Reflections on Barack H. Obama

In the early 1990’s I became acquainted with Brad Jefferies, and told Brad that he should be the first Black US president. Brad was a man from what one would call “a disadvantaged background” in the South.  This did not prevent him from winning a scholarship to Harvard for his B.A., joining the Navy and become a SEAL officer for 8 years (at the time, one of the few Black SEAL officers), and then returning to Harvard to go to law school. A strong Conservative, Brad had the strength of character to go through Harvard Law being constantly “hissed” by his classmates due to his political positions, but refused to conform or be bullied by the fashionable Lefties of Harvard Law. He had the highest grades of any Black student in his class at Harvard Law and was invited to join the Harvard Law Review: when he discovered that his grades were just below the cut-off for Law Review for White students, he refused to accept what he considered an affirmative-action appointment (I disagree with his position on that, incidentally, but it gives the reader an idea of the man’s character). A mutual friend convinced us we should know each other.

When I got to know Brad and told him that he should be the first Black president of the United States, he told me that there was another, a Black man who had gone through Harvard Law a year or two ahead of him, named “Barack Obama”. He said that Obama had already been singled out as the man who would become the first Black President, and that this had been widely understood his whole way through Harvard Law, where his path (unlike Brad’s) had been strewn with roses.

In the late 1990’s or early ought’s I had an opportunity or two to meet Barack Obama in Chicago. That was because I was one step removed from Tony Rezco, a Syrian Christian who is tight with the Assad family. Rezco lived in Chicago, was Barack Obama’s money-guy in the Illinois phase of Obama’s political career, was jailed in 2008 for on fraud and bribery charges, and in 2011 was sentenced by Judge Amy St. Eve to 10.5 years on corruption and extortion charges. Last I heard, Tony was a-keepin’-his-moutha-shutta, as Syrian Christians know how to do (which is why guys like Assad use them as money-guys). I had two invitations to meet Rezco and then-unknown Barack Obama many years before Obama emerged on the national stage, and declined.

Like most of America, I felt pride and excitement in seeing the US elect our first Black president.  I did not vote for him (I voted for Ron Paul), and I had misgivings about Obama’s politics, which reminded me of the politics I used to come across in university settings in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. During his campaign there were three things that concerned me deeply. The first was his association with the bigoted ignoramus Reverend Jeremiah Wright (cf. “Sorry Guys, Jeremiah Wright Is Where I Get Off the Bus“, Ta Nehisi-Coates, The Atlantic, March 2008: “this would come off as bigoted to me”). The second came from Michelle Obama, when she said after Candidte Obama’s nomination, “let me tell you something — for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.” Yet these were actions of others, including a wife whose comment may be overlooked as careless excitement in seeing her husband nominated for the presidency. But there was a direct indication that Obama harbored the political views that have come to dominate university life, and that was his comment about the American working class made while attending a fund-raiser in San Francisco:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not….And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Hillary Clinton called these comments elitist: ” “I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America… His remarks are elitist and out of touch.”

These three were strong signals to me that Obama ran in circles which harbored the kind of resentments that masquerades for political thought within elite circles in the US.

But most disturbing to me of all was that, on the campaign trail in 2008, while visiting Milwaukee, Candidate Obama said that we ought to be open to reforming the US school system with whatever works, even if that meant school vouchers (which I heartily endorse and would have won him my vote). However, the next day his campaign issued a statement that when the candidate had said that We ought to be open to using anything that improves schools, even school vouchers, he had not mean to say that we ought to be open to using anything that improves schools, if it meant school vouchers. This backtracking was at the behest of the National Education Association (fully 20% of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are NEA members). Due to my support for school choice, the NEA have designated me their public enemy #1, and Candidate Obama’s politically expedient decision to favor their interests over the interest of Black schoolchildren such as those he was visiting in Milwaukee lost him my vote.

Still, on 2008’s election night I was on Fox Business, calling it along with a few other guests, including the extraordinary Charles Krauthammer (RIP). I believe that night, and in a couple of interviews in the weeks that followed, I responded to some sore-loser-ism on the side of the Republicans with words to the effect: You know, the fellow did not elect himself. The American people elected him. He’s our President now. That was and is my sincere attitude. That is also why I was extremely dismayed when Candidate Trump refused to acknowledge whatever outcome arose from the 2016 election (and why I have been horrified over the last three years, knowing what I know, and understanding that it amounts to historic sore-loser-ism on the part of Democrats).

