A Balanced Assessment of Obama

Much commentary on Barack Obama’s presidency has focused on the shortcomings and missed opportunities, but it must be recalled how grim was his inheritance and fierce his opposition, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Most of the end-of-presidency appraisals of Barack Obama’s performance in office have failed to capture the most important aspects of his presidency and what distinguishes it from others. This shortcoming is only partly due to the difficulty of making good judgments about such things without the perspective that only the passage of time can provide — although this difficulty is indeed a significant factor, as suggested by how much general opinion about some past presidents has changed over time.

President Barack Obama walks through the Rose Garden to the Oval Office following an all-appointees summer event on the South Lawn, June 13, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Appraisals that are inclined to praise Mr. Obama, including ones coming from people associated with his administration, have often taken the form of laundry lists of accomplishments while doing little to capture the more general essence of his approach to public policy. One accomplishment in particular that probably has been invoked so often that the frequency of the invocation has been well out of proportion to its intrinsic significance is the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Appraisals inclined to be critical of Mr. Obama have been coming mainly from two different camps that on most issues disagree strongly with each other. One consists of those on the political right who have opposed President Obama all along and are simply extending their opposition into their retrospective commentary.

The other camp includes progressive realists who express disappointment that Mr. Obama did not do more than he did to extract the United States from wars, to curtail an overextended and overly interventionist foreign policy, and to move more boldly to shake loose from some other costly habits of what had become a Washington consensus. The criticism, from either or both of these camps, has exhibited three major deficiencies, among others.

One is to lose sight of what is practically and politically feasible, and to judge this president against some hypothetical ideal rather than against feasible alternatives. Presidents need to be graded on the curve, because hypothetical ideals are impossible standards for anyone to meet in the real world of political competition and policy-making. Populating the curve are presidents who come before and after, and alternative policies seriously offered — as distinct from vague expressions of dislike for the status quo — during the graded president’s own term.

Art of the Possible

Presidential politics, like other politics, is the art of the possible, and wise presidents pick which battles to wage and where they should allocate limited political resources. In this regard, a theme heard from both of the critical camps is that President Obama did not walk the walk as much as he talked the talk. Too many stated aspirations, in other words, and not enough follow-through accomplishment.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

The important distinction that gets lost in this theme is between, on one hand, duplicity in stating objectives without any genuine intention of pursuing them and, on the other hand, laying out a direction and endeavoring to move the needle in that direction even if the president is unable to move it as far as many of his supporters would like. There is little or no evidence of the former in Mr. Obama’s pronouncements and policies; there is plenty of evidence of the latter, including those relating to avoiding costly and damaging overseas expeditions.

A second deficiency of the criticism is to lose sight of the fact that Mr. Obama inherited a miserable situation, at home and abroad, upon entering office — worse than that handed to any of the other several most recent presidents. This included the most severe recession since the Great Depression, one that reached its depth just about when Mr. Obama took the oath of office. It included the effects of the badly mistaken invasion of Iraq, with not only continuous civil war in Iraq itself but also the exacerbation of wider sectarian conflict and stimulation of terrorism, which fed directly into so many of the preoccupying foreign policy problems, especially in the Middle East, that demanded the Obama administration’s attention.

When one must devote most of one’s available strength and attention and political chips to dig out of deep holes, there is that much less left to make positive progress above ground. This sort of handicap needs to figure in a fair evaluation of any president.

A third deficiency is to give insufficient attention to the exceedingly inflexible and strident opposition Mr. Obama faced from the opposite party in Congress, which by his last two years in office included Republican control of both chambers. Again, this goes beyond what any other recent president has faced, although we began to see some of it as Newt Gingrich was converting political competition into ruthless warfare in the 1990s.

Fierce Opposition

Failure to take into account the nature of the opposition has led to baseless charges against Mr. Obama for political dysfunction not of his own making. A self-described anti-Trump conservative, for example, blames Obama for the rise of Trump by saying it was “divisive” for the President to point out instances of the opposition putting party ahead of country — rather than such pointing out being a frank and accurate observation about the problem of divisiveness itself.

Ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Other critics somehow have kept a straight face while adducing the absence of Republican votes in favor of the health care law as supposedly another instance of the President’s divisiveness, rather than this being an indication of the approach of the members who cast the votes.

Part of the background to this, of course, is that the legislation in question was not some Democratic scheme coming out of left field but instead a commercially-based system that was Romneycare before it became Obamacare. A similar situation arose with Congressional Republican refusal even to consider the nomination to the Supreme Court of a well-qualified moderate who could have easily been the nominee of either a Republican or a Democratic president seeking to bridge the gap across the aisle.

All presidents get both more credit and more blame for things that happen during their tenure, many of which are beyond the president’s control or ability to influence. This pattern is certainly prevalent in much of the end-of-term commentary about President Obama. Forgetting what is and is not in the president’s control often leads to misallocation of blame for things not being better. It also leads to loss of perspective regarding standards of success and failure as the situations that presidents must deal with change, for whatever reason, over time.

This is true, for example, of the health of the American economy during the long climb out of the Great Recession. Mr. Obama’s opponent in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney, hammered away at the issue of unemployment. Romney promised that if elected he would lower the unemployment rate (then just over eight percent) to six percent, with the message being that this was better than a re-elected Obama would do. The rate as of last month was 4.7 percent.

In foreign policy, three qualities in particular of Mr. Obama’s policy-making stand out, more so than laundry lists, from what came before and what is coming after him, and from much of what opposed him while he was in office.

The first is rigor, thoroughness, and reliance on the best information in the making of policy. As mundane as this may sound, it should not be taken for granted. Astoundingly, the biggest and most consequential decision that Mr. Obama’s predecessor took during his eight years in office — the invasion of Iraq — was taken with no policy process at all to determine whether the invasion was a good idea. Some of the policy-making in the presidency before that (of Bill Clinton) was likened to disorganized graduate seminars.

Foreign Policy Subtleties

Second is the break away from the habitual rigid American Manicheanism that deals with the outside world almost exclusively in terms of friends and foes, purported allies and adversaries, good guys and bad guys, and in terms of coddling the one and confronting the other. President Obama has made significant departures from this misguided and unsuccessful rigidity and has taken steps toward a more flexible and effective foreign policy that recognizes the United States has fish to fry and interests to pursue with every other nation in the world.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2003. (Photo credit: Antonio Milena – ABr)


Most notable in this regard have been the opening to Cuba and the multilateral agreement to restrict the Iranian nuclear program. Both of these achievements are significant in their own right in ending unsuccessful policies of nothing but confrontation, and they also represent a significant moving of a larger needle.

