Posted by Curt on 23 November, 2016 at 5:34 pm. 3 comments already!


Conrad Black:

As there is an incessant crescendo, still gaining in volume each week, about President Obama’s “legacy,” I thought it appropriate to try to identify this legacy, which his supporters believe history will honor. I have written here and elsewhere that, apart from breaking the color barrier and disposing of bin Laden, I am hard pressed to think of anything useful in his legacy. I have never been an Obama hater or someone who disputed his patriotism. I do think that Mr. Obama is rather subdued about the tired pieties of “American exceptionalism,” and that this is not unjustified given his background and the fact that that exceptionalism is now almost exclusively a matter of the economic scale on which the country operates. The United States is not now one of the world’s better-functioning democracies, though it is certainly the premier democracy, as the indispensable nation in the triumph of democracy and of the free market in much of the post-colonial and post–Cold War world.

I don’t detect a lamentable lack of national pride in Mr. Obama, though Mrs. Obama’s infamous comment that her husband’s elevation was the first instance of her feeling pride in America was irritating and perhaps portentous. I always thought the birther controversy was unutterable nonsense, a disgraceful preoccupation, and indicative of the president-elect’s weakness for silly theories, of a piece with his citation of the National Enquirer in linking the father of Senator Cruz with the assassination of President Kennedy. He will presumably outgrow such sources on the last leg of his astonishing progress to the White House.

I was prompted to examine the Obama record through the eyes of one of his most articulate supporters by my sharpish exchange with the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, onFareed Zakaria’s television program two weeks ago. Mr. Remnick said that he thought he was “hallucinating” when he heard me say that Donald Trump is neither a racist nor a sexist, and I replied that I had a similar sensation when I saw President Obama in the ten days before the election telling large crowds that Trump was an admirer of the Ku Klux Klan. I looked atRemnick’s very lengthy review of the Obama presidency and description of the president’s response to Trump’s election in The New Yorker of November 28. Mr. Remnick makes no secret of his unwavering and unlimited admiration for the president. The grief-stricken elegies of Abraham Lincoln, even unto Henry Ward Beecher, the toadying chronicles of the great liberal hallelujah chorus for Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the mawkish potboilers mass-produced by the Kennedy entourage could be ransacked in vain to find a rival to the body of Mr. Remnick’sworks of ultra-secular canonization in laudation of Barack Obama.

In his book and many articles about Barack Obama, he makes a strong case that his subject is a convivial, very intelligent, articulate man, unpretentious if somewhat desiccated. He is attractive and the fact that he is of both African origin and, as he points out in the November 28 piece, “Scottish-Irish,” is generally reflected in the comprehensive perspective that he seems to have of the complex American national character. There is much to like in him as a public person and a leader, which makes the great mandate he received eight years ago very understandable, and I believe makes his mediocre performance as president a great disappointment. He steadily receives a 50 to 55 percent approval rating, 10 to 20 points below (F.D.) Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon pre-Watergate, Reagan, and, for the untroubled parts of his time, Bill Clinton. But this is a levitation produced by his unusually fluent but detached personality, given that for the last six years two-thirds of Americans polled have steadily thought the country was going “in the wrong direction.”

David Remnick explained on November 28 that a stagnant impasse for the Obama administration was ended in June of last year when, in the same week, the Supreme Court determined that Obamacare was a constitutionally acceptable tax and approved what Remnick breezily calls “marriage equality” (gay marriage, again, like Roe v. Wade and Obamacare, probably the right decision but for spurious reasons); and when the president sang “Amazing Grace” at the funeral for nine African Americans murdered in Charleston. This, Remnick wrote, brought the elusive legacy to the fore. The legacy is: avoiding a depression, “rescuing the automobile industry,” Wall Street “reform,” Obamacare,  marriage equality, “banning torture,” the LillyLedbetter Fair Pay Act, the end of the Iraq War, “heavy investment in renewable-energy technologies,” the appointment of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court, killing bin Laden, the Iran nuclear deal, the opening of Cuba, the Paris agreement on climate change, and two terms “long on dignity and short on scandal.”

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