A lot more sand will have to fall in the hourglass before there can be a fair judgment of Barack Obama’s presidency, but what can be said with confidence is he will leave the White House on Jan. 20 with the highest approval ratings of any president since conservative icon Ronald Reagan in 1989, on the north side of 50 percent.
Still, he will be remembered as a polarizing figure, beloved by some and hated by others, and his race was a deciding factor for many on both sides.
Obama himself damaged how he will be remembered when he hitched his wagon to the election of Hillary Clinton, imploring his supporters to elect her to protect his “legacy,” and she then to snatch defeat out of what often appeared to be a landslide coronation.
But a fair appraisal will take time as some chapters remain unfinished: Obama’s landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act, has not been as advertised, and its overhaul by President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress seems inevitable and will likely be popular. What happens with Iran and nuclear weapons will also have a big say.
But Obama presided over a time of economic growth, steady if slow, historic highs in the stock market, and he was the one who made a hard call that was rewarded with the death of Osama bin Laden.
Of all things, Obama showed himself to be stubborn, not necessarily a bad trait for a leader.
His refusal to use the term “radical Islam” angered Americans who believe that terrorism, not climate change, is the planet’s No. 1 enemy. Whenever a young black died at the hands of a white cop, it seemed that Obama’s harshest words were for law enforcement, and not wayward young people who invite confrontations with authority.
And more recently there were these words from the president on the death of Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator whose iron hand ruled Cuba for more than a half century: “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and the world around him.”
History will judge Castro, and while we are willing to wait on Obama’s, Castro’s legacy has already been etched in bloodied granite. And it is not a happy one, which makes Obama’s comments head-scratching.
It’s likely that Obama loved Castro’s providing of health care to all Cubans for free, even if they can’t find a doctor. And Castro did provide free housing for Cubans, though most of the structures if in our country would be condemned. Obama has also shown a soft heart for socialism, which many on the left prefer to capitalism.
But Obama’s wait-and-see approach ignores what time cannot wipe way, and that is that Castro was a brutal dictator who murdered tens of thousands of Cubans in order to retain power, tortured even more, exiled even more, rounded up homosexuals in the 1960s and placed them in concentration camps, and tried to chide the Soviet Union into a nuclear war with the United States. He did all that while most Cubans struggled in poverty, victims of socialism as well as this country’s economic sanctions that were linked to Castro’s behavior.
The go-soft comment by Obama is only his most recent that befuddles many Americans, and explains in part why this country elected Donald Trump and not the status quo candidate Clinton. As popular as Obama is, if not for this willful ignorance, his popularity might have been even greater.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)