Third is the overall knowledge and insight that represents a better understanding of how the outside world works, and of the dynamics of conflict within it, than is too often exhibited by the Washington consensus against which Mr. Obama has had to struggle. One of the best pictures of the President’s understanding in this regard was his interview last year with Jeffrey Goldberg.

Two other qualities have distinguished Mr. Obama’s conduct as it relates to both foreign and domestic policy. One is a willingness to take political heat to keep the Republic from getting into trouble. He has not always been consistent in this regard. Mr. Obama’s “surge” in Afghanistan, for example, was clearly shaped more by political considerations than by military effectiveness. But his decision to withstand much pressure from multiple directions to “do something” more about Syria has helped keep the United States from getting immersed any more deeply in yet another no-win misadventure.

Finally is Barack Obama’s personal conduct as president, marked by grace and fairness as well as by intelligence. Importantly and related to this, he has exhibited spotless personal integrity and the highest ethical standards — going so far, for example, as to seek a government legal ruling on whether it was permissible for him to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. He has led an eight-year administration with no significant scandals — again, not something to be taken for granted, given modern American history.

As of noon on Jan. 20, the nation is in for a severe turn away from most of the above. Regarding divisiveness, the incoming president has set a record for being the sorest winner ever, never getting out of what was already a highly combative and insult-filled campaign mode. Regarding reliance on good information, the new president rejects not only book-learning but also the assistance of government bureaucracies that exist for the purpose of informing policy decisions.

Regarding the method of decision-making, policy, at least declaratory policy, is as likely to be made with impulsive middle-of-the-night tweets as through any careful review. And as for ethics, the incoming chief executive is a walking bundle of conflicts of interests whose flouting of ethics principles has set so big and bad an example for others in his administration that the whole process of ethics scrutiny and elimination of conflicts of interests seems to be breaking down for senior nominees.

As previously mentioned, we need to grade presidents on the curve. The curve is taking an exceptionally sharp turn downward, and that ought to put Barack Obama in an even more favorable light.

Much of the wider public may be beginning to realize this, as indicated by recent poll results that have seen Mr. Obama’s job approval ratings rise significantly while Donald Trump’s ratings are probably the worst of any incoming president. Barack Obama will be missed.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 

56 comments for “A Balanced Assessment of Obama

  1. San CountsHester
    February 1, 2017 at 02:34

    Insightful article. The fact that President Obama had to contend with ruthless members of the Republican party, bent on his downfall at any cost, even if it meant the downfall of America is truly amazing. I will always wonder what he could have achieved if he had not been hindered by the Republican party in his effort to make such a positive difference. The fact that they actively opposed his right to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice speaks to their lack of respect for the Constitution and their total lack of fairness. Until recently I welcomed the fact that we had a two party system that could voice opposition, reach compromise when warranted, preventing America from becoming an unrelenting, narrow-minded majority of egotistical politicians. Until and unless more fair minded citizens become involved I truly believe our system is doomed. Donald Trump is prime example of our failure.

  2. Anonymous
    January 25, 2017 at 16:57

    Thanks for a pretty fair, relative assessment of Obama’s administration. I certainly agree that his relative restraint on the Syria issue was a good thing, but arming so-called moderate rebels has only served to prolong the war and place much of Syria under Wahhabi extremist rule. You also failed to address his unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers. The problem with grading him on a curve is that his predecessor and his successor are such terrible examples of the American presidency. Relative assessments are only useful insofar as they represent progress toward an ideal (e.g. transparency). Obama will of course be remembered as being better than Bush Jr. or Trump, but that’s a uniquely low bar for the evaluation of a president.

  3. Evangelista
    January 24, 2017 at 22:20

    Paul Pillar wrote his “A Balanced Assessment of Obama” either to advertently repay a debt to someone , or to inadvertently provide a demonstration what the CIA is today, why it is, meaning for employing “analysts” of what caliber of “analytic” capacities, and why the CIA needs to be flushed, either of this caliber of analysts, or down the swamp-clearing pipe, or both. The piece is a contrived attempt at paean.

    Obama campaigned on a platform of “Change”. He promised to end wars, to draw the U.S. back from torturing, invading, aggressing, lying, false imprisoning, and on and on. He was elected by an electorate who voted to effect change and elected Obama to effect the change they desired. Obama’s campaign for change was so acceptable and accepted that even the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee endorsed him a priori, to its chagrin. The American electorate believed in it, to its disappointment. Obama, elected, in office, made himself the toad in the pocket of Rham Emanuel and the Zion Lobby, and a tool for the Wall Street financial empire that had orchestrated the stripping away of the wealth and the property of the U.S. middle class. Obama provided the thieves the means to cover their crimes, insurance frauds and ponzi and pyramid activities, and to recoup, from Federal Reserve money creation, and injection at the top, financing to “recover” the properties they had thrown into receivership by their Bush era policies. Obama increased the warmaking, increased the aggression and increased the invading, and condoned the illegally incarcerating and torturing that he had campaigned promising to stop, to “change”.

    Today, Donald Trump is President of the United States. Trump was elected by the same electorate who elected Obama: Once again, the voters who vote purpose voted for “Change”. Trump is today where Obama was at the same time in 2009. Where Trump goes will demonstrate if he heeds the electorate that elected him.

    Trump is harsh and caustic, not smooth and even toned as Obama was. Who will replace Trump, if Trump goes as a toad into the pocket of money and special interest, as his initial dictatorial style is suggesting (after a pablum blather about the U.S. being “you the people’s “, and about giving the U.S. back to “you the people”), the voters who vote for “Change” will vote for change again, and the candidate they vote for then will be more harsh and more caustic than Donald Trump, even if a smoother talker. Obama was chance two for peaceful “Change”. Trump is chance three.for peaceful change (note that turning the U.S. into a “New China”, a 1900 Pittsburgh pit-of-pollution center of damn-the-byproduct manufacturing, the course Trump is launching on, apparently for industrial interests, not the peoples’ interests, will be national self-destruction, as it is in China, not Change). After Trump, if Trump fails to deliver, peace will be out. The U. S. will come apart.

    Obviously I am nto a CIA, or U.S. Government analyst. I am competent, and I do not deal in bullshit.

  4. Abe
    January 24, 2017 at 01:49

    “Eight years ago, Black America drank deeply from the intoxicating cup we at Black Agenda Report dubbed ‘ObamaL’aid’, a mind altering substance designed to dull Black folks’ historical aversion to U.S. military adventures abroad and undermine their well-founded distrust of the motives of those that rule the United States […]

    “For the most profound historical reasons, Black people had always been skeptical of Power, which had always meant White Power. Most Blacks took for granted that racial dominance and aggression were facts of life in U.S. foreign policy, just as in domestic affairs. Ever since the Sixties, when major polling organizations began tracking public opinion by race, Blacks have been the nation’s most consistently anti-war constituency. But these vital Black political resistance mechanisms were compromised by the physical presence of a Black family in the White House. It was no longer a question of what ‘they’ — white people — were up to in sending troops and bombs overseas, most often to kill people of color. Now the commander-in-chief of the world’s most potent military was one of ‘us.’

