Nothing sums up the Obama legacy better than this quote from Edward Luce of the Financial Times:
It will be as if Mr Obama was never here.
Can there be a more concise judgment?
History will remember Barack Obama as the first black president. Beyond that, what else? His attempt to transform the nation worsened economic and social conditions. He transformed his own party to the point where it may not survive.
Mr. Luce explained what will occur domestically:
The Obama erasure will go far deeper than undoing domestic laws, or foreign deals. Mr Trump will repeal Obamacare, or alter it beyond recognition. He will “keep an open mind” about whether to pull the US out of the Paris agreement on climate change and quite probably blow up the US-Iran nuclear deal.
The American people demanded the destruction of Obamaism. In order to survive, the Democratic Party will disown their Pied Piper, eventually abhorring his policies more than conservatives.
Despite his overall judgment, Mr. Luce's assessment of Barack Obama is more positive and gracious than mine:
Here was a highly intelligent leader, and a fundamentally decent one, who strived to make the case for international co-operation to a world that was not really listening.… But the world’s attention has wandered. People are highly fearful — and rightly so.
Such an assessment is flattering and fawning in these respects:
- The "highly intelligent leader" might be described as painfully ignorant of how the world works or a committed ideologue to a system that always fails. Given Obama's educational opportunities, stupidity rather than ignorance seems appropriate.
- The "fundamentally decent one" routinely lied to the American people in order to pass harmful policies. He illegally utilized the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service for political purposes and engaged in cover-ups (gun-running to Mexico, Benghazi, etc.) to protect himself.
- Obama's approach to governance was dictatorial. He went around Congress with executive orders, many of which were overturned by the courts. He famously terminated at least one discussion with: "I won, you lost."
If Obama is to be more than a William Henry Harrison footnote in history, it will be as a result of future events.
Mr Luce states:
The global role that Mr Obama inherited – and tried, to some degree, to uphold – is now in tatters.
If legacies can be achieved via future disasters, Mr. Obama still has a chance. His feckless "lead from behind" foreign policy leaves the world vulnerable to conflict. Like his domestic policies, most international agreements were made without congressional approval.
If the world unravels, Mr. Obama has the potential to become history's next Sir Edward Grey.
Obama is young for an ex-president. What he does with this time will influence history's assessment. That may not be a positive.
Obama's narcissism and need for attention will make it difficult to leave the stage. As a media favorite, he will always have a platform. As an ex-president, even a failed one, he may make positive contributions. These should be welcomed.
If Obama's need for the stage outweighs his positive contributions, he will become a public nuisance. Past behavior suggests that this should be expected. Obama is likely to try to become the Community Organizer of The World. History is unlikely to look kindly on such an effort.