Nothing becomes President Obama like his leaving office.
The final major act of his eight-year presidency was “seconding” the United Nations condemnation of Israel for its settlements in the West Bank.
This was courageous. U.S. presidents have constantly backed Israel whatever its outrages or wrong-doings since its founding in 1948.
Yet undeterred by the U.N. resolution and the Obama rebuke, Israel arrogantly plunged ahead with plans to build 5,600 units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Still another outrage.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu bristled at the Obama remark and angrily blamed Obama for not vetoing the U.N. resolution. He also warned against any nation attacking Israel. Netanyahu declared that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.”
Obama should have been far more critical of Israel during his tenure. But the lateness of the hour was better than never.
As this columnist has written several times, it was a terrible mistake to create Israel on Palestinian soil.
The Jews have been persecuted for centuries, six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis and Jews have suffered other horrible atrocities. But it was hardly wise to carve out the land for Israel in the Middle East.
Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, blasted Israel in a major address. He rightly accused Netanyahu of sabotaging peace between Israel and Palestine. The blocking of a two-state solution thwarts any possibility of peace in the turbulent Middle East.
“The status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation,” Kerry said. “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both and will never be at peace.”
But President-elect Donald Trump cheered the Netanyahu statement. He told Netanyahu to ignore it. “Stay strong Israel,” he wrote on Twitter. “January 20th is fast approaching.” (Inauguration Day)
Trump, who is wrong about most things, is also wrong about defying Palestinian rights.
PUBLISHER RIPS OBAMA LEGACY
The Obama legacy, however, got some bad jolts from John MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine. His book, “The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America,” has an intriguing title and even more intriguing subtitle, “Or, why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible.”
Many Americans believed Obama might be a reformer, doing more than “just rearranging the furniture.”
But not so. As Howard Dean, Democratic National Chairman, presciently warned us in 2004 with his angry denunciation of the Iraq invasion, the Democrats were warhawks, not peaceniks. Obama was a warhawk.
He did not withdraw from Iraq as promised. He did not pull out of Afghanistan as promised.
MacArthur also writes:
• “While Obama destroyed reform, the fund-raising machines of the Democratic and Republican parties endlessly sought cash to pay for TV advertising.
• “Never had an American politician spoken so many eloquent words about change and done so little about it.
• “Obama, the first African-American elected president and former labor organizer, did little for the labor movement as president.”
NATION MAGAZINE PILES ON
The Nation magazine recently devoted an entire hefty issue to the Obama legacy.
Christopher Hayes noted:
• “America elected a black man president and half the people went out of their minds in anger.
• “The white working class realized that the American dream is a sham. Then con artist Obama promised to restore it and the working class bought the con.”
On Inauguration Day in the Washington Mall in 2009, Obama delivered an institutional pep talk: “Starting today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America.”
He failed even to try. But he did warmonger, spending trillions on aerial surveillance, drones, Saudi Arabian weapons and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.
Greg Grandin, New York University history professor, observed:
“Campaigning in 2008, Obama offered a vision of patriotism, using his own success to celebrate the country’s meritocracy. He called that proof of overcoming racial division and demonstrating our exceptionalism. He recalled Madeleine Albright as the first woman to become secretary of state. He recalled her labeling the U.S. as the ‘indispensable nation.’ ”
Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies, University of Virginia, wrote that Obama while campaigning “spoke the Silicon Valley tech language until it came to warrantless surveillance. The Blackberry-toting son of an immigrant professed to share the Valley’s commitment to open dialogue, open networks, global connectivity and corporate-speak (‘data-driven decision-making’).”
But Obama embraced warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency and its gathering of foreign intelligence.
Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for America’s Future, declared that Obama called himself in 2008 “the transformational president” and “would put us on a fundamentally different path.” He was not transformational and he did not seek a different path.
In short, the Obama presidency was marked by marvelous rhetoric and lofty language but few deeds.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)