How did Obama do as President? Americans should remember that we have an odd Constitutional structure in that the role of Head of State is united with the role of Chief Executive. Most countries divorce the two roles: in the UK, the Queen has her portrait everywhere and christens new destroyers, while the Prime Minister runs the government. In France the President is the symbol, and the Prime Minister runs the government. But almost uniquely, our nation unites the two roles in one.

Few presidents have done the first role well: Washington, Jefferson, arguably Lincoln (though half the nation disputed that), Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, Reagan… and Barack Obama. He and his family conducted itself with extraordinary grace and class throughout his tenure. I thought Michelle Obama was an exquisite First Lady, and by focusing on the subject of food and family gardens, gave the country an illustration of how a model First Lady uses her position for good. His children also conducted themselves with class and dignity, and I wish them great futures (and am disgusted with the way some elements within the press search have sought to find fault with children going through the normal trials-and-errors of maturation into adulthood). I give President Obama (and his family) and A+ on the first role.

Regarding the second component of Obama’s presidency, my evaluation is decidedly mixed.

On the economy, a cardiac arrest was happening during the 2008 election season. Yet the heart was beating again by the time Obama took office, and the recession was over by two months into his term (q2 2009): I doubt even Barack Obama could take credit for that with a straight face. His decision to let Wall Street off the hook for 2008 (not a single person was prosecuted) was a terrible decision, I felt. Nothing in his presidency shocked me more than his decision to give Goldman Sachs a hall pass (e.g., Holder told Congress that Goldman was “too big to jail”).

Switching metaphors, what Obama did regarding the economy was to provide Novacaine (fiscal profligacy and monetary QE’s) in a situation that needed a root canal.  Novacaine is good when one needs a root canal, and I am glad the country got Novacaine, but as I believe Americans will understand soon, there are deep structural flaws in the economy that go back generations, and President Obama let “a crisis go to waste” by not addressing them. That may have been the last chance we had to avert what I am confident is on the horizon now.

We move from errors of omission to errors of commission when we note that a mere two months into his Presidency Obama tried to kill the DC school voucher program (“DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which enjoyed tremendous parental support), at the behest of the NEA who (I suspect ) feared the demonstration effect it was having. Secondly, not only did he try to “fix” the US medical system with a harebrained botched-up nationalization, he did it using a reconciliation loophole intended to make tiny adjustments to square two versions of a bill that had passed in the two wings of Congress: nationalizing 1/6 of the US economy was not a good way to solve the health care problem in any case, but doing so via a loophole rather than proper legislation was especially foolish. His declaration that he could govern with a pen and a phone (and extraordinarily wide executive interpretations of duly passed laws, for example, in the case of immigration laws) is not a good strategy for a President. The reason has been demonstrated by his successor, who early in his presidency undid with a pen and a phone everything Obama had done. These two examples (hijacking the 1/6 of the US economy via a reconciliation loophole, and governing through a pen a phone), are not illustrative of a man who respects the Constitution he once taught (which he did in a part-time, adjunct sort of way, as has been explained by Richard Epstein, the Dean of Chicago Law).

On national security, I think there is a fair bit to recommend President Obama at a tactical level, especially when it came to fighting anything Sunni. His preference for targeted actions by Special Operations forces against Sunni extremism shows an understanding of the effectiveness of such forces as opposed to large-scale commitments of US troops. Also, I share his (and the CIA’s) enthusiasm for Shia over Sunni in in the Middle East: in my humble experience the Shia and in particular the Persians (but not the mullahs, of course) are America’s natural allies in the Middle East.  That does not mean we needed to abandon our Sunni “allies,” but we could put higher conditions on our friendship (such as, “Stop funding madrasas that promote extremism,” I write from southern Indonesia). Obama’s over-enthusiastic use of drones, and the news that he personally was managing the targeting, were both distressing.

At a strategic level, Obama’s decisions often led to disastrous results, such as his decision to abandon Iraq. President Obama’s offer to leave only 2,500 troops covered by a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) caused Prime Minister Maliki to reject it on the grounds that, We would take 25,000, but if you leave us 2,500 we will spend more time protecting them than any good they will do. It was a fig-leaf to justify Obama’s withdrawal on the grounds that the Iraqis would not commit to a SOFA (Michael Weiss has quoted a US General who served in the White House at the time, who claimed that of this, the execrably silly Ben Rhodes said words to this effect: If it works we will take credit, if it doesn’t we will blame it on Bush). Biden then visited Prime Minister Maliki and let him know that he could go gloves-off on the Sunni: soon every dawn in Baghdad was breaking on 50 new headless Sunni corpses in the streets, the Sunnis organized themselves into militias, out of which ISIS was born, against which a Shia Crescent solidified within a northern swathe across the Middle East, and thus was launched a sectarian war in the Middle East such as has not been seen in 1,000 years.

