Monday, December 19

Liberal rag convenes panel of liberals to judge the emperor's greatest achievements

After the election the leftist rag "The New Republic" assembled a panel of--surprise!--leftists to complain about the results and figure out who to blame. 

You'll all be surprised to learn that they concluded that the unbelievable, impossible, unforeseen Trump win had nothing whatsoever to do with voters hating most of the policies of both Hilliary and Obama.  Instead they all decided the Dems' loss was due to--can you guess?--racism and sexism by whites. 

Wow, who could have seen that coming?

From the moment Barack Obama was elected in 2008 he began to disappoint those who had believed in his message of change. He appointed entrenched Washington insiders to his Cabinet. He put Wall Street bankers in charge of regulating Wall Street banks. He compromised with Republicans on the economic stimulus, slowing the recovery for millions of Americans. 
Wait...I thought the Dems always said compromise was good.  So how was Obozo's [alleged] compromise a "disappointment" to his supporters?  Oh wait, got it:  Compromise is only good when Dems want Republicans to compromise.  They think Dems compromising is bad.  Very, very bad.
He refused to push for universal health care...
Wait, did I just imagine the Dems ramming Obamacare through just before Christmas.  It's mandatory, so how can they claim it's not "universal"?
...and deported two million immigrants. He failed to shut down Guantanamo, dispatched another 60,000 troops to Afghanistan, and launched hundreds of drone strikes that killed countless civilians.
Today, income inequality continues to rise, and big banks are bigger than ever, and student debt has hit a record $1 trillion. 
All Trump's fault, of course.  Just like the lack of economic recovery during the record-length recession after Obama's election was totally Bush's fault.

Democrats have not only lost control of every branch of the federal government, they are weaker at the state level than at any point since 1920. Those who thought they had elected a bold and inspiring populist were surprised to find him replaced by a cautious and deliberate pragmatist.

Now, eight years later, many of Obama’s critics suddenly find themselves yearning for the euphoria that accompanied his election, and fearing for the small but significant progress he made on a host of fronts: equal pay, expanded health care, nuclear nonproliferation, global warming. It’s not just that hope and change have given way to fear and loathing—it’s that so few of us saw it coming. 

Right-wing extremists, it turns out, aren’t the only ones who live in a faith-based reality of their own making.  American liberals have cocooned themselves in a soothing feedback loop woven from Huffington Post headlines, New York Times polls and repeat viewings of Madam Secretary. If nothing else, Trump’s election demands that we return to the real world in all its complexities and contradictions, and confront our own obliviousness.
And you'll see how well they did that below.  Spoiler:  "Hilliary lost because Obama supported her and whites are racist and sexist."

Participants In Our Forum On Obama’s Legacy
Nell Irvin Painter is professor emerita at Princeton and the former president of the Organization of American Historians.
Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law and professor of history at Harvard.
Sarah Jaffe, a fellow at the Nation Institute, is a journalist who reports on labor and social movements.
John B. Judis, a former senior editor at the New Republic.
Andrew Sullivan, a former editor of the New Republic, is a contributing editor at New York magazine.
Barack Obama came to office with an ambitious liberal agenda. He sought to make America great by emphasizing unity over division...
That's...odd.  During his first campaign he said "If they bring a knife you bring a gun."  Not divisive at all, huh.  "Get in their faces" was another of his unifying lines, as was "I won, you lost.  Deal with it."  Yeah, he's a real unifier.  His statements after the ambush murders of police officers in NY, Baton Rouge and Dallas were emotionless and perfunctory.  He couldn't even be bothered to attend most of the funerals.  Yeah, a great unifier.
...and international engagement over foreign intervention.
Wait, didn't he send an additional 60,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan ("the surge")?  And he ordered U.S. forces into Syria--despite promises of "no boots on the ground."  Yeah, no "foreign intervention" by the emperor.  You bet.
Eight years later, what lessons can we learn from his successes and failures? And how much of his legacy will survive the coming onslaught?

Two days after the election, we sat down with five leading historians and political observers. The streets below were packed with thousands of anti-Trump protesters, and their rising chants served as a grim counterpoint to our conversation about Obama, and where he leaves us.
"Grim counterpoint" because the written demands of most Democrat "leaders" and Lying Media types are pushing the nation closer to civil war.

