Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Barack Obama, RIP?

Obama’s strength is a capacity to speak, and excite many of us. Sometimes in support of what he says. Sometimes in frustration about his slippery superficiality. Sometimes with greater enmity. That he is also black adds to the appeal for many, and the antipathy of others.

We should not expect that he’ll go quietly to the place where other politicians retire. His last days in office provide much to applaud or ridicule.

Israelis and our friends have expressed enough, or may just be getting started about his last act with respect to the UN Security Council, backed up by what we can hope is the last ponderous speech by the former secretary of state. Alas, pictures of Kerry in a protest march against Trump indicate that we haven’t heard the last from him.

In his last press conference as president, Obama expressed the mantra of the fashionable left, threatening that Israel will have to cope with an Apartheid One State if it can’t find a way to agree with the flaccid Palestinians about Two States, and urging Trump to avoid anything one sided, like moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

We can expect to hear from those who ask if his own recent actions have not been one sided for the sake of Palestine. It’s more fashionable to blame Israelis than to give up on the Palestinians. And it plays better on account of the Jews in the chorus.

Palestine does not occupy all of Obama’s time. He’s also made a pitch for the transgender vote by curtailing the punishment of Chelsea (Bradley) Manning. Israel’s friends are expressing what Varda asked when she heard the news, “What about Pollard?”

It’s not easy comparing the degree of criminality or the damage to U.S. critical interests associated with Pollard and Bradley. However, the disproportion in their punishments, with Pollard’s continuing after his release from prison, justifies the question.

We, the Chosen, may be understood for focusing on Obama’s legacy with respect to Israel. However, the worldly among us recognize that his presidency, his final remarks as president, and most likely his post-presidential pronouncements, extend more widely.

Obama must accept at least a bit of the damnation for what has happened in the Middle East since his 2009 Cairo speech insisting on equality and democracy across this largely Muslim region, where both equality and democracy challenge the theology and culture. He added to the damage by a 2013 speech that both condemned and accepted chemical weapons in Syria, and served to grant Russia primacy in that country. Historians and other commentators will be quarreling for years about how many of the millions of dead and more millions of refugees should be assigned to the responsibility of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or the Muslims themselves.

We can expect that Americans will be worrying more about the benefits and problems associated with the Affordable Care Act, whose moniker “Obamacare” will mark his presidency as much as anything.

Comments about complexities or sloppiness may begin with the 2,200 pages of legislation, and the failure of the president to enlist Republicans of the House and Senate in what he created.

Likewise, the lack of demonstrable progress for African Americans, and continued tension with police. It’s easy to understand black votes for a black president, both in terms of community identity and the misery of African-American history, but it’s also possible to question the community’s accomplishments since 2008. 

Lots of Americans and those of us dependent on the U.S. are trembling at the onset of a Trump presidency. Massive demonstrations against him, as well as a substantial numbers of Democratic lawmakers boycotting the Inauguration do not portend well for political expectations. Accepting loss is one of the cardinal traits of democratic politics, and lots of Americans have not been following those rules. If extremists of the left arouse extremists of the right, we’ll all suffer from American chaos.

The new man’s Inaugural speech sounded like the tweets of his campaign, and still leaves us wondering. Analyses of the speech have been longer than the speech itself, reflecting problems of interpretation and projection. Parts of his speech and some initial actions have generated applause and condemnation.

Explaining Trump’s victory isn’t easy, or likely to pass without quarrel. However, just as Obama’s naivete contributed something to the chaos and carnage roiling the Middle East outside of Israel, so his well-spoken superficiality and his version of political correctness had something to do with the success of the Trump campaign. 

Early news is that those applauding Barack and Hillary, and supporting Keith Ellison as chairman of the Democratic Party, are already beginning to promote Michelle for president in 2020.

It’s tempting to bet on political disaster for Democrats obsessed with the view that driving well to the left of center is the way to go. 

Wish us all well. The sentiment guarantees nothing, but it’s not likely to hurt.

Comments expected. Irashark@gmail.com


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