Opinion: America, Post Obama…You Are Going To Miss Him When He Is Gone!
America, Post Obama. Let’s see… 2008, America in financial ruin and entering into the great recession, maybe the next great depression and faced with a Congress that wants Obama to be a one term president (thank you Senator McConnell…how did that work out?). Result…a nation now on the brink of a historic financial rebound. Problems still exist, underemployment, women making less salary than men while doing the same job, salary stagnation, race-relations’ cognition, minimum wages that cannot allow people to rise out of poverty or into the middle class. What are the results of Obama’s interventions? A stock market that has rebounded and improved, showing signs of stability. Unemployment down to historic levels not seen since the1970’s. An economy that is robust, an improving housing market and consumer spending that shows confidence in America’s economic future. The Republicans want to demean the successes but you can bet your bottom dollar, if Romney had been elected, republicans would have been touting this recovery as some kind of miracle formula; a magic act that Romney had performed, upon the ouster of Obama. Why isn’t Obama afforded the same platitudes? Damn I hate politics sometimes…
To show his vision, the first bill Obama passed upon earning and winning the presidency was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. This law amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (another historic law that was opposed). A law that requires equal pay for women providing the same services as men. A law protecting women who had been discriminated against earning an equal wage. As a father of two daughters, this resonated with me and so the President had me on his side from the time he said Hello.
Obama promised to end two wars that had taken the treasure and lives of thousands of America’s finest and left countless thousands of soldiers, broken from physical and psychological damages, far too many. Were some of Obama’s decisions on how to extricate America from these wars coordinated and orchestrated in less than perfect ways. Yes. But you tell me how you remove over 100,000 men and women from two theaters of war without it becoming a very messy affair. I hold Obama accountable for the missteps and I am sure he holds himself accountable too but the reduction of forces in these two theaters of war has saved countless lives and prevented additional injury. Make no mistake; America will be caring for our veterans who have suffered injury, both physical and mental for over a generation. The financial impact on the healthcare system will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars and every American will be impacted, none more so, than the veterans and their families. All the more reason to have ended these wars. But we all know that the Middle East will continue to be an evolving problem.
This was part of the reason for the overture that Obama made to the Muslim world. Again, his speech was ridiculed for being naive and ineffective. During the Arab spring when there were changes and upheaval in the Muslim world, too many stated that Obama was caught unawares. Well… no excuses but could anyone have guessed what would evolve and what is still evolving. Obama was blamed for the rise of ISIS (ISIL) because he removed too many troops from Iraq and left that country unprotected. Should he have left the troops there? Wouldn’t both his constituent base and political enemies attack Obama for not keeping his word? This was one of the reasons why he was elected, to get the troops out! The hypothesis is, that Obama created a power vacuum in Iraq that gave rise to ISIS. I would submit that the vacuum was created when Saddam Hussein was overthrown in our original miscalculation. This act created a cascading effect, which changed the landscape of the region. I will not blame the Bush administration for their actions; history will be the judge of that. Obama, as the current President, as all presidents must do, would have to act on the events of the day, not what he would have wanted them to be. I will say this, regarding the current events in the Middle East in relationship to ISIS; in absence of stronger Arab governments, war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims was going to happen eventually. Without Obama forcing the neighboring Arab, Persian, Kurds, Turks, Sunni and Shiite participants into having some ‘skin in the game’ by not having American soldiers fighting their battles for them, the Muslim governments have now had to provide their own troops (when had this happened in the last 10 years or EVER?) fighting their own battles against ISIS. This is a good thing and it does not occur unless Obama changed the paradigm, the way in which we conducted our foreign policy among these Muslim leaders.
Obama’s foreign policy has been skewered for its inconsistency and purported lack of a muscular response to adversarial leaders, most notably, Vladimir Putin. Supposedly, Obama was playing checkers while Putin was playing chess. It is interesting to note, that Obama was able to cobble together a meaningful and strong response to Russian incursions and military adventures utilizing a coalition of allies to impose sanctions that have impacted the Russian economy. Russia is now seeking a way out. Russia will not relinquish the Crimean port in Ukraine, because the impending deal with Iran will put more oil into the world’s petroleum market, further reducing Russia’s global strength and could collapse her economy. Russia needs this port to cheaply export her oil, all the while getting a diminished return on this most costly investment. Is Obama playing a global game of checkers or chess? Can anyone one say Checkmate?
