By: Kenneth Levin
Perhaps the greatest service of Barack Obama’s True Legacy, the recently published collection of penetrating essays on the Obama presidency by a number of knowledgeable and trenchant authors, edited by Jamie Glazov, is its contribution to collective memory.
President Obama’s assault on Americans’ constitutional rights and protections as well as on the nation’s constitutionally defined governmental institutions and their respective authority entailed myriad particulars. It included undermining of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and religious freedom. It extended to usurpation of the legislative authority of Congress and disregard for the constitutional authority of the Supreme Court.
In addition, Obama compromised the rule of law and protection of rights more broadly. He ignored the findings of lower federal courts. He subverted federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the FBI, the CIA, the IRS, and other departments of the federal government, to illegal politicization and lawless attacks on perceived political enemies. He promoted federal intrusion in and subversion of state and local law enforcement, also in the service of political ends.
The collective impact of Obama’s abuses of power, the “transformation” of America that he so often promised, was the creation of a less democratic, post-constitutional, authoritarian nation. Consistent with his pursuit of this transformed America, Obama, throughout his presidency, lent his support to and openly advocated for groups and individuals, domestic and foreign, associated with anti-American, anti-democratic, authoritarian ideologies, particularly of the pro-communist and Islamist variety.
Domestically, he appointed communist and pro-communist individuals to government posts and invited organizations with the same sympathies to a seat at policy-defining tables. In a similar vein, he labeled virtually any expression of concern over Islamist and jihadist threats to the nation as Islamophobic and quashed programs that educated senior military officers and federal and other law enforcement groups about such threats.
Abroad, he threw his administration’s support to communist and pro-communist governments and government candidates in South America, undermined pro-democratic forces there, and played a major role in the seizing of power by far-left opponents throughout the continent. He also accommodated post-communist Russian authoritarianism. With regard to Islamism and jihad, Obama promoted the Muslim Brotherhood, the fountainhead of modern Sunni anti-Western Islamism. He did so in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood was born, and elsewhere in the Arab world, where supporters of the Brotherhood challenged existing governments. Additionally, he sought closer relations with nations in which allies of the Muslim Brotherhood were in control, as in Qatar. He also pursued closer relations with the Shi’ite Islamists of Iran, most notably in his drive for a pact with Iran that would end in that nation possessing nuclear weapons. His Iranian strategy proceeded even as Iran continued to call for America’s destruction, continued to kill Americans, and provided financial and military support to numerous Middle East groups also engaged in killing Americans as well as in targeting America’s allies.
Certainly, any American who was paying attention during Obama’s eight years as president has some sense of the destructiveness he wrought domestically, on American freedoms and American governmental institutions, as well as in the arena of foreign affairs and America’s relations with its adversaries and its friends. But the passage of time, together with the ignorance of most regarding key details, inevitably leads to a vagueness in people’s understanding. The great majority of those who contemplate the current sorry state of the nation now recognize only in general terms Obama’s central role in bringing about our present difficulties.
This is true even of those who see in the depredations of the Biden presidency a continuation of Obama’s tenure. (As Joseph Klein notes in his contributions to the present volume, “out of the top 100 positions filled in the Biden White House during Biden’s first 100 days in office, seventy-four previously had worked in the Obama administration.”) But if we are to reverse our losses and reclaim our freedoms and the integrity of our institutions, a more granular understanding of how we got here is an invaluable tool.
That is what Barack Obama’s True Legacy provides. Whether addressing Obama’s hostility to and undermining of American freedoms and institutions (as in essays by John Drew, Trevor Loudon, Stephen Coughlin, Matthew Vadum, and Joseph Klein) or his promotion of anti-democratic forces worldwide and pursuit of foreign policies inimical to American interests and those of our traditional allies (as in pieces by Daniel Greenfield, Raymond Ibrahim, Clare Lopez, Jeff Nyquist, Robert Spencer, and Dov Lipman), the collection is a granular explication of the path that led us to where we are.
For this reason, the volume should be seen not only as an important tour d’horizon of the Obama presidency and what it wrought, but as an invaluable reference tool providing detailed reminders of how our nation has been brought to its present dire straits.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People under Siege.