Why Nobody in the Future Will Think Obama Was Wonderful

Photograph by Pete Souza

It’s not difficult to predict how history will view Barack Obama. We have two historical examples to point to.

1. The eight presidents who served between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln (Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan) are now almost universally considered among the worst in history.

Harrison and Taylor (who both died in office– 3 months and 15 into their their terms) get incompletes. Polk (who served one term by choice) is considered pretty decent. Some historians credit Tyler for establishing the succession. (When Harrison dies, Tyler refused suggestions that he be considered the acting president; he insisted that the VP became president if the president died, and got to serve out his term.

The rest are seen to have sucked rocks and spit gravel.

If you know American History, you probably know that, What you might not know is that they were all reasonably popular, Their failings were explained away. Congress was so polarized that is was dysfunctional– it was impossible for civility and Tip’n’Ronnie to prevail.

The issues at the time–slavery, and how it should affect territorial expansion–were HAAAARRRD. Nobody was sure what the best solution was, or how it would affect the country. And NOBODY knew how to get from where the US (a slaveholding nation) to where EVERY other civilized nation in the world was.

As Senator Halfwit Clinton of New York said “I’m proud that we have been able to get to 90% freedom. I want to improve that percentage– not tear it up for some idea that will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN!!!!”

After the South seceded, the Civil War occurred and the US suffered through reconstruction, the opinion of the prewar presidents immediately went into the crapper and stayed there.

2. Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were immensely popular– until the Great Depression began. As were William McKinley and his predecessors.

No matter how bad things get, there will always be people who say “Well it could be worse and it really isn’t so bad.” As Dr. Chait Pangloss says in Voltaire’s novel Candide, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

I don’t know how badly the world will suffer from climate change–when it will be able to recover, or even if it will.

I can’t predict how much farther the United States– which has become both an oligarchy and a kakistocracy, with the 99% becoming a permanent underclass that is suffering immense pain– will deteriorate . Or how long it will take to recover. Or even if it will.

It’s unlikely that a country with so many resources and natural advantages will end up, like Great Britain or Japan (both small island nations), permanently past its period of glory and incapable of recovery.

But absent adroit stewards at the command of the ship of state, we can’t assume it will happen.

What we can assume: At some point, future generations will turn upon the seven presidents who got us into this mess with a fury. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, both Bushes, Barack Obama and Donald Trump will ALL– without exception– be seen as failed presidencies which destroyed the country in some respects and to some degree.

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When the polar icecaps melt and the coastline disappear, NOBODY will have the temerity to make a case for Barack Obama. They’re going to point out that he:

1. Didn’t come up with a Marshall Plan-type solution for the ecological damage that Fukishima did to the Pacific Ocean in 2011 (and has been doing ever since),

2. Permitted–through failure to inspect and require immediate repair the offshore drilling network–Deepwater Horizon to occur.

(Yes, OF COURSE Obama is responsible for that. The blowup occurred on April 20th, 2010. That’s fifteen months after Obama took office– nearly twice as long as the period between W’s inauguration and 9/11.)

Obama expanded offshore drilling at a shocking pace, weakening the safety standards at the same time. He pushed to increase fracking (which is destroying our water tables; he expanded pipelines almost as extensively as Eisenhower built highways.

People forget this, but until Deepwater Horizon and Fukishima (2011) hit, Obama intended to expand the Nuclear Power industry. He backed off– but his plans were clear.

When the coastlines have moved in 10-20 miles and anyplace near our rivers is a flood plain, nobody will give two shits about the Paris Climate Accords– voluntary, long term standards that didn’t come close to being a sufficient reduction. Nor will they care that Donald Trump exited them.

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Nobody will look at the stimulus or Dodd-Frank as great achievements that match FDR. They’ll say both were too weak by 90% and contained far too many loopholes. All they will remember is how many people lost their homes and the wealth they contained.

The auto industry bailout? That’s considered a success now. Future generations will say “You paid HOW MUCH to secure the jobs of HOW MANY people?”

And “Why the hell did you want to make sure that we kept making CARS? Especially ones that burned petroleum?”

And “You didn’t even set regulations on the kinds of cars they made? You let GM decide to ramp up production of pickup trucks and vans– but shut down the Cruze?”

***

Obama prevented a depression? Great. His inaction–and mania about deficits established a recession that has lasted a decade–with permanent reductions in salary and wealth for the middle class. George W. Bush passed tax cuts for the wealthy; Barack Obama made them permanent. He demagoged against the tax rates Bill Clinton had put into place as vehemently as Ronald Reagan savaged the 90% tax bracket.

Obama passed a healthcare plan proposed by the Heritage Foundation as an alternative to Hillarycare. Other than a few components, it has failed. The exchanges– which were the main component; the thing imagined would create competition– failed. The HMOs followed the example of the airlines when Carter deregulated them, with basically the same results.

Not only that, the Act was so poorly written that half has been struck down and the rest could be.

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I will always be eternally grateful to Donald Trump for showing the country how much power the executive branch and the cabinet agencies actually have. Barack Obama COULD have pushed policies that would have begun to heal the economy. He chose not to.

Stock buybacks used to be illegal– considered price manipulation, Reagan’s SEC made them legal. Obama could have wiped that out. He didn’t.

Anytime a president wants to remove section 401(k) from the Internal Revenue code they can. Obama said “No, we can’t.”

Most of the Obama-era regulations Trump has removed were put in place in 2015 and 2016–not in 2009. They were too little and too late. Had they been put into effect in the first term, they might have been in place so long they would he hard to remove. Many of them didn’t even take effect before being wiped out.

Everyone will wonder, as the Dread Pirate Roberts Court strikes down America as we know it, how Barack Obama could have appointed the Elephant Judge (John Merrick Garland) and then sat quietly– like a pussy-whipped bitch– for a year as the Senate refused to vote on it.

Yes, I know, some of you think he is wonderful. Nobody in the future will. Don’t bother to explain yourself to me; the video at the second link says everything you could possibly tell me.

 

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