Barack Obama finally delivers on his message of hope and change on this, the last day of his presidency. Don’t accuse the man of not fulfilling this ubiquitous, and amorphous, campaign pledge.
He didn’t stop the rise of the oceans or heal the planet. But he did give America Donald Trump. And in his final days, he behaves a bit like his successor. Kinda. Sorta.
The president graciously refers to Trump as “freely elected.” But his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, declined to say whether Obama considers his successor “legitimate” after CNN’s Jake Tapper gave him several opportunities. Forty-four plans to attend 45’s inauguration. But he offered “no comment” regarding the dozens of congressional Democrats skipping the festivities.
After years of enduring “Kenyan-born” as a prefix to his name, Obama, one might guess, should eagerly eschew attempts to kneecap the incoming president’s legitimacy. But more interested in payback than principle, the small-souled bigshot instead plays the game, albeit passive-aggressively, that his antagonists played with him. He didn’t grow in office. He shrank.
The president finally got tough on immigration in one of his parting shots as president.
“Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities,” Obama announced last week. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”
In encouraging illegal immigrants to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law” two years ago, Obama noted that “tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic.” He assured illegals, “All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.”
Cubans, by voting for Donald Trump, got Obama talking like Donald Trump on immigration — at least as it pertains to them.
WikiLeaks, a godsend to Trump’s bid for the president, even came into Obama’s good graces this week when he commuted the remainder of Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s 35-year prison sentence. Like booing Albert Belle for the boorish behavior of Joey Belle, imprisoning Chelsea Manning for the actions of Bradley Manning strikes as an indecent slur upon justice. And sure, the Army private endangered the lives of more than 900 Afghans by releasing raw intelligence material. But he at least showed the decency of leaving the electronic conversations of John Podesta and Donna Brazile out of it.
If only Julian Assange changed his name to Julia and focused on imperiling national security instead of Democratic Party job security, then he might have avoided the wrath of the Obama administration.
“So, with respect to WikiLeaks, I don’t see a contradiction,” the president told the press this week. “First of all, I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks generally.”
Sure, and if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
Obama succeeded in his final days at sticking it to his enemies. In doing so throughout his presidency, he stuck it to the American people.
When Obama entered office, he inherited a debt just north of $10 trillion. In compiling the second worst debt-to-GDP ratio among all presidents, he leaves office with one nearing $20 trillion. What does America have to show for this? The administration that expires Friday left the country with the worst growth record of any president since World War II. He goes down in history as the only president not seeing GDP grow by 3 percent in a given year.
To his credit, he oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden. But the Nobel Peace Prize-winner misplayed Syria, Libya, and Egypt, harmed relations with Russia and Israel, and passively witnessed periodic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil becoming the new normal. Despite the beer summit, race relations — see Ferguson, Dallas, Charlotte, Baltimore, and beyond — appear worse than when he took office. The post-partisan president engendered rancor between Democrats and Republicans not witnessed in our lifetimes. Even his dynamic speaking style degraded into a pedantic, lecturing tone that induced boredom.
All this explains the effectiveness of “Make America Great Again” as a political slogan. From the economy to domestic tranquility to America’s standing in the world, voters felt that despite all the rhetoric regarding progress, the country went the wrong way well above the posted speed limit during the Obama presidency.
Today may feel like, to borrow a slogan from when America was great, morning in America. But this morning, like all mornings, begins in the dark.