The Final Assessment of a Failed Social Experiment: The Obama Presidency

When I considered writing a final assessment of the Obama presidency, my original approach was to take the most partisan pro-Obama article and the most partisan anti-Obama article and analyze them. I soon decided that was an exercise in futility. In an environment where all “facts” are skewed through an ideological lens, any debate about Obama’s accomplishments and failures is a waste of time. Liberals celebrate the decline in the unemployment rate, ignoring the decline in the job participation rate and the fact that many of the new jobs created cannot support the average family. Liberals rightly celebrate the capture (albeit deadly) of Osama bin Laden and conservatives stupidly observe that Obama was not actually on the SEAL team that did the mission and therefore deserves very little credit. I’m not going to waste my time on this juvenile back and forth.

So I go back to the drawing board and think about what was truly historic about the Obama presidency. Wars, economic downturns, shifting cultural norms – none of it historic. All of it encountered in previous administrations. What was truly historic, what cannot be debated by any sane individual, was this:

The First Black President.

Much has been written about the stereotypical conservative bigoted reaction to Barack Obama. I seem to recall writing a piece a few years ago comparing Obama’s predicament to that of the average black employee in a white dominated workplace. But the reason why I call the Obama years a failed social experiment is not about the fully predictable reaction of racists. It is about the tacit, soft bigotry of low expectations evidenced by liberals. Let’s start with the opening premise.

The Experiment was Founded on a Lie

Being black in America is NOT being Barack Obama in America. The American black experience is tied inextricably to slavery. Barack Obama’s roots don’t go back to American slavery. His father was Kenyan. His mother was a white American. Barack Obama does not, cannot, feel in his bones the sense of disenfranchisement of the American black. He can empathize. He can also be stopped by a cop “driving while black”, but that is due to the accident of skin

fred-sanford

color and his reaction to such an incident cannot be the same as the reaction of someone whose great grandfather was owned by a white man. To put it simply, Barack Obama is not black in the psychological sense. I further maintain that “traditional”  blacks like Jim Clyburn or John Lewis could no more get elected President in 2009 than they could in 1864. Obama was the exotic man bigots could rationalize and liberals could easily embrace. Joe Biden said he was “clean and articulate”. That’s code for when you talk to him on the phone, he sounds white, not like fictional junk man Fred Sanford.

The Obama presidency was book-ended by two examples of the liberal bigotry that demonstrate how far this country needs to go before the social experiment of a black president can succeed.

2009 – The Negro Ambassador

On July 22, 2009 Barack Obama gave a press conference devoted to health care. In the days preceding the conference, black Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates had been arrested trying to gain access to his own home. He was mistaken for a burglar by a well-meaning neighbor and when confronted by police, Gates exacerbated the situation by not controlling his understandable resentment. It should be noted Gates was an acquaintance of the president. At the end of the health care press conference, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet asked Obama to comment on the Gates incident. Clearly the question had nothing to do with health care and I submit would NEVER have been asked of a white president. In my political fantasy world. Obama would have responded, “I don’t comment on ongoing local law enforcement incidents” or even better, “Lynn would you be asking me this if I were white?” Instead, he took the bait and called the Cambridge, MA police stupid. In so doing, he further polarized an already racially tense incident and the liberal media, led by Lynn Sweet began their role as racial shit stirrers.

What was galling, and went under the radar of all those who see liberals as politically pure, was the implicit racism in Lynn Sweet’s question. She treated the leader of the free world as our ambassador to negro America. This conduct passes for outreach and empathy in our society. Good decent liberal whites want to “understand” the troubles of the black man. But NO black man is an authority on American racism. He is an authority on his own experience. To treat him as a spokesperson for all blacks is actually condescending.

It could be argued that the Obama presidency never transcended race because LIBERALS never let it go. They spent eight years raving about the first black president and scolding every Obama opponent as a racist. Only the most crude conservatives explicitly brought up Obama’s race. Yet the fact that liberals constantly brought it up was somehow supposed to make them seem “enlightened”.

