Barack Obama has set a course that will leave his legacy as no more than a footnote in American presidential history. For all of the bluster and glory, for all of the pomp and circumstance, and yes, for all of the anticipated hope and the promised change, the whirlwind of hype and expectation surrounding the president a mere two years earlier has virtually dissolved.
He was the man destined to save this country from his predecessor’s failures. He was the man who would end the war in Iraq, finish the war in Afghanistan, and shut down the prison at Guantánamo Bay. He was the man charged with rescuing the faltering American economy. He was the man who would usher in a post-racial era in an allegedly inherently racist American society. And he was the man who had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize based not on tangible accomplishment, but simply upon these very expectations.
On all of these accounts, President Obama has been a striking failure.
He has not saved this country from the Bush-era failures; rather, he has done the impossible in making Americans pine for the days that Bush was in office, with Obama’s job approval rating recently falling below that of the former president.
Obama did not end the war in Iraq; he merely claimed credit for a deal negotiated under the Bush administration. The Status of Forces Agreement, signed by U.S. and Iraqi officials on November 16, 2008, already laid the groundwork for an end to combat missions in Iraq.
He has not brought an end to the war in Afghanistan, instead emulating a military strategy that was a basis for success in Iraq, the surge. What was once heavily criticized by President Obama as a failed strategy has since been hailed as a path to victory in a war that recently sparked Bush-like protests from the antiwar crowd.
Obama has failed to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, an alleged symbol of American tyranny and torture, and a top priority of Obama during his campaign. Shortly after his inauguration, executive orders were issued for the closure of the prison within a year. The thinking was that such a facility was not “consistent with our values and our ideals.” Gitmo remains open nearly two years later, an apparent admission that the president is not consistent with his own values and ideals.
He has failed in every manner to resuscitate the stumbling economy. The unemployment rate has continued its upward trend under Obama, going from 7.7% in January of 2009 to the current rate of 9.8%. Meanwhile, attempts to convince the American people of the success of the stimulus bill were manufactured in deceitful ways despite clear signs of turbulence in the economy. Personal incomes continue to trend downward, as does private-sector job creation, and the national deficit is projected to balloon to a staggering $1.5 trillion in 2011.
Obama’s election has been anything but post-racial, with heightened racial rhetoric and actions coming from the administration itself. Setbacks for the post-racial presidency include the firing and subsequent apology to a black official, Shirley Sherrod, at the Agriculture Department; the president himself, without knowing the facts of the case, labeling police as having “acted stupidly” following the arrest of a black Harvard professor; and the Justice Department’s dismissal of voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party during the 2008 elections.
Worse, Obama has been governing by putting policy over process, inviting unprecedented backroom deals for health care reform…and now, apparently, tax compromise solutions.
With both sides of the aisle enraged by the process, the recent tax compromise is simply the nail in the coffin. Obama himself once declared that “[a] good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it.” Complaints from both sides of the aisle indeed indicate that everyone recognizes this — as a bad compromise.
And unlike former President Bill Clinton’s shift to the center during his tenure, Obama’s backroom successes and polarizing failures will only result in a perpetual downturn in his approval rating. His recent ceding of the podium to Clinton seems to indicate an acceptance of this fate.
The president has gone from being “a big f’n deal” to eliciting utter contempt and disrespect for the highest office in the land. His liberal colleagues angrily mutter, “F the president.”
Like a good compromise, a good president, too, is something that everybody can recognize. Years from now, recognition of Obama as a transcendent president will long be forgotten, and the era of the man who was to save America will be nothing more than a footnote in history.