A Critique of President Obama’s Farewell Speech
Before I commence, I would like to emphatically and categorically state that the critique that I am about to give is not a personal attack on Mr. Obama's personality whatsoever. I think he is a gentle, loving, family man and a very intelligent academician as well as a charismatic and deeply inspiring human being. My critique solely focuses on his public persona and his domestic and foreign policies during the past eight years. However, I will be very stern and objective in my critical analysis.
Now, let me go right into the crux of the matter:
President Obama’s farewell address was very conciliatory. He tried hard to bring people together and create a spirit of unity and solidarity that unfortunately is deeply missing in America today. Interestingly, he delicately and poignantly pointed out some of the mistakes that were made during this electoral process by the Democratic Party and quite possibly by Hillary Clinton herself especially her ethical shortcomings. He didn’t name her at all and this slight reference was in fact very subtle.
All together, it was a speech that ended on a beautifully emotional note, especially when he praised the patience and the aptitude of his wonderful daughters, Malia and Sasha, as well as the First Lady Michelle Obama, one of the most highly respected First Ladies.
Throughout his speech, Mr. Obama attempted to unite a very divided and angry nation. He also emphasized that the transition of power must go as smoothly and as peacefully as possible. The peoples of the world as well as the voters here in America are quite nervous by Mr. Trump's arrival and his unpredictable behavior and rash policies.
President Obama also invoked the old and internationally controversial concept of “American Exceptionalism”. For now, Mr. Obama’s assertions are correct in that we are still the wealthiest and the most powerful nation on earth. Our military might is simply awe striking. But, as I always say, any civilization that has lost its power persuasion and solely relies on its muscle power is no longer a civilization neither is it powerful. Based on Washington’s behavior, especially during the past 16 years ever since those despicable events on 9-11-2001, our power of persuasion has drastically decreased and our reliance on bullying and intimidation tactics (militarily and economically) has dangerously increased. We are depending way too much on hounding and harassing other nations and even looking down on other superpowers. We are increasingly, unwittingly, unwantedly, and intrusively intervening in the internal affairs of many nations, even Russia. Are these not a perfect recipe for more hatred, longer lasting intergenerational resentments, and even disastrous hostilities?
Allow me to briefly expand on this concept of “American Exceptionalism” which goes back to the begging of the founding of our nation. The founding fathers dreamed of a shining city upon a hill. They meant that not in a sense of arrogance and hubris, but that our democratic values and certainly our constitution were based on higher values such as freedom, self-determination, democratic governance, and the pursuit of happiness. Following our disastrous defeat in Vietnam in 1975, this “American Exceptionalism” concept had a resurgence in 1980 when President Reagan came to power with his advertisement slogan, “It’s a new morning in America” as a deeply needed morale booster.
But now, after all our mindless and intrusive interventions everywhere, the peoples of the world not only not subscribe to this theory of “American Exceptionalism”, but they are actually resentful towards it like no other time in our history. What was once an innocent American Dream has turned into an American nightmare. We have proven that if we are exceptional in anything, it is how to wage war and bring about chaos and anarchy in other people's countries.
Another point of achievement according to President Obama was when said, “The good news is that today the economy is growing again. Wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are all rising. Poverty is falling."
But that is not entirely true either, except for the rise in home values, for example in my own home state of California, among some other states but not necessarily everywhere. As far as poverty declining, again that was an over-exaggeration. And as far as the unemployment rates, the official figures do not account millions of citizens who have now become habitually reliant on food stamp and other government social and programs, but especially those who are unemployed because they have exhausted all their efforts in looking for a job, not to mention those who are grossly under-employed, especially many of the college educated youth.
Courtesy of the non-egalitarian phenomenon of globalization, the top 1% is doing quite well at the expense of the ever-shrinking middle class who are very much struggling. One of the unreasonable justifications why many in the middle and lower classes voted for a predatory billionaire capitalist like Donald Trump was the systematic outsourcing and mass exporting of jobs to places like China and India. Therefore, regardless of how rosy of a picture President Obama tried to paint in his farewell speech, the reality is otherwise and people feel this general socio-economic malaise and gross injustice. There is a sense of tremendous worry about the future.
In walks in Mr. Trump with his chauvinistic, over-confident attitude to “drain the swamp” that Washington has become and to “bring jobs back” and “make America great again” – whatever that means. He never provided any solid specificity.
In his speech, President Obama also emphasized and highlighted his achievements in his foreign policy such as “opening up a new chapter with the ‘Cuban people’, shutting down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot and taking out the mastermind of 9-11.”
First of all, there is no such thing as an “Iranian nuclear weapons program”! There is, however, a peaceful use of nuclear technology by the Iranians. This phrase, “The Iranian nuclear weapons program”, is a lie and a neurolinguistic programming technique to needlessly frighten the ignorant masses. It was a propaganda and brain-washing tool that the radical elements within the Republican party are a master of. I’m talking about super Zionist deep-pocketed radical right-wing Republicans such as Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, and the always predictable war-monger Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and his boyfriend John McCain of Arizona who has clearly demonstrated to have many marbles loose in his no-longer functioning brain!
