To our regular audience, if you are reading this at the time it is published I offer you salutations and congratulations. If you can somehow manage to hang on for another four hours you will have survived the era of Barack Hussein Obama. It may have seemed impossibly far off at times, but the day is finally upon us.
To the outgoing President of the United States, you’ve left me with much on my mind… perhaps too much to digest in a single sitting. Even now I can’t bring myself to address your tenure without some offering of good will up front. You took it upon yourself to offer your service to the nation in what is undeniably one of the more draining jobs imaginable. As I notice the snow upon your dome which was not there eight years ago and the furrows which the glacier of time has etched across your visage, I see that the task has taken its toll on you. For voluntarily shouldering the burden I offer my thanks.
I might have had more on a positive note to say had you not chosen to spend your final weeks in office repeatedly jabbing your thumb in the nation’s collective eye as rapidly as possible. This culminated, at least for me, with the insulting commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. It was an insult to everyone who has ever served the nation, in or out of uniform, and is a sad, final addition to your already questionable legacy. Combined with the endless raft of midnight regulatory moves which you made during your final months, obviously designed to stymie your successor and kick sand in the eyes of those who disagree with you, it’s been one of the more dismal ends to a presidency seen in my lifetime.
You were swept into office by a nation weary of war and panicked over the collapse of a massive economic bubble. You promised to bring an end to those wars with mixed results. Getting out of Afghanistan proved more challenging than you thought. You did manage to end the official American war in Iraq, but while you can’t be held entirely to blame for it, that nation was quickly overrun by terrorists and now falls largely under the protective cloak of Iran. By the time you realized that ISIS was far more than the junior varsity team, they had taken their act on the road to devastating effect. While they may now be seeing the end of their official caliphate, their remnants are no doubt scattering across the globe bringing havoc and death with them. With the help of two relatively feckless Secretaries of State our position in the global theater is diminished.
The economy slowly staggered back to its feet during your tenure, though it remains far short of the robust health it enjoyed in the 90s. A significant portion of the jobs recovery came from the energy industry, a success story which took place in spite of your efforts to dampen it rather than through any actions you could take credit for. The mountains of regulations you piled on nearly every aspect of American business, largely through the office of Gina McCarthy, explain a great deal of the economic lethargy we are still experiencing today.
But perhaps your most significant “achievement” came in the arena of culture. You inherited a nation where roughly two thirds of Americans felt that race relations in the country were at least in fair shape and improving. Many of us, including the most skeptical such as myself, foolishly thought that the election of the nation’s first black president might put the final nail in the coffin of a sad aspect of our history and heal those wounds as much as is possible among human beings. But you managed to infuse racial divisiveness into your speeches and policies in a way nobody saw coming. Now the national numbers on Americans’ attitudes about race relations have essentially reversed.
During your time in office we saw a sudden spike in murders and violent crimes in many of our largest cities after years of steady decline. Through the work of first Eric Holder and then Loretta Lynch, law enforcement in our country took one black eye after another. You’ve managed to undermine the confidence of the people in their police officers even while crime runs out of control and we need them more than ever.
I could go on, but there’s seems little point. A full list of the aspects of the last eight years which have left me disappointed, depressed or enraged could fill volumes. You’ve left us one hell of a mess to clean up and I can only pray that we are collectively up to the task. So farewell, Mr. President. I truly wish things had proceeded otherwise and I could find more charitable things to say at the end of your final term, but the truth is that I shall be very relieved to see you go. I don’t know what the future holds beginning today, but we clearly have to try something new.