As the 2016 American Presidential Election gets underway with the looming Democratic and Republican Primaries, it is appropriate to carry out an interim assessment of President Obama's legacy.
Cast your mind back to those heady, uber-hyped days in 2007 and 2008. Remember the little known, little tested and little experienced Senator from Illinois promising «Change We Can Believe In» to thunderous crowds lapping up every one of his vacuous sound bites and platitudes. Where Mrs Clinton was cast as legalistic and prone to parsing her words, it was the other way around for Mr Obama. He was considered «rational», «logical» and «deep-thinking». Every time Mrs Clinton put a foot wrong the media came down on her like a ton of bricks. Yet, when Mr Obama made some of the exact same missteps, the media and electorate gave him a pass. Americans and the world chose to see what they wanted to see, and blanked out the rest if it did not conform to their pre-determined narrative.
With only two years in the United States Senate and zero executive experience alongside zero foreign policy and national security credentials, we were fed the line by American and Western limousine liberals, that all would be sweetness and light when Mr Obama arrived in the White House. Since his campaign strategist Mr David Axelrod sold him to the American public as something akin to the new Messiah, it was parroted that the Republican Party and «Special Interests» would all just bow down and fawn at Mr Obama's feet. He would bring «Red» America and «Blue» America together through the power of his tele-promter powered oratory. As President, Obama would be a «Uniter» not a «Divider» and get things done in Congress, breaking the pathological partisanship, which has characterized the American legislative system for so long.
Mr. Obama's sudden and unexpected ascent to the most powerful office on Earth was greeted by some as if it were the Second Coming. With little to show in terms of a Government service and public policy achievements, Mr Obama rode a wave of anti-Establishment dissatisfaction, based upon nothing more than a speech he gave in 2002 against the proposed Iraq Intervention and capitalizing upon white, wealthy liberal American guilt over the disgraceful treatment and brutal discrimination against the African-American community. From his first day in Office President Obama would immediately shut down Guantanamo Bay – which had become a symbol of all that was distasteful about the Bush years – so said his foreign policy advisor and now Ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Samantha Power. Yet six and a half years later Guantanamo Bay is still open for business.
Mr Obama's foreign policy would reach out a hand of friendship to the likes of Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela. While a deal on Iran's nuclear program has been reached, no official diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States exist today. The American Embassy in Cuba has re-opened, yet the trade embargo still exists. And as for Syria and North Korea, the less said on the progress made on those fronts, the better. President Obama promised a new partnership with Russia and a «re-set». Instead, relations between President Obama and President Putin have become even more frosty than under George W. Bush and the Obama Administration at the United Nations, led first by Dr Susan Rice and then her successor Dr Samantha Power, have castigated Russia left, right and center from everything from Syria policy to Russia's domestic policies. Obama promised to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and start a new chapter in relations with the Muslim and Arab world, outlined in his Cairo Speech of June 2009, entitled disingenuously as «A New Beginning».
However, the United States is back in Iraq, has escalated its presence in Afghanistan and drone strikes are now more rampant under the Obama administration than they were under the Bush administration.
Domestically, Obama promised a radical overhaul of the atrocious and immoral US health care system. Instead, he wasted a whole year of Presidency fiddling with a half-baked proposal that did not include a Public Option, like a British style NHS, which Americans desperately need. He promised to clean up American politics and the influx of big money and corporate special interests. In fact, under the Obama administration and the Citizens United ruling, the growth of big money in American politics has reached levels never seen before with the arrival of obscene and undemocratic Super PACS. During his re-election campaign Mr Obama held fundraisers, charging $35,000 a pop for dinner with him and gleefully gobbled up what ever money came his way from Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citi Bank et al. Special Favours for Fat Cheques still reign supreme in American politics.
There are more lobbyists on Capitol Hill than there were in 2007-08. The gap between the richest and poorest Americans has accelerated under the Obama administration while the power of the 1% has increased at a prodigious pace. Wall Street threw everything it had at watering down financial reforms and new regulations and got a weak and mediocre Fran-Dodd Bill, to the bitter disappointment of true liberals like Senator Elizabeth Warren, whom President Obama has dismissed as just «another politician». Well, precisely the same can be said of him. Has the Obama administration gone all out to get effective gun control measures in place? No, and as we see almost weekly now on our TV screens the gun culture in America is wildly out of control and getting worse by the month, and Mr Obama is doing nothing about it. When history's verdict is written in the decades to come on the Obama Presidency will it be «Change We Can Believe In»? Or perhaps, «Much Ado About Nothing»?