Just like George Bush, Obama’s mistakes, broken promises and war-crimes will also be forgotten

Published: November 22, 2016

Presidential legacies are only ever realised once the president has moved on and out of the Oval Office.

Following his yearlong campaign of racism, sexism, and sheer bigotry, Donald Trump’s victory has become a summons to reflect on the eight-year tenure of President Barack Obama. Indeed, in the shocking aftermath of the election, most of us have set our default mode to ardent fans ready to jump on every chance at glorifying the outgoing Obama administration. 

Opinions on any outgoing politician are always polarising.

In Obama’s case, many questions and promises remain. Was he able to strengthen the American resolve to fight the threat of global terrorism, or were his detractors right all along about his foreign policy being his biggest weakness? Was Obamacare a step forward or a step back? Will he leave the American economy better, worse, or the same? To illustrate just how polarised Americans are on these hot-button topics, consider a 2013 Gallup poll that reported that Americans saw Obamacare as both Obama’s biggest success and failure.

Gallup 2013 poll: How welcomed was Obamacare?

Gallup 2016 poll: How welcomed was Obamacare?

Confusing, right?

Emotions are at a fever pitch right now. In times like this, it’s easy to view the past through the distorted mirror of perfect hindsight. But we would all be better off remembering that despite a Trump presidency likely being a nightmare for Muslims globally, the Arab world, and Pakistanis, the Obama administration is leaving open wounds of broken promises, brutalities and deception.

A brief roundup is necessary. Such lists exist across the web in scathing detail. But, for our purposes, let’s start with Obama’s most firm promise. From day one, he repeatedly vowed to close Guantanamo. In his first week in office he went as far as signing an executive order calling for the closing of Gitmo by the end of the first year of his presidency. It’s been eight years and that still hasn’t happened.

Drone warfare is another major point of contention. Even though drone attacks picked up during the Bush presidency, there were more drone strikes in Pakistan during Obama’s first year in office than in both terms of the Bush presidency.

And when it comes to peace and justice in the Middle East, Obama remains an enigma.

Indeed, no other US president had promised more to Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians.

The landmark ‘Cairo speech’ of 2009 was a surprise to all as Obama stood in front of the world, ready to reinforce American respect for Islam and the Arab world. He promised a ‘new beginning’ yet two terms later and his Middle East record is wanting, with many Arabs and Muslims left scratching their heads wondering with friends like him, who needs enemies?

There’s still two months more of the Obamas in the White House. And ultimately, presidential legacies are only ever realised once the president has moved on and out of the Oval Office. Obama’s legacy will become clear with time similar to the way America’s impression of President George W Bush crystallised in the aftermath of his presidency. Interestingly, America’s impression of Bush improved significantly after he had left office but his decision to invade Iraq, which during his time as president saw major popular support, is today largely viewed very negatively.

So while it is not clear which side of the tightrope Obama will find himself on come January 20, 2017, one thing is certain: as we stumble out of the end of an ugly, divisive election and as an internet troll with the colouring of Cheetos gears up to take control of the highest office on the planet, President Obama’s political missteps will likely cease mattering and all that we will pine for will be his continuous displays of intelligence, poise and moderation – traits which the new presidency will guaranteed lack.

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

The author is a lawyer and freelance journalist. She tweets as @mariakari1414 (twitter.com/mariakari1414)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.