    “It was inevitable that a significant section of Black public opinion would be sucked into the dark side on issues of war and peace, in racial solidarity with a Black corporate militarist. As we at BAR feared and expected, the power-worshipping and image-obsessed Black Misleadership Class led the way in trashing Black America’s collective legacy of empathy with the victims of U.S. imperialism – most horrifically, with the unprovoked war against Libya […]

    “Prior to Barack Obama’s two warmongering terms in the White House, it would have been impossible to imagine that virtually the whole of the Black political (misleadership) class, and an unknown portion of the African American rank and file, would be mimicking the CIA, ranting and raving about some bogus Russian threat to American ‘democracy.’ But, this, too, shall pass. There is a deep objective, as well as historical, basis for broad Black opposition to U.S. imperial wars. We can expect the Obama era’s gross deformity in Black attitudes towards war and peace to be corrected once the artificial aura of ‘Blackness’ is removed from the White House — that is, when Black people no longer have strong emotional reasons to identify with U.S. State Power. The Black Misleadership Class, however, is utterly hopeless, having hitched its fortunes to a Democratic Party that is attacking a right-wing president-elect from even farther to the Right, in a rush towards all-out global war.

    “The ObamaL’aid has run out. Now it’s time for Black folks to sober up, and Fight the Power. And it ain’t Russian.”

    The Obama Legacy: A Temporary Deformity of Black Minds on War and Peace
    By Glen Ford

  5. Mike
    January 24, 2017 at 01:41

    Osama Hussain is a Muslim and one of the bad one.he need to be arrested asap .

  6. Anon
    January 23, 2017 at 22:41

    Remember that little kid that got kid napped from a hospital and his head sawn off by Obamas terrorist army? That’s how we should remember Obama. A lying feckless callow sack of shit.

    He should not be given the benefit of the doubt. He should be made accountable for the many crimes of his administration.

  7. Chloe
    January 23, 2017 at 18:17

    One wonders if this author has even read the John Podesta/DNC Wikileaks! Obama’s entire cabinet, minus a few posts, were chosen by Citigroup, a month before the 2008 election. He had promised a new era of progressive governance, and what was one of his first moves? Forgiving the banksters, not holding them accountable, bailing them out, and leaving underwater homeowners to drown!

    All of this recent blaming-the-Russians-hysteria has been nothing more than the equivalent of blowing a lot of smoke to create a huge distraction from the content of those Wikileaks, and now that Obama has signed into law a bill, in 2011, that allows the government to conduct psy-ops on the populace, and another (part of the recently enacted NDAA), he has essentially created more avenues of state sponsored propaganda, for further gaslighting of the people!

    Right now I am disgusted with Obama. He passively condoned the DNC’s malfeasance against Bernie Sanders, and pushed for HRC, who even I knew would never win the presidency. His endless rightward drift has caused the loss of 1000 seats in state legislatures, the loss of so many governorships that now the Dems only have 17, and the loss of Congress, the Senate, and the presidency.

    Maybe, with “tincture of time,” and the horrors of the unfolding dominance of Republicans in all branches of government, I will start to miss Obama, but at the moment I’m happy he’s gone!

    • Anon
      January 23, 2017 at 22:45

      It’s time to abandon the Dems. The poles have shifted. The Dems are now the dangerous extremists. The Republican right has been demolished and has been pushed to the center.
      Remember, it’s Trump who is pro labor and anti war. It’s the Dems who are pro war and anti labor.

  8. orwell
    January 23, 2017 at 15:07

    This so-called ” Balanced Assessment of Obama”
    is a GROTESQUE collection of “Mainstream” NONSENSE.

  9. Steve
    January 23, 2017 at 12:10

    It is amazing to me that propaganda works better now than it did in the 1950’s. The political Left has been co-opted and decimated by false values and mind control, i.e., the current “liberal” protest against nasty speech while oblivious to dirty deeds. Social engineering shouldn’t be so easy!




    • backwardsevolution
      January 23, 2017 at 14:59

      Steve – “The political Left has been co-opted and decimated by false values and mind control, i.e., the current “liberal” protest against nasty speech while oblivious to dirty deeds. Social engineering shouldn’t be so easy!”

      Yep, locked down in insanity. It boggles the mind just how easy it is to control these zombies. Some of these people might be book-smart, but they are certainly not thinkers.

  10. January 23, 2017 at 12:07

    I basically agree with Pillar in the general sense about Obama. First of all no President has the power to act independently. The overt political actors like the President in our system are power-brokers. They deal with what the power-relations within the Deep State or permanent establishment of people who have the power to reward friends and punish enemies. In a way, the President resembles a king in the middle-ages who has to balance the power of the Dukes and, if he was skill, he can garner out of that capacity some power on his own. Obama came to power as a political novice who was black (he could de-fang the left and insure solid support from African Americans), spoke well and appeared to be saying profound things do to his excellent delivery (if you look at what he actually said and has said you see he says very little). People were tired of the wars of Bush (Bush was tired of the wars too so he put in place what would become Obama’s policy in 2006-7). We also have to remember no only was Obama the face of a group of political operatives who “sold” him to the major players associated with the Democratic Party but he had the overwhelming support of the criminal faction within Wall Street that wanted and needed their crimes to remain unpunished and for Obama to confirm any kind of political coup they had in mind–the 2008 bail-out was essentially a minor coup where these criminals threatened Bush and Obama with crashing the financial system unless they get their pound of flesh and immunity from prosecution. We can’t blame Obama for that because he got an offer he could not refuse–end of story.

    The same dynamic was a reality for him with health-care. Single payer was off the table as was any kind of realistic reform where health-care would be treated as a public utility as it is in every other developed country that doesn’t have single payer (the vast majority). The medical industry owns Congress and the mainstream media which refused to publish any real information on comparative statistics or explaining the many interesting ways other developed countries had to accomplish universal care making Americans believe that single-payer was the only alternative (one person asked me if I wanted the gov’t to run our health-care). I don’t think Obama had any power to do anything other than what he did–where I fault him, however, is that he did not attempt to inform the American people that most governments had the public utility solution. He did not have to support it but he could have exposed that reality and seen what happened. I also fault him for creating a system–he should have only made a few reforms and gradually put in place reforms over time rather than allowing the health-care industry to populate the halls of Congress for months.

