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Allyne Caan / September 22, 2016

Chasing a Legacy at the UN

Obama’s final chance as president to run down the U.S.

We’re not sure if Barack Obama’s speech this week at the United Nations should be described as his last UN speech as president — or his first campaign speech in his quest to become UN secretary general. Given the former option signals an end to the Obama era, let’s go with that.

At some point, it becomes difficult to describe an Obama speech without sounding abrasively repetitive. That’s because his speeches generally are exactly that. Certainly, he’s a charismatic orator. But beyond that, if you apologize for the evils of America (past, present, future and imaginary), laud European progressivism, claim certain future defeat of the Islamic State (recent attacks in your own country notwithstanding), insult conservatives and take credit for preventing a nuclear Iran (while subsidizing Iran’s nuclear program), you’ve pretty much got an Obama speech.

If that’s the criteria, Tuesday’s speech didn’t disappoint. Consider Obama’s partial laundry list of attacks on the nation he purportedly leads: “Yes, in America, there is too much money in politics; too much entrenched partisanship; too little participation by citizens, in part because of a patchwork of laws that makes it harder to vote.” As National Review’s Jim Geraghty rightly observes, “It’s pretty insufferable for the guy who raised a billion dollars for his reelection campaign to lament ‘too much money in politics,’ and for President ‘I won’ to lament the entrenched partisanship.” But we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Obama often bemoans the very things he propagates.

Note, for example, his observation that “[t]oo often, in capitals, decision-makers have forgotten that democracy needs to be driven by civic engagement from the bottom up, not governance by experts from the top down.” We’re to believe Obama has an aversion to top-down, bureaucratic government? Does the word, “ObamaCare” mean anything?

And we mustn’t overlook Obama’s obligatory attack on the “rich” and his call to tame the “excess of capitalism.” “A world in which 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99% will never be stable,” he said. “A society that asks less of oligarchs than ordinary citizens will rot from within.”

Of course, Obama repeatedly ignores the fact that the income required to make that “top 1%” in the world is actually about $32,400 per year. This means about 50% of Americans are in the 1%. What’s the economic system that’s allowed them to get there? Wait for it… Yep, capitalism.

But all is not doom and gloom. After all, with his presidency coming to a close, Obama is now desperate to create the illusion that his legacy is something other than economic chaos, global instability, racial tension, and abuse of governmental power. So, naturally, he touted things like the “end of two wars in the Middle East” (even though the other side is still fighting), a “global agreement to combat climate change” (despite a lack of agreement that man-made climate change even exists), and a “normalization of relations with Cuba, Burma and Laos” (as if relations with a communist regime is something to celebrate).

Truth be told, Obama’s in a race against time — or, more accurately, against the Election Day countdown. Few things would shout eight years of utter failure more loudly than a Donald Trump victory. It’s little wonder, then, that Obama is planning an “unprecedented” campaign to get Hillary Clinton into the White House. After all, if Clinton wins, Obama’s legacy is safe — at least in the short term. If she loses, the loss would be even more devastating to Obama than it would be to Clinton, because it would prove the last eight years have been an utter failure.

As The Washington Post notes, “White House officials have privately fretted about some of Clinton’s recent missteps. … Those mistakes and the narrowing polls have only intensified the president’s focus on the campaign. … In remarks in recent days, Obama has cast the election as central to his legacy, essentially placing himself on the ballot with Clinton.”

Of course, it’s unlikely his UN speech helped Clinton’s chances on the ballot. If eight years of the same formulaic speeches haven’t secured the White House for a Democrat, one more certainly isn’t going to tip the scales in the Left’s favor.

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