November 21, 2016

Obama’s fitting end to a disappointing tenure

Obama’s fitting end to a disappointing tenure

It seems fitting that Obama’s lacklustre Presidency should end in the company of European leaders who, like him, have also lost touch with their electorate, says John Redwood. 

When he was first elected President Obama had huge political goodwill around the world. Many wished him well and were excited by his personal story. I liked the promise of a new approach to international relations. I particularly liked his pledge to close Guantanamo Bay, a blot on the Western conscience, and his wish to disengage from Middle Eastern wars. He carried with him the hope of diplomacy, a new language about reconciling differences and trying to overcome old enmities with new approaches.

Like many I feel badly let down. He never closed Guantanamo. The war in Iraq dragged on, as did the war in Afghanistan. The President often dithered, then added to the military forces involved. He went along with intervention in Libya which removed a bad government, to replace it with a rolling civil war. He bombed some of the time in Syria, as the West sought to create a third force of moderate democrats who either did not exist or who were overwhelmed by both sides in the violent conflict. It is difficult to say the Middle East is a better place today than eight years ago, though Americans have shed much blood and spent much treasure on trying to remodel several countries.

For me the worst moment of his Presidency was when he dared to come to the UK to back the Remain campaign. It was a catastrophic error for the Leader of the Free world to involve himself in a referendum in a friendly country on the wrong side, arguing with those who wanted to argue the British/EU colonial government case rather than the case of the Independence seeking Americans/UK citizens. He communicated a sense of a man who did not particularly like our country. His eviction of Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office was in itself unimportant. I understand his wish to surround himself with his own choice of greats and mentors. It did however, speak eloquently to us that he did not consider the shared crusade to rid Europe of fascism in the 1940s as an important story worthy of recollection close to his desk.

He started his Presidency with the banking crisis in full flow. The US responded more vigorously and more successfully to it than Japan had done to its crisis in the late 1980s, or the Euro area did in 2008-16. During his term the US economy has experienced a sustained but moderate recovery from the collapse it felt in the early days of his tenure. He spent much of his political capital in pushing through Obamacare, which badly divided his nation and led to the collapse of the Democrat vote in subsequent elections. In his later months in office he has seemed strangely detached from the job, surviving in it by touring the world and espousing all the establishment causes he can find.

It is perhaps a fitting end to his tenure that he spends time in Europe with a series of continental politicians that have themselves lost touch with their voters, to make common cause to be tougher against Russia. This is one farewell tour where I will not be buying the soundtrack. Whatever happened to the hopes of a more peaceful world?

4.70 avg. rating (93% score) - 30 votes
John Redwood MP
John Redwood MP
John Redwood is the Member of Parliament for Wokingham in Berkshire. He was formerly Secretary of State for Wales in Prime Minister John Major's Cabinet. He is currently Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party's Policy Review Group on Economic Competitiveness.
  • Obama was disappointing from Day One. And depressing, from the day of his second election.

  • Alan Llandrindod Wells

    Trump is a businessman.

    If he sits down with such as Putin, he will want something, and expect to have to give something in return.

    Trump was very fortunate in his opponent.
    Even her supporters did not trust her.

  • Alan Llandrindod Wells

    Hopefully, the Yanks have now got their pathetic, guilt ,complex out of their systems.

  • Alan Llandrindod Wells

    His squelshy lauding of Merkel was a deliberate, vindictive, 2 fingers, to the British.

    Our boys died alongside the Yanks in the Middle East.
    The Germans pretended that their constitution would not allow it.
    Obama has always been a sick man.

