President Barack Obama’s farewell speech was quite reminiscent of his many speeches prior to and after winning the 2008 elections. Though I listened to others afterwards, including before and after his reelection, and none hit that 2008 note with me again till last Tuesday night. It goes to show how much of change has come upon Obama since the idealist gave way to the realist, then back to the idealist now that power has given way, even the end of his speech resonated that assertion when he said, “Yes, we can. Yes, we did. Yes, we can”, and though that must’ve been meant for his fans, supporters and Americans generally, for me it spoke to his past self, what he became, and how he might be returning to that former (idealist) self.
I must confess that in these last few days I’d become disillusioned with Obama because of the pettiness he began to display especially in responding to Trump in kind, even to the injury of a close ally. He seemed to lose his cool and signature self control and comportment, in what seemed like his failure to as yet come to terms with the fact that the candidate he invested his all in, lost the last election, and not just to anyone but a garrulous individual, the direct opposite of everything Obama is and represents. I surmise that his situation had nothing at all to do with the fact that a republican won, as President-Elect Donald Trump’s emergence was a coup both against his own republican party, as it is against the Democrats. This is evidenced in the manner even his nominees for several secretary positions for the different departmental portfolios have expressed contrary views during their screening before the American senate, just like the Vice President-Elect Pence did during the debates, and at pressers before the election.
It is with sadness that I observed the effort in the American parliament to repeal and replace Obamacare, Obama’s signature policy and most notable legacy. For now, it is the source of unity between Trump and the Republican party, it is doubtful whether going forward their relationship will remain that coy. It is true that Obamacare was fraught from the onset with challenges, and rising costs, due in part to the pulling out of some Health Insurance Companies and HMOs who have misgivings with the terms and conditions of the policy, leading to monopolies created in some areas where a few remain, or outright lack of health insurance in areas where they all bailed, amongst other considerations, making a repeal of Obamacare inevitable, though not replaceable, which in doing so now even before Obama leaves the White House by Congressional Republicans, signifies an activity in bad taste, borne out of hatred for the man, not necessarily for his policies, which admittedly isn’t perfect hence requiring a tweaking and not a replacement.
When it comes to foreign policy, from where I stand, Obama failed woefully. The source of my anger towards him as I already mentioned without expatiating (an act I thought wasn’t properly thought through, and hopefully not taken emotionally considering where Trump stood on the matter) was that of leaving America’s foremost ally (Israel), in the cold when it mattered most. Setting a precedent, where for the first time America refrained from vetoing a United Nations resolution against Israel for whatsoever reason, regardless of whether it was binding or non-binding. The fact that the channel via which America communicates with Israel has broken down under the Obama administration, evidenced by Secretary John Kerry’s presser after the UN resolution vote, and the reaction from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is pointer to how badly this adminstration bungled the middle east peace process, in trying primarily to pander to sentiments other than that which his predecessors heeded to make the little progress of those days, which have been drawn back several notches now.
I don’t even want to talk about Syria, having already voiced my angst in “SYRIA AND OBAMA’S RED LINE | https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/syria-and-obamas-red-line/”, less than four years ago, and how Obama’s inaction and wrong actions, have strongly enabled Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to take on the role of an “accidental” statesman in the absence of American power and influence, while standing firmly behind his ally, Syria’s President Bashir Al-Assad and helping to turn the war in the latters’ favour, as I noted in “AS TURKEY DOWNS RUSSIA’S JET | https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2015/11/24/as-turkey-downs-russian-jet/”, unlike the Americans under Obama who denied Israel much needed military aid in the last intifada, that involved Israel demobilizing Palestinian (arms smuggling) tunnels, and siding with popular media who didn’t care about the instigators of that crisis, rather paid attention only to Israel’s disproportional response. In the end, American policy in the Middle East for the eight years of Obama, brought only instability, even for the uprisings (Arab Spring) it supported in the countries affected, to the monarchies whose powers he did nothing to diminish by supporting those who challenged them.
When I think about his (non-existent) role in Africa, after his white predecessors of both parties left Africans eternally grateful for policies such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA and The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush respectively, I wonder how he feels when he reflects on how he, being half African by parentage didn’t manage to do if not better, but match those enviable policies. It was quite embarrassing to have his half-brother support and even predict a win for Donald Trump in the last election, but not surprising especially of Kenyan sentiments after all he had to say on his last visit was a promotion of, nay lecture on gay rights, which may not be wrong in its entirety, but quite insensitive considering the culture and sensitive nature of the subject in his ancestral land, of which a statement like the one he made, with the Kenyan president’s equal rejection of the idea, was capable of been counterproductive to the people whose rights he’d thought to come to encourage “his people” to protect.
