Three things so far have saved Obama’s otherwise unfortunate tenure; all came over his own objections.
One, after the 2010 midterm tsunami, the newly elected House Republicans put a lid on spending — ratified by the wins of 2014. Sequestration is a crude blunderbuss and slashed defense, but it at least slowed down Obama’s disastrous serial $1 trillion-plus budget deficits. In spending terms, it certainly has vastly reduced the government’s share of GDP. We know that because Obama occasionally brags of falling deficits, as if to say, “Thank you for not letting me be entirely myself.” When he leaves office, we will have $20 trillion in debt and nearly 100 million permanently out of the work force, as well as uncontrolled and unaddressed entitlement spending on life support through zero-interest rates. But we will still be alive for now, thanks to sequestration. Shutting down the government may have been politically unwise (or not — given the 2014 midterm elections), but it kept the debt financeable.
Then there is energy. Obama once bragged of sky-high electricity costs to come — echoed by Steven Chu’s dream of European-level gas prices. Obama mocked “drill, baby, drill” and claimed it was no solution to the energy crisis, as he tabled Keystone and put millions of acres of federal lands de facto off the market for energy exploration. He tried to “bankrupt” the coal industry. The EPA became a rogue agency. Almost all his crony-capitalist Solyndra-like projects failed.
And? Gasoline and natural gas prices have plunged, thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling.
Private-sector entrepreneurs were apparently energized by new technologies and the specter of profits in an uncertain oil market — and a combative new sense of self-reliance that they were on their own without much government approval. Grimy, forgotten men on rigs have saved Americans trillions in lower energy prices and import costs — and all despite, not because of, Obama.
Third, Obamism is proving finite. Yes, this is the Obama era of intolerant imposition of gay marriage by court fiat, the selling of fetal limbs by Planned Parenthood, Climate Change McCarthyism, Black Lives Matter / Hands Up, Don’t Shoot mythologies, “Punish Our Enemies” ethnic smearing, state-ministry journalism, and Sanctuary City neo-Confederate nullification. But in the process, Obama has nearly destroyed the Democratic Party — and all but turned it over either to a veritable crook and has-been or a 73-year-old self-described socialist. He lost both houses of Congress. The legislatures and governorships are overwhelmingly Republican. He turned off millions of working-class old-time Reagan Democrats. His new paradigm — demagogue minorities to vote en bloc in record numbers by any means necessary and screw those turned off by his separatist rhetoric — is probably not transferrable to other Democratic candidates.
The present field — Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and possibly John Kerry, Al Gore, and Jerry Brown — are the sort of old white folks that Obama has insisted were ancient history. Apparently, after Obama the idea of a mellifluous but inexperienced and untried identity-politics candidate turned off the sclerotic Democratic Party bosses or its apparent race-obsessed king-makers, given there are no Obama 2.0 candidates in the field. The subtext of the Democratic field — at least until Joe Biden enters — appears to be that Obama will be as much praised as he is forgotten. Liberals are strangely quiet about the race/class/gender make-up of their field, but apparently not eager to see the old racialist warhorses Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson return to the campaign trail, or a new face like Cory Booker or maybe Michelle Obama in Hillary Clinton-fashion.
Otherwise, the Obama record is mostly disasters. He promised over 20 times not to act unconstitutionally and issue blanket amnesties. Then he destroyed the idea of a border, both physically and ideologically — and taught the Democratic Party that the salvation for its otherwise unpopular agenda was demographic, as in welcoming in millions of illegal aliens who would form a new constituency for statism. To restore a shred of border security will incur institutionalized charges of racist, nativist, and xenophobe. The only brake on immigration will be bewildered Latino activists who fear that vast increases in illegal Asian immigration will trump their own paradigm, and thus they will call for some sort of immigration enforcement. Obama has left us with an existential question: if there are no borders and no immigration laws, at what point does illegal immigration cease? 100 million foreign-born residents? 150 million? 20 million illegal aliens? 40? 60? When the southern U.S. becomes Mexico or Guatemala, will Guatemalans or Mexicans still wish to come? When Sidwell Friends become bilingual or the Menlo School has translators on campus? Once the law is null and void, the question becomes again philosophical: who is to say that anyone cannot come, once you have said that almost everyone can come? Apparently, the only person we don’t want in this country is someone applying legally for citizenship from a Germany or Denmark, with an MBA, $250,000 in the bank, and perfect English.
