I often wonder if President Obama is capable of the kind of introspection that causes him to ask what went wrong in his presidency. Obama came into office with huge Democratic majorities in Congress and a laundry list of things he wanted to fix. He wanted to close Guantanamo Bay within the first 100 days of his administration, but it still remains open today, as he begins the final year of his second term. he wanted to end the problem of the uninsured, but Obamacare exchanges are flaming out all over the country as Obamacare enrollment numbers lag.
Obama also wanted to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – but he still to this day is pushing back the withdrawal date from Afghanistan and the withdrawal from Iraq left the entire region in an ISIS-branded conflagration that has made a mockery of his influence abroad and threatens to doom the Hillary Clinton campaign before it even begins.
He also tried to unilaterally move on immigration reform, but his plan has been blocked by Federal courts and is headed to SCOTUS next year, where it looks likely to fail. He has likewise tried to act on guns, but has found his every effort rebuffed and in fact has only succeeded in creating five consecutive months of record gun sales for gun retailers.
Having utterly failed to solve any of the “real” “problems” he set out to solve, and unable temperamentally to confront the actual real problems facing the globe, it is no coincidence that Obama is now turning to the fake problem of climate change and trying to spend his last year “solving” it.
There’s a reason Obama is picking this particular fight, and it’s that absolutely no one cares about it. Climate change is currently viewed as the most important issue for somewhere between 0-3% of Americans. With everything else that’s going on in the news, virtually no one in mainstream America is out there clamoring for (or against, really) action on climate change. Most people, when they hear that the President is doing something about climate change react with an overwhelming shout of, “OH. IS THAT STILL A THING?”
Which is exactly the reason our bored and disengaged President is pushing it. He wants to have something that he can point to that he is allegedly working on, but not something that will get him actually in the public eye. If you watched Obama’s press conference in Turkey earlier this month it is clear that Obama has had enough of dealing with the problems and challenges of attempting to solve live political issues that people care about. So he instead is trying to “solve” a dead one.
Of course, Obama is doing it in his trademark style, which is a good way to ensure that nothing will actually get done. He has done no work behind the scenes with Congress to get shaky Republicans on board with his plan, he has done no work attempting to convince the American public of the need for his plan or the justification for its cost, and exercised no political leadership whatsoever with our allies. Instead he has merely passed an executive order of questionable constitutionality and which will almost definitely be struck down by the courts and if not, immediately overturned by any Republican who assumes the White House. Likewise, he is negotiating with other countries for a plan he can’t sell to Congress and has no hope of enacting at home.
In fitting fashion, this is what Obama plans to do with his last year in office: a fake solution to a fake problem.
President Barack Obama took advantage of the fact that both he and Vladimir Putin were in Paris for this week's multilateral climate talks to give the Russian President some strategic advice about Russia's military intervention in Syria. The advice is particularly timely since Turkey, America's NATO ally, shot down a Russian plane last week near the Turkish-Syrian border.
"I think Mr. Putin understands that with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he's looking for," President Obama said.
This is surely good advice. But I wonder whether we should follow it ourselves? After all, if we are talking about recent military interventions, it is hard to see how our ill-fated experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria could make President Obama think we have a better sense of strategy for this wickedly complicated part of the world than his counterpart in Moscow.
True, Obama was a skeptic of America's original intervention in Iraq in 2003, and wisely agreed to leave in 2011 when the pro-Iranian Nuri al-Maliki regime in Baghdad showed us the door. But now he seems to be having second thoughts about having left, and is slowly returning U.S. military personnel to help stem the ISIS juggernaut in the Land Between the Rivers. Surely we should have learned from our original intervention that while with the presence of large numbers of American boots on the ground we can hold the place together, that success will only last as long as we are willing to stay there.
Remember, in Afghanistan, the Bush administration expanded a justifiable war to oust al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts into a massive exercise in nation-building to try to turn a historically fractious and weak state into a functioning democracy. Talk about building a castle on sand.