    As for war he knew he could not go up against the industrial-security-complex because they not only had the power in Congress but had the media 100% for any war at any time. The American people don’t like war but the mainstream media salivates at the thought of it partly because they are influenced by Pillar’s CIA through the current version of Project Mockingbird (sorry Paul but that’s reality) but also because these people will kill you politically if they can and if they can’t they’ll shoot you down in the street like a mad-dog if you f*ck with them. That’s not “conspiracy theory” that’s realpolitik–read ancient historians and Machiavelli’s take on them–we are no exception to history where there’s major power, treasure and weapons there you will find killers and plotters–no exceptions. Obama managed to drag his heels on some of these wars but opted instead to, largely, give in to the martinets. I deeply fault him for Libya that operation was and is unforgivable. He could have stopped that. Syria, he could not have stopped because more powerful forces were involved.

    As for the economy, Pillar believes the official statistics–they are largely PR/propaganda and do not reflect actual conditions which people with money like Pillar would not know about so I forgive him–making policy through spreadsheets (and the mentality of spreadsheets) is a forgivable sin for those in the elite classes–they just don’t know what life is actually like. It takes a bit of resourcefulness and deep reading to connect the dots that go against the mainstream Narrative. Obama managed to keep things from descending into chaos by skillfully balancing competing forces but that’s it. People are, on balance, worse off now than before Obama came in unless they are in the top 20%.

    Obama was an interim President who did the best he could–I don’t think OBL was killed–that was phony and for propaganda purposes. No body, no film I don’t buy it and you shouldn’t either.

    We now have the first truly post-modern President and history can begin to churn once again.

    • backwardsevolution
      January 23, 2017 at 15:07

      Chris Cosmos – you are right. Good comments. Pillar is probably a very good man, but it is obvious from his writing that he does believe official statistics, the official story, and he has no idea just how difficult it is out there.

      “It takes a bit of resourcefulness and deep reading to connect the dots that go against the mainstream Narrative.”

      Yes, as in everything, you have got to go deep. Eventually you begin to master a subject, but that takes a lot of time, reflection, and thinking.

      Paul Pillar, thank you for your writing. I’m not beating up on you. I’m just saying you need to go deeper.

    • turk151
      January 23, 2017 at 17:07

      Essentially, Obama had no choice but to sell out the country to protect himself.

      I say, so what? There are people all over the world dying for their principles, every day and throughout our history. These people are called heroes; it once meant something to be one.

      How did we get to the point, where we expect so little of our Presidents?

      • Peppermint
        January 23, 2017 at 23:05

        No offense intended but I hope you are, in some way, putting yourself on the line for your principles. Otherwise you have no ground on which to criticize anyone, president or otherwise. Are you a hero in some way?

        I suspect that one of the reasons we expect so little is because of the narrative we’ve bought- hook, line, and sinker, about ourselves and our “exceptionality.”

        • turk151
          January 24, 2017 at 01:15

          I don’t think you really understand what it is to be a man.

  11. Wobblie
    January 23, 2017 at 10:43

    The problem with this analysis is that it gives Obama kind of a pass. I’ve come to learn “politics is the art of the possible” is cover for not going beyond certain boundaries. Obama didn’t even try. Before you can claim he tried to point the needle in the right direction, you have to ignore all the regression he actively engaged in, and not begrudgingly either. We have no democracy. Never really had it. History proves it.


  12. Peter Loeb
    January 23, 2017 at 08:38


    Supporters of the Democratic and hawk dynasty cannot face the real
    reasons for the loss of faith by the electorate in their protestations.

    Neither, for that matter, have self-proclaimed “liberals/progressives”
    gone beyond “TRUMP BAD, WE GOOD”. Together “we” (we who?)
    will all unite.

    I am reminded often of the gospel song, “If everybody loved Jesus,
    what a wonderful world it would be” But everybody does not love Jesus.
    The “workers of the world” have never united.

    Barack Obama will continue in his smiling, calm, “professorial” way.

    He will not confront the Israeli terror state (See Thomas Suarez: THE
    TERROR STATE, 2017). He will never confront the anger and deal
    with the basic reasons why people of color are afraid for their
    existence. As they have been for generations. Instead we are spoonfed
    heartwarming stories of the few who succeed.

    I agree with commenters who feel that after a few days, it is equally
    pie-in-the-sky to expect a sudden change in US hawkish foreign

    We shall see… if we survive.

    It is stupid and insane to “resist” everything Trump.

    Black Lives matter. Palestinian Lives Matter.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • Peppermint
      January 23, 2017 at 22:54

      I’m reminded of the asian parable of the farmer who simply said, “We’ll see.”

  13. Josh Stern
    January 23, 2017 at 03:24

    Obama changed dramatically between early 2008 and 2017. He first ran on a platform of non-interventionist, morally caring foreign policy and transformative, liberal domestic policy. As POTUS he morphed into a War Hawk, anti-civil-liberties LISO (liberal in speech only) on foreign policy, and an inactive centrist mostly focused on symbolism in the domestic arena – e.g. it’s great that he supports women and likes to spend quality time with his family – those are obviously the most important qualities in an ultra-cool slick lying dude who is bombing civilians over a large chunk of the planet and wasting the American public’s dollar at a fast clip in order to do that. In its genre, Mr. Pillar’s essay is disappointing because it fails to recognize those dramatic changes or offer any good explanation for why they occurred.

  14. backwardsevolution
    January 23, 2017 at 01:21

    “Much of the wider public may be beginning to realize this, as indicated by recent poll results that have seen Mr. Obama’s job approval ratings rise significantly while Donald Trump’s ratings are probably the worst of any incoming president. Barack Obama will be missed.”

    Much like the ratings that showed Hillary Clinton way ahead of Trump shortly before the election? So much so that it even took Hillary by surprise when she lost? She couldn’t even show her face until the next day.

    No, I won’t miss Obama, and I’m darn sure the rest of the world won’t either, especially the countries that suffered coups or attempted coups.

    Trump is rough and raw, I agree, but let’s give him a chance.

  15. backwardsevolution
    January 23, 2017 at 01:09

    Lastly, Obama and the 2008 financial crisis. Don’t even get me started there because this is something I have followed. Obama could and should have nationalized the banks, split them up, sold them off (there would have been lots of buyers). He should have reinstated Glass-Steagall (putting a separation between the commercial and investment arms of the big banks). Instead, Obama chose to call all of the bankers into a friendly meeting, bailed all of them out, and they went off into the sunset with pay raises and bonuses in hand.

    I don’t have time to keep typing, but I could go on and on. The unemployment rate is 4.7%? Oh, I don’t think so. Again, try adding in who they don’t count. That would be like the official inflation rate – something to provide a good laugh over.