I. Is Trump Obama’s Legacy?

Let’s start with the seismic political reversal that just took place. It’s hard to imagine a bigger shift for America than going from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. The two of them are polar opposites in almost every regard.
Polar opposites because Trump wants to make America great again, while Obama wants to bow to every foreign nation and put the hopelessly corrupt U.N. in charge of everything.
But now, instead of seeing his legacy cemented, Obama faces the prospect of having his major accomplishments undone. How much responsibility do you think that he himself bears for creating the conditions that allowed Trump to get elected? In retrospect, are there things he could or should have done to protect and institutionalize his agenda more?
NELL PAINTER: I don’t think it has anything to do with him personally, except that he’s a black man. The election of Trump was a gut-level response to what many Americans interpreted as an insult eight years ago, and have been seething against ever since.
See?  Raaaacist!  Except enough whites voted for Obama--twice--to give him the presidency over qualified, vetted, experienced white opponents.  But by all means, libs, stick with the "he lost cuz of raaaacism."  I'm sure you're convinced that calling white Americans racists will get them to support your party, since it's worked so well before.
The only way you can see Trump as somehow Obama’s fault is Obama’s very being. It’s ontological.
ANNETTE GORDON-REED: I agree with Nell. There’s nothing he could’ve done in this climate other than be somebody else. We know the record of obstruction by Republicans, the lack of cooperation. Some Democrats suggested that Obama was giving things away before they were even asked for, to try and be accommodating. But there was no chance for bipartisanship—it was obstruction from day one.
PAINTER: Before day one.
What planet have these people been living on?  While the Repubs talked about opposing Obama, they didn't ever actually do anything.  Even with a big majority in the House, speaker Paul Ryan arranged for his party to vote for the "continuing resolution" that gave Obama every budget item he wanted.
GORDON-REED: Before he had done anything: “We’re going to make him a one-term president.” People suggested that he didn’t try to work with Congress enough. They’d ask me about Jefferson and his dinner parties: “Obama didn’t invite people over for dinner like Jefferson did!” But today is a different time, and Obama is a different person. You can always do things better. But nothing he could have done accounts for what’s happened.
SARAH JAFFE: I can’t separate Obama from the financial crisis he inherited. What could he have done if the economy didn’t explode? Maybe he could’ve had a magically perfect health care program, or maybe he could’ve used the crisis to nationalize all the banks. But in reality, probably not. So it’s really difficult to say what he could have done versus what we’d like him to have done.
JOHN B. JUDIS: There were a number of things he didn’t do that could have prevented Democrats from losing their majority in 2010. In his first two years, Obama didn’t really understand the connection between policy and politics. He would say that himself now.
Wait...didn't you morons just claim the reason half the country deserted Democrats was that they're raaacists?  But now you're admitting that there may actually be a "connection between policy and politics"?  Wow, sounds like you're getting closer to the truth--although a minute from now you'll deny any such connection.  But do say hi to reality if you ever run into it.
PAINTER: That’s right.
JUDIS: He didn’t go after the banks and Wall Street the way Roosevelt did in 1933. That left a political vacuum that made it possible for the Tea Party to become the major mass political force in the country by August of his first year. claim that the Tea Party became "the major mass political force in the country" because the emperor didn't "go after the banks and Wall Street"??  Yeah, I remember the speakers at all the Tea Party rallies complaining that Obama hadn't "gone after the banks."  Wait, that's delusional.
And he was naïve about the possibility for bipartisanship, especially in the way that he dealt with the Affordable Care Act.
There was no bipartisan support because Obozo instructed his congressional leaders to not let a single GOP amendment get even a floor vote!  Because they didn't want to risk any Democrats jumping off the reservation.
Obamacare ended up being designed in a way that allowed the middle class and senior citizens to think that they weren’t getting much out of it, and that their tax dollars were going to subsidize the uninsured.
But that's exactly where their tax dollars are going: to subsidize insurance costs for people who couldn't afford health insurance.  That was the entire selling point of the damn thing.  The only way any rational human could claim tax dollars weren't subsidizing insurance for others was if Obamacare didn't provide any subsidies.  But of course these liberals don't understand that there's no such thing as "free government benefits."
So there was a failure in those first two years that led to the gridlock and other problems that made it easier for Trump to come in as the champion, as the man on the white horse who’s going to change all that.
That said, we also have to recognize something else: There’s a third-term curse. The party that controls the White House for two terms always has a hard time keeping it for a third term. Think of Kennedy beating Nixon in 1960. That wasn’t because Eisenhower was unpopular—it’s because Kennedy was going to get the country moving again.
Whoever is trying to succeed the incumbent can’t really position him or herself as the agent of change, because then you’re repudiating your own president: Nixon would be repudiating Eisenhower, Gore would be repudiating Clinton, Hillary would be repudiating Obama. So they have this incredible dilemma that doesn’t allow them to represent themselves as having a vision for how to change the country. The only time I can remember that it didn’t happen was with George H. W. Bush, but that’s because the Democrats nominated Michael Dukakis, who was hapless as a candidate and had no vision of change. Trump was not a hapless stiff—he was a very effective candidate.
Andrew, did Obama help create the conditions for Trump’s victory?
ANDREW SULLIVAN: If Obama had run for a third term, he would have won. It’s Hillary Clinton’s fault. The worst candidate for president in recent history. Worse than Dukakis. She threw this away. Insofar as that’s Obama’s responsibility, it was in not making sure that Biden entered the race, and being cowed by the Clintons, and not finding a successor who could win the coalition he had assembled. The Clintons destroyed Obama. No one else. Even so, she won the popular vote. But because she’s just a dreadful candidate, and someone almost no one can imagine being president of the United States, she—
GORDON-REED: Oh, I could! 
SULLIVAN: She’s a terribly unpopular person. Horrible: no inspiration, no political skills, complete mediocrity. So that’s the mistake—allowing the Clintons to keep control of the party and then allowing this mediocrity to be his successor.PAINTER: [Gesturing to the others around the table] We entirely disagree with that.
JAFFE: Well, I don’t know. I think Hillary Clinton was a lousy candidate.
GORDON-REED: I don’t think she was a lousy candidate. But for a candidate to lose to someone who’s never been in the military, who’s never held public office—
Wait, Obama was never in the military.  Neither was Bill Clinton.  Nor, obviously, Hilliary.  How amusing that you criticize Trump for missing this but it's not a problem for your candidates.  Delusional.
[Trump is] not like any candidate who’s ever run before. So there were other forces at play here, most notably her gender.
PAINTER: She’s an older woman.
GORDON-REED. That’s right. It’s clear that many people have a hard time paying attention to older women as anything other than mothers or grandmothers.
SULLIVAN: She’s just a bad candidate and a terrible politician whom large numbers of people despised. You can see it in the polls: She represented everything that people hate about Washington.
PAINTER: Yeah, because she’s an older woman.
Yeah, I constantly hear people saying that the thing they hate most about Washington is that there are way too many older women there.  Uh-huh.  Delusional.
SULLIVAN: The idea that she should have been the candidate to replace this inspiring new person who really did transform America was itself a joke. So was the Democratic Party’s delusion in thinking that being the spouse of a former president would be an advantage in this election, when obviously it wasn’t. She couldn’t even win white women against someone who has a history of sexual assault.
GORDON-REED: Well, that says something about white women. We’re talking about this like it was a landslide against her. I mean, Dukakis—what did he win?
JAFFE: Exactly. That’s why I think Elizabeth Warren could have won.
GORDON-REED: You think Elizabeth Warren could’ve won?
JAFFE: Yes. She could have run on a more populist message, and she would have been better at it. Plus, her name does not say “NAFTA” in Indiana and Wisconsin and Ohio.
PAINTER: But it would say “socialist.”
GORDON-REED: And it would say “Pocahontas.” I mean, she was my colleague at Harvard, and I love and would support Elizabeth. But Trump understands media, he understands narrative, he understands story. This has been a story. And he played it very, very well. He would have done it against anybody.

