Obama Limps into History

Most non-Millennials know the history. Facing a sure defeat at the hands of Napoleon in 1812, the Russians retreated. As they retreated, they burned crops, destroyed bridges and successfully weakened and slowed the advancing French army. In the end, the demoralized and depleted French endured a brutal Russian winter without supplies only to face ultimate defeat.

At first glance it would seem that, taking his lesson from history, Barack Obama is attempting exactly such a tactic in the face of the overwhelming electoral condemnation his party and policies suffered in the most recent elections. The New York Times, and other papers have reported Obama’s last minute executive actions in this light. But upon closer inspection, this myth of utilitarian heroism falls away and we’re left with nothing more than a vanity-driven attempt to create a virtue-signal based political legacy.

Democrats emerged from November’s elections even more broken than they were going in, with humiliating losses in the states, a clear failure to recapture either house of Congress, and, of course, the loss of the presidency. So what does President Obama do? He has used the lamest part of his lame-duck presidency in an attempt both to cement his “legacy” and place obstacles in the path of his successor. He allowed the United Nations to condemn Israel; “permanently” banned drilling off the Atlantic coast; protected federal funding of Planned Parenthood; and condemned and sanctioned Russia for allegedly “hacking” the presidential election.

Obama’s 11th-hour executive actions and institutional directives might be seen to serve the utilitarian purpose of forcing Trump and the Republican congress to waste political capital on their revocation thus making the Republicans’ major agenda items, repeal of Obamacare, immigration and taxes that much more difficult. But, like most of the things he has done via pen and phone, many of these are relatively easily reversed by “pen and phone,” making them, for the most part, a house of cards built as a tornado approaches.

Russia has already responded to his effete sanctions with a round of deserved mockery and, with the exception of the U.N. resolution, each one of the directives can be rescinded fairly easily by the next administration whose party controls both chambers of Congress. As to the drilling ban, the Washington Post reports:

President-elect Donald Trump could counter Obama’s plan with his own five-year plan, but even so it would be years before drilling could start.

The president-elect’s authority to undo a permanent prohibition is unclear. But Congress, controlled by Republicans, could move to rescind the withdrawal of federal lands from oil and gas exploration.”

Similarly, regarding the Planned Parenthood rule, the New York Times notes:

According to the department [of Health and Human Services], repealing the rule would require a new rule-making process, or a joint resolution of disapproval by the House and Senate, with concurrence by the new president.”

Constitutional scholar Barack Obama knows all this. We are left with the conclusion that he enacted these changes with full knowledge that they would be reversed in no time at all.

None of these actions is designed to be permanent but rather to serve as the ultimate in political virtue signalling. If these agenda items were important to him he’d have spent considerably more political capital on them. He’s had eight years, two of which effectively saw him enjoying a supermajority, in which to try to enact and cement these policies legislatively. Instead, he is choosing the last hours of his presidency to “act.” Yet these actions are not intended to be permanent. They serve only to make Obama look good in the eyes of his fans as he leaves office—and, of course, to make Trump look the monster when he repeals them on Day One. Obama understands that these actions are not only symbolic, but doomed. None of that seems to matter to him, so long as the history books record that he tried.

And there lies the heart of it: the history books. The same man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for winning an election is now trying to be viewed as an environmental protector, Palestinian freedom fighter, and the Shining Knight of women’s health using a thin broth consisting of last minute abstentions and executive actions.

What may lie at the core of his actions is his belief—some would say knowledge—that he has the academy and the writers of history (or at least Buzzfeed Top 10 lists) on his side. Obama issues these proclamations secure in the knowledge that the politically Manichean culture he has buoyed during his eight years in the White House will have him painted as hero by a large and impassioned swath of the electorate. Romantic readings of his last-minute actions as grand moments in a storied movement are already underway. And since, like any good social organizer, Obama understands that it is the past that keeps changing, he is comfortable being known as the president of “what might have been.” To that end, he continues governing by intention rather than looking toward any real results.