    Unfortunately, there’s information and then there’s information. It depends on where you’re getting it from. If Trump were to get his information from the MSM (or any of the leading bought-and-paid-for economists), he’d be so far off course, it would be ridiculous. But I think he knows that already.

    • backwardsevolution
      January 23, 2017 at 15:12

      There was also the securitization of mortgages that the banks, while knowing they were junk (there are emails between the bankers proving this), sold off to unsuspecting investors. This is fraud, and they should be in jail. Instead they’re sitting on a brand new yacht, smoking a cigar, and having a damn good laugh.

      What they got away with was criminal.

  16. backwardsevolution
    January 23, 2017 at 00:55

    “Regarding divisiveness, the incoming president has set a record for being the sorest winner ever, never getting out of what was already a highly combative and insult-filled campaign mode. Regarding reliance on good information, the new president rejects not only book-learning but also the assistance of government bureaucracies that exist for the purpose of informing policy decisions.”

    Trump is being attacked on a daily basis, being ripped apart by almost all media establishments. Once they started on Trump, they did not let up. I’d say it’s more a case of the sore losers still trying to fight the election, and the winner trying to defend himself. After eight years of laying off someone who SHOULD have been gone after (Obama), it’s like they stored up their stupidity and are now just unleashing it. And, of course, that’s because Trump is not going along with them, he’s not going to play their game, and they’re going after him.

    And who is Trump supposed to listen to? Clapper? Brennan? The agencies that have stated that he only won the election because Putin and the Russians hacked the emails and orchestrated (somehow) his win, and all without any evidence? He’s supposed to listen to the likes of them re foreign policy? Yes, he could probably read some good books, but what good books? Larry Summers? Hank Paulson? Tim Geithner? Cheney? It makes a difference who you read. I’d recommend that he start off with “Shock Doctrine” and then go on to “Confessions of an Economic Hitman,” but that’s just me.

    Of course, Trump needs to read. I’d recommend he read the articles at Consortium, but most especially the comments section. If he wants to learn, that’s where he’ll do it. If he only came to Consortium, it would be a damn good start. But reading takes time, and so does thinking, something even Obama didn’t do enough of. To be an effective leader, you should know the Constitution, law, psychology, foreign affairs, economics, politics, business, the military, intelligence agencies, the medical industry, and on and on. Geez, that should take him all of about two years of straight study.

    And then on top of that, you also need courage to go up against the schemers you are bound to run into, just like kings who were surrounded by their conniving nobles and lords. A little Shakespeare would help there.

    Who do you trust? And are you trusting people who aren’t trying to sandbag you? It’s going to be difficult for him, but he’s got good intuition and he’s got a focus: the people. He’s going to make mistakes, but if he keeps the people in mind, he should do just fine. That will be more than the last five presidents have done.

    • Peppermint
      January 23, 2017 at 22:46

      You are naively trusting and optimistic. What makes you think that this president’s character and human nature is so much more astonishingly advanced than those last five presidents?! And do you really think the current president is going to do massive amounts of “catch up” reading? That reading and understanding, my friend, could have been done before, in a genuine spirit of curiosity and desire to understand the world, before taking up the hobby/interest in running the country. I don’t believe for a minute that this president’s focus is “the people.” His habitual behavior in running roughshod over “the people” when he wants his way in business dealings says otherwise. We’ll see. And, no, I’m not in the bag for any of the puppets that have danced or are dancing for the folks that really run the show.

      • backwardsevolution
        January 24, 2017 at 02:02

        Peppermint – I’m not saying that Trump’s character and human nature is more advanced. I’m saying that if he keeps the people in mind as his focus, then he will do just fine and exceed the other presidents. If.

        As far as reading, of course he isn’t going to have time (at least not for much). What I’m saying is even if he did have time to read, or even if he had read extensively prior to becoming President, it makes a big difference WHAT you read. Lots of people read, but often end up reading pieces that reinforce what they already believe, or they get stuck reading books and articles recommended by the mainstream media or vested interests.

        I’m going to have patience and give Trump a chance.

    • Brad Owen
      January 24, 2017 at 05:44

      I checked out EIR and its LaRouchePAC on the left sidebar; Trump is being trapped by Mnuchin, point-man for The City and Wall Street; those Factions within it that are still striving to keep alive the covert, virtual/viral Empire of the West. The struggle centers around Glass-Steagall; the regulation that FDR forced upon W.S. breaking their hold over the Nation’s political functioning, the very thing for which W.S. HATED and despised FDR (and he WELCOMED their hatred of him). This all goes back, at the very least, to 1913 and the Fed Reserve/income tax scheme foisted upon the Nation by the banker cabal, gearing up for War and entry into Empire and its global Imperial operations, which is mostly war and repression of local national liberation movements against said Empire. FDR stiff-armed them, snatching back our nation from Empire…kept them at bay, more or less, for 60 years(until Clinton signed the repeal,of Glass-Steagall). Trump showed intimations of returning to Glass-Steagall, thus all the hysteria about him,ESPECIALLY his desire to pursue cooperative relations with Russia and China, which will open the door to “Rooseveltian” policies of development and getting back to REAL banking to implement this; Nation-building, which is directly opposed to the banker cabal’s desire for imperial operations repress nations and enhance THEIR Reign over the World. Trump needs to speak to representatives and spokesmen/women (especially Helga Zeppelin-LaRouche) from LaRouche’s circle of people. Trump needs protection right away, from the financial wolf-pack that is circling around him right now. He needs to be informed pronto, about the titanic forces being arrayed around and against him. He has knowledgable and powerful would-be allies who can help, if he would turn to LaRouche. Re-enacting Glass-Steagall is the very first step in protection.

      • backwardsevolution
        January 24, 2017 at 23:44

        Brad Owen – I previously heard Trump talking about Glass-Steagall (of which I am familiar), and I was happy to hear him mention this. Give him a little time. He’s not as stupid as everyone thinks. If he’s mentioned it, there’s a good chance it’s coming. If it does get reinstated, then Wall Street could bring down the stock market (with the aid of the Federal Reserve), as revenge. Trump may know this. We’ll have to see what happens here.

  17. backwardsevolution
    January 23, 2017 at 00:18

    Re Cuba: I read (and I don’t know if it’s the whole story) that it was other Latin American countries that forced Obama’s hand on Cuba.

    “But one of the most pivotal moments of solidarity came in 2012, when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos—the host of that year’s Summit of the Americas and not a leftist by any sense of the word—called for Cuba to be present at the next summit. Since the Cuban revolution, Cuba had been excluded from the Organization of American States (OAS) and from all of the successive summits.

    The U.S. government immediately renounced this call, refusing to budge on the issue or extending an invitation to the Cuban president. President Obama even went as far as criticizing the Latin American leaders who stood with Cuba as “ignoring the…principle… of [resisting] oppression.”