II. Obama’s Machine

Obama entered office with one of the most effective political machines in history. But instead of using it to create grassroots support for his agenda, he basically shut down the entire operation and told his supporters, “I got this.” In basketball terms, he bet his entire presidency on an inside game. Do you think that was a mistake?
JAFFE: Well, he didn’t shut it down. This narrative kind of annoys me. He mobilized it in the wrong direction. I was reporting on the people in Organizing for America, who came out of Obama’s campaign. And when it came time to pass the Affordable Care Act, the people who were organizing through the OFA were told to pressure Republicans, who were never going to vote for anything. They should have pressured wavering Democrats, like Rep. Bart Stupak from Michigan, who were going to flip the whole thing if they couldn’t have it be anti-abortion. So I cringe when people say he demobilized his operation. He just didn’t mobilize it in a way that would have actually been useful, because he wasn’t willing to deploy it against his own party.
Wait...I'm pretty sure Obamacare passed, even though it took Obama personally lying to Stupak, absolutely promising that Obamacare wouldn't provide federal funding for abortion.  That lasted about a week.  But rather than admit the real cause of the Dems' problems, this Jaffe moonbat is gonna claim the non-problem was Obama not turning his thugs loose on wavering members of his own party?  Delusional.

He certainly didn’t mobilize it in the way that the right mobilized the Tea Party—as a grassroots machine. Did he miss an opportunity by not capitalizing on the operation he built and running it in a more active way?JUDIS: It’s hard for presidents to do that. Reagan didn’t really try to do it.  One of the things Obama was unwilling to do in his first year was to declare himself the president of Main Street against Wall Street—to really go after the Republicans. He only figured that out after August 2011, when they really screwed him with the whole national debt crisis and the sequester. If he would have done that from the outset, there would have been more of a possibility of mobilizing. But it was that kind of ambiguity that left the door open.
PAINTER: We’re also forgetting the cultural context of all this: that Obama was operating as a black man among a whole bunch of white guys.
They were middle Americans whose gut sense was distrust—not being comfortable with him, not wanting to go along with him.

SULLIVAN: He won reelection easily. All these arguments about his first term: How did he win reelection if he got things so wrong?
You’re saying that it didn’t matter that he didn’t mobilize grassroots support?
SULLIVAN: If he’d moved left in that first term, he wouldn’t have won reelection.
JAFFE: I think it depends what we’re defining as “left.”
GORDON-REED: He didn’t have to go very far to be too left for some people. For the first black president, there were all kinds of psychic things going on that just don’t apply for a “regular” person. He couldn’t have gone too far left and won.
PAINTER: This is the only place I’m sort of separating myself from John. Because you, John, are thinking of this context without the racial dynamics that played a big part in narrowing his room to maneuver.