But rather than cutting U.S. losses, President Obama doubled down with his own troop surge in 2009, and then backed away from a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2016. But if Afghanistan can't function without a major U.S. military presence, it is hard to see how we can consider the 2009 surge effective.
Meanwhile, in Syria, the Obama administration got swept up in the euphoria of the Arab Spring, and decided to encourage a nascent anti-Bashar al-Assad opposition movement. But while no one can deny that in principle it would be preferable if Assad's minority regime were swept from the pages of history, shouldn't we have asked whether it would be replaced by something worse, like ISIS?
Unfortunately, rather than clear-eyed thinking about the likely course of the anti-Assad rebellion, we continue to chase the will o' the wisp of a "moderate" Syrian opposition to replace Assad. Sadly, if one exists, aside from the Kurds -- another minority group that surely cannot rule the rest of the country -- we have not yet found them. And that's probably because they do not exist.
Putin, for his part, this week accused Turkey of supporting ISIS in Syria. Of course, that accusation isn't fair, but it does not change the fact that the anti-Assad forces President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government is supporting are only slightly more moderate than ISIS. That's the dilemma we refuse to face in pursuing regime change as part of the solution to the Syrian crisis: "more moderate" does not equal "moderate."
On Tuesday came the announcement that the United States is again expanding its presence on the ground in both Iraq and Syria, with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter saying we will be sending "a specialized expeditionary targeting force" with a view to undertaking more raids in Iraq. But it is hard to square this country's own troubled history in the region with offering advice to Putin and others about what they should and should not be doing.
Simply put, it is hard to imagine that President Putin wants Obama's advice about Russian strategy in Syria. I am also not sure that he really needs it -- the Russian president is no democrat, and he doesn't let the niceties of international law and diplomacy get in his way.
But all this also raises an interesting and important question -- who has a more realistic view of the situation in Syria? Obama thinks it is possible to defeat ISIS and get rid of Assad; Putin understands that those twin goals, each perhaps desirable by itself, are unlikely to be possible together. Maybe Syria is one of those problems that require cold-blooded and hard-headed realism to think about clearly.
Vladimir Putin has that in spades. Barack Obama lacks it completely.
I don't really mean the dead babies thing per se, but that there Edwards has more general weaknesses that are typified by that -- as in, people who are already suspicious of him for something more basic will take that as something concrete to object to. It's the "already suspicious" part that concerns me.
To take your Vince Foster example, that taps into a lot of things that people who already dislike Hillary dislike about her. The power-hungry, ruthless, clench-jawed harridan who used her husband to benefit herself.
As in, even if the specific Vince Foster incident doesn't excite people much anymore, the fact that it was such an issue has something to do with the more general distrust people feel for Hillary, and that distrust -- taking Vince Foster out of the equation entirely -- is deep and therefore valid. (Not that people have valid reasons to distrust her, but that people distrust her and that's an issue in terms of her electability.)
Not sure that makes sense.
I think Obama's at a signal moment right now, as Lash's article indicates. The first phase of the campaign is nearing a close -- the "here I am, this is what I'm about, let's get started," generally energizing phase. I think coming up with more policy stuff will be the next phase -- and I think he'll be really, really good at it. The moment when I started really considering him was probably when I read the long New Yorker profile in 2004 and read about how he connected with (white) Illinois farmers. He knows how to reach out beyond typical liberal bastions, for sure.
While I personally like Obama a lot (I mean, obviously), but I am definitely watching Edwards with interest and if he becomes the nominee I will support him willingly, depending of course on how things go between now and then. Right now though, there are a lot of things that make me nervous.
Just checking to see how long I've been actively hoping (and working to do what I could to increase the odds that) Obama would run for president, win the Democratic nomination, win the 2008 election, and win the 2012 election. More than a decade. Last night it hit me like a ton of bricks that this chapter is really almost over. I'm so grateful that eight formative years of my daughter's life -- age 8 to age 16 -- will have been with Obama at the helm.
Such an extraordinary man. And family. Maybe once or twice in a lifetime do we get this lucky.
And you purport to be an intellectual?
And some times we have a good one and dont realize it
The passage of time can definitely change notions.