America’s Dysfunction is Obama’s Legacy

Never before in modern history (including Watergate) has the US seen such a deleterious political debacle. In the waning post-election months of the Barack H. Obama administration, names were named and identities unmasked in a series of intelligence leaks. These leaks and their origin have now called into question the legitimacy of the entire gamut of American institutions. From the presidency and the White House, to the mass media and the intelligence services, but especially the two political parties, Americans are divided and polarized nearly as much as they were prior to the civil war, one hundred and fifty years ago.

Everything that happens in the US is of vital importance to its allies. Israel is no exception. But if you think that American politics are even remotely stable, think again. Obama (like everyone else on the left) held the arrogant opinion that Hillary Clinton was a certainty to win the election last fall. This would assure the historians that the “whiz kid” administration of the coastal elites pursued policies of lasting significance, and that they (the Democrats) could prevail in three consecutive elections. Such a feat had not been accomplished since the Roosevelt-Truman years in the first half of the twentieth century.

Of course, Obama had claimed early on that his election would “bring America together” by increasing economic opportunity, and that he would pursue a foreign policy based on peace through “strategic patience” and positive engagement with long-term enemies. But Obama’s (and the Democratic Party’s) penchant for colluding with Wall St., while seemingly appeasing his working-class base, backfired with eight years of tepid economic growth and ever increasing working-class angst.

Meanwhile, his foreign policy was the same-old, same-old — with the glaring exception of the Middle East. Here he allowed Iran near unfettered access to achieve its hegemonic designs across the Levant, while adopting a pro-PLO, UN-based tilt toward the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). But in Europe and the Far East, Obama accomplished little other than to further estrange both Russia and China — who have now strengthened their cooperative posture to include not only Tehran but Damascus, Beirut and even Baghdad as well.

In Iraq, Obama withdrew all American troops, which created such a vacuum on the Syrian border area that ISIS was allowed to re-form. This Obama withdrawal eventually led to the ISIS capture of Mosul, leading to total havoc across the twenty-million-strong Sunni territory stretching from Aleppo to the Iraqi capital. But that end result would come later. However, in the lead-up to this glaring administration retreat, secret negotiations with Iran assured Tehran that a door had been opened for the Islamic Republic to also attempt to fill the vacuum. These secret negotiations apparently assured Iranian leaders that this American president (Obama) would be a paper tiger with regard to nuclear negotiations and long-term Iranian designs for the region. And so Obama was.

Donald Trump campaigned on a platform of economic populist nationalism which trashed globalization and trade deals that sent jobs overseas. He also accused Democrats of allowing illegal immigrants access to US jobs which undermined the real wages of working-class American citizens. He called the Iran nuclear deal the “worst deal ever” (it was), and he advocated for a hard realist foreign policy which placed the interests of “forgotten Americans” above anything else. He campaigned strong with rallies in cities hard-hit by economic distress and family dysfunction. Trump promised hope to people long forgotten by elites and claimed that he, a billionaire outsider, was the working person’s best friend. It all worked; for the first time in years the industrial Midwest went Republican.

After the election, Obama fought back. He needed a far-reaching excuse to justify the working-class rejection of his tepid domestic economic record — job creation without wage growth, at the cost of doubling the national debt. Meanwhile, the gross instability created by Obama’s expansionist footing in Europe was driving deep fissures of geopolitical instability. Russian tactics hardened in the aftermath of the Obama-EU Ukraine coup and the establishment of a pro-Western government on Moscow’s doorstep. As tensions mounted, the old “boogeyman” of the Cold War — Russia as the perpetual aggressor in Europe — was re-ignited.

But Trump had campaigned on better relations with the Kremlin. This unorthodox position caused currents of unease to mount across NATO, and certainly among European intelligence services. To maintain his legacy, Obama and his spy agency surrogates concocted a post-election theory of a Trump-Putin conspiracy that somehow enabled a tilt in the election toward Donald Trump. While there was certainly a case of Russian computer-hacking in the US election, a Trump-Putin conspiracy theory needed a cache of proof to be exposed in order for a Watergate-like cascade to lead to a serious investigation.

The liberal New York Times wrote on March 1, 2017 that “In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government.” The Times article went on to say: “At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analysis, and keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies.”

Earlier on January 12, 2017 the New York Times had also reported that Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch signed rules allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to disseminate “raw signal intelligence information” to sixteen other intelligence agencies. In other words, according to the New York Times — which is a pro-Democratic Party, anti-Trump newspaper — this cascade of raw intelligence information, some of which names the identity of US citizens not under a specific surveillance designation (but merely as names within raw intelligence), was obtained (in some cases) by leaks from foreign government sources. And that this possible illegal act was carried out under the direct authority of the Obama administration. If true, such penalty under law would carry a prison term of no less than ten years.

Talk about a government in total dysfunction! Over eight years ago, Obama promised the American people that he would “bring the nation together”. Instead, he has left the US polity in complete paralysis over potential conspiracy theories and illegal intelligence leaks. Now, however, it remains the job of the new president to repair the damage of a population seriously divided and essentially unable to communicate with each other.

President Trump has no other choice but to attempt to heal the nation. With a domestic and foreign policy polarized, and accusations of conspiracy, counter-conspiracy and illegality being ascribed to all sides, America’s citizens and allies (of course, Israel included) can only hope that President Trump can rise to the occasion. Such a unifying legacy has become a necessity. Unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies, the US won’t necessarily stick together “through thick and thin.” It will need a new narrative to be able to once again unify its diverse population. Trump (or his successor) must create such a narrative to warrant a legacy worthy of uniting a nation. And a truly great legacy it would be. Obama, on the other hand, has already established his legacy.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).