SULLIVAN: He won more white voters in 2012 than Hillary Clinton just did, OK? He was always popular with white people in the Midwest. This whole racial thing is just so myopic.GORDON-REED: No, it’s not. We’re talking about his responses to things. We’re talking about why an individual maneuvers in a particular way. If you are an African American person and you are in this setting, you can’t maneuver like a white person. Sure, there are white people who like him—that’s not the question. The question is, why did he act in a particular way?
SULLIVAN: What should he have done otherwise and didn’t because he’s black?
It sounds to me like you’re all reaching a similar conclusion from different directions. You all agree that Obama didn’t move left.
Well, other than forcing national health insurance on the nation.  Oh, and "cash for clunkers."  And refusing to enforce valid laws.  And sending shoulder-fired missiles to ISIS via Syria and the CIA "annex" in Benghazi.  Other than those, he didn't move left much at all.
Andrew’s just saying that he didn’t need to [move left], because he already had the support he needed among white voters.
SULLIVAN: They keep saying that because he’s black he couldn’t move left.
PAINTER: Andrew, that is so gross, in the sense of using such a big club. You’re not hearing what we’re saying in terms of context, psychology, and culture. It’s not a toggle switch of racism, or “because he’s black.”
Gosh that's odd...cuz you just got through saying all the problems he had (??) ramming through his policies arose precisely because he was black.  Which way do you want to go?
It’s because of the fine-grained nature of our society. What he could accomplish changed month by month, week by week, congressman by congressman, senator by senator.
Ah, we see.  It's the fault of "our society" being "fine-grained"--whatever the hell you mean by that.  And no other president--say, Reagan or G.W. Bush--had to contend with that, eh?

JUDIS: I agree. At the time, there was always the Jesse Jackson comparison—that if Obama wanted to succeed, he couldn’t sound like Jesse Jackson, he couldn’t raise hell. But I think there were two other factors that played into that. First was the financial crisis: Tim Geithner and Larry Summers argued that they couldn’t do something that would create a crisis of confidence among the banking industry and Wall Street. And second was that based on Obama’s experience as a state legislator in Illinois, he had this idea that he could pull off a bipartisan compromise. Those are really the two big reasons, leaving aside race, why he took a very cautious course of action that first year.
JAFFE: And there was almost no one within his party who was willing to break ranks with him. Nobody was pulling left.


Attorney and author
OBAMA’S BIGGEST FAILURE As a Pakistani-American it pains me to see how often the Obama administration boasts of its capture of Osama bin Laden. Using a public vaccination program as a front to collect DNA via a CIA operative has seriously impacted the credibility of public health programs in Pakistan. This has led to fewer vaccinations and more disease outbreaks all over the country.
WHAT HE DESERVES MORE CREDIT FOR He is probably one of the best-looking and most charismatic presidents in several decades.
Oh, yeah!  That's definitely what he deserves credit for.  Seriously.

III. His Biggest Success

Let’s broaden out beyond politics and talk about what he achieved as president. I’d like to hear from each of you what you consider to be his single biggest accomplishment that will outlast the Trump era. What will history look back on as his greatest achievement?
JUDIS: What will outlast Trump? We just threw everything out! [Laughter]
Well, that’s really the question now: What did he do that’s going to survive?
JAFFE: That’s such a hard question. After Trump, I think we’re going to look back at Obama and be like, “Oh, this was such a decent human being in the White House.”
GORDON-REED: And no scandals.
JAFFE: Right! Even the people who are the angriest at Obama post pictures of him and his family on Facebook and go: “Look at how great they are.”
Yeah, I see that all the time.  "Wow, that Michelle Obama is really class, eh?  And we only had to pay $85 MILLION for their vacations.  What a bargain!"