2016 – The Condescension Continues

David Axelrod was Chief Strategist to Obama’s presidential campaigns. He was also a senior advisor in the first term of the Obama White House. He now, among other things, hosts a podcast called “The Axe Files” and late last year, Barack Obama was his guest. The dynamic between the two men during the podcast was telling. Obama tried to strike a balance between being Axelrod’s friend and being his former boss. Axelrod on the other hand seemed to pay little deference to the fact that he has mostly been this man’s subordinate. Don’t get me wrong. I think Axelrod loves Obama like a brother. They have been through a lot together. However, the tone of the interview didn’t seem to respect the office of the presidency. This dynamic hit its nadir when Axelrod proclaimed to Obama “I’m proud of you”. Excuse me? He is the leader of the free world. With all due respect, who is David Axelrod to be “proud” of him, like he is a child who has performed well?

I understand that campaign staff view their candidate as an object to be controlled to ensure a positive outcome. To that extent, every candidate is viewed by the campaign staff as a poll-tested rat running through a maze toward election. But it seems to me, eight years down the road, Axelrod should have abandoned that perspective. Axelrod’s interview made me envision an entire liberal contingent who sees Obama not as a dignified, intelligent, self-made man but as their creation. He is their hammer to pound against the nail of bigotry. He is their kindergarten show-and-tell example of the “articulate black man”. He is their prop to demonstrate how fair-minded they are.

Obama’s presidency convinced me that America was still not ready for a black president. Partly, because he wasn’t really black in the first place. But to my surprise, America wasn’t ready in large part because of liberals. Obama’s two terms were, to a great extent, an attempt to cleanse away white liberal guilt. The incessant racial advocacy did not foster further empathy and understanding. It resulted in a country more racially polarized than it has been since the 1960’s. I submit that because Obama’s feet were not firmly planted in the black American experience, he did not know how to react to being a prop. He tried not to piss off blacks.

Sadly, we will never know how blacks would have reacted to a black president who said, “race is foolishness. I’m not discussing it. I’m not weighing in on it. People are people.” Blacks might have found that refreshing. I certainly would have.

It is impossible to overestimate the damage done to this country by our original sin. To this day, it has us split into three factions: honest to goodness bigots, guilt ridden folks who overcompensate with 24/7 racial advocacy and the majority of people just trying to get through the day and treating most people on an individual basis. We may never get straight racially but until we do, we will not be ready for a black president. Despite two elections, the social experiment of a black president was essentially a failure. And the take away is that liberals are as much, if not more, to blame for this failure as conservatives.

What do you think? The bar is open.

 

Russia and the US Presidential Elections

The country is abuzz over the recently-released de-classified version of the Intelligence Community (IC) report on “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections“.  The report, a compilation of CIA, FBI, and ODNI investigations, asserts that Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election by various means.  To support such a claim, the report offers little more than circumstantial evidence.  The lack of substantial evidence, however, is the least of the problems that should be found with this report.  The greater issue, and one that will likely be ignored, is that Russia has been doing much of what the report claims, for years–including the 2012 US Presidential election.

While not getting deep into the methods used in the report, it is worth noting up front that all the public is permitted to see is the de-classified version.  The very first bit of writing in the report tells us that they cannot tell us everything because a lot of it is classified and part of national security secrets.  Of course, what is being kept secret is how they actually reached the conclusions in the report.

The Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the precise bases for its assessments, as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.

Thus, while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.

Were this an academic paper submitted by an undergraduate student, it would receive a failing grade and scathing comments in the margins about the lack of methodological data.

What we do know is that the so-called evidence of direct Russian involvement in the actual hacking of DNC computers did not stem from FBI or CIA analyses of those computers.  In fact, neither the FBI nor the CIA ever looked at those computers at all.  Instead, the computers were looked at by a private 3rd party group who gave its investigative conclusions to the IC.  Why didn’t anyone from the government look at those computers, and what methods did the 3rd party investigative team use?  Good questions.  The FBI alleges the DNC refused to let them look and the DNC alleges the FBI never asked to look.  What’s the truth?–who knows.  Again, were this a student research paper it would be returned rife with red ink.