If Kenyans couldn’t benefit from Obama, Nigerians definitely didn’t stand a chance, even when American aid (military and otherwise) could have helped in putting an end to the menace of the Islamic Fundamentalist group, Boko Haram. The administration didn’t even appear keen on labeling the notorious organization a terrorist group despite compelling evidence at their disposal, until it was placed under intense pressure by lobby groups and influential individuals within America and outside it (especially from Nigeria). In deciding to starve Nigeria of military aid, Obama’s government cited the LEAHY LAW, which prevented the American government from aiding countries whose Human Rights record is found to be poor, despite assurances from then President Goodluck Jonathan, to the effect that lapses where and when they occur will be dealt with. Allies of the United States were also barred from providing military hardware to Nigeria, which led a sovereign nation to approach the black market, like a banana republic or a rebel group for weapons, when it needed to augment those acquired from Eastern Europe and other legitimate third parties.
Obama will remain popular amongst freedom seekers. Under his adminstration the MEDAL OF FREEDOM, really catered to those whose yearning for freedom in America exposed them to the raw anger of sections of American society, from women, to minorities, LGBT people, Human Rights Activists, pro-Choice groups and the likes. Beyond the awards for the few who represented the many who fell within these groups, they felt at home under a Barack Obama presidency and for the time being America was beginning to drag places with Europe in terms of freedom and ease of acceptance of unusual ways and people, such that I suspect that if a “Martian”, had landed on earth, on American soil it would’ve been made to feel totally at home without any restriction whatsoever. Unfortunately, all of that gains look like they will be eroded in the days following the inauguration of his predecessor, unless and only if Trump had put up a charade while seeking office, only to proclaim and execute the exact opposite once he gets into power.
Definitely, this piece cannot do justice to eight years of Obama’s stay at the White House, but in whatever he did you cannot fault the love he has for the ordinary American. He opted to be cerebral over brawl in dealing with terrorists bent on making Americans sleep with one eyes at night, or constantly look over their shoulders by day, to much success. Leaders of Terrorist groups from Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, even Somalia couldn’t come out of their hideouts for some fresh air, or enable Vitamin D synthesis on their skin under the early morning sun (from Ultraviolet B, UVB rays), without fear of the sound of a drone heralding the snuffing off of their breath from precision guided missiles, many times with collateral damage of which the Obama administration have come under a barrage of attacks within America and elsewhere, including the expansion of willing souls filled with anger and revenge (intent on pursuing an agenda of terror against America on the mainland, and American interests on foreign soil), but as long as it was for the safety of Americans on the mainland, he was easily forgiven by his people.
As a family man, he’s a role model of impeccable character, and most importantly (and shockingly if I may also add) without scandal, and the way he spoke about his wife and daughters (one of which couldn’t attend his farewell speech due to exams the next day), and the reaction they gave him, with all the accompanying emotions from all sides testifies to the tight bond that exists within that family, which they managed to share with Americans and others worldwide to the admiration of many a family that seeks an ideal, which from interviews granted Oprah Winfrey by First Lady, Michelle Obama on her “OWN” channel, syndicated on CBS, as well as that of the last from the couple by PEOPLE MAGAZINE before they leave the White House, I like many who saw those in the past few days, could glean that it wasn’t easy keeping their lives private, and the amount of work they put in to blunt out the sharp edges especially of raising children into their teen years while in the White House without major incidence, remain commendable.
Obama will leave the White House, but I doubt he’d get the much needed quiet post presidential life, George W. Bush is getting right now. I think he’d make more speeches than President Clinton and will be involved in more causes dedicated to the betterment of humanity and humankind. He would be freer to make jokes, and will show us that those jokes he allowed himself as President of the United States of America was in fact strict and can’t compare on any level to what we will see in speeches now that he’s unfettered by the formalities of the high office of the president. I will be sure to follow all of that the way I’d done this past eight years, because no one brings it the way Obama does. This is one man whose departure from the White House will personify the maxim, “you don’t know whatcha gat till it’s gone”, to Americans, hopefully not to their utter shame.