JAFFE: OK, true. But if Hillary Clinton was going to be president in January, I would have come in here and been really critical of the Affordable Care Act. In a few months, though, I’m going to have no health insurance instead of crappy health insurance. It all looks very different now. I don’t know what’s going to last.
   What we will remember is an upstanding family, a liberal, ethical administration. It will look like the good old days.
PAINTER: I agree with you that it’s going to be mostly nostalgia, because the Republicans want to dismantle everything that Obama did. As you say, what we will remember is an upstanding family, a clean-living family, a rather liberal administration, as well as ethical and honest. It will look like the good old days.GORDON-REED: Also the fact that he got elected. It was a particular moment.
PAINTER: And reelected!  We can feel good about ourselves.
And there you have the core of liberal value-judgments:  Actual results are unimportant--what matters is that we can feel good about ourselves. 
GORDON-REED: We can feel very good about it. America crossed a particular marker there. I think that will be important. Along with his intelligence, his spirit.
Andrew, this is something that you’ve written about. You have called Obama a “living, walking example of American exceptionalism”—just the fact of his election, and the way he’s conducted himself. Do you see that as the thing that will most endure? Or do you see other things he’s accomplished that will be a significant part of his legacy?
SULLIVAN: Look, we just elected someone, and we have no idea what this person is going to do in office. He has supreme total personal power for the indefinite future. He’s destroyed the Republican Party and created what looks like a neofascist party in its place. But I would put a bet that a lot [of what Obama did] may last that people are currently dismissing. Let’s just take three examples:
   First, of all the things Obama achieved, saving the global economy from a second Great Depression is a huge achievement that will outlast Trump.
"He single-handedly saved the entire world economy from a second Great Depression!  That is SO cool!"  That's so marvelous...except for the fact that it's total bullshit.  
Second, redirecting American foreign policy away from neoconservative, global interventionism will actually be entrenched by Trump. That is one of the key reasons he was elected in the first place, and that huge shift in global power is something that will last. And third, Obamacare. Republicans are saying they’re going to repeal it. Well there are 13 million people, including me, on Obamacare. I’m extremely happy with my Obamacare.

SULLIVAN: The question is: Can they throw 13 million people off health care and face no massive political problem? The thing that’s happened is that the dog has caught the car. They now have to do what they said they were going to do, and the consequences of doing that would be quite extraordinary.
So those are three rather huge things that could well outlast Trump. Sure, there are things Trump can throw out. He can eliminate every single action on climate change that Obama was able to do through the executive branch. But that doesn’t mean that Trump can abolish the fact that climate change is happening. At some point, reality will intrude.
SULLIVAN: And there are other things that could survive Trump. Let’s look at the Iran deal on nuclear nonproliferation. Will Trump really rip it up and launch a new war in the Middle East? Will his buddy Putin, who signed the deal, be happy with that? I don’t think that the revolution in civil rights for gay people can be easily reversed. I think the social shift we saw toward legal marijuana and the unwinding of the drug war is something that may well endure. And I think Obama as an emblem of the future of America may well reemerge.  And in 20 years we may see the Obama administration as the architecture for the entire twenty-first century. So let’s just pause on the notion that it’s all completely over.
GORDON-REED: And it’s been wrecked by the white nationalism that’s always been there, and now feels that it has power.
"Raaaacists!  Everywhere!  And now it feels it has...power!"

John, same question: What do you think Obama has achieved that will outlast Trump?
JUDIS: It’s possible that there might be a way to preserve Obamacare so that it’s actually improved. That’s what happened in Australia after Conservatives repealed national health care—Labor came back and made it better, and now no one will touch it. That would be an amazing achievement for Obama. Getting through the Great Recession, especially the auto bailout, was important. In his second term, the Iran deal.
JAFFE: Sitting here and listening to the chants of the Trump protesters in Union Square, I’m reminded that thousands of young people got trained as organizers in Obama’s campaign. Then they went out and raised hell and didn’t wait for Obama to do it for them. The young people in Ferguson, the young people in New York, the young people in Chicago and everywhere else are saying, “OK, real change is not going to come from the president. It’s going to come from us.” That, in the long run, may be one of the most enduring aspects of Obama’s legacy.
Even liberals get it right once in awhile--even if they don't mean it the way they think:  Obama's urging his followers "If they bring a knife, you bring a gun" has led directly to tens of thousands of "youths" breaking the windows of businesses and setting fire to cars.  Wow, just like Paris!  That's SO COOL--a legacy he can be proud of, eh?


Associate professor of history at NYU
OBAMA’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:  The Iran nuclear nonproliferation deal—a difficult and painstaking agreement that dampens the ardor of those advocating for another large-scale, costly, mass-casualty war. 
WHAT HE DESERVES MORE CREDIT FOR Maintaining his composure and avoiding many of the traps laid for him by right-wing brinkmanship.
It would be more convincing if anyone had an example of a "trap laid for him by right-wing brinkmanship."
HOW HISTORY WILL JUDGE HIM Favorably. His ability to preside over a mostly scandal-free administration...
Does that include ordering the IRS to delay issuing tax-exempt status to conservative non-profit organizations?  Sending arms to Mexican drug cartels ("Fast and furious")?  The VA scandal? restore dignity to the highest elected office...
Yes, oh my yes.  The racy, risque Bushes--G.W. and Laura--were infamous for decorating the White House Christmas tree with pornographic ornaments.  Wait...that was the Clintons.  But by all means, credit Obozo with "restoring dignity" to the presidency.
and to conduct an often intellectually elevated discourse on public affairs far outstrips the low bar set by his predecessors.