I would submit that there are better ways to project strength than implementing a military response. Once power is used it loses its force, it is the strength of the threat of power, unused and inferred that keeps regimes like Russia in check. That is the power that sanctions impose. Sanctions can always be increased, providing a fear that the worst is still yet to come. This is why Russia is now seeking compromise and cooperation with the Obama administration. This is why Iran came to the bargaining table. America has led by putting together an effective sanctions regime in which both China and Russia are playing an important part, impacting Iran.
The Iran nuclear deal is a game changer. The prospect of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is daunting and unacceptable. The fundamental change in the Middle East upon acceptance of the Iran nuclear deal will be profound (whatever that means). With the possible entry of Iran into the Middle East’s economy, everyone in the neighborhood will have to up their economic game. Competition will hopefully breed cooperation as well as integration of societies. It is apparent to me that people often get along if they are accepting of their neighbors, they trade, their children get to know each other, they break bread together; it is governments that disagree. At this time, it appears that Saudi Arabia is warming to the deal. I am empathetic with the concerns of Israel and her people and their leadership. To live with a pointed gun to your head is an untenable position. To those in Israel who disagree with Obama’s position, if you do not understand their historical perspectives as well as the real world issues of having a nuclear powered Iran on your doorstep, this could be considered an unforgivable transgression on the part an ally. What could be viewed as a betrayal! We should not forget that the Obama administration has provided the Israeli government with more military aid than any American administration in the history of our historic partnership. Many in Israel agree with the Obama administration about the proposed Iran nuclear agreement and have broken with the Netanyahu government’s position. From a foreign policy perspective, President Obama is the president of the United States and his decisions must be based on what he considers is in the best interests of America. Obama does not want to go to war with Iran. Now many people feel that this is a false narrative and that war is not the only alternative to a nuclear deal with Iran but it is a viable risk. IF…the nuclear deal is done AND it works the way it is meant to, the logic being presented is that Iran would be integrated into the world economy. With a population consisting of 2/3’s of its people under the age of 30 wanting to work and thrive, the popular sentiment would be disinclined to want to lose the benefits of global integration. Why go to war when peace is so beneficial? The current theocracy in power in Iran will not want an Arab Spring on its hands but it is hopeful that the leadership and politics in Iran will change during the duration of the agreement. I believe that this is the Obama calculation. I further believe that the deal will get done. I do not believe that Congress will be able to override the President’s expected Veto, not withstanding the Senate and Senator Chuck Schumer’s decision to not support the agreement (a matter of conscience because he is the only one with a leadership position to lose to Dick Durbin). I personally think that the Veto will be sustained by Nancy Pelosi’s control of the lower house. In terms of whether the Iran nuclear deal is good for the country and the world, only time and history will tell.
For a president that many had written off as a LAME DUCK and being a non-factor after the Senate and House of Representatives was captured by the Republicans, I think that more people were concerned with what they perceive as Obama’s obsession with his place in history than in his ability to set the agenda for Congress and the country, becoming arguably a more effective leader than at any time in his presidency; that his concerns are that an Iran deal will provide him with a foreign policy legacy, that the Affordability Care Act will provide him with a domestic legacy. I think that President Obama is more concerned with leaving America strong, safe and protected. I think that America represents motherhood to the president (Ok, I am not a psychoanalyst, I only act like I think I am). President Obama sees that America, like a mother, feeds and nourishes us all. I think that like a protective son, Barack Obama, who watched his mother die and was helpless to prevent it, vowed to protect all the women in his life, especially, the mothers. I think that President Obama will not let America wither and die in a similar manner that his mother died (sons relive the death of a mother and it shapes the way we respond to the world). The Affordable Care Act will protect all the mothers, women and children in our society from being unprotected from an unseen, undetected healthcare disaster waiting to happen. This was his vow. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 will protect the mothers and daughters in our society from being marginalized and treated like second-class citizens. This was his vow. He will try to keep the waters from rising by protecting the environment. Romney disparagingly joked that he wouldn’t do that, that he would just bring jobs to America. The current unemployment rate is 5.3, the best in a very, very long time. I guess this president has shown that he can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time. Has President Obama been a perfect president, not even close. He still has infrastructure reform to do; he still has wage reform to do; he still has African trade to do… But in an attempt to form a more perfect union…this LAME DUCK hasn’t been half baked or half bad!
You are going to miss him when he is gone.
photo courtesy: Kurt H. Leggard