The Sun News

Barack Obama, model president (4)

Perhaps  the most poignant legacy of President Barack Obama is that he conclusively and comprehensively destroyed the myth of white supremacy.  White supremacists couldn’t stand him because he finally buried their pet theory.  And he did it without drama, without drawing attention to himself.

He demonstrated that contrary to popular stereotypes, a black man could lead a nation, an organization with total honesty, sincerity, and transparency.  The American government is one of the world’s most complex organizations, yet he presided over it for eight years in a totally transparent manner.  For the first time in more than 150 years, a president completed his two terms without a single scandal.

Republicans searched everything and everywhere and found nothing.  Individual Congress men, right-wing activists, racists, mischief makers, muckrakers, they left no stone unturned looking for corruption, malfeasance, incompetence, even misdemeanours.  The more disappointed they got the more frustrated they became.

He endured what no president before him ever had to confront.  Republicans tried to ridicule him, to annoy him, to underestimate and mock him, and to scar him, but failed.  He had the forbearance of the Biblical Job, the heart of a lion, the compassion of a saint.  When Representative Joe Wilson interrupted him in mid-speech to shout “You Lie!” as he addressed a joint session of Congress, it was clearly unprecedented.  It would not have been done to a white president.  When Darrell Issa, the House Chairman for Congressional Oversight and Government Reform arrived with an agenda to talk glibly about the Obama administration as “corrupt,” he investigated numerous issues but found nothing.

Placed side by side other presidents, he is head and shoulders above them.  It is so obvious.  His predecessor George W. Bush, intellectually, does not even come close.  Indeed, Mr. Bush took the United States to war over what turned out to be “false intelligence.”  Obama, intensely deliberative, risk averse, would never have made such a monstrous error.  Indeed, even before the invasion, Obama denounced the war, seeing it would be a monumental disaster, just as it turned out.  Obama seems to possess internal mechanisms and philosophical reality checks against such decisions.

Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, less than 60 days in office, is already ‘kind of’ being investigated by Congress.  Trump has been less than candid about his campaign’s dealings with Russians.  His consistent praise of President Vladimir Putin has raised many red flags.  Many associates of Trump, it has now been discovered, have had secret dealings with the Russians, raising fears that the Russians, somehow, helped Trump cross the finish line in last November’s presidential election.  Suspicion is rife.  Treason is mentioned but hushed.  The election of Mrs. Hillary Clinton would have been Putin’s nightmare and the Russians did everything to prevent it.  Secondly, Trump’s allegation that President Obama had “tapped” his phone during the campaign is such a stupendous allegation, it is not only unprecedented but scary.  Even Republicans are pressing President Trump to produce the proof.

Besides, Trump cannot compare with Obama.  The latter won two landslides, both electoral and popular vote.  Trump was beaten by Mrs. Clinton by three million popular votes.  And the day after Trump’s inauguration, 1.5 million American women marched against Trump in more than a dozen American cities to denounce the new president.  The Women’s March, as it is called, is one of the biggest demonstrations in the world in recent years.

Two other presidents in recent memory may be compared with Obama – Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy.  Both were one term presidents.  Kennedy was as loved, and had shown great promise, but he was cut down in his prime by an assassin’s bullet.  Carter, a physicist, is a profile in courage, but he was defeated in 1980 partly for the bungling of the attempted military rescue of US embassy officials held hostage in Iran.

The 1979 Carter experience has had a sobering influence on any president toying with the idea of similar adventures.  But not Obama.  Indeed, he did not hesitate to attempt the “taking out” of Osama bin Laden.  Other members of his National Security Council, fearful of the political consequences of failure, advised him against it.

After speaking individually with the leaders of the Special Forces mission, he, as commander-in-chief, gave the go ahead.   Not even the vice president stood with him.  He could not shrink from an effort to destroy Osama bin Laden, even if it cost him his re-election.  The mission lost a helicopter, but none of the members had a scratch.  Osama bin Laden finally met a violent end.  America saluted Obama for courage.

The courage to take justice to Bin Laden was informed by his underlying approach to war and peace, and good and evil, which was the theme of his Nobel Prize Lecture when he accepted the Peace Prize in 2009.  War is hell, he admitted, but it is sometimes inescapable when faced with nihilists and extremists like the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, Boko Haram and their like.

Evil must be confronted when and if negotiation is not possible.  When in 2008 he said he would negotiate with America’s ‘enemies,’ his opponents then laughed him out of court, saying he was naïve.  Today, Iran and Cuba are the rewards.  But when negotiations are blocked, there’s only one choice left – war.

Barack Obama is in essence an activist, not a politician.  Thus the prospect of gaining personal advantage never seems to feature in his choices and decisions.  So long as the decision is right, Obama lets the chips fall wherever they may.  His decision to take up the job of a community organizer after Harvard Law School, his insistence on the Affordable

Care Act even when he knew it would plunge him and his party into a political deficit, the raid that killed Bin Laden, his open fights with the gun lobby especially the powerful National Rifle Association, his public disagreements with the Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, all demonstrated his strength of character and the essence of his mission.  May his kind multiply.  Concluded


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June 2018
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