The IC report offers a variety of “Key Judgments”, the first of which is that Russia has increased its “longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order”.  Yet, while admitting this is a “longstanding” Russian policy, the report conveniently fails to mention just how far back that policy goes.  And we know that it goes back to at least the 2012 US Presidential elections, when Russia was asserting the elections were rigged.  Back then, the pro-government Russian group, Izvestia, claimed:

The procedure for the election of US President November 6, 2012 (prior to the day of voting) does not comply with the international principles of the organization of the electoral process. The principles of universal and equal suffrage, the authenticity and validity of the election, transparency and openness of elections provided by the US authorities is not satisfactory. (Translated using Google Translate)

In other words–your election doesn’t pass our smell test.  If that isn’t an attempt to “undermine the US-led liberal democratic order” then what is?

Part of the circumstantial evidence of Russian meddling is that it displayed clear favoritism in the outcome.

Putin publicly indicated a preference for President-elect Trump’s stated policy to work with Russia, and pro-Kremlin figures spoke highly about what they saw as his Russia-friendly positions on Syria and Ukraine. Putin publicly contrasted the President-elect’s approach to Russia with Secretary Clinton’s “aggressive rhetoric.”

The United States is inarguably the most powerful and influential nation on the planet with a long history of challenging Russian and Soviet hegemony.  Is there a time in recent history when Russia did not display a clear favorite in a US Presidential election?  It sure wasn’t in 2012, when Russian Prime Minister, Dmitri Medvedev, exclaimed, “I am glad that the man who considers Russia the number one enemy will not be president. That’s ridiculous, some kind of paranoia. Obama is a known, predictable partner.”  To juxtapose just how different were the positions of 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney and sitting-President Barack Obama, the former went on record calling Russia our greatest geopolitical foe, while the latter was caught on a hot mic promising greater flexibility in pro-Russian policies after the election.

The most important portion of the 2017 IC report is also the least covered–while the computers of private election entities were infiltrated, official electronic election machines were not.  There is absolutely no proof, or claim, of Russian involvement in the voting or vote tallying process.  In fact, the report concludes, “DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”  In the 25-page report, the word “tallying” appears a mere two times, both times in a single sentence twice repeated.  That’s it.

To be clear, there is little doubt that Russia did everything the IC report claims it did.  But what exactly did Russia do that it hasn’t done in the past?  The answer seems to be “very little”.  The IC report concludes that Russia will take what it learned in 2016 and apply it to future US elections.  But it has already done that, applying what it learned in 2012 to 2016.  Russia has displayed a history of questioning the legitimacy of US elections, yet this is the first time it’s being called subversive.  Russia has displayed a history of declaring its preferences in the outcome of US elections, yet this is the first time it’s being called subversive.  The only difference between 2012 and 2016 is the alleged cyber intrusion–a difference that is so minuscule that it is neither substantiated by actual IC investigation, nor is it said to have affected the actual electoral process.  In fact, the exact opposite is claimed.

If the proof of Russian meddling is in the pudding, it’s a sparse portion of a stale dessert that is several years old.  Donald Trump may well have benefitted from Russian influence in our 2016 election, but if this report is proof of that, then it must also be concluded that Barack Obama benefitted from it in 2012.

And there sure aren’t any Intelligence Community reports alleging that, are there?

Russia Did Not Hack the Election 

If I hear this one more time on the news I’m gonna shoot my TV, Elvis style:

Russia hacked the 2016 election. 

No, they did not!

Russia did not alter the voter rolls nor did they tamper with data collected from voting machines. THAT is hacking the election. 

If you believe American intelligence, Russia, with Putin’s knowledge or direction, hacked the email accounts of the DNC and John Podesta, Clinton campaign chairman. These were then turned over to Julian Assange whose organization Wikileaks leaked them to the press. 

Could the content of those emails have influenced voters? Certainly. That is not the fault of Assange or Putin. That is the fault of the ethically challenged writers of the original emails. 

President-elect Donald Trump looks foolish denying Russian involvement but his motive is understandable. The Russian “hack of our election” is a distraction from the fact that both the Clinton campaign and the media misread the American public. They can’t accept their culpability in Trumps election so they stoop to delegitimize it. 

Russia didn’t hack the election. They enabled us to look behind the curtain and see the Clinton contingent for the hot mess they really were. 

What do you think? The bar is open.