Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Will President Obama's Legacy Be?

I awoke this morning to the sounds of the night ending.  The quiet was being replaced by the muffled cry of a lark or sparrow. The cat stretched against the blinds, and the bed protested under my shifting weight.  Alone, I opened my eyes to the darkness and tried to bring my brain to life.  What day was it?  What do I have to do?  Can I lay here just a while longer, under the warmth of the cover?  All important questions, but far too complex for this time of day so I rolled over and buried my head under the pillow, but the day continued and the inevitability of it was unavoidable, so I got up to make some coffee and feed the cats.

It has been an interesting 24 hours.  At this time yesterday I awoke to find the country had elected a Republican President, and left control of the Congress with the Republicans.  The shock to the many supporters of the Democratic candidate was palpable, as was the relief of the Republican side. The two candidates gave their expected speeches, and both were rated as excellent by those who rate such thing.  Mr. Trump’s victory speech was moderate and consolatory, while Ms. Clinton’s was perhaps her most human of the campaign.  She called for her followers to support the President, as we would hope, and urged them to continue to fight for the values she and they believed in.

Later in the day, her supporters would be found protesting and rioting in the streets, so perhaps they had not seen the speech, or chose to ignore it.

I happened to visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library last weekend during my visit to Austin, Texas.  It is an impressive structure.  Oversized, like the President, especially when I compare it to the Presidential Library in my hometown of Hyde Park.  You walk away from that library with an understanding that LBJ’s focus for his Presidency was to make life better for America’s poorest.  Through the establishment of social welfare and civil rights programs he did improve opportunity for many.  He did so in a time where US Industry dominated the world economy and we thought little about the cost of those programs.  Today, as our economic base shrinks those costs remain as “must pay” portions of our government, but they were decided on through a legitimate legislative process by a bi-partisan government.  Because he was a consummate deal maker in Congress he knew how to work with Congress and as a result his signature pieces of legislation endure.

During the campaign President Obama actively championed Ms. Clinton, urging their supporters to get out to vote.  He used all his familiar tools, he vilified Mr. Trump as unfit and unqualified, and praised Ms. Clinton for her experience.  He told the crowds he would take it as a personal affront if they did not elect Ms. Clinton to carry on his legacy.  So now that his support has failed to push her over the top, what kind of legacy will he leave?

President Obama is viewed as a great President by the media and his supporters, but from a critical analysis perspective I have to wonder why?  Will his leadership set the nation on a path as LBJ’s did or will it wither and die on the vine once he is not in the White House to push it every day?  I’ll let you decide, but here are some relevant facts.

President Johnson:  In office as President, 1,886 days.  Over 1,200 pieces of legislation turned into law.  Most notable, he pushed for “The Great Society” with bills including the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Voting Rights Act.  He also pushed through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, as well as establishing National Public Broadcasting, and protecting our wilderness areas.  Unfortunately for Johnson he inherited a small conflict that he allowed to grow into a major war that saw us send 550,000 troops to the small country of South Vietnam and lose over 58,000 killed and over 211,000 wounded.  This war cost him his opportunity for a second term and has condemned him to the back shelf in liberal politics.

President Obama:  In office as President, 2,922 days (as of 20 Jan 17).  Total legislation is probably over 1,000, with his most notable achievement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed on a purely partisan basis.  He inherited 2 wars which have continued as reduced levels, but whose areas of concern have expanded to include Syria, Egypt, Libya and Northern Iraq.  His most notable achievement, PP ACA, is showing signs of collapse, and since it was a pure partisan effort it is unlikely to survive a Republican change when Mr. Trump and the Republican Congress arrive.

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