    The summit ended without a resolution to the ‘Cuba question’ and Obama returned to Washington defiant. But shortly afterwards, many Latin American governments announced that they would boycott the next summit (to be held in 2015 in Panama City) if Cuba’s leaders were not invited.

    It is no coincidence that shortly after the announcement of the boycott, the U.S. and Cuba began to engage in secret talks that culminated in the restoration of diplomatic relations in December of that year.

    At the summit, held four months after the announcement, Cuban President Raul Castro was present—and was the star guest. He gave a forty-nine minute speech (after only being allotted eight minutes, he said he deserved the time for all of the summits he had been excluded from) and gave a detailed history of U.S. imperialism in Cuba—from the Platt Amendment to the invasion attempts to the military base at Guantanamo, U.S. policy was skewered while Obama watched. […]

    The solidary campaign of resistance worked. The White House even admits that they were pressured into diplomacy: “[the policy of isolation] constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere.” If the U.S. government wanted to continue to “influence outcomes” in Latin America, at least in this case, it would have to play by the new rules written south of their borders.”

    From an article entitled “Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence” – Counterpunch, May, 2016

  18. incontinent reader
    January 22, 2017 at 23:09

    Enough of the excuse of ‘good cop’ President inheriting a mess and shielding us from something worse. I have always valued your insights, even when I have disagreed with them, but on this, notwithstanding your former experience re: the Middle East (including what you may have learned from mistaken judgments made along the way, such as about Iraq), I suggest you spend a few months in, for example, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Greece, or Honduras respectively, and speak to those on the front lines and receiving end of Obama’s policies that not only perpetuated the disaster inflicted by GW Bush, but also those policies initiated, and/or exacerbated by President Obama- something the women now protesting in the streets are clueless, i.e., re: the millions of women whose lives were shattered by those policies.

    Obama does get credit for the JCPOA with Iran, but not for Stuxnet, or the assassination of Iranian scientists, or the negation of what could have been many more benefits from that deal, because he maintained and in some cases increased sanctions, destroying any potential for normalized relations with Iran during his presidency- or by his cheap prosecution of the dedicated, highly competent and patriotic CIA officer, Jeffrey Sterling for questioning one of the dumbest CIA ops, at least that we know of.

    And relations with Russia? What a disaster- and all of it based on policies that Obama initiated, and disinformation and propaganda he peddled so blatant as to boggle the mind, or provocations that he unleashed that could have inadvertently triggered a nuclear war, but for the sang froid of President Putin.

    And Israel? What two-state solution? What peace? What good faith negotiations, when there was a continued failure, even to the very end, to publicly to acknowledge in the history endured by the Palestinians, or the relentless creation of settlements and grab for more and more land, water and other resources, or Israel’s own WMD program, and military misadventures against its occupied people and neighbors. We enabled it, and ended up by giving Netanyahu $38 billion and what did we receive in return? more humiliation at the hands of a Government of thieves and a bum at its head.

    Sorry, but this aging reader has no regrets that he is leaving, even if the people in the streets who voted for Hillary Clinton, and the pundits have suspended their critical thinking and allowed themselves to be seduced by clever word smithing and/or valuable emoluments. We expected results, not excuses, and certainly not decisions and actions that have made things worse.

    • backwardsevolution
      January 23, 2017 at 00:12

      incontinent – great reply. Yeah, Putin has been incredibly composed in all of this. Wasn’t Putin instrumental in clearing out Syria’s chemical weapon stash (and, no, Assad wasn’t responsible for the Sarin gas attacks), putting a stop to a U.S. move on Syria? Foiled Obama on that one. And wasn’t Putin also instrumental in the negotiations with Iran? I remember reading somewhere that Putin played a big part in the negotiations re nuclear material in Iran and that Putin foiled Obama again. At least John Kerry and Obama thanked Putin for something he did re Iran (I’ll have to read more about it). Putin has been blamed for MH-17, Ukraine, Crimea, and sabotaging the U.S. election. Man, talk about restraint!

    • KB Gloria
      January 23, 2017 at 11:27

      “….something the women now protesting in the streets are clueless, i.e., re: the millions of women whose lives were shattered by those policies.” Not true–maybe you personally know some women who marched who were, as you so rancorously state, “clueless,” but not even close to all “the women.” You betray your biases.

      • incontinent reader
        January 24, 2017 at 05:50

        Perhaps so, but with the exception of Code Pink, I am unaware of any major WOMEN’S movement in the U.S. that has taken a firm and vocal stand, let alone marched against, the atrocities perpetrated in the Middle East and North Africa (or in the Ukraine, or Honduras) by the Obama Administration during the eight years Barack Obama had been President (and where so many high profile women in his Administration were crafting, implementing and promoting those very policies). God knows there are many courageous women who have protested individually, or as members of other groups, including, a precious few in Congress like Tulsi Gabbard, but in the main, can you point out any women’s movement apart from Code Pink that has focused on it?

        I suspect part of it is due to the education offered in our colleges and universities and the fact that our media has ignored it. For example, two years ago, while attending the graduation of a young relative at an elite women’s college in the Northeast – a school that was one of the ‘Seven (or is it now Six?) Sisters’ – which included a reunion of the alumni classes of 1964 and 1974, I heard no anti-war valedictorian speeches or anti-war signs carried by the alumni, nor did I see any protests about the risks of nuclear war, torture, militarization of our police, erosion of civil liberties, etc. – and these alumni were from the Vietnam War generation. Instead, it was all about ‘self-actualization’, career, ‘identity politics’, reproductive rights, and maybe a bit about climate change- all well and good, but blind to the existential issues that since the events of 9/11 seem to have been dismissed and ignored- and instead accepted and treated as part of the ‘new normal’.

    • KB Gloria
      January 23, 2017 at 11:40

      “….something the women now protesting in the streets are clueless, i.e., re: the millions of women whose lives were shattered by those policies.” Not true–maybe you personally know some women who marched who were, as you so rancorously state, “clueless,” but not even close to all “the women.” The lack of understanding about the march is exceeded only by an apparent need to narrowly categorize the participants. We are constantly being admonished to be open to the perspectives and positions of others–the march embodied that to a very high degree. One unifying factor might be/may have been the farcical drama that seems to be what is left of our democracy.

    • Gregory Herr
      January 23, 2017 at 22:54

      Thanks for such a well-measured response to Pillar’s apologetics. The excuses ring hollow to me.

