May 19, 2020
Author: Chilton Williamson

Fifteen years after Barack Obama won election to the United States Senate, and almost three and a half since he left the presidency, there is no discernible reason why the country should pay any further attention to him. He has done little since January 20, 2017 but loaf, preen, travel internationally, earn and spend huge sums of money, make a few public appearances, and issue an occasional pronunciamento  on one subject or another, all of these remarks inconsequential even from a former president: a status not far above that of a former Miss America, thus helping to promote equality between the sexes.

During the final months of 2019 and the first three of 2020, Obama was remarkable for the absence of his presence during the Democratic debates by failing to declare a preference for any of the candidates, including the Vice-President who served as his cushion bearer throughout his eight years in the White House. Then, moving abruptly last week, Barack gave a weak but plausible imitation of his old presidential self  by allowing a private address he made to 300,000 Obama Alumni to be leaked. From his talk the American public learned indirectly, and accidentally on purpose, that in the view of the former President Attorney General Barr’s dismissal of General Flynn’s conviction on a charge of making false statements to the FBI equals the breakdown of law in America. (Obama, an attorney himself and a former professor of constitutional law, stated carelessly and erroneously that the alleged offense was “perjury.”) Several days later, moving from the subject of general lawlessness to public incompetence in a virtual graduation address to graduates of black colleges and universities, he added: “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.” He added, “Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy—that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grownups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way—which is why things are so screwed up.”

What might have been on Obama’s mind—but assuredly wasn’t—in making that criticism was his meeting in the Oval Office on January 5, 2017 with his Vice-President and other high-ranking staff, at which the group decided to unmask General Flynn in the FBI’s report on his meeting with Ambassador Kislyak; the action that launched the nearly three-year investigation of President Trump and his campaign and finished by exonerating them after wasting thousands of hours of the government’s time and millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money. The conspiracy–actually, an attempted coup– against the new President by “so-called grownups with fancy titles,” among them the outgoing Chief of State, must  indeed have “felt very good;”  certainly it “screwed things up.” In any event, it was presumably not his own and his associates’ conspiratorial incompetence that weighed on Barack Obama as he was addressing the assembled graduating classes. It was the thought that (as Trey Gowdy has been pointing out for days) leaking Flynn’s name to the media was a felony punishable by ten years in prison. For Obama, that must be the unthinkable thought that nevertheless keeps thinking itself;  like Dr. Johnson’s example of a hanging, it is of the sort that tends to concentrate the mind wonderfully. The Apostle of Hope and Change locked away for a decade in a federal dungeon! It would require a profile in courage with the heroic contours of Jack Kennedy or John Kerry to face so terrible a fate with equanimity.  (A pardon from President Biden would carry the day, of course….)

Even after the hundreds of thousands of words Obama has spoken across the United States and around the world– words that have been duly translated into a hundred or more languages– ninety-nine out of a hundred journalists reaching for a word or two to capture the magic of his prose will settle upon “soaring rhetoric.” It is all in their minds, of course (and his.) The unvarnished truth is that Barack Obama’s “rhetoric,” wherever he goes and whatever he says, lies on a continuum between the merely prissy and the outright bitchy: qualities that the camp leftists of the media and the university campuses mistake for elegance. For these people, the priggish hauteur cancels the demotic  language—“doing what feels good,” “kids” (no public speaker should ever utter that vulgar word), “screwed up,” and so forth, ad infinitum. It is as if the Emperor continues to dress in his old clothes while claiming to have acquired, sometime around the turn of the century, a new voicebox. It’s a job for presidential historians, of course, to discover whether that is really so, or not. Still, Obama is no Eliza Doolittle when it comes to the English language—and no Churchill either, for that matter. Perhaps it’s as well to allow his soaring rhetoric to remain unchallenged as the urban legend it always was.

At any rate, the man’s time is past and he is as nothing to us now, one with all the Miss Americas of yore, now faded and gone. The phantom we call “Barack Obama” was never more of a gilded dream one half of America wished desperately to believe in, and so voted for—twice! Like Tony Blair he is now Mr. Money-Bags, an object of secret disgust to the progressives who have overtaken and gone beyond him—only to stampede over the cliff he was too canny to step off from. Obama and his entourage always hoped to rule America, and by ruling it, to ruin it—but not for themselves, as they hoped to be its inheritors. But they pushed too hard and too far, got Donald Trump elected, and instantly lost control of the Movement, driven mad by the Great Derangement.

Even had that not happened, following the revelations of the last week or two we can see what Barack Obama’s legacy of “Hope and change” would have been had it survived: old time Chicago politics transplanted to Washington, D.C., which had troubles enough already of its own.