2016 in My Rearview Mirror: 20 Days and Counting

Nearly fifty years ago, the Polaroid Corporation did extensive research on how people reacted to positive and negative feelings. They learned that if a customer was wildly ecstatic about a product they would tell, on average, three people. They also discovered that if people were mildly dissatisfied with a product or service, they told ten people. This information led to the first 800 numbers for customer service.  Old folks, like myself, remember when long distance calls cost $.25 a minute, so customer service was generally by US Mail.

The reason I mention this is our tendency to look at and dwell on the negative. Our present society certainly has not done anything to change this with the “victimhood” so prevalent in the younger generations, the media’s tendency towards “if it bleeds, it leads,” and coming off a presidential election year when most ads and statements are about the opponent's negative attributes.

Certainly, no matter which party you are affiliated with, this past election cycle was a nightmare. Not to worry, I am not going to dwell on any of that. Nor will I dwell on the higher than normal celebrity deaths. Personally, I think you and I are every bit as important as any celebrity, and certainly, the deaths of law enforcement and military in the line of duty are a notable loss any year.

I wish I could write an article on many of the good things that happened this past year. Our nation has many good hearted people who silently do the right thing for people with no expectation of recognition, no expectation of being paid back.

While those stories are out there and need to be told, something else weighs heavy on my mind.

The best thing I can say about the end of 2016 is that it marks the final 20 days of the Obama Presidency. I have no idea what more Barack Obama might do in the waning days of his term, but I recall warning that the last months and weeks would be a no holds barred, free for all.

Those of you who follow my writing at all know how I feel about the three branches of government exceeding their constitutional restraints, as well as not doing the things with which they are tasked. The people are to be the ultimate guardians of the republic, yet we tend to look the other way when things we like are happening and complain only when it does not go our way.

This is no way to run a republic.

Obama from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Carl GloverFlickr | CC-BY

Most presidents are concerned with their “legacy,” what they have accomplished, and how they will be remembered. This president is no exception, however his efforts are much different from others who have gone before. He seems to be trying to do things to thwart the incoming president in addition to leaving his “mark.”

For instance, the authority to offer pardons and clemency has never been questioned. Bill Clinton famously pardoned Marc Rich in a very questionable case. However, they are typically either a payoff of sorts, or an act of kindness on an individual basis.

Obama’s pardons seem to be more a social justice effort to essentially change legislation. Over 1,000 inmates have already had their sentences commuted and over 100 pardoned in an effort to “instill fairness” to our justice system. To date, Obama has commuted or pardoned more than the last eleven presidents combined.

While Obama is quick to point out that other presidents have issued more EOs (Executive Orders) than he, it is not the number, as much as what was done. Officially, an EO must stipulate the law to which the order applies and how it will fulfill the compliance with the legislation. Frequently, this president did not issue an EO, but a memo. This directed an agency head as to how the president wanted things to be, and if there was any deviation from law, the department head was the one on the hook. Just as in the military, they are not required to follow an illegal order, however, they can be fired. Like minded people need no encouragement to help the President’s agenda.

Last week Obama imposed an indefinite ban on drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. In a change from other drilling bans, this order was made using an old law giving the president power to limit future land leases. The White House claimed Trump will not be able to reverse the ban without a court battle.

Obama seems to be eager to set up some sort of punishment for hacking believed to be perpetrated by the Russians, leaving the next administration to deal with the repercussions of any sanctions. Obama would have us believe the Russians hacked into the government election process. In reality, if they indeed hacked in at all, it was into the private system of the Democrat party, not a government entity. The CIA had been discussing possible Russian hacks as far back as September, but it did not become a narrative of the media until Clinton lost the election. Suddenly, liberals are experts in Russian espionage. The timing of Obama’s actions is interesting, to say the least.

After nearly eight years of failure to address the issues in the Middle East, from destabilizing multiple countries to their meddling in a foreign election (I recall a saying about pots and kettles), the administration backed a move to sanction Israel via the UN. Kerry even made a statement publicly criticizing Netanyahu. And we wonder why other nations view us as arrogant.

Obama’s prize healthcare disaster has put forth a push to enroll even more people. One might guess they believe the more people enrolled, the harder it will be to dismantle. I’m guessing that if we tell people they will no longer be fined for not having insurance and offer them insurance at much lower rates and deductibles, this will not be a very high bar to cross.

Obama also set aside millions of acres as national monuments in Utah and Nevada, some including land near the Bundy ranch. The move has angered many in the respective states; Trump has not weighed in on what he may do. No president has ever reversed a national monument designation. There’s always a first.

The administration also announced it was going to close a national registry established to track primarily Arab and Muslim men after 9/11. The program was started under George W Bush. The program known as NSEERS could have provided the basis of a tracking system similar to what Trump has said he wants. However, he will have to build another if he does since this one is now dismantled.

Obama has since promised to close the prisoner detainment facility GITMO within a year. I guess he learned the world is not full of lollipops, roses, and unicorns. Maybe there are some truly bad people out there. He has sent most of the terrorists home; there are 59 still held at the facility. Trump says he will keep it open and add to the detainees as needed.

The Constitution requires the President to give a State of the Union speech to Congress each year. Traditionally, the outgoing president defers to the new President, who rather than give a State of the Union, address an outline for his plans for his term. I expect Obama to try and steal the stage in some way. Presidents historically keep a low profile after leaving office. I would be shocked if Obama did not insert himself in any way possible to protect his legacy.

Yes, while 2016 and most of the Obama administration is in the rearview mirror and we can revel in the fact that his phone and pen no longer have the power they did at one time, you can be sure we will see plenty of his smug face in the years to come.

I might remind him of a simple fact using his own words. “Elections have consequences.”


Featured image via Flickr: "things in the rear view mirror . . ." © 2016 Tom WoodwardFlickr 

Written by Michael Murphy The Voice of Reason

The Voice of Reason

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