IV. His Biggest Failure

Let’s take the same question in reverse: What do each of you see as Obama’s biggest failure?
PAINTER: Overestimating the ability to work across the aisle. Coming in and thinking that he could work with Republicans. Paul Krugman and Hillary Clinton told him in 2009 that this sunny idea of bipartisanship was unrealistic.
Notice what Painter did here:  Obama's biggest failure is that the Republicans wouldn't cooperate with him.
I myself wanted him to be tougher and not take so many steps toward the Republicans and really to fight it out much more.
What a surprise.  But give us a single example of Obozo taking ANY steps to compromise with the Republicans?  I can't think of a single one.  And you'd certainly think that if this had happened, it would have been touted endlessly by the NY Times and WaPo as an example of how gracious and cooperative the emperor was being.  Never saw such a story?  Me neither.
GORDON-REED: I was not overly thrilled with Guantanamo. I understand I don’t have all the information, but many of those people were not the worst of the worst.  As a lawyer I’m concerned about what it does to the rule of law to have people held without trial for this length of time. That’s problematic to me, the way he handled that. He continued Bush’s foreign policy in ways that I think—mainly with Guantanamo and the drone war.
JAFFE: And the surveillance state, which is now going to be in the hands of Donald Trump. I used to get very frustrated with people saying, “It’s OK to have all this surveillance—we trust Obama.” We might—but look at who’s coming next.
You liberals are getting closer and closer to the problems:  "WE trust Obama with [fill in anything you want], but...oooh, we can't trust a Republican president with the same powers!  But the reason Trump supporters supported Trump wasn't that they didn't like Obama's (and Hilliary's) policies, but that they were...wait for it...raaaacists!"
John—biggest failure?
JUDIS:  Squandering the majority in Congress in the first two years. In foreign policy, Libya just jumps out. They misjudged the Arab Spring, and left that situation even worse than it was before.
SULLIVAN: I can’t think of a single major huge mistake, except the Libyan intervention. It’s staggering how few mistakes this man made.  I do think the war to contain and destroy ISIS was a mistake.
Leftists totally believe that we can coexist with ISIS...despite their insistence that they want to destroy anyone who won't convert to Islam.  And of course leftists don't have any problem with that, seeing as how they're big on the equality of religions.
That he did it at all? Or the way that he did it?
SULLIVAN: That he did it at all. That there was any attempt to intervene against ISIS in Iraq and Syria was, I think, a great mistake. Because it destroyed the coherence of his foreign policy position, which is that we cannot control these events.
He did his best.  I know that makes me sound like a total Obamaphile, and I am. But again, the one major failure of his, the Libyan intervention, was primarily a function of the Clintons.
[Laughter from the other panelists]
SULLIVAN:  You can laugh, but it’s true. So the biggest failure was allowing Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state, and not finding someone who could actually succeed him. He failed to nurture the next generation of Democratic talent sufficiently enough, to make sure that his legacy could be secured. That’s his biggest failure.
Many people would argue that it was Obama’s failure to address systemic racism that gave birth to grassroots, street-level movements like Black Lives Matter. There were a lot of people on the left, especially a lot of black Americans, who felt that Obama was lecturing them about their behavior and chiding them for not playing politics by the rules he plays by. Many younger supporters wound up feeling that they had to go outside of the conventional political apparatus, because Obama wasn’t willing to articulate and confront some of the systemic issues of racism that go back to the Clintons.JAFFE: Right—white identity politics in this country is certainly not new. It goes back to the founding of this country. It way outdates Hillary Clinton.
"Raaacists, citizen!"


Professor of American history, NYU
OBAMA’S GREATEST SINGLE ACCOMPLISHMENT:  Expanding [sic] government health insurance for millions of people. More Americans now are able to access medical care than before his presidency.
"Expanding" government health insurance?  No.  He got his party to pass a ghastly law that compelled all Americans to buy health insurance--and would fine anyone who failed to do so.  And would give "free" insurance to the poor.  So what's the logical outcome?  A lot of people making a thousand or two more than the subsidy cutoff would work less so they'd qualify for the subsidy.
BIGGEST FAILURE Not addressing more forcefully the country’s economic inequality, and not pushing for laws that would make it easier for unions to organize.
HOW HISTORY WILL JUDGE HIM People will always recognize his significance as the first African American president, and the symbolic importance of that victory for black freedom and equality. But these last eight years will also represent a time of loss: a moment when it might have been possible to do far more to grapple with the political and moral crises that our society faces, especially around economic hierarchy, environmental devastation, the power of elites, and the conditions of working people.

V. Obama and Race

Let’s talk about race directly for a moment. How did Obama do at handling race, given his position as the first black president?
PAINTER: It put him in an utterly impossible situation. Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. Damned if he went left, damned if he went right. I have many friends—including Cornel West—who were against his lecturing to black people. I can hear that, I can see that. But, jeez, he’s the president of 320 million people.
GORDON-REED: I’m not a Marxist at all...
The hell you aren't.
...but I think he was in an impossible position.  