So in the Middle East, and in particular regarding Iraq (which was largely pacified and functioning when he took office), President Obama’s politicized decision-making snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Strategic blunders happen to us all. But the mechanisms behind Obama’s strategic blunders bear a disturbing common denominator. His management style was to centralize power in Washington on every policy decision imaginable, and then within Washington, to concentrate power in the White House (hence his extraordinary expansion of the National Security Council), and within the White House, at his own desk (for example, in the drone targeting process). This is the typical instinct of a person new to managing large groups. These decisions led me to see President Obama as the epigone of what Thomas Sowell (in A Conflict of Visions) calls “the Unconstrained Vision”. I am an adherent of the “Constrained Vision,” so in the end our fundamental visions of the world are so disparate that my judgement is clear: these mistakes of Obama are precisely what we of the Constrained Vision expect from our Unconstrained antagonists. They are the predicable errors of someone whose background has been intellectual rather than practical, for the things one learns when one deals not in words but in reality (and discovers the costs and difficulty of centralizing information, for example) is what makes one a holder of the Constrained Vision.

Like my criticism of President Trump, perhaps my deepest reservations about President Obama concern matters of race (though for different reasons). I expected more and better out of him. Certainly more and better was possible. The data on his disastrous impact on race relations is undeniable, per this Pew report (“How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency”) published two weeks before the end of his presidency. As you can see, there was a swing of as much as 71% against healthy race relations during the Obama presidency (NB there have been police killings throughout this time period, and they have stayed remarkably stable: the thing that was different about the Obama presidency was the political response from the White House).

His actions regarding race remind me of something I experienced while employed by Warren Buffett. I found myself working with unions (which I should put on the list of “Things to write about someday”). In that period I learned that there were two types of unions: one was filled with guys who were often not much more than well-mannered thugs (e.g., Teamsters), but who were practical men with whom I could have productive relationships and do good business, and whom, when we were not threatening to kneecap each other in a parking lot, I liked (I even went to Vegas with some of the Hoffa crew once). The other kind of union was filled with men who wanted to talk about Foucault’s deconstruction of asymmetric power relationships: they were fools, and their knowledge of business amounted to trying to create as much antagonism between employees and the firm as they could so as to create a market for the product they were selling (antagonism-control).

On matters of race, President Obama was one of the latter types of union guys, and rather than healing the nation’s racial tension he antagonized it (again, the data above is incontrovertible). I believe he did so believing it would guarantee employment (i.e., office) for those like him selling a product called, “racial-tension-healer”.

So for his work as Chief Executive, I give him a “gentleman’s C+”. It would be lower if it were not for his constructive work calming the nation in the wake of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008.

So those are my reflections on President Obama. Setting aside the remarks made by him, his wife, and his Reverend, I like the man. Again, I give him an A+ on half his job. Once he became President I gave him a clean slate, and even when he advocated bad polices and did so poorly (e.g., his reluctance to get involved in the legislative process), I truly sought to confine my criticisms to his policy actions, but to respect him as our President.

I wrote both this and the earlier piece on President Trump because I imagine my own views on the two men may be a matter of interest to some eventually. And because I wanted to have this out and done with, for I suspect Barack H. Obama may have his own “teachable moment” someday soon.

  1. I also voted for Ron Paul in both the 2008 and 2012 primaries and in the 2008 general election I wrote in Ron Paul.

    In the 2012 general election I voted for Gary Johnson but in 2016 voted for Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party after hearing Gary Johnson praise Hillary as a “wonderful public servant” in the 1st CNN Libertarian Town Hall and Weld refer to Hillary as a “nice kid” and “old friend” who he had a lifelong “real bond” with.Johnson/Weld did a great job of sabotaging their own campaign right out of the gate,but I am glad they showed their hand as I would never vote for either of them after hearing that.

  2. I feel that one of the big reasons for the swing in race relations is simply the fact that we were talking about them as a country. If you ignore a problem it doesn’t go away, but the perception is that it is not as important. The graph shown doesn’t necessarily reflect actual race relations – just the perception of them.

    There’s a large number of people who get upset if you point out facts about how police treat races differently. Ignoring that fact doesn’t actually fix any problems.

