in Afghanistan (after dithering), then disastrously involved in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. He sent troops back to Iraq when his too-clever-by-half plans to depose Assad backfired. When the Arab Spring came along, he embraced “democracy,” even when it led to Islamic theocracy in places like Egypt. In the end, we have either helped our enemies (Libya), picked the wrong side (Syria), or picked a side when there was no good side to pick (Yemen). The old policy of tolerating stable dictators proved the superior one.
We’ve also gotten involved indirectly in places like Ukraine and sent arms to Vietnam on the realpolitik side of things. In all these instances, we’ve either accomplished nothing or made things worse. I don’t buy the Republican critique we should have stayed in Iraq forever, but if Iraq was worth leaving–it was–why are we in these other places? What’s our “exit strategy,” a term we haven’t heard much about since Iraq?
Obama has shrunk the military and focused on using it as a tool for social change. He has done little to make the bloated procurement system more efficient, encourage any positive systemic change, nor did he ever embrace the role of “wartime president.” While men fought and died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere, he wanted everyone to know that he was the “guy who stopped Iraq,” that he was winning against al Qaeda, and thus the wars that we were still in, some of which he started, had to be ignored.
He basked in the glory of taking out Osama bin Laden (an undeniable good call that others may not have made), but he used it as an excuse to distract from the bigger strategic failure: that Islamic terrorists untied to states remain on the loose. Doubling down on his alibi, he said we were winning against ISIS, the “JV team” if you may recall, only days before the horrific Paris attacks.
Worse than all this, he wants the Army to pay for chopping off dicks, when it should be geared towards chopping off the dicks and heads of enemies soldiers. Women have been pushed relentlessly into combat arms, even as numerous studies have shown they’re less capable individually and weaken units collectively. Combat effectiveness is a secondary consideration and as current standards lead to disparities they will be modified. He had at least one Muslim turncoat terrorist incident at Fort Hood, which he insultingly had labeled “workplace violence.” When his narcissism does not compel him to label abject failure as success, the leftist ideologies of feminism or gay rights or multiculturalism are always the dominant motive, not military effectiveness.
The Real Silver Lining
Obama’s presidency made the country weaker, less unified, and less safe, and the government more bloated, sclerotic, and intrusive than it was when he began. The country taken as a whole is simply in worse shape.
The real silver lining is what Obama’s failed presidency did to conservatives and the middle class. He radicalized them. They realized who they were up against, and that their opponents were playing a zero sum tribal game of gimmedats in what was previously a less diverse country characterized by the politics of ideas and of class distinctions. Now the decline and deliberate marginalization of whites to minority status is celebrated, and whites are no longer engaged in unilateral disarmament. Those with broadly similar interests and disdain for political correctness have joined forces. And the unlikely hero of Donald Trump emerged. And Trump deployed the three legged stool of populist nationalism–immigration restriction, American First foreign policy, and pro-worker trade policy–to unify them.
In May of 2008, I wrote in a that , “Four years of this trend will propel someone like me well into the middle of the conservative mainstream, and that would be a good thing. Obama’s presidency will stress and purify the conservative movement, leading to clarity on issues of culture, the welfare state, demographics, and racism that it has lost in the fog of ‘compassionate conservatism’ under President Bush.”
Romney couldn’t pull it off in four; he was still disarmed by Obama’s withering attacks, the left’s naked tribalism, and his own refusal to embrace the logical alternative. Plus his “get government out of the way” Reaganesque view of things ignored the impact of demographics and the hostility of many large corporations to traditional values. We need to focus on the people more than policy, and we need also to embrace some species of industrial policy to undo the anemic economy and make sure workers have a stake and benefit in its success. Trump beat the Republicans by pivoting on the national question. And he beat the Democrats at their own game because he realized the ways Obama had radicalized everyone who was not part of his coalition of megarich urban liberals, welfare cases, foreigners, and big government beneficiaries. It turns out “identity politics” work reasonably well when the largest ethnic group is also the most hated, the most naturally Republican, and the most put upon by every institution of culture.
Obama’s leftist radicalism was always his core belief. It was plain from his past, his pastor, and his paean to his socialist father, and his presidency reflected this at nearly every turn. Trump simply saw the $100 bill lying on the ground in the form of alienated, working class voters and other scared whites, threw them a bone, and the lesson of that approach is valuable beyond the field of politics. It shows the power of conviction, common sense, and courage in a world of suffocating political correctness.