Every election of a new President of the United States brings a quirky American tradition to the forefront — the need to rate or rank the President about to leave office against his predecessors in some hastily assessed scale of accomplishment and gravitas. The academicians and faux historians love doing it, because it implies they themselves alone have sufficient stature and authority to summarily adjudicate recent history and immediately weigh it against distant history. Additionally, they can make sure their version of success or failure, their definition of consequential, will set the standard by which their favorites are judged. The current President Obama, as he prepares to leave office, is already being rated “highly,” as if they would possibly let objective insight get in the way of their feelings for the man of hope and change.
History of course is its own best guide, as distance and events begin to provide better perspective to the actions and inactions of the President, that determine if the country and the world were left a better place and important arcs of history were affected downstream.
President Obama is doing his utmost to try to self define his Presidency as transcendent, because that was standard he set for himself at the moment of his election in 2008.
Transcendent Presidents are few, as their capabilities and depth of awareness of the forces of history, and the collective and progressive openness of the people to their message must additionally be transcendent. President Obama’s message, for good or ill, was transcendent, the transformation of the United States as a world leader and defendant of individual freedom, into a more passive collaborator in globalist ideas, and a country that needed constant and consuming racial and societal reflection at home to achieve a society “worthy” of its out of proportion bounty. This was a President that wanted to be transcendent, consequential, and to the elites that righteously demand a world they alone can admire, he was the perfect talent for the job of societal transcendence.
Some Presidents have left quietly and allowed others to reflect on their time in office, others have suggested their own sense in a few chosen words, the challenges of their time and their hope for the country. President Obama felt the need to restate his place in history through an hour long, rambling speech that tried to stay ahead of the sickening feeling in his political gut, that the country did not see his consequentialness consistent with his own opinion. If you have been told over and over again by the fawning elite and your own ego, that you are the unique answer to the nation’s yearnings, it is, I’m sure, a very uncomfortable feeling to see the country rapidly averting its eyes to your vision.
Hope and change in the end did not feel consequential to the country’s needs and yearnings, and in many ways the fall from grace has been stark and total. In the period of the President’s ‘transcendent’ leadership, the party reflecting his views has gone from a position of dominance, to the loss of majority in the state legislatures, governorships, house of representatives, senate, the presidency, and soon, supreme court. The President’s personal charm did not translate into an aura of leadership that anyone was willing to follow. He achieved essentially one legislative victory, the Accountable Care Act, that took on his persona and became extricably linked as Obamacare, a veneer of “progress” in healthcare that rapidly collapsed under the weight of its poor depth of structure and lack of alignment with the average person’s needs. Its overwhelming inconsequentiality will be forever defined by the law being overturned literally as its namesake is replaced. This inconsequential President, unwilling to seek consensus with others on so consequential a concept as overhaul of the nation’s health delivery system, will be consigned to leave office with his singular achievement leaving the stage alongside him.
President Obama, elected as the literal answer to the prayers of millions who believed in Martin Luther King’s dream of a society based not on the color of one’s skin but the content of one’s character, had an incredible opportunity to bring this message to final transcendence. Maybe more than any other President, his unique characteristics offered the ultimate bully pulpit to cement a new racially advanced society, to the benefit of all. It was most disappointingly in this arena, where his talents and leadership proved most difficient and ham handed. The eight years of Obama showed a steady deterioration in inter-race relations, with ‘victories’ claimed through the championing of victimhood and political correctness, and the profound indifference to urban violence, police relationships, and cycles of family demise and neighborhood opportunity. The final twin daggers to the President’s tone deaf, failed recognition of his own role to educate and to lead were both stark, and frustratingly familiar to previous events. The first was the awful reverse racist event of four black youths torturing a mentally disabled white youth and proudly broadcasting it on Facebook, and the President unable to articulate any principle of race that would speak to the universal concepts of civilized decency and respect whatever the direction of racial ignorance. The second was the President removing the protection of Cubans escaping the totalitarian, oppressive government of Cuba and requiring return to Cuba of those without appropriate documents. This move is a fit of pique to hamstring the next administration, and to support a legacy event of restoring relations with communist Cuba. The ruling pretends to support legitimate immigration processes, when for eight years administration has allowed porous borders and sanctuary cities to shield many individuals who sought to do America and its citizens great harm, yet treat them as equals of Cuba’s oppressed and desperate escapees.
Finally, Obama’s foreign policy of retrenchment from a perceived American expansionism left the country far more vulnerable, and the world infinitely more unstable. A radical transformation of the nation’s focus from international human adversaries, to an attempted quixotic war on the world’s core temperature, left America and the world progressively detached from the President’s effort to be a transcendent world leader. The superficiality of the vision without the hard work of philosophical development and the backbone to assure adversary respect led leaders to ignore “redlines” and “sanctions” when they realized Obama’s reaction would be inconsequential, his attention easily diverted to personal rather than national goals. Pathetic attempts to use his supposed personal and rhetorical gifts to re-direct Russia, mollify the Muslim world, and influence elections in Britain and Israel collapsed upon the emptiness of his leadership. The unfortunate result for all the planet is that the country that must lead for a stable world to exist, has been led by the most inconsequential of leaders on the foreign stage. It is not clear if the wake of such inconsequence will be the darker consequence of upheaval, but history would suggest the outcomes of such failures are determined in the eventual collapse of rational actions by aggressor nations.
The many other examples, the regulatory waterboarding of American enterprise, the weakening of the military, the enormous deficit spending and ballooning of debt assure the need for consequential actions of subsequent Presidents to address the distracted dithering of the current one. Consequential Presidents set in to place forces that assure decades of shared purpose regardless of politics due to the overwhelming reality of the positive impact of those consequential decisions on society. There are no examples of consequential leaders where the very lack of their presence on the stage led to a rapid and complete overhaul of everything they had directed, and a society satisfied to see it happen. For consequential presidents, the historical consensus can often turn to epic recognition. For this President for whom so much was felt possible, it looks like his inconsequence will result in the legacy of – 15 minutes of fame.