Obama departs, ending the most disastrous Presidency of the post-Cold War era
Obama's legacy to his successor is division at home and failure abroad, bequeathing a troubled nation and a state of world conflict instead of world peace.
As Obama finally departs from the scene, this seems as good a moment as any to assess his Presidency.
In my opinion it has been a disastrous Presidency, which has hugely deepened divisions in America – a fact which more than any other explains the exaggerated reaction to his successor – and which has brought international relations to its most dangerous point of crisis since the end of the Second World War.
If that seems unduly harsh, then I would say that that is because whilst Obama has failed in every other respect, he has proved a genius in one respect, which is in his successful manipulation of opinion and of his own image, which seems to have been his main priority. The result is that much of what went catastrophically wrong during his Presidency has been successfully concealed, so that unlike his immediate predecessor George W. Bush, Obama’s reputation has – so far – emerged from his Presidency comparatively though undeservedly intact.
In assessing any US President the temptation of a foreign writer like myself is to focus unduly on his foreign policy and to underestimate his domestic policy, which for Americans is however what principally matters.
Obama’s supporters tend to give him high marks for his domestic policy. They claim that he successfully turned the US economy round after the 2008 financial crisis, and they also give him credit for Obamacare, which they consider a major step in addressing the ongoing catastrophe which is US health policy.
In my opinion the extent of both of these achievements is overstated.