Obama’s Desperate Attempts to Build a Legacy Are Backfiring

We’ve done it. After nearly six years in office we’ve finally found something that sets President Obama apart from all its predecessors. Dana Obeidallah writes for The Daily Beast:

While President Obama’s approval ratings may be in the tank, there’s still one arena in which he’s riding high: His use of comedy to taunt and undermine his political foes. There has simply never been a president better at that.

. . . Obama doesn’t tell cute stories that chide his rivals in the abstract.  Instead, Obama, like Jon Stewart, uses jokes that slice and dice his targets by name. For example, at the 2013 WHCD pointedly ridiculed his nemesis Mitch McConnell: “Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress. ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?!”

Sure, mean-spirited jokes aren’t exactly a solid foundation upon which to build a long-lasting legacy, but what exactly does Obama have left? After all, it’s been clear since before his first term that Obama sought to be a name in the history books.

“I have no desire to be one of those presidents who are just on the list – you see their pictures lined up on the wall,” Obama told historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in 2007. “I really want to be a president who makes a difference.”

And after just three years in office President Obama was ready to declare victory, hinting that he ranks pretty high in first-term accomplishments.

“The issue here is not gonna be a list of accomplishments,” the President told CBS’s Steve Croft on 60 Minutes. “As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president – with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R. and Lincoln – just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history.”

Ironically, his desperate attempts to make the list of “Best Presidents” has led him to make some ill-fated decisions that will certainly make the history books.

He desperately wanted to be known as the president to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but his hasty withdrawal of troops destabilized the region and created a power-vacuum filled by Islamist militants.

He desperately wanted to be known as the president who rescued the economy from the bring of economic collapse, but his poorly-crafted stimulus plan led to hundreds of billions of dollars being wasted on projects that wouldn’t move the economic needle.

He desperately wanted to be known as a president who could tackle divisive issues like gun control and carbon emissions, but all he did was disrupt his relationship with Congress and take his eye off of simple governance, which led to things like the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, he desperately wanted to be known as the president who reformed health care. But in his rushed attempt to get something passed he ended up with a faulty website, a string of broken promises, accelerated health care cost growth, and a looming fiscal disaster. As Charles Blahous, one of the two public trustees for the Social Security and Medicare Programs, writes for The Weekly Standard:

The ACA was enacted in 2010 with the promise of reducing the federal budget deficit while expanding health insurance coverage. Nearly lost amid the recent press cheerleading over ACA enrollment figures is that this promise has disintegrated, and now no one—including, notably, the Congressional Budget Office—can say how much fiscal damage the ACA will ultimately cause. All we know for certain is that many of the savings provisions designed to pay for it have been shelved thus far.

. . . After shaking a favorable score out of CBO in 2010 based on the assumption that the law would be enforced as written, Democrats now exhibit little motivation to follow through with its most politically radioactive savings measures. There is little reason to suppose that provisions looming on the horizon, such as the tax on so-called Cadillac health insurance plans and the decisions of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, will be enforced any more diligently than others have been to date.

Does President Obama care? Sadly, he seems to rarely dwell on his mistakes, instead opting to rush off to the next big idea that may push him into the ledgers of history. That approach is certain to earn him a legacy, but probably not the one he wants.