The Obama Legacy
By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media
While the media continue to champion the legacy of former President Barack Obama, some of his signature policies are rapidly being ended or overturned by his successor, President Donald J. Trump. However, this does not mean that Obama’s policies weren’t a disaster for America during his tenure. Obama’s enduring legacy, far from a collection of his signature achievements, will be the decline of his own party and a lackluster economy, as well as the appeasement of dictators, and a world in chaos and disarray.
While it is Trump who has been frequently ridiculed—and he certainly uses Twitter to hit back—Obama took to Twitter to defend his legacy. He championed his economic policies, with “the longest streak of job growth in our history,” and how “today nearly every American now has access to the financial security of affordable health care.” Obama also claimed to have reestablished “U.S. leadership—leading with diplomacy & partnering with nations to meet global problems.”
In other words, Obama continues to claim that his presidency was a resounding success. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Obama’s economy is leaving millions of Americans behind. The UK Guardian reported that growth under Obama was “anemic.” They also pointed to the low labor participation rate, writing, “why fewer people are looking for work is a subject of much debate.”
Surely Obama’s many regulations, including those of Obamacare, have had something to do with the poor economic recovery. Peter Roff wrote for US News & World Report that the American Action Forum estimates the “economic cost of all the new federal regulations finalized since [Obama] became president” at a stunning “$870.3 billion.”
Contrary to Obama’s assertions about crafting a strong recovery, a recent Gallup study found that there was no economic recovery under his leadership. Rather, senior economist Jonathan Rothwell writes that “on a per capita basis, median household income peaked in 1999; the subjective general health status of Americans has declined, even adjusting for the aging population; disability rates are higher; learning has stagnated; fewer new businesses are being launched; more workers are involuntarily stuck in part-time jobs or out of the labor force entirely; and the income ranks of grown children are no less tied to the income ranks of their parents.”
Rothwell also attributes an increase in part-time employment to the “rising burden of healthcare costs.” This claim was also made by Mortimer Zuckerman, who wrote for The Wall Street Journal that “slow growth” and the “perverse incentives of Obamacare” can be blamed for poor employment numbers.
In other words, Obama failed to turn the economy around after the Great Recession, which officially ended in June of 2009, and his policies directly contributed to anemic growth and a doubling of the national debt. Yet The New York Times reported in December that “President Obama Is Handing a Strong Economy to His Successor.”
The press failed to challenge Obama’s blatant lies because they support his liberal agenda, such as Obamacare. The Guardian reports that Obamacare was “the first social safety net created in more than 50 years. The law was a legacy-maker.”
Thus, as we have repeatedly argued, the media have tried to present Obama’s signature health care reform as successful in bringing health care access to average Americans. But having insurance with large deductibles and skyrocketing premiums has hardly equated to more Americans receiving care. In fact, The New York Times reported on how, under Obamacare, the deductibles are so steep that individuals were skipping vital medical procedures because they still could not afford them even though they had enrolled in the health care program.
Despite its considerable flaws, the press rallied around Obama’s signature legislation when it was before the Supreme Court, in an attempt to ensure that the court did not gut this legislation. The media’s reporting focused almost exclusively on the dangerous effects of eliminating subsidies, and how this would affect millions of Americans. But the press ignored the fact that Obamacare wasn’t supplying quality care to its enrollees.
While much of Obama’s legislation and many of his executive orders can be rolled back, it is impossible to undo the destruction in the Middle East that has occurred as a result of Obama’s policies. His legacy is one of having ignored the rise of the Islamic State, and by precipitously removing troops from Iraq, he helped create a vacuum that allowed ISIS to grow. Obama originally dismissed the Islamic State as a “JV” team. Now, this terror group threatens the stability of both Iraq and Syria, operates in 18 countries, and is responsible for the murder of thousands.
Much of the time, Obama’s aspirations to success rely on his claims that the world would be worse off were it not for his leadership. Saying that things could have been worse without Obama’s policy interventions is an argument based on counterfactual reasoning, as if the president could somehow know the future that he avoided. Yet President Obama often complained that his biggest problem as president was simply that he didn’t explain himself well enough.
