Since taking charge as the US president on January 20, Donald Trump and his administrations have blamed former President Barack Obama for various problems. President Trump is no exception as there is a worldwide tradition of new administrations blaming past head of the governments for their problems.
However, President Trump and the current American administration appear to be taking it to an extreme.
Obama stormed into office in 2009 by promising to bring “change we can believe in”. However as his second term came to a close, the US president left behind a mixed bag. Although his job creation record was impressive, inequality had grown in America, race relations had worsened and ties with Russia touched a low.
Perhaps, Obama’s only success was to create job opportunities. He took office when the US was reeling under the impact of a global meltdown. Under him, the American economy had added jobs for 75 consecutive months. However, his signature health scheme – Obamacare – failed to get success even after becoming popular. When the Obamacare law was passed, 48.6 million people in the US were uninsured. The figure dropped to 28.4 million by June 2016. But Obama failed to cut premiums and employees premiums shot up by hundreds of dollars from 2009 to 2016.
During Obama’s presidency, the race relations also deteriorated in America. Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 Presidential Elections seemed, to many, a repudiation of the essential meaning of 2008 when the US elected its first African-American president. Obama, the poster boy of racial reconciliation, left America more divided over the issue. His presidency spawned the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement as cases of police brutalities against the blacks convulsed the country.
Many believe that President Obama’s decision to kill al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden ultimately helped the Islamic State (IS) grow in West Asia. In May 2011, Obama authorised the dramatic strike in Pakistan that took out Osama. It started off Obama’s drone-and-raid approach to counterterrorism that has been criticised for also killing innocent people. Fingers were pointed at the US for indirectly aiding the creation of the IS after he withdrew American troops from Iraq, leaving a vacuum on the ground.
As far as the environment is concerned, President Obama said between 2008 and 2015 that CO2 emissions from the energy sector fell by 9.5%. He saw increasing private investment in clean energy and global clean-energy race. However, his successor Trump has called climate change a hoax. Trump has further hinted that the US could quit the 2016 Paris Agreement endorsed by Obama.
Trump crackdown is on the cards even on the issue of illegal immigration. In 2012, an Obama order gave over 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children, a chance to work legally without fear of getting deported. Currently, 11 million people live in America illegally and Trump has vowed to deport them. Trump listed immigration reform among executive actions he planned on his first day in office.
President Obama might have failed to tackle the issue of surveillance properly. After Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the US NSA’s gathering of personal data in 2013, Obama backed legislation (in 2015) to end bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. He directed that appropriate safeguards be placed for surveillance. But, Trump plans to make some changes in this legislation (too).
The former president has been criticised for adopting poor foreign policies. It is a fact that ties between America and Cuba were revived in 2014 under Obama’s presidency with a boost to trade and travel after 50 years of confrontations. Obama also called the deal with Iran a “landmark” achievement and the best solution available to prevent the West Asian country from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, Israel and Saudi Arabia were miffed and (critics say) the move ultimately helped Iran fund terror proxies in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
The US’ ties with Russia hit a new low during Obama’s tenure as the American president. The US imposed economic sanctions on Russia and Moscow responded in kind. The distrust between the two was most evident after Trump’s victory as American intelligence claimed that the Russian hacked undermined Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. Obama also angered Israel, the US’ staunchest ally, by allowing the UN to adopt a resolution condemning Israeli settlements. His reluctance to go all-out after Bashar al-Assad is seen as the reason for the civil war dragging on for years in neighbouring Syria.
Now, historians will get ample opportunity to assess the legacy left behind by Barack Obama as the American president.