With only weeks left in his presidency, President Obama has been reduced to issuing unprovable boasts, sounding like the senior quarterback at a small high school.
In a recent interview on “The Axe Files” podcast with former senior strategist David Axelrod — which makes you wonder if Mr. Obama’s blood relatives were unavailable to interview him — the president claimed he would have been re-elected to a third term had he been allowed to run again. Perhaps conservatives should cheer, as the president finally appears to appreciate the constitutional constraints of his office, but here’s the real takeaway from this softball interview with a South Side Chicago pal.
Mr. Obama is either reeling or delusional. The truth is, his presidency is crumbling as he departs.
Let’s rummage through the wreckage:
• While he exits with approval ratings above 50 percent, Mr. Obama is stunningly passing the baton to the most controversial president-elect in a generation, after a campaign that many observers thought was a guaranteed victory for the Democrats. The 2016 election was a repudiation of Mr. Obama’s policies, as seven in 10 voters wanted change, ultimately delivering 306 (actually 304) electoral votes to Donald Trump.
• The economy continues to grow at the slowest rate following an economic depression. While it is true Mr. Obama inherited a recession, he doubled the national debt in eight years and has little to show for it, as income inequality has worsened on his watch and wages have remained flat. There has been slow and steady positive job growth, but economic growth has been anemic and the shift from full-time to part-time employment, along with pervasive long-term and youth unemployment, have left millions of Americans behind.
• Obamacare, the president’s signature domestic achievement, is objectively and undeniably failing, with rates and premiums going up, states canceling their exchanges, and major health insurers either backing out or considering doing so. The end of Obamacare is a question of if, not when.
• His foreign policy rivals Jimmy Carter’s as a historic disaster. His precipitous, political and irrational pullout from Iraq created the space for Islamic State to flourish. His “red line” comment about chemical weapons in Syria, which was unwise in the first place, emboldened the dictator Bashar Assad when Mr. Obama did not back up his words. Attempting to “reset” relations with Russia has produced almost nothing of value: Vladimir Putin acts as if there are no repercussions for his aggressive and destabilizing actions, first in Crimea, then in Syria, and likely next in the NATO’s Baltic states. North Korea has a larger nuclear arsenal today than ever before. The Iran deal has been a laughable failure, as the regime has openly violated the agreement. And finally, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government considers the Obama administration as the most anti-Israel administration in U.S. history — and for good reason.
• Mr. Obama’s anti-terror policies have also failed, focused heavily on drones instead of intelligence collecting. For ideological reasons, he has consistently failed to recognize the threat of radical Islamic terrorism for what it plainly is. Intelligence officials regularly state the U.S. faces a greater threat from terrorism today than in the days before 9/11.
And this is a partial list. Despite winning a second term, his political legacy must be viewed harshly.
His left-wing policies and total failure to achieve bipartisan legislative outcomes forced down-ballot Democrats to bear all of the political risk. A 60-seat Democratic Senate majority in February 2009 is now down to a minority of 48 seats. Nancy Pelosi will never hold the speaker’s gavel again, while fully 32 of the nation’s governors are Republican.
And what would the exiting president say is his greatest regret?
He won’t admit his complete failure to act to end Syria’s bloody civil war. He won’t admit he moved the country to the far left over two terms, well outside the mainstream of the country. He won’t admit that his “pen and a phone” threat to overstep his executive powers was short-term smart and long-term stupid, while also being consistently ruled as unconstitutional. Perhaps he wishes the Obamacare website worked better.
I have another suggestion.
Mr. Obama’s greatest regret should be squandering the promise of his presidency, failing to move to the middle after the 2010 midterm losses, putting his own re-election ahead of the good of the country, and being left with no lasting bipartisan political achievements to celebrate. He now has the time to write, to think and to play basketball and golf, basking in the glow of his celebrity friends. But, in quieter moments, Mr. Obama will be forced to wonder whether it was all worth it.
Indeed, it was not.
•Matt Mackowiak is the president of Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran, and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. He is the host of a new national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” produced in partnership with The Washington Times. His podcast may be found at washingtontimes.com/mackonpolitics.
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