President Barack Obama believes his legacy will be with the economy, the Affordable Care Act, improving the environment and providing greater access to higher education, according to an interview conducted by three YouTube creators.
Hank Green, Bethany Mota and Glozell Green have combined viewership of 14 million people. From the White House’s perspective, this format seemed appropriate for reaching viewers who do not traditionally watch the State of the Union address.
None of the video bloggers (vloggers) have an extensive background in journalism, so I would not expect Walter Cronkite caliber questions among this group.
Despite this, the questions they asked covered a range of topics: from the legalization of marijuana to making college education affordable. While I believe in the power of blogging (it is our most democratic means of communication), this discussion left many unanswered questions regarding the economy, foreign affairs and the overall political direction of our country.
“We saved an economy that was on the brink of depression. We created 11 million new jobs,” said Obama during the Youtube interview. According to broad indicators, the economy is improving. The Gross Domestic Product is improving and the stock market is setting new records.
However, there are always two sides to every story, and regrettably, the president has painted an incomplete economic picture.
The administration also declared that the unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. The current unemployment rate is below 6 percent. Unfortunately, more of the jobs that the White House is trumpeting are part-time. Furthermore, the percentage of working people that say they do not work full-time remains high. Also, fewer people are participating in the labor force. In other words, there are some people who are so discouraged in trying to find work that they have given up the search. This means that not only are they not working now, but they have not looked for jobs recently enough to be counted as unemployed.
Some Americans believe we are still in a recession. It frustrates them that wages are at a standstill. Wall Street has high-powered portfolios, while so many American paychecks on Main Street are losing their punch.
Beyond the numbers, my sympathy is for Americans struggling to pay their bills with the paychecks they have. I am unsure of whether or not America’s political elite shares my sympathy.
The Current Political Climate
President Obama was quick to remind the Republican Party that he won twice during his State of the Union address. His “I won twice,” remark was the political pun of the week. He is also famous for saying “elections have consequences.” Nevertheless, the Democratic Party did its very best to distance itself from Mr. Obama during the mid-term elections. “I am not on the Ballot. However, these policies are,” said Obama during the last campaign.
The results were nothing short of a referendum on the Obama Presidency. Republicans now control the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Republicans also control the majority of state governorships (31). The GOP even made political pick-ups in historically blue states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.
In the aftermath of the mid-term elections, some Democrats expressed buyer’s remorse. The most prominent politician expressing regret regarding Obama’s approach to governing is Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). In a speech given to the National Press Club after the elections, Schumer said Democrats “blew the opportunity the American people gave them in 2008.” Essentially, Schumer believes that the Democrats used their mandate to focus on the wrong problem: health care reform.
“The plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed, but it was not the change we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for the end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs, not changes in health care,” he said.
According to the president, “shadow of the crisis has passed.” In foreign affairs, though, the last thing I want is our brave men and women acting as global police force. President Obama believes in leading from behind. Regrettably, this approach may leave a power vacuum regarding America’s role as the leader of free societies. This void may be filled by America’s adversaries.
How can the crisis pass when:
Terror suspects attack French publication Charlie Hebdo. Global leaders around the world rally to Paris and the White House does not send a senior official to the march.
Iran is determined to obtain a nuclear weapon and may be using negotiations with America as a stalling tactic. A nuclear Iran not only threatens Israel (an important American ally that Obama does not get along with) but threatens the long-term security of America. Iran is greatest exporter of terrorism.
ISIL kidnaps and beheads innocent civilians, including American journalist James Foley.
The White House was determined to reset Russian relations and now Moscow wants to take over the Ukraine. The Ukraine does not expect American military intervention, but only asks for weapons for their self-defense. In response, the Pentagon offered MRES, ready to eat burgers, in their efforts to resist 40,000 Russians.
President Obama drew a red line with Syria regarding its chemical weapons. The administration retreated, marginalizing American influence and exposing the limitations of American diplomacy.
Isn’t it unrealistic to expect the Youtube creators to press the president regarding these vital issues? The effort that came closest to scrutinizing the presidential talking points was by Hank Green, when he suggested the agenda outlined by Obama in the State of the Union speech was unrealistic.
After racking my brain over this, I realized this is not about the long-term direction of our Republic. President Obama wants to double down on his agenda and set the table for the presidential campaign of 2016.
Eventually, the current administration will spend what’s left of its political capital. There is very little room for compromise between the White House and Capitol Hill. It is only a matter of time before the President becomes a lame duck, which happens with every administration.
I am at a political cross roads. The thought of a political dynasty from either party is nerve-racking. With all of her accomplishments, I am uncomfortable with the air of inevitability surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the presidential nomination from the Democratic Party.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the Republican Party’s presidential candidates are a real bevy of beauties. Some have experience governing at the state level. The rest will offer great rhetoric for Tea Party Patriots, but not a plan for the rest of America. Former Governor Mitt Romney is considering another run at the White House and Jeb Bush is preparing for his presidential campaign. Governor Romney wrote off 47 percent of the electorate as a bunch of moochers and Governor Bush may not be conservative enough for his party.
The only optimism I have comes from the resilience of the American people. I will place my hope and faith in God. I will place my trust in family and friends.
In the end, the American people will sift through all the nonsense and make the best decision for the country. The only issue in question is whether or not we can get straight answers from the political class so citizens can make a sensible decision. All the check and balances in the world are useless without sincere and honest individuals who are determined to stay active in the political process.
Originally published by Elephant Journal.