There is no doubt that Barack Obama was an extraordinary president. He was the first African-American elected to the office, the first president of the Harvard Law Review to become president of the U.S., and the first president to be awarded the prestigious Nobel prize practically upon assuming the office.
Given that for many years in American history many African Americans had been held in chattel slavery and given that for decades after slavery was abolished African-Americans struggled against economic adversity and prejudice, to elect one of Mr. Obama’s heritage was something that could make those who voted for him feel as if they were making a contribution to correcting historical wrongs.
A feeling that they were helping to usher in a new era of freedom and achievement.
No right-thinking person (liberal or conservative) favors racial discrimination, even though it is now a standard and shameful practice for Democrats routinely and wantonly to accuse Republicans of racism.
Nevertheless, it's a mistake ever to elect a president solely on the basis of that person’s race or sex. What's really important is not what the president is, but what the president will do in office, and whether his or her tenure will be good for the American people.
Evidence now appears to be mounting that Mr. Obama was not good for the nation, and the latest evidence of that came last week — indirectly from Mr. Obama himself.
That was a week ending with the Trump administration having achieved an 18-year low in unemployment, 3.8 percent; that rate had not been less since 1969, almost 50 years ago.
The unemployment rate for women, 3.6 percent was the lowest since 1953, and the figures for blacks and Latinos were at or near their all-time lows.
Unemployment is not, of course, the only measure of success for an administration, but it is also significant, as observed this week by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich that "67 percent of Americans believe that now is a good time to find a quality job in the U.S., the highest percentage in 17 years of Gallup polling."
It seems more than a coincidence that this week Mr. Obama was quoted as asking, upon receiving the stunning news that his candidate, Mrs. Clinton, had been rejected in favor of Donald Trump, "What if we were wrong?"
This quote was given in a new book by Mr. Obama’s foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes, who holds a Master's Degree in Fine Arts, in creative writing, from New York University (NYU).
Mr. Rhodes indicated that the outgoing president also said that "Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early."
A third quote from Mr. Rhodes’s book has a ruminative Obama pondering, "Maybe we pushed too far," and "Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe."
This was reminiscent of Mr. Obama’s extraordinarily dismissive suggestion when campaigning in 2008, referring to workers in industrial states devastated by economic dislocations, "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." That, of course, was the same sentiment articulated by Mrs. Clinton when she made her infamous jibe decribing Trump supporters as comprising a "basket of deplorables."
What could explain both President Obama’s shock at Mr. Trump’s election and his fabulous self-regard that would lead him to believe that perhaps he simply was too good for the American people at the time he served?
In spite of the fact that the Trump administration, in reversing the over-regulation of the Obama years, and in bringing us much greater economic success, has demonstrated the ineptness and folly of much that went on during that time. It seems doubtful that Mr. Obama really believes he was mistaken in his wishes for his country. He thinks he was just ahead of his time, apparently.
Mr. Obama is not alone in his beliefs, which were shared, in the main, by Hillary Clinton, and still live in the minds of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and a host of other "progressives" active in the "resistance."
Another window into Mr. Obama’s essential ideology (and he was our most ideological president) was his 2008 campaign comment to "Joe the Plumber," (Joseph Wurzelbacher) that it was the obligation of government to "spread the wealth around," since "it was good for everybody."
If this was not a clear desire for wealth redistribution or Fabian socialism it's diffiult to know what it was. Much of Barack Obama's administration’s efforts did appear to bend in that direction.
Similarly, Mr. Obama’s immigration policies were similarly transformative, to an extent that one could understand that Obama was more internationalist than nationalist in his focus, and that, for him, unlike most Trump supporters or Trump himself, national interest was less important than a universalist ideology.
That kind of an ideological commitment; that extraordinarily strong belief that his way was the only way, the way of the future, the way of any serious person, is, most likely, the explanation for what we are now seeing revealed in the unfolding scandal involving the efforts of our intelligence agencies, aided by the Clinton campaign, to undermine both President Trump’s campaign for president, and the surveillance of the candidate and his associates even after he won the election.
This is a deeply sad reminder of how fragile self-government is in this republic, and of the providential safeguards, such as the Electoral College, that still seek to preserve true republican values.
These values, including individual self-determination, private property, patriotism, humility, morality, and religious faith are, of course, what made the country great, and are the values President Trump was able to communicate to his supporters.
When all is said and done, they were not the internationalist ideology of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, and their views, as Mr. Obama may have finally come to understand, were simply not right for this country.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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