No doubt, as with any public official on their way out, President Obama will attempt to put his eight years in office in the best light. Indeed he was an agent of change, though perhaps not in a way he would like to admit. As a candidate in 2008, then-senator Obama claimed that he would be a force for rescinding American interventions abroad and executive abuses at at home. However, the record of his administration shows that as president he turned out to be quite the opposite.
Even with all the talk of supposedly ending “the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression”, Obama has overseen the slowest economic recovery of the post-World War II era (http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/07/29/seven-years-later-recovery-remains-the-weakest-of-the-post-world-war-ii-era/). Labor force participation has remained stagnant, being the lowest it has been in almost 40 years (https://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet). Despite promises of health care being saved through further federal infringement through Obamacare, it has become a further mess through rigid regulations, heavy deductibles, and fewer choices…causing many insurance markets across the country to close down (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/upshot/think-your-obamacare-plan-will-be-like-employer-coverage-think-again.html?_r=0; http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelcannon/2015/11/17/these-are-obamacares-high-deductibles-not-the-markets/#12892d546156; http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/aug/29/aetna-unitedhealth-pulling-out-of-obamacare-leavin/; http://www.forbes.com/sites/sallypipes/2016/07/25/obamacares-co-op-disaster-an-unfunny-comedy-of-errors/#14cb16d3c91f).
Despite the pathetic Nobel peace award, Obama has presided over a nation at war for every day of his presidency…a first for any two-term president. He has justified ongoing conflicts despite such AUMFs being outside their jurisdiction, even involving the ridiculous assertion that bombings aren’t an issue if there are no U.S. ground troops involved (who cares if we have any business to be in any of the countries we are bombing I guess, or that pilots are troops…guess they don’t count) (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/12/the_forever_war_when_will_we_stop_using_a_september_2001_authorization_of.html; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/us/politics/16powers.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/10/30/unconstitutional-war-against-isis-expands-to-include-ground-combat-by-us-forces/?utm_term=.173457f70b78).
With no ability to enact policy changes with a deadlocked Congress, he put forth extra-executive initiatives involving implementation of immigration and health care policy that weren’t passed by the legislature…in direct violation of constitutional law (so much for the law experience) (http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/12/president-obamas-executive-action-on-immigration-sets-a-dangerous-precedent; http://www.forbes.com/sites/gracemarieturner/2016/01/26/obamacare-70-changes-make-it-a-very-different-law-than-congress-passed/#37cfd7b53d4b). Obama’s administration has been subject to the most 9-0 rulings in opposition by the Supreme Court concerning constitutional disputes in recent memory (http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/06/obama-has-lost-in-the-supreme-court-more-than-any-modern-president/). He presided over the NSA program which collected the private data of millions of innocent Americans, which only came to an end thanks to the work of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden which brought the likely unconstitutional program to light (https://www.lawfareblog.com/nsa-ends-bulk-collection-telephony-metadata-under-section-215). For all the talk of “transparency”, Obama’s administration has filed the most Espionage Act prosecutions against leakers and journalists of any president/s (https://theintercept.com/2016/04/06/obamas-gift-to-donald-trump-a-policy-of-cracking-down-on-journalists-and-their-sources/).
Even with regard to supposed support for civil rights, he was only there when the political tea leaves beckoned. Only when his vice-president backed him in a corner politically in his re-election campaign did he come out as a crusader for the LGBT cause (http://www.politico.com/story/2012/05/obama-expected-to-speak-on-gay-marriage-076103). Instead of fighting for those hampered by draconian drug prohibition with regard to medical needs in a drive for much needed legislation, Obama seemed fit to stand by and do nothing…making insinuations that he couldn’t make change in such policy when in fact he could have unilaterally through his own administrative offices. Only now, when he is on his way out, does he claim to worry for the struggles of those in such cross-hairs (http://reason.com/blog/2016/11/30/on-his-way-out-the-door-obama-says-marij).
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from President Obama is that his excesses while in office will provide much in the way of precedent for his successor coming in. That is the greatest lesson with regard to those who supported Obama’s initiatives with glee…your disregard for constitutional boundaries when it suited your ideologies and beliefs is just as useful to those who you might disagree with. Just as your candidate could run rough shod over those you don’t like, now the precedent is set for your opponents to do likewise. Hence why checks and balances have been so valuable in containing the passions of executive ambition from crushing our liberty, and why it’s curtailing is deeply troubling. That is perhaps Obama’s most noticeable legacy of consequence.