SULLIVAN: I want to bring up something about “identity politics.” Because there was an area of extraordinary success Obama had in the advancement of civil rights. Namely, the achievement of marriage equality
That was the 5 members of the Supreme Court, sparky.
...and openly gay people in the military, which no one believed could happen.  But we did it by eschewing identity politics.
Say WHAT?  Sullivan--an open homosexual--is a total devotee of identity politics.
JAFFE: Keep in mind that the Tea Party came first. It wasn’t Black Lives Matter.
Yeah, and there's just a total equivalence there:  You remember all those Tea Party types murdering--gee, dozens of minorities, right?
The Tea Party was ready to be angry at Obama on day one, explicitly because he was a black president.
"Raaaacists, all of em!  That's the only reason Obama couldn't do even more!"
With his election, Obama accelerated a demographic trend that we all expected would take much, much longer to manifest itself. Will he be judged differently as the world catches up to what he managed to accomplish?GORDON-REED:  He came exactly at the time he was supposed to come.  He belongs where he was, and it’s for us to deal with that.  I think he’s here to teach lessons. We have lessons from this that came at precisely the right moment.
Like, don't ever elect someone in the future who hides his background and college transcripts.
JAFFE: Has there ever been an American identity that was not racial?SULLIVAN: Yes. There can be understood to be something that transcends race, as a citizen with no race.
How does that happen, exactly?

SULLIVAN:  That is what Obama really represented: both black and white.
Not quite seeing that.  
JUDIS:  It’s not surprising that Obama got the nomination in 2008. At that point the two biggest interest groups in the Democratic Party that hadn’t yet got to serve at the top were blacks and women. And those were the two most important post-Sixties groups.
Gee, and here I thought liberals and Dems were always touting "merit" and a non-racial society.  Nice to see them admitting what everyone knew all along.
Second, in early 2008, I looked at psychological studies designed to measure implicit racism.  I concluded that race is overrated in terms of understanding why people do things. I don’t think it is all about race. [And yet...] That’s a factor in Trump’s popularity, for instance, but it’s only a factor.  A lot of the people who voted for Trump were people who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.


Editor at the Washington Post
OBAMA’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT Allowing schools to provide free lunches for everybody if at least 40 percent of students are eligible for subsidized meals. It’s the best kind of politics: a small but substantial improvement that opens up the imagination to greater possibilities.
"And ya know what the next possibility that we really need is?  Free college for everyone!  Free homes for all--in elegant neighborhoods!  And a free car!  And a minimum wage of 50 bucks an hour!  And the best thing of all's FREE!"
BIGGEST FAILURE Obamacare has fallen far short of what was promised.
This can't possibly be true, citizen.  Obamacare is perfect, just like it is.  We should demand that the Republicans not change a single letter of that marvelous law!  And if you've heard there are video clips of Dem Jon Gruber saying that the only reason they could pass this was because the American people were too stupid to understand it...well, that's just FAKE NEWS, citizen!  Got that?  Fake!  Cuz if it had really happened the Times and WaPo would have told ya.
WHAT HE DESERVES MORE CREDIT FOR The stimulus package, which likely saved the country from a far more devastating recession. And how conciliatory his statements on race and unity have been.
Living on another planet, apparently.
HOW HISTORY WILL JUDGE HIM Very kindly. Obama restored a sense of dignity to the presidency, and he maintained his composure through some extremely difficult years, often providing a sense of security and trust when no other institutions did so. I didn’t always agree with him, but I will dearly miss hearing his voice.
Good Lord.  This is pure political fellatio.

VI. The Big Picture

Let’s talk about a larger perspective on his legacy. It’s worth pausing for a moment to remember what a huge goal Obama had when he ran for the White House. He didn’t just want to be president—he wanted to change the way politics work. He wanted to change the way we see ourselves. He wanted to usher in a new and lasting era of liberalism or centrism, depending on how you define it.
Socialism.  Communism.  Hey, tomato, tomahtoe.
When we look back at him from a historical perspective, will we think he succeeded?
JAFFE: No, but it won’t be entirely his fault.  I don’t think that was possible, given that capitalism was basically imploding around his ears when he entered office. There was certainly no new era of civility or bipartisanship.  Nobody was gonna let him do that, no matter how hard he tried.
Ah yes, the emperor tried so hard to be civil.  And bipartisan.  And "nobody" (three guesses as to who) was gonna "let" the emperor be civil or bipartisan, "no matter how hard he tried."  Uh-huh.
The political change we’re experiencing right now has more to do with the resurgence of a populist right around the world: in Europe, in Latin America. We’re seeing Trumpism in many forms, in many places.  I don’t know how you can credit or blame Obama for any of it. I think it’s global.
Andrew, any thoughts on Obama’s big ambition, and whether he succeeded?SULLIVAN:  The kind of good, white-working-class jobs that used to be the backbone of the American middle class is just gone, never to return. And automation and technology is going to make it even worse.  There’s really no solution to this.  Obamacare was about providing a safety net for exactly the white working class that ended up voting for Trump.  And because there is no solution, my concern is that people will increasingly seek out authoritarian leaders, as well as scapegoats to blame for all sorts of things that cannot really be stopped.

