WASHINGTON — It has been a grim Christmas around the White House. Frankly I think President Barack Obama must be wondering why. Has anyone on the White House staff seen him tee off lately? He is really walloping the old ball, and his putting game has improved too. Moreover, he has been taking many not-to-be-forgotten trips on Air Force One, most recently his trip to South Africa to solemnize the expiry of Nelson Mandela, which was only marred by the sign-language interpretations of Mr. Thamsanqa Jantjie. Mr. Jantjie stood to Mr. Obama’s immediate left gesticulating sheer gibberish to the world’s hard-of-hearing, and, oh yes, there was that blot on his police record. It turns out that Mr. Jantjie was arrested for a particularly grisly murder in 2003, but he never served time so it could not have been that bad. He spent something like a year under psychiatric evaluation before embarking on his new career of incomprehensible hand gestures.
Why all this gloom around the White House? Admittedly, the Saudis are mad about our foreign policy and are claiming the United States is an untrustworthy partner. So is their new ally, Israel, though sotto voce. Both sides in the Syrian standoff are angry with us and the Islamisists have stolen our non-lethal aid. Actually the whole Middle East is exasperated with the Administration, but my guess is that the President is very secure in his belief that none of this is his fault, and besides he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Back home the economy is, of course, experiencing slow growth, but that is old news. The Obamacare roll out was — let us say — problematic, but the President has apologized to those who insist on blaming him and he doubtless takes solace in the fact that it was basically a computer problem. Who has not suffered a computer problem?
As things stand right now the Obama Administration has disrupted the healthcare of nearly 300 million Americans, but it is time White House loyalists say to look at the positive side of his Administration. They are even now engaged in planning the President’s post-presidential library and foundation. It is going to be glorious, costing, the New York Times reports, as much as $500 million. By the way, is it not amazing that as the modern presidency moves into its period of sad mediocrity the presidential libraries become ever more grand? Those of Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower were modest and sensible by comparison to those of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and — I would conjecture by the $500 million price estimate — Barack Obama. George H.W. Bush and even the man who won the Cold War and revived the American economy, Ronald W. Reagan, have their names hanging from edifices that attract no snickers.
Yet the completed libraries of the aforementioned mediocrities bring to mind terminals at, for instance, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Obama’s library, in keeping with the trends, will be bigger than ever, and by the way not actually very far from O’Hare. The Times tells us that an obscure woman with the curious name of Alyssa Mastromonaco, who inhabits the White House staff, claims to have been given the nod by the President to undertake the library and foundation project, even though his presidency is on the rocks. And the Times was lyrical, saying the endeavor “glowed with the allure of an eternal Obama afterlife, or at least better days ahead.”
Frankly I have no idea of how this effort to commemorate a cipher might “glow” for Miss Mastromonaco, but you might remember a couple of paragraphs back, where I said Barack Obama has disrupted the healthcare of nearly 300 million Americans. Within a few months we shall see that that estimate is correct. Up until the arrival of Mr. Obama as our President most of those people could, for the most part, take their healthcare for granted. Even the very poor simply checked in at an emergency room. Now almost no one can take this immensely complicated process for granted. We shall all become experts on healthcare or we shall be hounded by the one arm or another of the government. Most of us are going to be paying considerably more, and few of us will be left with our personal physician.
Maybe the President deserves his huge library and foundation. He has, as I have been saying for some years now, created the most colossal public policy botch in American history.