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Fecteau: Obama’s Enduring Legacy

Sunday, January 15, 2017

 

President Barack Obama’s impact will be felt for generations. His legacy is not controversial as critics believe, to many anyway. In reality, Mr. Obama will go down in history as one of the most scandal free, successful presidents in our lifetime – just look at what he inherited.  

I had the honor of working in the Obama administration. Once I returned from the war in Iraq, I was given a job at the White House as a military national security intern. This was a life-changing experience, and I recommend everyone, regardless of political leanings, become more involved in government in some manner. From my time at the White House, I was inspired to run for public office.  

Even after I left the White House, during my campaign for Congress, when few progressive Democrats gave me the time of day, former and current members of the Obama administration helped me, asking little or nothing in return. They worked for free simply because of friendship, and perhaps some hard feelings; my incumbent Democrat congressional opponent, Mr. David Cicilline, endorsed Mrs. Hillary Clinton in 2008 for president before it became evident she would lose; then, sleazy Cicilline endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama as if he supported him the whole time – that was not forgotten.  

Mr. Obama was not a flawless president, but presidents are mere people, riddled by imperfections, and contradictions. President George Washington owned slaves, and yet opposed slavery; President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, and FDR interned Japanese Americans; President George W. Bush tortured suspected terrorists in the name of protecting our Constitution. Our leaders typically push (or even break) the limits of constitutionality for the betterment of our country – this was not the case for Obama. 

Like other presidents, Obama made some controversial, yet critical decisions. The unfair crisis Obama inherited needed to be addressed through government action. Without such intervention, our country would have stared down the precipice of the fiscal unknown. In the aftermath, the Dodd-Frank reforms were vital to reining in the financial excesses that caused the economic crisis, ensuring this wouldn’t be repeated (fingers crossed).  

Mr. Obama will go down in history as the healthcare president. Before Obama assumed office, the United States had roughly twenty million people without medical coverage, the highest in the industrialized world. This was an ongoing problem that simply left many without any low-cost healthcare options, and the taxpayer paying an enormous burden. Obama tediously worked with Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama), providing coverage to millions.  

President Obama had a number of other amazing domestic successes. He has a stellar employment record with almost 11.3 million jobs created, especially in the manufacturing sector. The market recovered leaps, and bounds, and fuel prices are much lower than before.  

On the international stage, Obama was a unifier, not a divider.  Under Obama’s watch, the global community respected our country far more than the previous administration. Mr. Obama made the difficult decision to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice; the most notorious terrorist in American history. Obama successfully led the international community to levy sanctions against North Korea, and isolated Russia on the global stage – though Russia is becoming more aggressive as of late. In Iraq, the coalition battle against the so-called Islamic State has been a resounding success, with Iraqis taking the lead, Americans.  

The Obama administration also had a number of disappointments. One of the largest and most glaring failures is obviously the Civil War in Syria. As of right now, the death toll has reached nearly 400,000. Those ‘red lines’ Obama told the Syrian government not to cross, were crossed a number of times. This genocidal, diabolical government will likely remain in power, and while that is revolting enough, everyday Syrians will continue to be persecuted every day.  

Another letdown was when Obama led the withdrawal from Iraq. I disagreed with it then, and disagree with it now. While I opposed the war in Iraq, the nascent, tenuous Iraqi government was in no position to rule, and American forces withdrew. 

It was the Iraqi’s fight; I agree, but as history has shown us, internal conflict has a way of coming back to haunt us. Once the Iraqi government collapsed, the so-called Islamic State emerged from the ashes of Syria infiltrating Iraq, threatening regional stability, and our national security.  

Gun violence was simply not addressed during Obama's tenure. In fact, I heard repeatedly from Obama's press secretary, the same exhausted lines I heard from the gun lobby, and its sympathizers, “Now is not the time to talk about gun control.” These lines were repeated so often even by people within Obama’s inner-circle, I sometimes had problems telling who was who.  

After the slaughter of children in Newtown, Connecticut, if that was not the time, then when is the right time? While the Obama administration regurgitated tired talking points, the gun industry used Obama as a cheap propaganda tool to drive up gun sales.  

The truth is far more telling. Obama did little to rein in gun violence. Part of me hoped Obama would turn into the monster the gun industry made him out to be just to prevent more senseless gun violence — this never happened.  

Despite it all, both successes and failures, I believe that President Obama will go down in history as one of our best presidents – this is my bold prediction. He was the captain of a ship in turbulent waters, a soothing, calming voice when we needed to make sense of each tragedy that befell our country; someone to look for assurance. He may not have made decisions everyone agreed with, but Obama did what he felt was right, at a fluid, tenuous, and complicated time.  

I didn’t agree with all President Obama’s choices, but I am happy he was our president. Our country is a better place because we elected a man, not because of the color of his skin, but because of the content of his character (paraphrasing Martin Luther King).  

As an American and veteran, I am honored to be able to call President Obama my Commander-in-Chief during this turbulent period. Despite all the disagreements and flaws, he was a man of honor, character, and integrity; someone who made expansive, pivotal decisions that changed countless lives for the better – this is Obama’s enduring legacy.   

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq war veteran.

 

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