As far as “shutting down the Iranian nuclear program”, nobody shut down anything! The Iranians voluntarily agreed to the JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), i.e. the nuclear agreement. Many people thought this was a done deal until Trump and other lunatic right-wing Republicans openly challenged it during the presidential race. Mr. Trump even exaggeratingly calls it, “the worst deal in human history”, an utterly ridiculous assertion which should have its own category of sheer foolishness. Furthermore, around 10 days before the election, President Obama in his usual politically coward shrewdness, decided not to veto the Zionist-influenced ISA (Iran Sanctions Act) passed by the House and ratified by the Senate. He just chose not to sign it, implying neither vetoing or endorsing it. This reckless behavior, both on behalf of the president as well as the Congress, imposed another 10 years of sanctions on Iran which in concordance and in consideration of the JCPOA agreement could be argued to be illegal from an international law perspective – a perspective that the Iranians may pursue at the World Court at the Hague or with the other five signatories of the P5+1. When this law passed in late October 2016, the people and the leadership cadre in Iran were absolutely outraged. They were angered by such blatant reneging and breaking of promises since they sacrificed so much in their nuclear advancements. And ISA is what they got for it?!
As far as the normalization with “the Cuban people”, I think this statement was also very bizarre. The normalization of relations were between the US / Cuban government AND the Cuban people, not just with the Cuban people alone! Such intentionally divisive statement [regularly used by Washington politicians towards their foe states] is another example of psychological language tools to create a false perception and separate the people from their governments in order to drive a wedge between them. They have used that technique repeatedly with the Iranians as well.
All together, Mr. Obama’s goal in his farewell address was to calm down people’s nerves (especially for his still hypnotized supporters) as well craft his own legacy in his own words. Unfortunately, and I hope people remember since we suffer from political Alzheimer's in America, Mr. Obama proved to be a president who literally towards the last few weeks of his presidency created yet another layer on a mindless war of words with Russia by creating a diplomatic crisis, all based on lies and false accusations of Russia hacking our elections, again without providing ANY empirical evidence whatsoever. These carefully crafted deceptions were of course fully spread and supported by a well orchestrated liberal media stunt, with the mainstream media always obediently serving as the tricky entertainment division of the military industrial complex.
Regardless of his efforts, Mr. Obama’s legacy will be written by his misadventures in Syria, his gross and dangerous interventionist policies in Ukraine and how he and his political cohorts in Western Europe tried so hard to push NATO farther and farther to the East and directly threatening Russia.
But in all fairness, he also achieved some good things. These would be the JCPOA agreement between Iran and P5+1, proceeded by that fact that throughout his administrations, Mr. Obama repeatedly and beautifully dissed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a thug and a murderer. And in a very striking maneuver literally towards the last days of his presidency, the Obama Administration was instrumental is passing a UN Resolution (for the first time without the US backing Israel) which strongly condemned and illegalized all the Israeli “settlements” – the correct word would be occupation – throughout the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem and elsewhere. This was a great achievement for international justice in a sense that for the first time Washington backed down from blindly supporting Israel, a nation of occupiers and usurpers for most part. It could be strongly argued that the above-mentioned two items were two of the greatest foreign policy achievements of the Obama Administration.
In conclusion, we must again apply further measures of fairness to President Obama and his administration. They in fact did inherit an absolute mess from President Bush, quite possibly the most incompetent president in the history of the United States. The expectations from President Obama were very high, even to the point of unrealistic. In many ways, his efforts did rescue the free-falling US economy from 2007 to 2010, the so-called “Great Recession” which in fact was an economic depression, although the term was never used because of psychological purposes.
However, when it came to international relations, especially his administration’s erroneous policies Russia and the Middle East, history will judge him as a dismal failure and a hegemonic instigator. President Obama's biggest concern about his legacy, as he himself stated himself before and shortly after his election, was the choice to become a successful one-term president rather than a mediocre one. Unfortunately, I believe history will judge him similar to President Woodrow Wilson from the beginning of the 20th century, as a president who was complicit and instrumental not in creating positive changes that he continually bragged about in his pre-presidential political slogans, but one who contributed to increasing the already existing geopolitical hostilities in the realm of international relations, especially the handling of Russia. In those aspects, he will be judged not just as a mediocre president but a corrosive one.
Having said that, and back to the future, when Donald Trump gets in the Oval Office, people will look back and miss President Obama who after all was an intelligent, pro-compromise, cold but charismatic, and a genuine academic – all of which are qualities that the scandalous, inexperienced, rabble-rousing, chauvinistic Donald Trump deeply lacks in his presidential character.