No amount of explaining can undo the destruction that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s leadership brought to Libya, which is currently a haven for the Islamic State and gripped by chaos.
As the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi pointed out in its 2014 and 2016 reports, the ultimate goal of the Obama administration was regime change in Libya. In fact, the administration switched sides in the War on Terror by facilitating the removal of Muammar Qaddafi, who had become one of America’s counterterrorism partners.
Instead of combatting terror, the CCB wrote, Obama and Secretary Clinton “worked with the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and materially aided known al-Qa’eda-linked militias to topple [Muammar Qaddafi’s] regime.” The CCB also found that the Obama administration repeatedly ignored “multiple advance warnings about an impending attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi.”
In addition, the report stated, “The President, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of Defense Panetta, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey…must be required to answer for their dereliction of duty…in failing to provide appropriate protection in advance and to commit forces immediately to a rescue attempt the night of 11-12 September 2012.”
The Obama administration failed to anticipate the attack on the Benghazi Mission, despite the fact that it knew that there were 10 al-Qaeda and Islamist training camps nearby. It also failed to secure the ambassador and other State Department personnel despite a number of urgent security requests, and then blamed the attack on a protest inspired by a YouTube video while knowing that the attacks were the result of terrorism.
While much of the Benghazi scandal was blamed on Hillary Clinton because she was secretary of state when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans died, it is in fact Obama who is ultimately responsibility for this failure. Policies flow downward from the president to his subordinates.
The press has gone to great lengths to mislead about the administration’s Benghazi cover-up. It repeatedly criticized the House Select Committee on Benghazi as a waste of money, and concluded with each new factoid or document release that no smoking guns were uncovered. But, as we have written, no new revelations were necessary to demonstrate that Benghazi is an enduring scandal.
Obama, however, claimed that “I am very proud of the fact that we will, knock on wood, leave this administration without significant scandal.…I will put this administration against any administration in history.”
This is part of the legacy of the Obama administration: incompetence by the president, at best, and malfeasance more likely. The press remains blinded to this fact. From Fast & Furious to Benghazi to the IRS targeting scandal, the Obama administration has left behind a trail of corruption and cover-ups. A number of individuals—The New York Times’ David Brooks, former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod, and, most recently, Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett—have claimed that President Obama served two terms without any scandals. This is a convenient narrative for the press because it ignores the many lies told by this administration.
One of President Obama’s biggest lies is that the Iran deal will somehow prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. Far from hindering the mullahs, the Iran deal legitimizes Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology and virtually ensures that it will eventually develop the bomb. Yet, as we reported, the Iran deal isn’t even signed—it is, instead, a set of political commitments.
“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” the State Department’s Julia Frifield told Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) in a letter.
The Iran deal commitments differ between Iran and the United States. The Iranian parliament, the Majlis, signed an agreement notably different than the one the P5+1 countries supported.
The media are obviously aware that this is not a signed deal, so why do they keep calling it one as if that is an insignificant detail? I believe it’s because they see their role as trying to help President Obama secure his legacy as the Nobel Peace Prize winner who was able to finally tame the Iranian theocracy, and save the world from nuclear destruction.
If the press were to be believed, the unsigned Iranian deal was to usher in a new rapprochement with Iranian leaders such as President Hassan Rohani. But Rohani’s decisions are subject to the will and desires of the hardline dictator and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Obama also sent the Iranians $1.7 billion in cash to obtain the release of four American hostages—all the while denying that this was a ransom payment. But the $100 billion and sanctions relief that Iran received as part of the unsigned nuclear deal was itself a ransom payment; it was designed, if not successfully, to dissuade the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons.
The result of Obama’s deal with the Iranians and the abstention on a key United Nations resolution to condemn Israeli settlements, was a worsening relationship with key ally Israel. The United Nations then appropriated funds to put together a blacklist of Israeli companies which could be targeted for sanctions. Since the changeover of administrations, the relationship between the U.S. and Israeli governments has dramatically changed for the better.