These are not the noble actions of a retreating general using scorched earth effectively to stall an oncoming force. Instead, they are akin to an attempt by a slumlord or real-estate developer to spackle over cracks in the walls and put Bondo in holes of a crumbling building he’s trying to sell as a luxury property. If and when Trump and Congress use those same tools of pen and phone to undo many of Obama’s ersatz accomplishments, the dudgeon no doubt will be high. Not merely because of policy reversal but because they will be viewed as destroying the legacy of a would-be perfect president. His base and the mythologized history written about his presidency will mourn the future that could have been.

If only, if only.

About Boris Zelkin

Russian-born Boris Zelkin is an Emmy Award-winning composer who has written the music to countless films, documentaries, television shows and major sporting events, including the Tucker Carlson show, Bill O'Reilly, "Gosnell," “FrackNation,” Citizen United’s “Rediscovering God in America II,” Roger Simon’s “Lies and Whispers,” the America's Cup, the Masters, the World Skating Championships, the U.S. Open, NASCAR, the Stanley Cup Championship, and the theme to ESPN’s NCAA championship coverage. Zelkin received his B.A. from Colgate University and earned his M.A. in religion from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He has written extensively on the culture for various online journals and was a major contributor to the recently released “Bond Forever,” a book about the James Bond franchise. He currently resides in Los Angeles but is always looking for a way out.

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18 responses to “Obama Limps into History”

  1. It is worth noting that what partisans feel in the zeal of the moment and the delusions induced by propaganda has importance but over time the facts come out. Doubtless James B. Buchanan had his fans at the time but those looking back who understand American history understand what a terrible and disastrous President he was. Obama’s attempt to create a Potemkin Village of appearances only works on those fooled by such things. Over time what will remain is the reality of economic stagnation, Obama/Holder exacerbated increased divisions, one foreign disaster after another induced by the choices of the administration (Iraq, Benghazi, Libya, Egypt, ISIS and so much more), and a President who tried to present the illusion of a Camelot but in fact performed terribly.

    • Buchanan’s presidency was indeed disastrous. But again, this is the first Chief Executive in history — with the minor, partial exception of Carter — who has actively sought to damage the country he wished to lead.

      The sooner someone has the opportunity to knock the teeth out of his endlessly flapping mouth and down his throat, the better off we will all be.

      • Your second paragraph was a stunner and brought a real laugh out of me. Well said!

      • I share your perspective that Obama did indeed actively seek to (and succeeded in) damaging the country he led. A truly terrible man. But I might note that Buchanan was the same – for example shifting arms from armories in the North to armories in the South to strengthen the Confederacy he knew would emerge – in terms of deliberately betraying the nation they led. Both were terrible Presidents. But the Civil War was a far worse consequence than Obama’s damage which I expect Trump to reverse, for the most part, in short order.

      • Leaving aside Buchanan’s presidential actions such as you cite, since (a) though his competence was always in question, his motives weren’t, at least not seriously; and (b) people of good will can disagree honestly about such things as a state’s right to secede, Buchanan still wins on points since he had served his country with distinction in a long career before the White House, most notably as James K. Polk’s (one of our finest chief executives) secretary of state. Our soon-to-be-ex-president has only his long record of rabble-rousing and gum-flapping.

        I agree the Civil War was a far worse consequence than those we currently face; however, major waypoints on our current trajectory are not yet knowable! I don’t foresee 620,000 dead, but if nothing else, I think that we can agree that (a) our current predicaments are all so unnecessary, and (b) the wounds of the Civil War were better healed 100 years ago than they are now.

      • I understand entirely your perspective. I am just trying to stick with the history as I know it – as I did a little research on the topic before I switched from what I initially thought – Obama is the worst President ever – to my eventual conclusion – Obama is the worst President since James Buchanan. I grant you that your position is reasonable since there are disputes as to whether Buchanan intended to facilitate Southern performance in a civil war while it is crystal clear that Obama is opposed tooth and nail to the basic things underlying America – limited government, liberty, free enterprise, empowerment of the individual and not the state, freedom of thought, speech and belief, and the importance of integrity in public officials exemplified by our finest Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Obama is a villain, no doubt about it to those who understand our history and the facts of his behavior.