    Early in his presidency Obama made what should have been a fairly benign comment about the black Harvard professor Henry Gates being arrested at his own house by a white police officer. The police union lost their minds at the suggestion that one of their officers reacted poorly in the situation. After inviting both the professor and the officer to the White House to talk about the situation.

    To me this seems like an incredibly reasonable and mature response, but there was an immediate effect on his polling numbers – a large number of people felt this was a slap in the face to the police and setback of racial relations. Is that the fault of Obama or the public who had been ignoring racial issues and was now uncomfortable having them brought up? What should he have done differently when there were high profile cases of black men being killed by police?

    1. Thoughts on Obama in Libya? They have open air slave markets now. Benghazi. What about Ukraine, having sent McCain to Svoboda (neonazi) rallies?

      1. You left out so much of Obama crimes. I am so disappointed in this article. I heard good this about you. This just turned me off. Obviously your to close to the Obama and Clinton Crime Family.
        All truth will come out.

  3. There are a few things you missed.

    1. Obama created ISIS, at least that is what the Pentagon says: Page 5 Section C:

    “If the situation there unravels there is a possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria. (Hasaka to Der Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition (US led coalition) want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime”

    Obama big boost to mass surveillance:

    And BY FAR the biggest one to me is the by passing of 2/3 of the government by Eric Holder:

    Law suit “alleges that the Justice Department broke both federal law and constitutional mandate when it agreed to and finalized the $13 billion settlement in November. The agreement process, reportedly decided upon personally by Holder and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, included no judicial oversight, despite what critics say are multiple statutory obligations to do so.”

  4. Here’s something few discuss or know, but how about the fact that he essentially allowed Google an office in the White House and set policy even no one elected them to anything! There have been broad implications that may not be fully understood for some time, but they are real. He gave BIG TECH everything they wanted just like he did for Wall Street!

  5. Not too many people bring this up or even know, but he gave Google an office in The White House and let them set policy, though no one elected them to anything. Serious implications will be felt for quite a while, though will the media intelligentsia make the connection? Intellectual property rights and patent licensing for example. Just like Wall Street, he gave big tech everything they wanted!

    1. CitiGroup (al-waleed bin talaal[LV shooting]) essentially told him who his cabinet was going to be. WikiLeaks has the email of their choices.

  6. Pay attention, people. Reread Patrick’s last sentence: “I suspect Barack H. Obama may have his own “teachable moment” someday soon.” Those of you who still get your ‘news’ from censored mainstream media are due for a big shock in the coming months.

    I didn’t vote for Obama because I knew he was a puppet. Most voted for him because he was black and they were virtue signalling. Until Trump, I hadn’t voted in a presidential election since Ross Perot and previous to that for Jesse Jackson. I was and still am sick of both parties — “but there are good people on both sides.”

    1. That’s our new catch phrase. Brilliant! “Yadda, yadda, yadda”, “not that there is anything wrong with that”, “you didn’t build that” and now this! “but there are good people on both sides.” Really! Have mercy.

  7. You’ve made many interesting reflections that I wholeheartedly agree with, Patrick. I liked how you broke down his efficiency in office with a review of both tactics and strategy. I also agree with your tactical review being a good one while you appropriately place his strategic shortcomings to his administration’s most obvious weaknesses and predictable with the asymmetry of his academic background. These reflections show great analytical skills and I feel supremely enlightened for having read them. A+.

  8. There are a few things you missed.

    Page 5 Section C:

    “If the situation there unravels there is a possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria. (Hasaka to Der Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition (US led coalition) want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime”

    Law suit “alleges that the Justice Department broke both federal law and constitutional mandate when it agreed to and finalized the $13 billion settlement in November. The agreement process, reportedly decided upon personally by Holder and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, included no judicial oversight, despite what critics say are multiple statutory obligations to do so.”

  9. His destruction of the constitution is what most bothers me about Obama, and there are several others that your censers have blocked.

    Law suit “alleges that the Justice Department broke both federal law and constitutional mandate when it agreed to and finalized the $13 billion settlement in November. The agreement process, reportedly decided upon personally by Holder and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, included no judicial oversight, despite what critics say are multiple statutory obligations to do so.”

  10. I’m still amazed the Electors decided for Trump against popular vote. Things would look a lot worse by now with Hillary’s gang running rampant.

    Anyways, this piece ties it together as regards us flyover folks, it’s always been clear that nobody in government understands us. It’s apparent that they don’t think they really need our votes anyways. What’s dawning on people is DC’s outright ANTIPATHY towards us. Kinetic hostility surely follows.