  • Dynamo11

    I forgot he won that Mickey Mouse of an award, what a joke

  • Dynamo11

    Obama’s second term has been a text book “lame duck Presidency”. His legacy will be nothing once Trump is done, Obama will surely go down as one of the worst post-New Deal Presidents. I think his base domestic competency puts him above Jimmy Carter and maybe Gerald Ford but that’s about it. His foreign policy however has to be the worst in living memory, I cannot think of another President that has got it so wrong so many times

  • Thomas Katz

    Almost any Black American could have done a better job than Obama, he just didn’t have the Passion for it, a great opportunity wasted, Imagine what Obama with a young Mohammed Ali’s intelligence and “determination” could have done

  • humourme

    Obama was a terrible president. He squandered his first two years when there was a democratic majority in the house and senate – showing no leadership, understanding of his role or ability. Hillary Clinton would have done far more with power then. He panicked and produced a terrible obamacare at the last moment when the Democrats had a majority. He blithely backed the intervention in Libya, which has been a bigger disaster than Iraq. He dithered over Russia and allowed the cretinous EU to create a disaster in Ukraine. His inability to lead and denounce BLM (a hate group) showed he had no spine with regard to race relations. (Of course his idiotic intervention here early on in his first term really did show that he was an idiot

  • geo

    his attitude to the uk was frankly an embarrassment to him and his sucking up to the eu during brexit referendum was an announcement that the little people needed to do what they were told. He will go down in history as a pretty poor president who failed in many key responsibilities and alienated many key allies.

  • Bogbrush

    I don’t mean the largely obsolete left/right scale; I mean in terms of tone and priorities. Obama (in my opinion) spoke to the vacuous liberal sensibilties. His putative sucessor did the same, but took it up a notch if that was possible because her (vote for me because I’m a woman) cause made far less sense than his (which by voting a black man in as President was pretty incredible to be fair given the state of that country 50 years ago).

    Trump spoke to the blunt realities of ordinary people. He might be completely wrong but at least he sounds like he gets it. Obama failed even to reconcile black and white because he’s all talk and no follow-through. Trump at least sounds like he might do stuff – witness the top team he’s putting together looks suspiciously like it might be framed to follow through on what he’s been saying.

  • A real liberal

    I think that’s right. It leaches from every grandiloquent speech and high-minded posture. In the end he just couldn’t work with people with whom he disagreed; and were therefore evilly wrong. Were he British they’d be vermin. I’d be tempted to say he suffered from a few barely concealed and very unpleasant ‘-isms’ too. But that would be sinking to the level of the Clinton democrats.

  • Debs

    The people most let down are black Americans .I can’t emphasise how my black friends really believed a new world was around the corner. No wonder they didnt turn out for democrats. Obama turned out to be an empty vessel.

  • Hackney Hal

    I am not sure Trump is exactly the opposite end of the spectrum – as far as one can discern his position is not entirely of the conservative right but a more ad hoc mix of conservatism, some Democrat economics (deficit spending on infrastructure), and libertarianism. Even his AG pick though right-wing on immigration (and inducing the Left into meltdown) is socially liberal on a large range of other policies.

  • Hackney Hal

    Particularly egregious were his repeated lies to the US electorate over the effect of Obamacare on the costs of their health insurance premiums (on average they went up massively instead of going down as he promised) and their availability (millions could not keep their existing policies despite his explicit promise). He also dissembled on his true aim for Obamacare which was to ultimately force private insurers out of the market and switch to a single-payer (government) system. While this may or may not be a worthy aim his covert way of trying to implement it was discreditable.

  • John Smith

    Oratory will never win over making consensus, to achieve something

  • Aaron D Highside

    Obama is about as sincere as Stephen Kinnock or Chuka Umunna.

  • geordieboy

    Obama set himself a low standard and failed to achieve it.

  • Bogbrush

    This is what happens when a person is appointed not for their character or policies, but because of their sex / race / whatever. I’m not saying Obama was pure tokenism, but for certain what dominated the whole process was his race and the associated feelgood platitudinous statements of making everything so much better, just as with Clinton it has been her gender (I suspect a far worse result has been averted by her failure).

    It’s interesting that after his pitch the Americans have gone for the opposite end of the spectrum.

  • Vengeful Fruitcake

    Ultimately his vanity (which has been evident since his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize) was his undoing.

  • Philip Meikle

    Nice piece and agree with the sentiments! He arrived so full of hope and has left in a fizzle. In comparison president elect Tump can potentially do a bang up job!

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