The farewell address Obama should have given

My fellow Americans:

Eight years ago, I stood before you with a promise that my administration would bring change to America, change that would strengthen your hopes in the future.

Today, I offer you an assessment of how well I have kept my promises.

I told you, then, that my administration would reverse George W. Bush’s policy of government secrecy. During my tenure as President, twice as many government whistleblowers were prosecuted under the Espionage Act as in a century’s worth of previous administrations. I also presided over a massive domestic surveillance project, in direct violation of the Bill of Rights, a program my subordinates lied about to you – and to your elected legislators – until a conscientious young contractor named Edward Snowden spilled the beans.

Naturally, I regard Mr. Snowden as a criminal, and will not allow him to return to the country for which he gave up a comfortable home and an excellent job and put his personal freedom at enormous risk. But you know all this without my telling you – so, all in all, I can report that government secrecy has diminished under my administration.

I promised you that I would seek peace and not bloodshed, particularly in the Muslim world, where U.S. aggression caused untold suffering during the Bush years. As I leave office, the United States is bombing seven separate countries, all of them predominantly Muslim, though none of those countries threatens the United States. (Actually, some people claim we’re only bombing six countries; it’s difficult for anyone to be sure, given all that government secrecy I’ve been trying so hard to dispel.) I’ve deepened America’s military commitment in Afghanistan, where a violent 15-year occupation has been necessary to prop up a corrupt, unpopular government. But after all, that regime is friendly with American oil companies eager to build pipelines through Afghanistan – so it all sort of evens out, doesn’t it?

Unlike my predecessor, I am a lawyer; I’ve even worked as a law professor. So you knew you could believe me when I promised to bring respect for law to the White House. And I’m sure you weren’t disappointed. It’s true that I protected the Bush administration officials responsible for illegal torture programs. And it’s true that I’ve made practically a routine out of assassinating people I don’t like all over the world – I even ordered the assassination of a U.S. citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and after he was dead we blew up his 16-year-old son, also a U.S. citizen. Neither of these people was ever charged with a crime; the New York Times described the memo my subordinate wrote to justify al-Awlaki’s killing as “a slapdash pastiche of legal theories…that was clearly tailored to the desired result.” But don’t worry: I later made that subordinate a judge on a federal court of appeals. So you can see how much protecting the law is on my mind, even when I’m in the assassination business.

I told you that I believed in democracy, and that I would champion it throughout the world. Of course, there were some qualifications attached to that promise. I never thought you expected me to support democracy in a country like Greece when it tried to resist the economic ruin imposed on it by the same banking interests – represented by the IMF – that helped to keep me in office. Or in Ukraine, where my government helped orchestrate a coup that ousted the democratically elected government and installed a new one (featuring some neo-Nazis and anti-Semites), which prompted a previously conciliatory Russian leadership to make good on its warning to invade Crimea. But on the other hand, I can sound quite impressive calling for democracy in Syria – though how the victory of the al-Qaeda affiliate my administration has been supporting there will lead to a more democratic government may be hard to figure out.

Speaking of foreign policy, I promised you that I would strive for a lasting peace in the Middle East. I furthered that goal by bloody attacks on Libya, Yemen and Syria, to name a few – and of course I pretended not to notice Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza, even moving more weapons to the IDF during the slaughter. I also rewarded Israel with the biggest monetary gift the U.S. has ever made to another country – and in light of its military record I think you can be sure that Israel will make good use of it. Oh, and my assassination of Osama bin Laden, although it violated international law, killed innocent bystanders and raised the risk of a nuclear confrontation, put an end to jihadi terrorism – I’m sure you’ve noticed that, haven’t you?

So how does your future look at the end of my administration? What can you hope for in the next eight years?

As we all know, this country’s political life is darkened by the shadow of enormous, and accelerating, income inequality that places effective power into the hands of a very few. Over a year ago, Forbes reported that the richest twenty Americans, between them, now own as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the U.S. population. And at about the same time, a pair of scholars at Princeton University (one of them a recent Nobel laureate in economics) linked the alarming rates of drug abuse and suicide among working-class white men to “rising economic insecurity and stagnant wages and incomes.”

So it isn’t terribly surprising that those working-class white men, having watched their hopes erode to a pile of bleached bones under the policies of my Democratic Party, are now ready to turn to the desperate alternative of Donald Trump. Of course, I warned you against Trump. But you didn’t listen – or a lot of you didn’t – and now you’ll have to trust in the tender mercies of a crew that will make me and my army of spies, assassins and bureaucratic loan sharks look like Mayberry R.F.D.

But don’t blame me if you didn’t get the candidate you really wanted; after all, it was the Democratic National Committee that made sure Bernie Sanders couldn’t get a fair shake in the primaries, but if I’m lucky the mass media will go on blaming it all on Putin. And then, you can throw even more money away on the army, while everybody but the super-rich gets hungrier doing without medical care the government will no longer provide and jobs that won’t exist because they’re all being sent overseas.

Assuming, that is, that the world doesn’t get blown to smithereens.

Goodbye, and God help you all.

About the Author
Michael Lesher is an author, lawyer and Orthodox Jew who lives in Passaic, NJ. His most recent book is Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland & Co., 2014).
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