    Us “basket of deplorables” (formerly the bread basket)? Well we’re in trouble of the existential variety.

    1. The Electors are obligated to vote according to the winner in their geographic area. The results were against the popular vote. Fact of the matter is, Trump won the majority of the land mass of the country. So, thankfully the Electors voted according to the will of the country and didn’t follow the will of the urbanized majority.
      Though I’m not an organic supporter of Trump, I suspect he will win both popular and electoral votes in 2020. As far as I can tell, the Democlowns have made their bed, and will have to lie in it for another term.

  11. I’ll probably not be too well received around here, there’s nothing too unusual about this.

    O’Blame Bush, in my opinion set race relations back, considerably. As did Michael, ops, I meant Michelle ( watch the YT video of her/him dancing on the Ellen DeGeneres show YOU DECIDE). Remember, something about ‘never being so proud of her nation before tonight? That was our first clue / indicator of how the next eight years would go.

    There’s so many things I’d like to bring up about Obama’s past no early records , forged birth certificate, (which he spent millions protecting)his father and the see eye aaa’s connection, his publisher referring to his place of birth as Kenya , sealing of his collage transfer papers , his association Bill Ayres , if I had a son, … much more.

    Now, for the BIG windup.
    Why, if the two parties are so diametrically opposed to each other would they use the same source to appoint/negotiate from?

    Prime example, Jerome Powell; appointed by Bush to treasury, by Obama to the fed res board of governors, then promoted by Trump as the chairman.

    Or the placing of Goldman $acks in their administration, again, regardless of party affiliation.

    The truth of the matter is; we’ve been struggling with subversives longer than most even recognize. See Lincoln’s association with Horace Greeley, Charles Dana, and Karl Marx. No, there’s nothing tangible connecting Lincoln with Marx other than a letter however, once you realize that Marx wrote for ten years in Lincoln’s paper of choice, New York Tribune. You’re acumen is lacking if you cannot make the connection.

  12. There is a vast and perplexing dichotomy between President Obama’s rhetoric – peppered as it is with vows of ethical purity and moral rectitude – and his actual conduct as president – characterized by flagrant cronyism and corruption. To understand Mr. Obama, one needs to study Saul Alinsky. Yes, there is a reachable moment coming up. And it’s coming fast, as Ice Breaker Barr is just rounding the corner.

    1. I love this, by Sundance at CTH:

      “When CTH originally penned the term “The Big Ugly” we were directly describing a looming confrontation that would happen between President Donald Trump and the aligned interests of the deepest part of the Deep State. Those interests are not along party lines, they are ideological interests directly related to the construct of the institutions of government and how those interests tied financially back to the Administrative State.

      The DOJ, FBI, CIA, ODNI and State Department do not oppose the deconstruction efforts of Donald Trump as an outcome of bland institutional opposition. Rather the institutions themselves are subsidiaries of a larger network that exists for the purposes of Washington DC as a business and financial enterprise.

      The reason the DC system -writ large- is going bananas is because selling the influence of political office for financial gain is the custom and currency of DC affluence.

      Selling influence and manipulating government action – both foreign and domestic – to enhance the financial interests of other participants, is a purposeful part of DC as a way to gain financial affluence. In essence the U.S. government is used as a tool to accumulate wealth. This process is at the heart of all Trump’s opposition.

      Confronting this process is “The Big Ugly”.”

  13. well, tough reading but who told constitution can’t be reformed? it should in many ways, as many as we continue thorough our evolution course, wherever it takes us!
    anyway, i miss Obama… Trump makes good anyone!

  14. We agree in short, that Obama did divide the people. He belittled every middle-class white Christian and even a lot of black Conservatives. I have no respect for him whatsoever. Too many years of being called “Tea baggers clinging to their guns and Bibles”. Such disrespect for half the country and therefore he deserves 100% of my disrespect in return.

  15. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS Targeting, Obamacare, Solyndra, et al., Michael LaVaughan Robinson, Larry Sinclair, Donald Young, Foreign Policy via drones and illegal interference, CFPB, Big Tech in WH/tweaking Smith-Mundt, sealing of personal documents, including Birth Certificate(legal/actual),SS number not his, Grades, Passport/Visa, Selective Service, financial and Wall Street winners and losers determined by VJ, Holder, unfit SCOTUS appointments, false flags of Sandy Hook, Boston Marathon, CA Bombers……list goes on and on. Ineligible, unfit and continues to damage our country. Time to call out the fraud that was allowed by Senate/House, that refused to verify his credentials. They put our country in this position.

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