- - Wednesday, January 11, 2017


“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” says Juliet to Romeo in Shakespeare’s telling of it. And so it is, but Barack Obama’s impending departure from the national stage does not necessarily pierce the heart in the same way. Many Americans prefer the message of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks: “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?”

Legions of Americans awaiting Jan. 20 are beset by clashing emotions — relief that eight years of the Obama era are almost over and sorrow over expectations not met. It didn’t have to be this way.

President Obama returned to his adopted hometown of Chicago on Tuesday to deliver a farewell address, just like, he reminded everyone, George Washington. Chicago served Mr. Obama as a steppingstone to fame and fortune, but has been kicked to the curb on his road to success. Instead of “hope and change,” Chicago has instead disintegrated into a city of “blood and death,” where 762 citizens were murdered in 2016.

All that was brushed aside as Mr. Obama took the stage at the McCormick Place and delivered a closing address that presented a Reaganesque defense of “our bold experiment in self-government.” He ticked off a list of what he said he had done: “reverse of a great recession … shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot … and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens.”

A president can cover himself in self-congratulations but, as he said his mother had warned him as a child, “reality has a way of catching up with you.” A December poll conducted for The Associated Press found that 66 percent of Americans believe Mr. Obama “either tried but failed to keep his promises” or believe simply that he has “not kept his promises.”

When asked by Gallup in a poll Monday whether the United States has gained or lost ground in race relations during Mr. Obama’s presidency, 25 percent say they have improved and 20 percent say they’re the same, and 52 percent say the prospect of good race relations has lost ground. The financial picture of black Americans has borne out that view. When Mr. Obama entered office in 2009, the median household income for black families was $35,954, nearly $20,000 below that of all Americans. Five years of struggle was required for the black economy to approach that level again. This occurred on the watch of the nation’s first black president.

The president has encouraged entitlement over achievement, and a record 95 million workers, both black and white, are now idle. (Black workers matter, too.) He has poured borrowed cash knee-deep from coast to coast. From the nation’s founding until his Inauguration, the nation accumulated a debt of $10.6 trillion. It now stands at $19.9 trillion, and could hit the $20 trillion mark before Mr. Obama says goodbye to the city he seems to have no intention of leaving.

Mr. Obama leaves the Oval Office vanquished. The stunning victory of Donald Trump over the Obama ideological successor, Hillary Clinton, arrived with the humiliation of an eviction notice nailed to the White House door. Though his words in Chicago were occasionally uplifting, his angst was revealed in the blizzard of lame-duck executive orders — freeing terrorists, pardoning drug criminals, filling boards and commissions with last-minute loyalists, designed to put obstacles in the way of the new government.

With an average eight-year approval rating of 48 percent, Mr. Obama leaves with popularity unmatched since Jimmy Carter went home to Georgia. As the president moves out, the nation will move on. Yes, we can.

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