  19. Eddie
    January 22, 2017 at 19:28

    Though I didn’t read the links yet that ZS supplied above, I agree strongly with the above commentors. After my disappointment with Obama’s first term, I subsequently voted Green Party in 2012 (and again in 2016). What galled me the most was Obama seemingly ‘pre-bargaining’ away things to the Republicans! His excuse for not pushing something close to single-payer was something to the effect that: ‘Oh, we don’t have a filibuster-proof majority’. Well, so F-ing what??? Introduce the bill, let it pass Congress, sign it, then let the Republicans filibuster it — guess who gets the bad publicity and loses even more congressional seats the next election (ala’ Gingrich and his shutting-down the government)? Also, his constantly referring to a obdurate Congress after 2010 – – – well, no-shit Sherlock! Where and the hell was he when they were doing the same thing to Prez Clinton from 92-00, sleeping? The Republicans are by and large political assholes, ESPECIALLY since Reagan’s days, so don’t act surprised and whine when they block you at every turn – – – YOU’RE the POTUS, get up there and call them out REPEATEDLY on their crap. Make them pay politically, don’t just act professorial about everything – – – you’re not teaching Poly-Sci 101 (or whatever course) anymore. They found they could roll him on virtually every issue so he came off looking weak, in my opinion. Same with the military things where he’s got a whole lot more power as Commander in Chief.
    These issues made me suspect that he was just taking the path of least resistance. Is that normal for most people — definitely. Is it exemplary/heroic/laudable? No, it’s just ‘OK’, mediocre, which I suspect is how history will judge him.

    • Bill Bodden
      January 22, 2017 at 21:01

      What galled me the most was Obama seemingly ‘pre-bargaining’ away things to the Republicans!

      With, perhaps, some rare exceptions “pre-bargaining” with other politicians or special interests has always been part of the system.

    • Zachary Smith
      January 22, 2017 at 22:20

      What galled me the most was Obama seemingly ‘pre-bargaining’ away things to the Republicans!

      One author whose piece I couldn’t locate said Obama’s standard “pre-bargaining” position gave away 3/4 of what the Republicans wanted. Then they started ‘dealing’, and everybody was amazed the Republicans always won.

    • Brad Owen
      January 23, 2017 at 09:48

      Thank you. Obama is a stunning disappointment. No hypothetical ideal is needed. FDR was REAL, acting in the REAL world of REAL political power flowing from Wall Street (by-way-of City-of-London, which was, back then, the undisputed leader of The West). FDR “welcomed their hatred” for what he was doing to them on W.S., in protecting the general welfare of the people. Obama ADMIRED “those savvy businessmen” of W.S., and told them that he was “the only thing that stood between them and the pitchforks” of the angry population. This difference in outlook determines everything else that came from Obama. It Was an FDR moment, but we got a closet Herbert Hoover instead; puppet of present-day Andrew Mellons, advising him to liquidate everything to save the precious W.S. Banks. And if un/under-employment was figured like it was in 1980, that figure would be reaching Great Depression era numbers of 20 per cent or more. His whole administration is a lie. He should have been impeached for his many Constitutional transgressions, but this is the era of “it’s just a goddamn piece of paper” in which we live (either live by it or be done with it, and renew Fealty to the Crown, if being sovereign citizens is just too hard to do, and loyal subjectivity is our actual political M. O.).

  20. B. Wilson
    January 22, 2017 at 18:22

    I agree with Mr. Pillar, Pres. Obama did have many accomplishments. but I give him a failing grade on the big issues;
    A) Not pursuing the administration he followed and holding them legally responsible for their crimes.(“We need to look forward”)
    B) Not pursuing Wall St, and holding them responsible for their crimes against the people and the economy.(Wall St. lawyers in cabinet)
    C) Providing ACA instead of single payer healthcare, what the majority wanted. (A gift to the Insurance Ind.)
    All of these issues were possible at the time as he had a Dem. majority in congress. I’ll also say the Dem’s likely would not have lost the majority in congress in 2010 election if these actions would have been taken.

    • January 23, 2017 at 11:40

      Any single payer system was impossible at the time. All Republicans were against it and a sizable part of the DP was against it. We have to remember that the only reform possible was a series of minor reforms which is what we got. Congress is one of the more corrupt political institutions we have. They have absolutely, collectively, no interest in the welfare of the American people as a whole. Their job, as is the job of the President, is to arrange power relations so there is no open war between factions and make sure money goes to the most powerful. That’s it. The rest in pro-wrestling.

      • backwardsevolution
        January 23, 2017 at 14:39

        Chris Cosmos – really like your comments. They cut to the chase.

  21. ranney
    January 22, 2017 at 17:07

    Paul Pillar is accurate in stating why Obama was not the game changer some hoped for. Yes he was hampered by a vicious and stubborn Republican Congress, but I still feel the way I did when he signed the NDAA and basically took away the 1st,, 4th. 5th, 6th and 8th amendments. I didn’t expect him to change Washington, but I DID expect him to use the bully pulpit, which he knows so well how to use, to educate Americans on neo-con foreign policy.
    I expected him also to lead by example – which he did but in the wrong direction. After promising an open administration he persecuted (and prosecuted) more truth tellers than any other president and seemed to enjoy it. The list of good people he ruined financially and by prison grew every year, but liars and promoters prospered. He might not have been able to stop the latter, but he didn’t need to persecute so viciously the people who tried to tell the truth about how our government operates.
    He could have been magnanimous and pardoned Leonard Peltier, who virtually everyone who is truly familiar with that case knows he has been wrongly imprisoned for too long. He could have pardoned John Walker who should never have been sent to prison in the first place and certainly never did America any harm, he could have pardoned a number of others who are or could be valuable members of our country, but he chose not to.

    He could have asked Saudi Arabia (or possibly even asked himself) why they want our bombs and drones to kill powerless civilians. But he didn’t ask, he just gave Saudis the weapons they asked for and then decided to join in the fun killing – like shooting fish in a barrel.
    I probably could go on with my list, but I’ll just say that Obama was an astonishingly charming and golden tongued man, who played the part of a president superbly, but there was no real heart to it.

    • Zachary Smith
      January 22, 2017 at 19:00

      He could have pardoned John Walker who should never have been sent to prison in the first place….

      It’s amazing to learn the Internet Tubes connect to alternate realities. In my personal universe John Walker would be well up on the list of Top Ten traitors in US history.

      • JurisV
        January 23, 2017 at 12:37

        I’m fairly sure that ranney was referring to John Walker Lindh and not the convicted spy John Walker who died a few years ago.

        John Walker Lindh’s story of his circumstance of being in the Taliban area in 2001 and subsequent capture and imprisonment was covered quite well in his father’s 2006 speech as printed by AlterNet.


  22. turk151
    January 22, 2017 at 17:04

    Obama had the House and the Senate when Obamacare was being legislated. At the time, Obama did have the power to make great legislation that would have banished the Republicans to the wilderness. Instead, he and Rahm decided to focus on insurance companies profits and produced what is now a great albatross as premiums begin to skyrocket.

