CLEVELAND, OHIO — Since being inaugurated in 2009, President Barack Obama has issued 66 proclamations to fly the flag at half-staff — a tradition reserved for observances of respect ranging from tragedies and deaths to national holidays and remembrances.
His 66 half-staff proclamations have already exceeded those of his two predecessors, presidents George W. Bush (58) and Bill Clinton (50). The number seems sure to continue to rise as nearly every day there is yet another act of violence or gravity — be it terrorism or the murder of police officers — apparently warranting a symbolic nod of honor.
As terrorist strikes become ever more frequent in the West, activists target law enforcement officials and race relations hit an all-time low — barring a dramatic improvement in the state of affairs — Obama is likely to leave office with the country arguably in worse shape than he inherited it.
Yes, the economy was in dire straits in January 2009, and it has improved somewhat despite record-low labor force participation rates and overall stagnant wages. But do the slow economic improvements compensate for the threat from terrorism Americans are dealing with and the day-to-day racial strife going on throughout the country?
Yes, it’s unfair to pin all the blame on Obama and his administration. He is not wholly responsible for the acts of evil people willing to make a statement by taking the lives of innocents. At some point, however, beyond a handful of incidents the policies and rhetoric of this administration warrant serious criticism.
On terrorism, while it could be true that ISIS isn’t making strategic gains on the ground in Syria and Iraq, the movement itself has been used to inspire one-off attacks that directly impact the lives of those a half a world away.
On racial divisiveness, Gallup polling indicates that since Obama was elected, the trend is that Americans view the country as even more racially divided.
Polling from various media outlets also universally shows more than two-thirds of Americans see the country as headed down the wrong track. According to the Real Clear Politics average, it is 69 percent wrong to 23 percent right.
In essence the Obama Administration did allow ISIS, aka the “JV team,” to get out of control. While he did not declare open season on law enforcement, Obama has hardly been a steadfast supporter of the group he hastily judged for acting “stupidly.” Sadly, the first African-American president likely will end his term in office leaving the U.S. more divided racially than when he was first elected. It is no surprise, then, that in general most Americans think the country is on the wrong track.
What will Obama’s legacy be? Some would say Obamacare, which hasn’t worked out as advertised. It was certainly a monumental legislative accomplishment, but the dramatic increase in premiums and the false promise of “if you like your plan, you can keep it” have tarnished that aspect of his legacy.
Perhaps the one crown jewel of the Obama presidency would be the capture and killing of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in 2011. For a brief moment, the country was united behind that achievement and after taking it on the chin in the midterms months earlier, Obama looked to be on his way to re-election in 2012.
And he was re-elected but a string of incidents, including the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the rise of ISIS, have detracted from that accomplishment.
That gives the Republican Party not just presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump but candidates all the down the ballot a case to make against Obama and, by extension, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — something we hope to see this week in Cleveland.
It was once thought that a Trump nomination would make it harder for some swing-state Republicans to win again in 2016. The truth is swing-state politicians, both Republican and Democrat, have always struggled to win re-election regardless of who the president is. That’s why they’re called swing states.
But with Obama’s struggles, they at least have a case to make to their voters. You may not like Trump, but how have the last eight years of an Obama presidency worked out for you?
That answer ought to be pretty simple if the metrics reported by the media are true.
This president and his administration have been a lot about symbolism — lighting up the White House after the gay marriage verdict, changing figures on currency, not granting the Washington Redskins a patent, even lowering flags to half-staff — you name it. But if you have to ask what he has actually done or point to where he has compromised to make life in America safer and easier, there is not a lot there.
Ronald Reagan asked during the 1980 presidential campaign, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” With Hillary Clinton running for a third Obama-style term, it seems reasonable to again ask, “Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?”