Whether we like it or not, Donald Trump is USA’s 45th President. Yes, the journalists, comedians and meme generators were waiting for an answer over the past few months. Whether they got a favourable one or not, does not matter now. The world’s most powerful country is in the hands of a man who has goaded a whole gender into protesting against him. If the societal divide that racism causes had a face, Trump’s would be it.
After taking office he has started deconstructing Obama’s legacy. Thus clearly earning the wrath of cynics, actors, political analysts and the people of his nation. The fact that the approval ratings for Barack Obama have gone up drastically over the past few weeks, are a direct result of these actions. Millions of Americans have taken to social media expressing their sadness. Many believe that Obama is probably the best President in recent memory.
But is their wistful stance suitably justified? Is Barack Hussein Obama truly the great President he is now thought to be? No doubt, he is a charming and witty man. He is a family man who conducts himself with grace and dignity and gets quoted in speeches world over. But, let us not let this side of him overshadow the fact that he had a job as the President of a country and his administration had its hiccups.
All of us agree that there were no scandals during his term. We hear the word scandal and incidents like Monica Lewinsky and Watergate spring to our mind. Incidents where the President ceased to be a part of what he stood for (speaking from a family and/or policy perspective) come to us. Truly, a leader of such stature shall be constantly judged on all aspects of his duties. Be it his personal life and its dealings, his associations in the world or the people he works with. He is always under constant scrutiny. And why shouldn’t he be; he has taken a solemn oath for the betterment of a country. Hence, whenever a leader falls short of maintaining himself and/or his duties, a scandal is born. Thus, as an answer to whether Obama’s term was without scandals I have one name – Edward Snowden.
We know the implications of this name. We know the storm it created throughout the country and the world. And let us be clear that this is not the only name in the running. Solyndra where 535 USD was loaned to the solar energy company with full knowledge of its financial instability rings another bell. Operation Fast and Furious where 2000 guns were allowed to walk over the Mexican border is another case. As soon the hope to track those guns disappeared with them.
The IRS scandal was yet another scenario where allegedly the IRS was told to target Conservative non profits that were applying for tax exempt status. In other words, the President told the Internal Revenue Service to target people of the opposition party. Let us not forget the attacks on a US diplomat in Benghazi and the subsequent violence. While the government portrayed it as an outburst of violence that was contained, the details of that incident are still unclear. The GSA scandal, Bowe Bergdahl, Pigford Scandal and Hilary Clinton’s famous email controversy were some more things that plagued Obama’s term.
When we speak of Benghazi, we cannot help but take Obama’s foreign policy under microscope too. There have been certain achievements for sure. Pulling out troops from Iraq, killing of Osama Bin Laden and trade re-establishment with Cuba are just a few of them. Relations with Russia and China, however, are still strained. Topsy turvy is a term we can still apply to the status of relation with Russia. The real low, of course, being Russia’s occupation of Crimea that led to public condemnation by USA along with many sanctions.
But where the Barack administration really failed is the Middle East. Libya got “liberated” from Gaddafi with the government leaving the country to pick up the pieces, to say that the area is still unstable would be an understatement. Drone attacks were conducted in Yemen and Pakistan without Congressional approval. But it is Syria that will stand as the biggest blot on Barack’s term.
While Obama’s initial reluctance to enter the war was seen as a good move, his failure to enforce the red line over Assad’s use of chemical weapons was not. Bomb strikes conducted on ISIS held areas leading to utter destruction, left one feeling that America mishandled this one. Recently Russia also signed a deal with Syria over establishing an air base in the region. Thus, confirming Russia’s presence there in the foreseeable future.
Back home, the story has not been very different. His decisions on handling immigration, gun policy and racial discord have been major points of contention. Many believe that he could have done more for the immigration problem considering it is an integral part of almost every political debate. As of now 11 million people are estimated to be living illegally in the country with numbers increasing daily. Obama’s initial years were aimed at improving the economy and Obamacare, so by the time he got around to immigration, he seemed to have lost the support of both houses.
Gun control was one of the biggest debates after the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012. Obama at that time had gone on record to say that America was the one country with the least number of common sense gun safety laws. Thus his failure to implement this was a failure in the eyes of many, including himself. At the time of his election many had been hopeful, as far as the issue of racism is concerned. The election of a non white, multi racial President was seen by many as a step in the right direction for America. Ironically, the “black lives matter” campaign was conceived during his term. If nothing else the recent elections have proved the condition of the racial divide in the country. It is now larger than ever.
Mentioning Obamacare and economic reforms as failures would not necessarily be appropriate. Obamacare extended the arms of healthcare to millions of Americans. Although the number of impacted people is closer to 10 million rather than the 20 as claimed by Obama. The reason for that is that most of the people are already eligible to be covered under Medicaid. So, the number of people gaining access to Obamacare is actually less. The cost of premiums going down by $2500 per family was also a major part of this scheme. However, the premiums have instead increased, along with the number of companies that began pulling out support.
To say that economy was bad when he took over would be an understatement. The unemployment rate was high and the GDP was low. Thus, it fell on the shoulders of Obama administration to pick up the pieces and press re-start. And that happened. 800 billion USD and an almost zero Federal rate of interest ensured that the economy was brought back up and out of the recession. Unemployment rate is low again and the economy is on a rise. But while unemployment has decreased, the manufacturing employment rate is still down from when Obama took office.
The US economy has indeed grown, but its rate is still less than major competitor China, by more than 60 percent. Household income and number of Americans below the poverty line have gone in direction they were not supposed to. National debt 8 years ago was around 12 trillion, but is closer to 20, now. And the fact that Obama has become the first President of USA to never have a GDP growth of more than 3 percent throughout his term, reflects badly on him. The economy overall, does appear to be in a much better shape than before but there is still much to be done.
So, is the Presidential term of Barack Obama that bad? Maybe. Maybe not. Be what it may be, it is hard to argue with the fact that there are many promises and expectations that Obama has failed to live up to. A lot of it however is now getting ignored in the face of Trump being elected. But one could consider this a case of ‘accepting the lesser of two evils.’ As we prepare for the onslaught of the Trump administration, let us take a moment to contemplate on President Obama. Eight years have passed since the day he said, “Yes, we can?” And did he? Yes, to a lot of questions and no to an equal number, if not more.
In the end, as in any democracy, all that matters is choice. Choice is what makes a democracy run. Choice has elected Trump and it is this choice that has divided America more than ever before. To accept Obama’s failures and achievements as President and still condone his presence is a choice. To condemn him for more of the former is also a choice.
What the USA chooses is how Obama will be remembered throughout history. And if the first week of Trump’s presidency is any sort of indicator, the true American people have made that choice.
All said and done, Obama’s good deeds still surpass his bad decisions.
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