    We also have the infamous, “Look forward, not back”, policy on Bush war crimes and the “I am the only one standing between you and the pitchforks” policy on banking malfeasance, not to mention, Hellery’s “We came, we saw, he died” cackle on Qaddafi. So, the American people correctly judged Obama poorly and the Democrats were banished to the wilderness instead.

    It seems like the Obama apologist, Mr. Pillar, is at a loss because the “I will scratch your back and you scratch mine” DC political model is beginning to break down and they are unable to deliver on repairing Obama’s tarnished legacy. What incentive will the DC establishment be able to offer to control the new President, if nobody believes in the main stream press propaganda anymore and he isn’t interested in their money?

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 22, 2017 at 22:08

      turk151 your comment is so true, and yet so painful of a reminder of what has, or has not transpired over the last eight years. What Obama, Rahm, and Hillary proved, was that lobbyists and campaign financiers are much more important than the American people.

  23. Zachary Smith
    January 22, 2017 at 16:44

    I know that adding a link is almost certain to put a post into “moderation”, so doing several of them adds up to a cerainty. Still, I might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, so here goes.

    President Barack Obama’s Crappy Legacy

    Obama’s Department of Justice’s Prime Job Is to Immunize Rich Wrongdoers

    Citigroup chose Obama’s 2008 cabinet, WikiLeaks document reveals

    President Obama Leaves Behind a Deplorable Civil Liberties Legacy

    Obama’s Legacy of Failure

    I’m a former lifelong Democrat, stating here a clear and incontestable fact: Barack Obama is a failed President.

    The Obama Legacy’s Empty Spaces

    The Obama legacy

    The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence

    I’m still reading about the end of WW2 in the Pacific, and presently have the opinion that God-Emperor Hirohito was merely a figurehead who was allowed to “play leader” from time to time by his real bosses. That’s how I currently see Obama as well. The man was somebody’s sock-puppet, and he did what he was told on every issue which mattered to those nameless “somebodies”. Oh, he was permitted to kill random evildoers with his Drones along with anybody else unfortunate enough to be in the area with them. But his main job he did very well – heart-warming speech-making.

    Obama didn’t prosecute Bush’s torturers, nor the Big Bankers who stole trillions, and allowed Hillary, Victoria, and the like to run amok. Ditto for the military forces he was nominally in charge of. There was no Truman-Firing-MaCarthur moves from President Figurehead.

    Trump may in the end turn out to be worse than Obama, but in my opinion he’ll have to really work at it to pull off such a feat.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 22, 2017 at 21:59

      Zachary, I’m in the process of reading the attached link, but it is a decent description of how the money changers have been controlling our leaders ever since before the time of Christ…


    • Joseph W. Walker
      January 22, 2017 at 22:28

      I have lived in Japan for almost thirty years, and I think that you are wrong about the Emperor Hirohito. I believe he was in charge. The way power is wielded here can make leaders seem very hesitant and diffident to westerners. Leaders often hint to their minions instead of ordering them, and decision making by consensus diffuses responsibility, but all insiders know who is in charge.

      However, you are 100% right about Obama being a sock puppet as president of the US, and I assure you that he was not the first, nor is he likely to be the last.

      • Zachary Smith
        January 23, 2017 at 13:42

        Leaders often hint to their minions instead of ordering them, and decision making by consensus diffuses responsibility, but all insiders know who is in charge.

        I’ve read several instances of that regarding the situation in WW2. The Emperor gave a hint, or frowned in a certain way, and things got done.

        But from what I presently know, when push came to shove on the biggest issues, Hirohito was a figurehead and he very well knew it. At any time the Army crazies could have caused him to have had a fatal illness/accident and replaced him with a brother or other relative. Last night I was reading about the August 1945 Army revolt where the Imperial Palace was invaded by rampaging rebel troops. The thought occurred to me that the Emperor – pampered from diapers – would have been shocked to his core by this as he huddled in fright while his “home” was trashed and his retainers bullied, beaten, and killed. I’ve extended this notion even more – Hirohito was extremely cooperative with MacArthur in downgrading his position from God-Emperor to merely nominal Emperor. He and his descendents would no longer live in fear of fanatical worshipers willing to sacrifice them for the “greater good of Japan”.

        Every August this site features one or more essays about Evil Americans atom-bombing a helpless Japan that wanted desperately to surrender but wasn’t allowed to do so because the atom bomb must be demonstrated to the Russians to awe them and keep them in their place. The first surge of this “revisionism” started with Herbert Hover at the very end of WW2, and the second one by an economist named Gar Alperovitz. “Facts” meant nothing at all to either of these characters and the outcome of their work has been the rise of a micro-religion which seems to still be growing.

        Japan came within a hair of utter and total disaster in August of WW2, and only some incredible luck saved them from that and also saved the US from outdoing the Nazis with what was about to happen if the surrender hadn’t happened when it did.

  24. Charles Homsy
    January 22, 2017 at 16:33

    While Obama did not overtly involve us in the Syrian melee, he covertly fed fuel to that fire. His drone program is a disgrace. Bin Laden should not have been killed but turned over to the ICJ so the world could learn more about his impetus and malicious deeds. Obamacare is a negative, as well. He had the bully pulpit 2008-2010 and could have advanced necessary one-payer universal health insurance that our northern neighbor shows us so well. He made Hellery Clinton the Secretary of State and all that produced. He knee-jerked to Israel until it was too late to really do anything about. Obama was a poor President in absolute terms.

    • GeorgyOrwell
      January 22, 2017 at 20:57

      Bin Laden should not have been killed but turned over to the ICJ so the world could learn more about his impetus and malicious deeds.
      If you swallow the bin Laden was killed in 2011 story, you must also believe in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

      I was wondering what happened to that dialysis machine in the cave they told us about? Did you hear anything about a dialysis machine in that compound?

      Or perhaps you should go back and watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta, medical correspondent for CNN reviewing one of this fake phony baloney video tapes of bin Laden, and he explains how sick and ill he looked back then in 2001/2002. He said this looks like a man with renal failure.

      Sure was wondering how he survived ten years to have his body dumped in the sea because they didn’t want to offend the Muslim world ROFL. Yea that sure is believable…..if your and idiot.

  25. Bill Bodden
    January 22, 2017 at 16:14

    Obama didn’t disappoint me. He lived down to my expectations; however, I’m grateful for some things he accomplished, especially commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence, but her treatment was a travesty of justice from beginning to end. Designating national monuments are well worth a few credits. He did save us from another Clinton presidency. That was something to be grateful for.

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