Most two-term presidents leave some sort of legacy. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. George W. Bush prevented another 9/11, and constructed an anti-terrorism protocol that even his critical successor embraced and often expanded.
Even our one-term presidents have achieved something. JFK got Soviet missiles out of Cuba. LBJ oversaw passage of civil rights legislation. Jerry Ford restored integrity to the White House. Jimmy Carter finally issued the Carter Doctrine to stop Soviet expansionism at the Persian Gulf. George H.W. Bush won the first Persian Gulf War and got Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
And even our impeached or abdicated presidents at least left some positive legacies. Richard Nixon went to China and enacted détente. Bill Clinton through compromise balanced the budget and incurred budget surpluses.
But Barack Obama?
The economy is anemic. We have never seen unemployment dip below 7% in the last five years. Real jobless rates that include those who have given up on working are perhaps double the official figures. By 2017 the national debt will have doubled. The stimulus did not lead to a “summer of recovery.”
Near zero interest rates, vast expansions in the money supply, and huge increases in federal redistributive payouts have not jump-started anything — except to end entirely the cherished American idea of receiving a modest interest rate on lifelong passbook savings accounts. The middle class has been squeezed as never before, lacking the administration’s romance of the poor and its crony-capitalism connections of the rich.
Even with new taxes on top incomes, the end of the war in Iraq, sequestration, and a supposed recovery, the 2013 annual deficit will still near $700 billion — a bragging point for Obama, given that this is the first year of his administration that we did not borrow over $1 trillion. To the degree that Obama has made headway — the sequestration forcing cuts and reducing the 2013 budget deficit somewhat, or gas and oil production soaring on private lands — success has come despite his opposition, not because of his advocacy.
Not since Richard Nixon have we seen such a record of scandal. The disclosures of wrong-doing and cover-ups now come so often that they become mind-numbing — Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS, AP, NSA, and ACA messes. After the president’s flips and flops over Syria, confusion about Egypt, and leading from behind in Libya, no one believes him — which is why also that no one was surprised at home about the untruth about Obamacare. In such a context, misdeeds like the Pigford payouts or Solyndra do not even raise an eyebrow.
Foreign policy is likewise in shambles. No one in the administration brags of “leading from behind” in Libya, or of “reset” with Russia, or of “red lines” and “game changers” in Syria. On most foreign policy issues, Obama is to the left of the current French socialist government. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s legacy is trying to bypass the UN about Syria, exceeding the UN mandate in Libya, and now ignoring it with Iran.
I know of no major Democrat figure who claims a foreign policy success for this administration — unless estrangement from Israel, or the courting of Islamists in Turkey and Egypt, or open mic promises to go easy on Russia after the election count. The irony is that the more the Obama administration has courted our enemies — Venezuela, the Islamist Middle East, Iran — the more they have disliked us, as our appeasement earned contempt rather than appreciation of magnanimity. There is no longer an American-led West. Germany is becoming the world’s fiscal arbitrator, France the Western bulwark against radical Islam, Japan the impediment to Chinese expansionism, Israel and the Persian Gulf the last chance to stop an Iranian bomb.