Obama's America — transformed indeed

President Obama has indeed transformed the country, reducing its effectiveness beyond our borders, and at
home riding roughshod over freedoms that citizens took for granted for generations.

By Washington Examiner • 9/12/16 12:01 AM

More Americans than ever now mistrust government. And although such skepticism can be good, it is not healthy that citizens feel they are neither listened to nor represented by those in power. Our divided country's rare consensus that Washington can't be trusted has much to do with President Obama.

His failures have taken the hammer to several quaint 20th-century assumptions. The public no longer believes politicians understand how economies work, or that government has practical solutions to ordinary people's problems.

And who can defer to the authority of the only $4 trillion corporation in world history that cannot even set up a working website for buying insurance, let alone protect the private information of the millions of people it employs or investigates?

When he entered the Oval Office eight years ago, Obama wanted to persuade people that Washington was a potent force for good, that citizens could turn to it and it would fix things for them.

Such trust is now further away than ever, despite Obama's domestic legacy — the vast expansion of government. Perhaps Washington's huge intrusions into everyone's lives (right down to the bathrooms they use) would be more accepted if trust had not evaporated.

Obama's answer to the financial crisis was a costly, ineffective stimulus that failed to create jobs, high-speed trains or a new era of green energy, as promised. It instead delivered a citizenry vastly more dependent on food stamps.

Obama's healthcare reform was supposed to fix a broken system. Instead, it put one-fifth of the economy under the federal thumb and displaced millions from coverage they wanted to keep. And like a house built incompetently, Obamacare is falling apart. Even the largest insurers are exiting, finding they cannot sustain their losses. The roof looks likely to fall in.

Obama's arrogation of executive power became especially acute once Republicans re-took Congress. The president, lacking tame majorities, decided to force through his agenda by bypassing Capitol Hill.

He's used regulation to erode religious and press freedoms, and even scolded the Supreme Court for its robust view of free political speech. And in his determination to undermine the Second Amendment, Obama also weakened the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, proposing a "no-fly list" to side-step due process and deprive citizens of their right to bear arms.

Obama's bleak legacy at home is matched by damage he has done to American standing abroad. His professorial leftism is popular in urbane circles in Europe, but he's made America an object of contempt more widely — less feared by enemies, less trusted by allies.

Obama's nuclear deal with Iran is a longshot bet that within its 10-year term, Iran's tyrannical regime will be so reformed that it won't want nuclear weapons anymore. If, however, it remains the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism, and if it decides it still wants nukes, it now has what amounts to an American green light beginning in the middle of the next decade.

Ironically, Obama began with an ambitious gesture of American friendship to Muslims. But his 2009 Cairo speech was really a wave goodbye to the Middle East that began the process of renouncing American influence. Whatever threats he made about red lines, Obama bailed America out of the region, leaving it to the dubious long-term mercy of Iran's mullahs.

He leaves it to his successor to solve the problem of the Islamic State. Its deadly reach, from Bangladesh to Berlin to San Bernardino, is in no small part due to his decision, against cabinet advice, to scuttle out of Iraq, leaving a vacuum that terrorists were delighted to fill with their own brand of sectarian strife.

Obama wanted to be a transformational president, as Ronald Reagan was and Bill Clinton was not. He has indeed transformed the country, reducing its effectiveness beyond our borders, and at home riding roughshod over freedoms that citizens took for granted for generations.

The inescapable government, combined with its inescapable incompetence, has produced another Obama legacy: the advent of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two populists who harnessed the nation's boiling discontents. Hillary Clinton, a continuation of Obama, may beat back the passionate populist forces, but the broad loss of faith in public institutions will remain a lasting stain on Obama's reputation.

Clinton, the only remaining business-as-usual politician in the presidential race, is favored to win only by default, not because either she or what she represents commands respect. A pol whom 70 percent of voters don't trust and know to be dishonest could achieve the pinnacle of power. That's a testament to Obama.
He wanted to transform the country, and he has. But into what?