Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2105--The Legacy Business

I know, all recent presidents do it toward the end of their second terms--play the legacy game.

Nancy Reagan put Ronnie under pressure to focus on arms control during his last years in office to counteract the perception that he was a rigid, unrepentant Cold Warrior. He was so good at being flexible with the leadership of the Soviet Union that he was able to strike a series of arms control agreements with Mikhail Gorbachev that contributed a few years later to the collapse of the USSR and the end (at least until now) of the Cold War.

George W. Bush, stung by increasing criticism of of his Middle East policy, jettisoned one of the leading public faces of that failed war policy--Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld--and committed himself to pulling all combat troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. He saw that to be an essential ingredient of his legacy, also pushed along to do so by his wife.

Which brings us to Barack Obama--the inheritor of various failed Bush policies, from a collapsed economy, out-of-control deficits, and Bush's unfulfilled pledge to withdraw our combat troops from the region, something Obama more or less carried out as part of his own legacy-building agenda.

Obama, in fact, has been thinking about his legacy from almost day one.

He did not want to go down in history as just "the first African-American president." He cared at least as much about substance. Thus Obamacare was a major accomplishment unto itself but also prime-cut legacy material--he uniquely was able to bring about a dramatic expansion of healthcare coverage, an unachieved goal of all presidents from at least Harry Truman days. As Joe Biden said at the time, "This is a f ***king big deal."

So that legislative achievement may make the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry.

The same legacy claim was made when he appointed Sonia Sotomayer to the Supreme Court, the first Hispanic to serve.

Then, more recently, with his presidential clock counting down, Obama and his people began to think even more overtly about his legacy.

The nuclear deal with Iran is claimed to be his capstone foreign policy achievement and a big legacy item. Ditto for the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. And even yesterday's headline on page one of the New York Times about the current climate summit was titled, "Obama's Legacy at Stake in Paris Talks on Climate Accord."

Not, the "World's Future at Stake in Paris Climate Talks."

That would be the more appropriate headline considering the nature of the problem--not Obama's legacy but the fate of Earth.

So, enough with the legacy business. We have serious issues to face. Including the defeat of ISIS/ISIL/IS/ or Daesh

In legacy terms this is not going well for Obama who just a day before the Paris massacre declared "ISIL contained."

Again, in legacy terms, it is sadly understandable that he was reluctant to appear too upset by the situation in the Middle East and now Europe. He doesn't want to rise of ISIL to creep onto the first page of his Wiki entry much less future histories of his presidency.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home