Yesterday the world witnessed an historic few seconds in the White House.
In the last year of his presidency, Barack Obama, surrounded by the families of victims of gun violence, including parents of the children slaughtered at Sandy Hook elementary school, shed tears in his public display of both anger and the obvious tragedy that is contained and exemplified in the literally dozens of mass shootings over the now seven years of his presidency. And while Republican talking heads vehemently rejected his move to enforce already existing laws requiring both licenses for gun merchants and background checks for gun purchasers, “exceeding his executive powers” and “trashing the second amendment” and “those executive orders will be ripped up the first day I am president”..no one, not even the talking heads of the NRA once mentioned his obviously authentic and human empathy with the families of gun-violence victims, nor his anger and frustration that “the gun lobby may hold the Congress hostage, but it cannot hold the United States hostage”.
A president in tears over the deeply embedded tragedy of both gun sales, (spiking after ever mass shooting and also after each Presidential “threat” to impose more controls) will be documented for decades by those engaged in the observation and analysis of the many roles, examples and behaviours of the United States presidency.
This is the same man
· who was elected primarily on his opposition to the Bush-Cheney Iraq war, and the same man
· who has been excoriated by his political opponents for being feckless in the face of ISIS,
· weak for having drawn a line in the sand over Assad’s use of chemical weapons and then not ‘following through’,
· confused and disdainful of the real growth and power of ISIS, the same man
· who negotiated and successfully passed the first Affordable Care Act, thereby covering an additional 25-30 million Americans with health insurance
· who courageously, and without any guarantees, signed off on the mission to capture and kill Osama bin Laden,
· fulfilled his campaign promises to terminate the Iraq war and the Afghanistan conflict
· ordered both fighter jets and trainers/advisors into Iraq and Syria (against his gut instinct to exhaust diplomacy and not commit the U.S. to another gulf entanglement),
· agreed to leave some 10,000 military personnel in Afghanistan in light of the failure to leave a substantial military force in Iraq following Bush’s disastrous escapade
· purchased billions of shares in both General Motors and Chrysler in order to rescue them from insolvency, (with a substantial profit to the American Treasury upon repayment with interest)
· successful oversaw the drop in the unemployment rate from nearly 10% to a current 5%
· refinanced millions of homes that were “underwater” in mortgage commitments, following the fiasco of faulty credit swaps inflicted by a scurrilous and narcissistic Wall Street
· ordered the reduction of carbon emissions from coal-fired energy plants
· negotiated a nuclear-prevention treaty with Iran, along with his 5 western allies
· consistently pressured Netanyahu over his insistence on settlement construction on the West Bank
· negotiated a long-term global warming and climate change plan with China
· shifted American foreign policy to the Far East, in response to the growing hegemony of China
· granted executive amnesty to 5 million Latinos who otherwise could have been deported, in light of a failed Congress that refuses to resolve the Immigration conundrum
And this list is hardly complete.
However, having watched quite literally every one of his public appearances, sometimes in news clips, whether he is:
· singing Amazing Grace in a Episcopal Methodist Church following the shooting of nine in the middle of a prayer meeting,
· confronting the United Nations and its members in face to face speeches that point to the need for courageous and collaborative agreements,
· blessing the White House Thanksgiving Turkey,
· riding in the back of a car with Jerry Seinfeld joking about always wanting to appear in a show about “nothing” or
· gracing the set of some late night television show (and spiking the ratings to the host’s delight)
· sending one of his Attorneys General into another racial divide to investigate the law enforcement of a town or city following the death of what appears to be another innocent young unarmed black man,
· or hosting another of the many world leaders in a White House dinner....
Barack Obama has served his country, his family and the world in an exemplary manner, platinum in fact. It is clear that he has set the bar very high for all those who might aspire to the office of President of the United States. And the world is deeply indebted to his balanced, steady, optimistic, honest, frank and good humoured presidency, not to mention his Cicerean rhetoric for which his legacy can be grateful, He has demonstrated profound strength and stability in a period when the Republican Congress gave him nothing but obstruction, without once playing the “race” card which any normal human being would have been prompted to play.
His “manly” tears yesterday only serve to confirm his unadulterated humanity, amid the onslaughts of political, diplomatic and military opposition and fury that has exceeded the levels many of his predecessors were obliged to face.
Try, if you are sceptical about this “hymn”, to imagine the world today, after seven years of a Romney administration, or a McCain administration.
The American reputation he will leave his successor is so much enhanced from his stewardship that historians will sign his praises with intellectual honesty and legitimate objectivity for decades, if not centuries.