Obama speech stokes the fear and anger he claims to de­spise

The Phoenix - - OPINION - Jerry Shenk

In a Sept. 7 speech at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois, de­parted Pres­i­dent Barack Obama reap­peared, spout­ing more of the same empty, pon­tif­i­cat­ing, self-adu­la­tory rhetoric that de­fined his pres­i­dency.

Other than bit­ter com­plaints about his suc­ces­sor, Obama’s speech fea­tured his fa­vorite topic — him­self. He’s clearly an­gry that vot­ers re­jected his poli­cies — and him per­son­ally — by elect­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump over the woman for whom Obama cam­paigned. He’s up­set that Trump re­ceived more black and His­panic votes in 2016 than Repub­li­can Mitt Rom­ney did in 2012, even af­ter Obama said he’d be per­son­ally in­sulted if blacks didn’t vote for Hil­lary.

Fo­cus­ing, as usual, on Amer­ica’s “nega­tives,” Obama said, “[T]here’s al­ways been an­other darker as­pect to Amer­ica’s story,” […] “There’s a rea­son why progress hasn’t been easy and why through­out our his­tory ev­ery two steps for­ward seems to some­times pro­duce one step back.”

By “one step back,” Obama didn’t mean the resur­gence of the Amer­i­can econ­omy for which he tried to take credit, claim­ing that the econ­omy is do­ing well be­cause of his poli­cies.

That sounds pre­pos­ter­ous, of course, but, upon re­view, per­haps Obama’s poli­cies did (un­wit­tingly) en­able the ex­tra­or­di­nary rate at which Amer­ica’s econ­omy and pros­per­ity are now im­prov­ing.

Dur­ing Obama’s first term, con­gres­sional Democrats hi­jacked health care, about one­sixth of the Amer­i­can econ­omy, and sad­dled Amer­i­cans with tax in­creases and mas­sive debt.

By im­pos­ing oner­ous, ex­haust­ing, red tape-laden reg­u­la­tions through­out his pres­i­dency, Obama-ap­pointed bu­reau­crats dis­cour­aged new cor­po­rate and en­tre­pre­neur­ial busi­ness in­vest­ments.

Obama’s poli­cies en­sured that, at times, re­cov­ery from the 2008 re­ces­sion — the slow­est Amer­i­can eco­nomic re­cov­ery since World War II — would be barely per­cep­ti­ble.

Obama’s eight years of op­pres­sive anti-busi­ness poli­cies shack­led the econ­omy, while new busi­ness ideas and con­tin­u­ing tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion cre­ated a back­log of busi­ness and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties primed for lib­er­a­tion by busi­ness-friendly pol­icy changes.

Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion brought the changes needed to un­leash the Amer­i­can econ­omy and the progress that ex­posed and dis­cred­ited the re­stric­tive, de­struc­tive eco­nomic poli­cies of the Obama years.

In an es­say en­ti­tled “The ba­nal­ity of Barack,” writer Julie Kelly char­ac­ter­ized Obama’s speech as “the type of vac­u­ous, preen­ing, pre­ten­tious, and mean­ing­less so­lil­o­quy that once… was ac­cepted as thought­ful... But it was a tem­per tantrum dis­guised as a ser­mon.” Kelly called it “a weary remix of Obama’s Great­est Hits. It’s not just that Obama is petu­lant and de­mean­ing. It’s not that he gets away with the very name-calling and ridicule that Trump gets blasted for. The bot­tom line is Obama is a bore.”

In one mo­ment of clar­ity, though, Obama de­clared, “It did not start with Don­ald Trump. He is a symp­tom, not the cause.”

Then, Obama con­tin­ued, iron­i­cally: “He’s just cap­i­tal­iz­ing on re­sent­ments that politi­cians have been fan­ning for years, …fear and anger that’s rooted in our past but it’s also born out of the enor­mous up­heavals that have taken place in your brief life­times.”

An hon­est, less-solip­sis­tic, less-di­vi­sive Obama might have ex­pressed just a hint of re­morse for stok­ing his fol­low­ers’ — and Amer­ica’s — fear and anger.

Jerry Shenk Colum­nist

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