Foreign policy will take a decade of recovery. We are seeing a historic Russian, Iranian, Syrian, radical Shiite/Hezbollah, and Hamas arc sweeping across the Middle East.
It has little to do with destroying ISIS, which will be allowed by Putin and Iran to continue a bit to provide blood-sport in its killing of Westerners and their supporters. The new Axis instead will be anchored by a nuclear Iran, and an expeditionary army of Iranian-backed shock troops and terrorists, energized by Russian weapons and air and naval support. Add up the daily oil-export potential of Russia, Iran, and Iraq, and then factor in the clout that the new coalition will wield against the Sunni Gulf states. Consider also China’s interests. The result is that we are witnessing the birth of a new paradigm in the oil-rich Middle East that will make OPEC’s cartel appear amateurish.
Afghanistan is going the way of Iraq. To appreciate those twin disasters, imagine getting out of Korea for a 1956 reelection talking point and allowing the North to reabsorb what thousands of American lives had saved. Or perhaps imagine Truman as Obama leaving Japan about 1950 to allow the postwar Japanese to work things out with the Communist Chinese next door.
The only mystery about the disasters in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and our new hostility to Israel and the Gulf states, was whether Obama was incompetent and timid, or a conniving nihilist eager to reduce the Middle East to an anti-American wasteland.
Again, Obama leaves us with a philosophical question: what will the world look like without any U.S. leadership? Bellum omnium contra omnes? Putin’s new Russian Union? A Chinese Pacific? A Mediterranean of dinghies and rowboats? At what point does the present chaos become apocalyptic? When flights are cancelled to Dubai? When Iranian rockets and terrorists battle Israeli F-16s? When Munich looks like Mogadishu? When Putin takes Tallinn?
Take Obamacare. Only the incompetence and impracticality of the Affordable Care Act will render it irrelevant. After visiting a number of doctors’ waiting rooms in the impoverished San Joaquin Valley, I can attest that most of Obamacare patients have little idea of what a deductible, copayment or premium is, have less desire to find out, and prefer going back to the ER or free federal and state health clinics whenever possible. Does signing up once for Obamacare ensure that the user continues to pay premiums on time and has cash for deductibles? And if not, then what?
Otherwise, most who had their own insurance just shrug that it is now far more expensive for less care, and move on. They are apparently relieved that higher costs for their plans are worth them not devolving entirely into Obamacare coverage.
Government has now adopted a Third-World ethos. Review the Secret Service. It has gone rogue, leaking old files on congressional watchdogs. The IRS is an extension of the White House; in brilliant fashion Lois Lerner left a legacy of deterrence: something like, “I am still not in jail, and you all are still worried that there are thousands like me burrowed in the IRS watching you.”
Where did all the rogues and incompetents at the GSA, ICE, NSA, TSA, and VA come from? Did they simply come out of the woodwork once Obama set the tone that bureaucrats are to be ACORN and SEIU-like community organizers? When did the goal of a 24-year-old college graduate become a sinecure as a government bureaucrat, replete with de facto lifelong tenure, guaranteed pay raises, and a retirement system that pays out annually more than does a private $4-million 401K without the worry?
Was all this due to incompetence or nihilism?
Who knows or cares? The only mystery left is how much damage the last gasp of 2016 will bring? Abroad, our enemies will rightly conclude that 2016 is about the time to cash in the last of their winnings and leave the table. And at home, we will have a year to go of petulance, spite, and snark because we have finally rejected the messiah sent into the world to save us.