Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda (The Last Words of a President)

obama-vacation-2014 The war of words is in full bloom.  Evidently the Trump-Obama love fest is over.

President Obama claims he “could’ve won” a third term race against President-Elect Donald Trump, citing that his vision for America remains the one people really want. He then blames Hillary Clinton’s election night demise on coasting (because she figured she “coulda” won). And while there’s no doubt that Mrs. Clinton skated a bit in overconfidence, can anyone suggest that President Obama “woulda” had an easier fight?

Sorry Mr. President, but I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.  Every U.S. President wants to leave a legacy and President Obama is no different.  But let’s be honest.  What has he truly accomplished?  In the past few weeks, I’ve asked dozens of Americans on both sides of the political fence one simple question:  What has President Obama done to IMPROVE America (or even your own life) in the past eight years?  

What answer do I mostly get?  Crickets.  Stone-cold silence.  Ums and ahs.
   In reality, Barack Obama’s “vision” for America is seemingly an abject failure and his presidency will likely be viewed less favorably as history rolls on.  After all, he’s done relatively little to “better” America.  Consider the following:
  • Our country is more divisive, angry and violent.  Mass shootings under President Reagan?  Only 6 incidents. President H.W. Bush?  8.  President Clinton?  18. President G.W. Bush?  15. President Obama? 37 incidents.  Islamic terrorist activity on American soil rose significantly under President Obama’s watch: Fort Hood, TX (2009), Boston Marathon (2013), San Bernadino (2015) and Orlando (2016).  In comparison, Presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton presided over two Islamic terrorist attacks on American soil over 16 years:  World Trade Center (1993) and World Trade Center/Pentagon (2001). No one can deny the vitriolic anger (much of it arising from the Left) since Donald Trump was elected. Evidently “Love Trump Hates” unless you lose, then all bets are off.
  • Obamacare has failed.  Despite promises, costs have gone up for most Americans and coverage has gone down. Many people can’t even pick their own doctor, despite the promotional promises.  The President’s namesake legislation is a bust and a financial albatross.  It was also a ruse and railroad job. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued in 2010, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”  That’s right, move on. Nothing to read here. We’ll pass it and then answer any questions. It’s like buying a car sight unseen. Caveat emptor.
  • The Obama foreign policy has been anemic, confusing and sometimes toxic.  No one will know for sure who ordered the “stand down” in Benghazi (or if it was ever ordered) but military chain of command dictates such orders stop at one of two desks: then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama. From China to Russia to Syria to Israel, Obama’s foreign policy is largely questioned, occasionally ridiculed and often dismissed.
  • Many Americans are still un- or under-employed.  While the unemployment rate has fallen, most of the jobs added are part-time or government-paid.  During Obama’s presidency, hundreds of factories closed and dozens of companies moved production overseas, while the U.S. government became the largest employer of Americans.
  • Most of Obama’s political maneuvers have come through executive orders. To be fair, this President has used executive orders less than other recent Presidents (266 times), which is also troubling as it suggests apathy and/or loss of vision.  Since 1945, only three U.S. Presidents have used less executive orders, and all three served one term or less (JFK, Ford, HW Bush).  Surprisingly, the king of executive orders was FDR, with a whopping 3,721 in his twelve-year presidency.  Many of Obama’s executive orders will likely be rescinded by Donald Trump.  An “order” is a command. Legislation is law.  It’s easy to order but much harder to create law, as Obama will soon discover.
    I’ll confess that President Obama is a likable person with a great family.  He’s got charisma, attractiveness and passion.  But he’s also been coddled, cajoled and crowned by a leftstream media that’s never truly challenged him (like they do, rightly, Donald Trump). This President campaigned on “hope and change” but clearly lacks the leadership acumen to persuade political opponents to his “vision.” Most of Obama’s major ideas were legislated between 2008-2010 when the Democrats controlled both House and Senate. But when the American people held a mid-term Tea Party, the Democrats lost six Senate seats, 60 House seats and 10 governorships (the most ever for any mid-term election).
    The 2010 mid-term elections derailed the “hope and change” train and dumped Obama’s visionary reforms.  His remaining six years has been stalemates, silence, stagnation, shenanigans and stalwart partisan politics.  The President has roundly blamed Republicans for resisting his ideas and preventing his legislation, but that’s sour grapes. When has this President ever worked “across the aisle” with the Republicans?  Shortly after assuming office, President Obama almost gleefully stomped on Republican minority resistance with a clear rebuke:  “I won.”   And he was right in 2009.  But since 2010, all he’s done is LOSE.  He “lost” the House in 2010 and four years later the Senate flipped by 9 seats from blue to red.  He’s largely been a lame duck president, taking vacations and playing golf, relying upon those executive orders to do his agenda.
    In contrast, President Reagan pulled his own “trump card” and beat Jimmy Carter in 1980.  The people had mandated change.  But Reagan was up against a House and Senate that remained firmly and safely in Democratic hands (until 1984 when the Senate turned his way).  Nevertheless, Reagan’s winsome and engaging style won over his political critics and opposition.  Reagan’s massive “supply-side” economic vision–The Economic Recovery Tax Act–was the fruit of his leadership ability (signed into law in 1981).  President Reagan concluded his two-term presidency by ending the Cold War, working once again with critics and opponents.  President Clinton also learned to work well with a Republican House after 1992.  That’s politics.  You don’t quit just because you’ve lost.  And you don’t battle your critics using reporters at the golf course.
    President Obama claimed Donald Trump was unprepared and unfit for office, and that may be true, but to quote a childhood retort:  it takes one to know one.
    In eight years of office, President Obama has managed to submit a budget on time only twice (2010, 2016).  Maybe that’s because he loves to spend taxpayer money.  Or maybe it’s because he’s never governed or led.  In 2008, then Senator Obama said, “The bargain that any president strikes with is, you give me this office and in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure, is gone. I am giving myself to you. The American people should have no patience for what’s going on in your head because you’ve got a job to do.” 
    Candidate Obama eagerly promised “no vacations” or “leisure” if elected, but has now spent $80 million of tax-payers money jetting his family to Hawaii, Mexico, New York City, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Martha’s Vineyard and Africa.  Previous U.S. Presidents retreated to personal ranches and private homes.  President Obama hotels it high-class, with Secret Security in tow.  In contrast, President-elect Donald Trump has promised “no big vacations” and no presidential salary ($400,000).
Essentially, there’s ample evidence to suggest President Barack Obama’s eight years were at best a “nice political experiment” but, at worst, an utter failure. He has accomplished very little except further divide a fearful nation.  Naturally he’ll take credit for the 2015 gay marriage ruling, but this was likely to happen anyway, as the Supreme Court was leaning this way.

Consequently, President Obama’s quip that he “could’ve won” a third term is slightly delusional, if not entirely narcissistic. Given the 2016 political climate, he might have lost bigger than Hillary.

Ultimately, history will judge this President against his peers and his time.

Woulda, shoulda and coulda means nothing if you’ve done little though.

And I predict the Obama presidency will largely be forgettable in 100 years.  Much like William Howard Taft (1909-1913).  Can anybody name what he did?