GORDON-REED: Just reading about how technology is changing, things like self-driving cars and what that’s going to do to the workforce? It’s not going to be pretty.
SULLIVAN: The whole country is going to be high. That’s the only option at this point.
Ah yes:  To leftists, notions like cutting goofy and non-productive rules to make it easier for new businesses to start and operate are total non-starters.  Businesses are eeeevil!  What we need is good (high-paying, unionized) government jobs.  Yeh, a much better plan!
All the working-class men in particular who are under such siege right now will have to be high and playing video games to keep their lives together, because there’s much less work for them.
JAFFE: It’s not inevitable. None of it is inevitable. It’s all a question of who has power and who decides where it’s going to be distributed. If we decide that we are going to put millions of people out of work and not come up with something for them to do, then that’s ultimately a political question that is bigger than any one president.
GORDON-REED: And to go back to your original question, this is not something that Obama could have solved on his own.
SULLIVAN: Equally, Trump can’t solve it, either.
JAFFE: But that doesn’t mean there’s not a solution. There’s either going to be a lot of people starving in the streets or we’re going to find a way to take care of people. We may not like the solution, but there’s going to be one.
The "solution" for libs just won't involve businesses creating jobs.  Cuz one of the cornerstones of liberal thinking is that businesses are eeeevil.  Free markets are terrible!  And capitalism?  Don't even get them started!


OBAMA’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT The terrific blow he delivered to American racism, and his resounding demonstration that a clean, scandal-free administration is completely possible.
BIGGEST FAILURE Obama entered office with an enormous mandate and majorities in both houses of Congress; he leaves it with Republicans in power all over the country and a public so anxious they chose an obvious demagogue as his successor.
WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST? Three things: His many wars.
Wait, didn't he get the Nobel peace prize?  Seems like the committee nominated him the very week he was inaugurated.  Wow, he must have done some really faaabulous things that first week, eh?  I mean, he had to, cuz otherwise it would have been...well, a total sham.  A farce.  Nominating him for some reason other than his accomplishments.  Wow.  Reverse racism?
His capitulation to the Clinton faction of the Democratic Party after he beat Hillary in 2008. And the continued turning of the revolving door.
HOW HISTORY WILL JUDGE HIM Very positively, at first. He is a powerfully inspiring man, and in certain ways he has been objectively superior to the Bushes, Bill Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, and Johnson, all of whose administrations were enormously flawed.
But Obama's was...well, no words are sufficient to describe how wonderful it's been!  There's never been another president in history who's been this super--not Lincoln or George Washington or even the next-best after Obama, Bill Clinton!
Over time, however, people will start to ask, What did Obama actually do?

VII. The Verdict of History

Which presidents will history compare him to?

PAINTER: The great presidents faced extraordinary challenges. Are we going to put him up with Franklin Roosevelt? Well, he didn’t go to war and he didn’t get a depression. He’s certainly going to be above Reagan, if you ask me.
PAINTER: I would put him right under Franklin Roosevelt, but I’m a partisan.

SULLIVAN:  People will see the sheer caliber of this man. The grace and poise with which he conducted himself in unbelievably difficult circumstances; the way he withstood abuse and disrespect with extraordinary calm and goodwill.  After he leaves office he'll remind us of what it is to be dignified in public life. Especially if this hideous monster who’s succeeding him continues to despoil the public culture.
We have to remember, Obama is leaving office having been elected twice by a majority and with approval ratings that are matching Reagan’s. If he had a successor who could continue that, then he would be in the epic position to be the architect of the entire twenty-first century.
GORDON-REED: That’s right. We have the advantage of having him around as a young man—and his wife and family, too, who have been incredibly important to the spirits of so many people.
JAFFE: I’m very interested to see what Obama does under President Trump.
That was actually my final question for you all. If Obama came to you and said, “What should I do in my post-presidency?” what would you tell him?
SULLIVAN: No speeches at Goldman Sachs, please. [Laughter]
GORDON-REED: He says he wants to do something about gerrymandering.
Oh that's hysterical.  Because gerrymandering was done entirely to ensure that minorities won seats in congress.  Obama doesn't want to change that.
JAFFE: That would be really important. Push to restore the Voting Rights Act. Fight voter suppression.
Translation:  Abolish all photo-ID laws in order to vote.  Ensures vote fraud.  Which is peachy with Dems.
SULLIVAN: My heart has gone out to him so many times. I get emotional just thinking about what they did to this man. What a beautiful American. [Begins to choke up] You know, I’m going to be an American soon, because Obama helped get rid of the ban on people with HIV becoming American citizens, which was signed by the Clintons. He means what America means, what it can mean—the fusion of the races.  He has a great temperament and great pragmatism, and he has great Midwestern decency. I’m in awe of this man. God bless him. I mean it. Thank you, Mr. President.
Why not just let the Left appoint him emperor for life?

These people are totally divorced from reality.  But they're great at virtue-signalling to their friends.


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