By Dominic Dixey
“Yes, we did. Yes, we can. Thank you. God bless you. May God continue to bless the United States of America.”
Few things are quite as loathsome as the self-congratulatory aura of celebrity that Barack Obama exudes.
“Yes, we did.” What, exactly, has Obama done? People lambast Donald Drumpf for some of his more outlandish policies such as the wall on the border with Mexico, on the grounds that they are impossible; but Obama promised far, far more. “There has never been anything false about hope . . . We can heal this nation!” Whilst Drumpf has already been written off by most, Obama is seen as some kind of saint – despite his long list of failures and his lofty ambitions to “repair the world.”
There is a similar attitude towards David Cameron here. During the referendum he spouted lie after lie, but like Obama, always got away with it in the eyes of the public because of his natural statesmanship. He said he would stay on as Prime Minister. He said Article 50 would be triggered immediately. He said there would be a punitive budget. He said students would lose Erasmus funding. He said Brexit would be the ‘self-destruct option’. He presided over a government that made absolutely no contingency plans for this seemingly world-ending event. Then the leave campaign slightly exaggerates the money that would be freed up by leaving (it is still in excess of £10 billion a year) and they are accused of lying to the ‘impressionable’ and ‘stupid’ masses. It seems to me that it was not the masses who were ‘impressionable’ and ‘stupid’.
Obama has utterly failed to “repair the world”. Perhaps most significantly, his response to the Arab Spring was a disaster. It has led to violent extremists exploiting the vacuums left by his ill-conceived interventions, and they now pose a real threat to the US and Europe. His intervention in Libya against Gaddafi was a catastrophe, and whilst he decided not to intervene in Syria (even though chemical weapons were supposed to be a “red line”) he did in effect do so, when declaring in 2011 that “Assad must go.”
The effects have been that Syria, Libya and Egypt, to name but a few, are now closer to Russia than ever before; the west’s ability to help rebuild these countries is in tatters. Despite the promise to close Guantanamo Bay, there are still 41 inmates. Obama pledged a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and now it seems as unlikely as ever. Whilst he tried to curb the more sinister practices of the CIA, NSA surveillance was exposed under his watch. After admirable attempts at a “nuclear reset” with Russia, they have played him for a fool ever since (take the recent US election hacking for example); he has failed to halt EU aggression, and has failed to instigate any kind of rapprochement. He even tried to advise us on how to vote on the greatest constitutional issue of our time, and thankfully, we refused. After he tried to install Clinton as his successor, America did something similar.
The fact of the matter is that celebrity endorsements (being pals with Bruce Springsteen, Will.i.am and Tom Hanks), crying every so often at press conferences, speaking slowly and solemnly; these things do not make you a good President. Obamacare, seen by many as the hallmark of his presidency, resulted in double-digit increases in insurance premiums for many. Although over 15 million more people now have insurance coverage as a result, he was ultimately miles from his original target.
After two terms, what has really been his legacy? He leaves the Oval Office with 37 ‘mass shootings’ during his presidency and high levels of racial tension. 39 unarmed black people, for example, were killed by police in 2016, whilst Trump’s de facto ban on Muslims threatens to divide a nation. He arrived promising to fix America, and leaves it with Donald Drumpf.
The great irony of the alleged ‘post-truth’ era is that it has come about as a direct result of the lies told by people like Obama: he promised so much and delivered so little. He attracts support with a kind of religious fervour. Why? The world is a significantly less stable place than it was before he became the most powerful man within it. America is far more divided. Yet all we seem capable of doing is sharing videos of him tearfully thanking Michelle on social media. I understand that people like him on a personal level, but can we all please deal in facts and realise that all the hype is in fact just that: hype.
Photograph: Michael Pittman via Flickr and Creative Commons