Perhaps the urge to offer substance-free hosannas to a departing president would be understandable coming from his ideological allies, but … it’s not a good look from mainstream media outlets. NBC News’ Politics reporter Adam Howard cites Obama’s “soaring oratory” as his calling card and selects fifteen of Obama’s soundbites that “best capture his legacy.” Curiously, however, almost none of them actually capture anything other than clichés and platitudes:
As a president renowned for his soaring oratory, it was perhaps inevitable that Barack Obama would deliver several memorable statements over his eight years in the White House. As his consequential tenure in the White House comes to a close, here are the quotes that best capture his legacy[.]
Number two on the list is one of the more amusing. When Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize — despite having done nothing at all by that point in pursuit of peace except be elected — Obama offered a defense of the military as an instrument of peace, and affirmed that “war promises human tragedy” … a statement that is as generic as it is obvious. Howard called this statement “almost a case study of the more nuanced approach his administration took to addressing national security and foreign policy.”
No it didn’t — nor do these actually reflect Obama’s legacy. They represent in some cases the spin Obama gave on his legacy, such as his declaration in March 2010 that “Health care reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land.” That’s almost certainly going to stop being the case in the next few months or even weeks, and it’s because of the unmet promises Obama made with ObamaCare. Oddly enough, Howard doesn’t include the quote that Politifact later called the “Lie of the Year” among the “telling” reflections on his legacy:
“If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan.” Obama said this repeatedly during the debate and implementation of ObamaCare, only to have it become obvious that it simply wasn’t true. This broken promise might have been the most consequential quote from Obama on domestic policy during his administration, and it led to the hardening of opposition to the law and the crippling of the Democratic Party. How is this legacy quote not included in NBC’s curation?
When it comes to Obama’s “nuanced approach” to foreign policy, this quote has much more to do with his legacy than his Nobel platitudes, and yet can’t be found on Howard’s list. Obama told the press that he had not yet ordered any military action against Bashar al-Assad after the Syrian dictator started bombing rebels, but that his “calculus” would change if a certain action took place (emphasis mine):
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.” Well, Assad used chemical weapons on his people a year later, but Obama had never gone to Congress to discuss a red-line response. Having just blown up Libya and creating one failed state on the Mediterranean after promising only a limited action to keep Moammar Qaddafi from attacking Benghazi, Congress didn’t bite on a second war — especially when John Kerry described the plan as “pinpricks.”
That’s hardly the only legacy quote on national security from Obama. Seven months after dismissing ISIS as the “jayvee team,” and two months after the terror army seized Mosul and a large part of western Iraq, Obama told the press that he still didn’t “have a strategy yet” to deal with the situation:
“But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet. I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.” As we later discovered, US intelligence had been warning about the rise of ISIS for two years by this point; Michael Flynn left the Defense Intelligence Agency over the administration’s refusal to take it seriously. NBC apparently doesn’t take it seriously either.
And here’s another “telling” Obama quote that NBC somehow missed, even though it now has great bearing on the current state of politics. Obama scolded Mitt Romney for assessing Russia as our top geopolitical opponent, deriding him with this memorable zinger:
“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign-policy back.” Four years ago, Obama dismissed Russia as a geopolitical threat, but over the last three months, all we’re hearing from the administration is The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!
All of these quotes are more “telling” than any of the hackneyed rhetoric Howard and NBC offers as a retrospective. This isn’t even an attempt at a serious look back at the Obama years; it’s cheap propaganda. Recalling these much more significant quotes from the Obama years took no more than about thirty minutes, and that includes finding the video and the links. Readers will no doubt have more suggestions for this list with a little more thought.
NBC News should be embarrassed to have published this lame and hagiographic list … but they won’t be.