Obama faces legacy of debt

Historians will rate President Barack Obama as one of our nation’s greatest presidents.

The question is: Was he any good?

That the history profession is dominated by a liberal elite comes as no surprise. Robert Dallek, Arthur Schlesinger, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Beschloss — all would rank both Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson toward the top of the list and Ronald Reagan toward the bottom. George W. Bush will never, ever get his due for how he handled the 9/11 attacks as he passed landmark education and Medicare legislation or for his remarkable commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa. 

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Obama broke the presidential color line, which is an impressive and historic feat. He did it by building a world-class campaign apparatus, one that will forever be a model for political campaigns to come. Historians will note that Obama came to office amid a financial crisis, and  they will bend over backward to give him credit for the fact that the nation survived it. They will say that he successfully bailed out the struggling auto industry. They will call him a wartime president and give him credit for killing Osama bin Laden. 

All of that is true. But any historian worth his or her salt should analyze the entire record. 

It was George Bush who got the Congress to pass TARP. The auto bailout was also initiated by Bush, in the last days of his presidency. 

Obama took the Bush programs in both cases and perverted them, making them less effective. He took the TARP program and made it a government-spending program. He took the auto bailout and made sure the unions were bailed out. 

When it comes to the wars, Obama made exactly the wrong call. He went all in on Afghanistan and pulled critical support for the Iraq war. We have wasted billions in a never-ending effort to bring the Afghan people into the 19th century, while opening the door for greater Iranian influence in Iraq. 

On the domestic front, Obama’s spending policies should go down as the most irresponsible in our nation’s history. He created a brand-new healthcare entitlement by raiding from another entitlement, knowing that the Medicare measure would in all likelihood not be enacted. His initial spending program, dubbed a stimulus by the White House, was a trillion-dollar pork-fest that included every single spending hope and aspiration of every Democrat who got elected to Congress in the last decade. 

A president usually makes his bones internationally. Obama is more popular than George W. Bush in places outside the United States. But does that mean he is more effective? How is he pushing our national agenda forward? 

Well, let’s see. 

The Middle East is a complete mess. We have exchanged a pro-American regime for a pro-Islamist regime in Egypt. We pushed out a secular regime in Libya, where there is now an Islamist regime that may or may not have been complicit in the murder of our ambassador. We are pushing out another secular regime in Syria and will likely have another Islamist republic on our hands. 

In Asia, we owe the Chinese a lot more money than we did at the start of the Obama years, and that limits our options. The North Koreans now have a nuclear weapon and missile capable of reaching the United States. They have a new dictator there, a younger, pudgier version, but it is not clear how he will use his weaponry. The Japanese have elected the most nationalistic prime minister in the last 50 years, and tensions between Japan and China are as high as they have been in decades. 

The president likes to compare himself to a combination of Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Ike left us a highway system and a budget surplus. FDR left us Social Security and a vanquished Nazi regime. 

Obama is going to leave us with a huge national debt, a more fractured political landscape and a confusing mess called ObamaCare. That’s not much of a legacy, in my view.

Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com.