  2. Obama, in his delusional mind, is neither retreating nor limping into history. He will continue to hold forth on every major issue and the Dark State-controlled Fake News media will report his every utterance breathlessly. His and the sycophants’ problem is no one cares even now what Obama has to say, and the disinterest will become even more widespread in the weeks and months ahead.

    Obama and Bill Clinton loathe one another–they both are right to do so, too!–but they are mirror images, narcissistic mediocrities who demand constant attention. Now that his wife no longer can deliver favors as Secretary of State in return for hard cash, Bill Clinton is a non-entity. Obama could learn something there but he won’t.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish. The “Russia stole muh election” absurdity on his way out the door is a fitting metaphor for eight years of a failed, pathetic, and party-destroying Administration.

  3. All that will remain of the Obama legacy is his Noballs Prize. The rest will be quickly be undone by PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP and the GOP Congress. Parts of Obama’s damage may require amending or repealing the 1906 Antiquities Act or other legislation but almost all of Obama’s last-minute actions can be undone.

    • He will also have his D.O.D. Distinguished Public Service medal as a spiffy ornament when he goes to formal occasions.

  4. The president-elect’s authority to undo a permanent prohibition is unclear.

    It is clear that as president-elect he cannot undo or do anything, and it seems equally clear that as president, the principle of Stone v Mississippi permits him to undo the ban.

  5. Interesting article. Well written.
    Two points:
    The academic fraud, Barry Soetoro… I mean Barack Obama, is no more knowledgeable about the Constitution than my cat, so I doubt he has any grasp of how easy it will be to undo most of his “legacy.”
    Yes, B.O.’s fans will blow him kisses for his last minute actions. However, Trump’s fans will look upon him as a hero for having to sustain this less than peaceful transfer of power and undoing B.O.’s actions.

    • Fred , your cat has vastly MORE constitutional knowledge than the fraud BHO .

  6. For those who don’t know history, I prefer the analogy of another “Hussein”, who after being soundly defeated and driven out of KuWait – chose set the oil fields ablaze as his army retreated back to Iraq. It took almost a year to put out the fires, but within 2 years – hardly anyone remembers what he did. Hope this analogy is more telling.

  7. The only real way to avoid this in the future (by either party) is to move move inauguration early enough to preclude it. Inauguration was in March when we traveled by horse & carriage, changed by the 20th Amendment in 1933. The Electoral College certainly can be moved up to prevent the kinds of shenanigans attempted by those the American voters defeated, and the inauguration within a week following the EC. The election on the 1st Tue after 1 Nov, the EC vote the 2nd Tue, the inauguration the 3rd Tue certainly are within our ability. Then we all could relax with a turkey on the plate instead of strutting about with a pen and a phone a couple of days later. Following the O’s scorched earth it seems logical that 38 States could be found very quickly to agree to amend the Constitution to prevent this kind of childishness in the future.

  8. These steps are designed to provide the Dems with talking points when Trump reverses them. Not that it will matter. If the election has shown anything, it is that Progressives cannot be reasoned with, so why worry about what they think?

  9. My favorite part of this article was the defeat of Napoleon. The rest is great too. It does however bring up an interesting question: what should a President who is leaving office do in his final days? Especially if his political party has been rebuked? Americans are generally better at effecting the polite respect for the transfer of power than most nations which pretend to democracy. This time is no different despite the sensationalism. President Obama departs as he started: with relativd grace and relatively poor foreign policy judgment.

    • “relative grace”

      Relative to whom? Seems like nothing but glaring petulance to me.

      • Immediately following the election, President Obama gracefully acknowledged the result and treated Trump with proper respect rather than going the route of feigning didbelief and appealing to electors to mutiny. Under the circumstances that was graceful relative to the un gracious reaction of so many elites.