Obama’s Speech

You may have seen former President Barack Obama giving a speech at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign about current President Donald Trump. Gist of the speech: Trump is bad for politics, says crazy things, is too friendly with the Russians, he isn’t a normal Republican, what happened to the discourse, et cetera. Mr. Trump has since responded, “I fell asleep,” which has led to more think pieces about what that means and how it will affect the midterm elections. To be honest, I haven’t watched the speech or read the transcript. The reason being I have but one, short, precious life and based on the selected excerpts from the various articles I’ve read, Obama said nothing new or groundbreaking. Here’s thing though: I don’t care what Obama says or does at this point. 

The reason for this is simple. Trump and the situation we find ourselves in are his fault. On an old episode of the self-styled “dirtbag Leftist” comedy-irony-politics podcast Chapo Trap House, one of the hosts said he could not think of a more inconsequential two-term president than Obama. And when I think about it, neither can I. Obama’s presidency is a complete and total failure. None of his accomplishments have lasted two years past his term. 

If anything, Obama saying useless platitudes now only makes him look out of touch. At best, the things he said are all things we already know and do not need an authority’s blessing to acknowledge. He had a chance to say all these things before the election in 2016, but didn’t out of fear of being accused of being a partisan politician and playing favorites. Never mind that he is a partisan politician and does play favorites, everyone does. There is nothing preventing former president’s from criticizing their successors. Theodore Roosevelt famously turned against William Taft in 1912. Hoover never stopped attacking Franklin D. Roosevelt; he wrote two dozen books criticizing the New Deal and called Roosevelt the greatest threat to peace because Hitler was harmless to the US. As a more recent example, former President George W. Bush criticized the Iran Deal struck by Obama and called Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq a “strategic blunder.”

When confronting the collapse of Obama’s legacy, we must first define what Obama’s legacy even was. He came into office in the throes of the greatest economic crisis this country has seen the Great Depression (one of the great coups of the Bush White House was ensuring we called it a recession rather than a depression), two interminable wars in the Middle East (one of which was started on fraudulent grounds), and America was so terrified about the future it elected its first black president with an utterly foreign name. When he left office in 2017 what had he done? We bailed out the banks and General Motors but no one making less than seven figures a year benefited. No one went to jail for the 2008 crisis, unlike in the Enron collapse and the Savings & Loan scandal. All of the controls placed on Wall Street since 2008 are threadbare at best and will be repealed in the near future. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are still shambling onward and will escalate before they end. The Affordable Care Act was passed barely and was a gussied-up version of RomneyCare, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation. But never mind that, as Obamacare is in the process of being completely dismantled. He deported record numbers of people. He proved always willing to throw anyone under the bus whenever the Republicans demanded it. He was all too happy to keep Bush-era people in positions of power, never mind that he ran on the platform of “hope,” “change,” and not being Bush. Mass shootings at best continued unabated and at worst only escalated. Net Neutrality was ordered and since been repealed. Guantanamo Bay is still open for business. Bin Laden might be dead but we continue to expand our vast wetwork project across the Middle East and Africa. We have the largest surveillance state in human history, one that the Stasi would salivate over, yet that apparatus seems to serve no purpose other than to fuel paranoia and brutalize black and brown people. For a man who ran on being “the most transparent” administration in history, his administration ruthlessly pursued whistleblowers (remember Edward Snowden, functionally exiled to Russia for pointing out the excesses of the imperial machinery. Or Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 60 years in prison and kept in solitary confinement for attempting suicide). None of the positive things he did have survived his exit. All of the negative things he did have metastasized.

Mr. Obama seemed enraptured by the high ideals of legislative comity and he seemed to be a true believer in bipartisanship. The problem was, he and his party were the only ones to believe it. While they were preemptively compromising on healthcare, taxes, our military adventures and the surveillance state; Republicans made no attempt to hide what they believed and what they were going to do. Mitch McConnell did not stutter when he said on 23 October 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Yet, Democrats continued to blather on about how we need to “reach across the aisle” and work with Republicans.

Through these decisions and actions he paved the way for a man like Donald Trump to succeed him. He was elected on a platform of hope and change; he was going to end the wars we were fighting, redeem our national standing abroad, fix the economy with full employment, and universal healthcare. None of that came to pass and once again the American voter proved that they aren’t stupid. They do remember the past; and the last 17 years have been wretched. We are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and every other god forgotten country from Lake Chad to the Pamir Mountains. As of this year the US has spent $5.4 trillion on our military adventures and security since 11 September 2001. The recovery from the 2008 crisis was comically lopsided. The banks got bailed out and all was forgiven. Everyone else was left to fend for themselves. The average American was told the reason they are poor is because they failed somehow, you’re homeless because you did something wrong. As for universal healthcare, we got the Republican solution to the healthcare problem from a Democratic White House and Congress and it is not going to survive much longer. We were promised all this and got none of it. And Hillary looked to be Obama v 2.0, can we blame people for voting for the man who said he would fix things? He has since proven he had no real intention on following through either and had antediluvian views on damn near everything; but he acknowledge that the past decade and a half were shit. 

The actions of the Republican Party under Trump are not some new turn. Trump is the culmination of nearly five decades of work. We will see the GOP continue their crusade to eviscerate what’s left of the New Deal. Bush’s wars, back in the careful hands of the party that started them, will continue and expand; along with the drone murder campaigns and prison camps. They will crush the few remaining trade unions, smashing the police unions last. No matter the cost they will enrich themselves and their donors. Like low-rent Don Quixotes, they will charge full tilt towards increasing pollution and exacerbating climate change until every forest burns, the seas boil, and their rich donors escape to Mars to build their perfect Objectivist society. There shall be no rest until every prole, pleb and peon dies in the maximum amount of pain, preferably of the most preventable causes. And the midwife of this world is the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party under his stewardship. His presidency was a failure. None of his accomplishments have survived. He and his politics are proven losers, 2016 made that abundantly clear. I voted for him twice, I believed in hope and change, and I never want to hear from him again.

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