When a President leaves office, she or he takes their hat with them and ceases to hold the same position or be responsible for the policies with which commentators agree or disagree. As nothing is black or white, like Barack Obama, I believe a political epitaph should be fair and not an exercise in charcter assassination.
While some commentators call Obama's a very good, if not a great, presidency, a fair assessment can be made by looking at his farewell speech in which he strived to justify himself and in so doing, omitted much more than he included. These vainglorious attempts at self-aggrandizement after the event are usually narcissistic exercises aimed at writing one's own epitaph, when a more balanced approach would be to let others do so.
As I said eight years ago, when a President takes office, I believe in giving her/him a white leaf of paper to write on and then four or eight years later we can read the story.
Saying Barack Obama started well, with his message of respect for the international community, with his promise to dialog, with his call for "Change" (remember?), with his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, is wrong because he never actually started. It was all hot air, piss and wind. Now whether he never intended to start, fooling us all with a cynical, hypocritical manipulation of his own image, or whether his original plans got derailed by the Establishment which closed ranks around him, answering his "Yes we can!" with "Oh no you don't" - and remembering he had Hillary "the Lobbyist" Clinton as his Secretary of State - we will probably find out within a few years when the biographies start coming out and when Michelle Obama makes a bid for the White House in four or eight years' time.
In either case, a double negative right from day one. Barack Obama was not elected by the international community, he was elected by the people of the United States of America to govern within the borders of the USA, something Donald Trump seems to understand and it appears he is the only one to do so.
In terms of foreign policy, Obama's legacy must be Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine. Libya, the African country with the highest Human Development Index, was destroyed, the water supply was bombed, war crimes were committed, children were murdered, considered legitimate targets by NATO and today the place is crawling with terrorists. Obama promised to scale back in Iraq and saw ISIS spring up under his nose, while in Afghanistan, the heroin trade continues to blossom and the few thousand Taliban fighters armed with RPGs and Kalashnikovs continue to defy the power of NATO 14 years on. Afghanistan continues to be a haven for terrorists, as we saw recently with the training of the Uzbekh national who perpetrated the terror attack in Istanbul on January 1. In Syria, the USA has been cavorting with terrorists and has done nothing to stop its Middle East allies from arming, financing and training psychopaths. In Ukraine, the hand of the Bidens was visible in the energy area as a coup d'état removed the democratically elected President and saw a motley bunch of fascists, terrorists and thugs seize power, threaten Russians and Jews and then promptly perpetrate genocide and make a deliberate attempt at ethnic cleansing using military hardware and illegal weaponry in Eastern Ukraine, forcing the residents of Donbass to take up arms to defend themselves.
In his dealings with Russia, Barack Obama showed himself to be rude, facetious and insolent as he allowed a gaggle of frustrated females, including Clinton and Power and Nuland to make disparaging remarks about Moscow's policies when all Moscow was doing was follow international law and what Washington was doing, was support terrorists to implement its policies.
The coup d'état in Brazil stank of Washington as Michel Temer was placed in power by the Brazilian House of Representatives and Senate with a puerile yet neo-con, neo-liberal discourse; Venezuela saw social terrorist policies practiced by the opposition against the democratically elected Government and while Obama claimed that in Cuba strides had been made, what strides? The Cubans do not want his skewed form of democracy and what did he say about Guantanamo Bay torture and concentration camp? It's still open.
And he claims the USA is safer than eight years ago. How, with its cities teeming with criminals and overseas, Islamic State now a global terror threat. Did he defeat Al-Qaeda? No, someone was shot in Abbotabad, Pakistan and hastily buried at sea to get rid of the corpse before questions were asked, Al-Qaeda rules the roost in increasing parts of Asia and Africa and something even worse is now a player - ISIS.
As regards domestic policy, growing areas of the United States of America are no-go zones, the place is rife with illegals murdering people and committing crimes, gun massacres seem to be commonplace and nothing has been done to make any difference; Obama referred to his success in turning around the economic recession in his farewell speech but surely, any economics student would counter that economic cycles of boom and bust are the natural progression of the monetarist, market-oriented liberal economic model and the world economic cycle is not centered around Barack Obama's feet; he claimed Obamacare was a success but substantial numbers of Americans tell me that the entire plan was nothing but trouble from day one and the effect it had was simply to make the insurance companies richer.
As regards the rebooting of the automobile industry, perhaps Barack Obama should take a trip to Detroit, Michigan when he has time and as for the job creation schemes, are we speaking about artificially created jobs through workfare schemes or are we taking into account all of the unemployed? And how many of those count?
As far as race relations are concerned, when he was elected, it had ceased to be an issue and I remember writing about it at the time, saying how nice it was to see a sense of political maturity in which the color of a person's skin is totally meaningless. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made it an issue during the campaign, race tensions are unprecedented when he leaves office and what did he do for black people as a whole?
Again, where exactly Barack Obama stood personally in all of these policies, these shenanigans and this skullduggery, is unclear. True, he looked good cracking jokes at his own presidency in after-dinner speeches and in his contact with the crowds, came across as one of the boys, genuine and empathetic.
Being nice to Barack Obama (after all he is a human being like everyone else and has the rest of his non-presidential life to lead) could it be that the back-slapping orator with the gift of easy banter in pubs in Ireland and so on was the real man, who was forced to stand back in the shadows and watch as aides like Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland and Samantha Power snarled and growled and ensured that the USA is as hated overseas in 2017 as it was in 2009? That being so, a tad cowardly and lightweight, after all the bravado and bluster at the beginning, no?
In a word, a disappointment. If Barack Obama had been the CEO of a multinational company, he would have been fired for poor results. Let that be the political epitaph for probably a nice person whose dreams came crumbling down on top of him because he didn't have what it takes.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.