If someone were writing a book about America at this point in time, it should be titled “The Decline and Fall of Barack Obama’s Presidency.”
In our 24-7 news cycle, the rush of events in the nation’s capital and around the world is seen as disparate stories that arrive at lightning speed, then are blotted out of our collective memory by the next “breaking news” report.
If you listen to the explanations coming out of the White House, and to President Obama’s speeches, he’s doing great and everything’s coming up roses.
If you connect the dots, though, as the president struggles to decide what to do in the last two years of his troubled second term, a hopeless picture emerges.
He faces increasing adversity on just about every front — in his own problem-plagued government, the Republican Congress, an underperforming economy, and a world at war in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.
The president reluctantly decided by the end of his first term, that Congress wasn’t going to enact his remaining agenda (if anyone knows what that is). So he decided to govern by a series of constitutionally dubious executive actions to rewrite immigration law, make periodic changes in Obamacare, and tape together some new government spending ideas to create a handful of jobs. Still, he has run into one obstacle after another in the courts and on Capitol Hill that have, to a large extent, paralyzed his presidency.
It is not a pretty picture, but let’s go down the list.
On immigration, a federal district judge has temporarily blocked his executive action reforms while the case goes through the courts. Dealing with Congress is central to the way our system of government operates, but the president going to court to defend the constitutionality of his actions is quite another.
The issue, in a nutshell, revolves around the question of who has jurisdiction over immigration laws — Congress or the president with just a stroke of his pen? Right now, Mr. Obama’s imperial decree is in limbo.
But that’s not the only issue that has found its way into the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday about whether 7.5 million Americans are now illegally getting subsidies to pay for Obamacare.
A provision in the law, written by the Democrats, says the subsidies are available to people who apply and sign up through exchanges set up by the states. But 34 states did not create such exchanges, and if the court rules in favor of the law’s opponents, millions may find that their coverage is unaffordable and the program could collapse like a financial house of cards.
Meantime, Mr. Obama has been busy wielding his veto pen to block the popular, job-creating Keystone XL pipeline that would safely bring oil from Canada and our northern states down to southern refineries along the Gulf.
The program, backed by labor unions desperately in need of jobs, passed Congress with bipartisan support. Legendary investor Warren Buffett, one of Mr. Obama’s earliest supporters, said his veto was wrong. Still, Mr. Obama killed the bill solely because environmentalists oppose it and they are one of his party’s biggest voting blocs.
The veto will become a rallying cry for Republicans in the 2016 presidential election to show that the Democrats put the interests of powerful liberal lobbying groups before the needs of long-term jobless Americans.
Mr. Obama’s presidency will be remembered most for presiding over the longest and slowest economic recovery since the 1930s.
While he insists the economy is running at full throttle, its growth rate has averaged a sluggish 2.3 percent since the recovery began. This week, Wells Fargo economists forecast that monthly job creation for the rest of this year will average just 224,000. More than 10 million men between the ages of 25 and 64 “have no job,” writes economist Peter Morici.
After six years of trying, it should be clear by now that Americans no longer look to the White House for policies to get the U.S. economy back on track. From Day One, Mr. Obama’s handling of foreign policy has been equally disastrous and the world is, arguably, a far more dangerous place.
He came into office with terrorism in hasty retreat as he pursued policies of rapid withdrawal from the Middle East. He won a second term by repeatedly boasting that al Qaeda was “on the run,” and its leadership was “decimated.”
But that never happened. Terrorism metastasized into a larger and far more lethal threat, and today controls major swaths of territory in Iraq, Syria, Libya the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, and elsewhere across the Middle East and the North African continent.
Recently, terrorists have staged bloody attacks in France and Denmark, and are now believed to have entered other countries in Europe, and possibly in the United States, waiting and plotting to strike again.
Mr. Obama’s two previous defense secretaries have written tell-all books taking him to task for refusing to make timely decisions against terrorism and acting when it was too late to make a difference.
He delayed making a decision to use air power against Islamic State armies in Syria and Iraq until it was feared they were close to toppling those countries. And after they’d begun beheading abducted Americans with impunity.
He refused to give Kiev’s army the weapons it needs to defend itself as Vladimir Putin’s forces drives ever deeply into Eastern Ukraine in an audacious assault on a sovereign nation.
Meantime, U.S. relations with our allies are the worst they’ve been in modern memory, no more so than with Israel where Mr. Obama insists we can negotiate in good faith with Iran’s Muslim leaders who threaten the Jewish homeland with annihilation.
Last November, America held what for all intents and purposes was a referendum on Mr. Obama’s presidency. The voters, in a stunning rebuke, overwhelmingly rejected him and his party.
All that’s left is a crippled presidency, stumbling through its last two years, under fire in the courts, ridiculed by Congress, and adrift in a world at war.
• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.