Obama’s foreign and domestic policies have reflected badly not only on his own legacy, but also have bled into the approval ratings for the Democratic Party, which supported Obama’s many endeavors. Trump’s victory leading to majorities in both houses of Congress has served as a referendum on Obama’s failures. We called this “Trump’s Amazing Victory Against a Stacked Deck.” The deck was stacked because of a complicit, incestuous media that worked hand-in-glove with Democrats to try to defeat Trump.
Hillary Clinton, far from running from Obama’s legacy, could not separate herself from appearing to represent a third term of the same. “Politically Obama has been the worst thing to happen to his party since Bill Clinton,” wrote Roff. “During the eight years he was president, the Democratic Party has lost 717 seats in state houses across the country, 231 seats in state senates, 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 12 governorships and 12 seats in the United States Senate.”
These losses will likely continue. “But in 2018, Democrats must defend 25 seats (including the two Independent senators who caucus with the Democrats), while the GOP must defend only eight seats,” we noted.
In addition to Democrats losing political ground, the media have not escaped censure for supporting Obama and refusing to report on his many failures. Trump has repeatedly called out the mainstream media for their unfair coverage of him and ongoing double standard. Trust in the media has plummeted by eight percentage points since 2015, and only 32 percent of Gallup’s respondents said they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media. Only 14 percent of Republicans trust the mainstream media.
Speaking of Gallup and approval ratings, the media gushed about how high Obama’s were as he left office. But what they failed to point out was that his average approval rating over his eight years was lower than that of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. A lot of the reason for the high ratings at the end were presumably that Obama began to look good to a lot of people compared to Hillary and Trump, who were engaged in a brutal knife-fight of a campaign that dragged them both down.
The media, in an effort to create an enduring, historic Obama legacy, has perpetuated a con game against the public for the past eight years, as well as during the 2008 campaign. It refused to report fairly on Obama’s communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis, and connections to radical, left-wing terrorists such as Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
It is little surprise, then, that a media so complicit and intent on elevating candidate Obama to the presidency would continue their misreporting and underreporting while he was president. The media continued to ignore and failed to report on stories that could damage the progressive agenda of “hope and change.” They largely repeated the administration narrative and failed to report evidence contradicting that narrative.
No figure represents as great an attack on Obama’s legacy as Donald Trump does. The new President has already begun steps to roll back Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, improve ties with Israel, get the economy moving again, revisit the unsigned Iran deal, and stop illegal immigration. In doing so Trump has set himself up as the anti-Obama, the President who will undo the “progressive” accomplishments of his predecessor.
Trump faced an acknowledged media double standard in his campaign against Hillary Clinton. Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times suggested that the media abandon impartial reporting and engage in oppositional journalism against this candidate. While the mainstream media clearly favored Mrs. Clinton for president, the vitriol and venom against Trump originated, at least in part, with the fact that he ran against Obama as much as he was a counter to Hillary. The double standard against Trump wielded by the media shows no sign of abating, as Trump undoes the disastrous Obama legacy.
One legacy item that may surprise people is the number of bombs dropped by the U.S. during the Obama years. Despite Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize at the beginning of his presidency, in his final year alone, the U.S. dropped an average of approximately 500 bombs per week, on a total of seven different countries, mostly Syria and Iraq. But how often did we read about this, see the results, or hear about collateral damage or civilian casualties? Again, our media had no interest in reporting on that.
Among the other lasting legacy items, President Obama suffered 20 unanimous defeats before the Supreme Court in just his first five years in office. We called Obama “the least transparent” President in history, with good reason. And it wasn’t just us. “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered,” said David Sanger of The New York Times. And his Times colleague James Risen called the administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.”
This was a result of the administration’s war on journalists, during which they prosecuted more leakers than all previous administrations combined. And while I could go on, the neutering of the news media has to rank as one of President Obama’s most enduring legacy items. Regardless of all we’ve pointed to in this report, the degree to which the media closed their eyes to the scandals and failures of the Obama administration represents a permanent stain on the institution of the free press in this country. The media’s pent up energy and desire to be thought of as speaking truth to power, and holding the powerful accountable, is all coming out now in their rage and transparent hatred of the Trump administration.
But the Obama legacy will live on.