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Barack Obama’s 5 Biggest Mistakes as President

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden participate in a video teleconference with the staffs of Embassy Baghdad and Consulates Erbil and Basrah, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden participate in a video teleconference with the staffs of Embassy Baghdad and Consulates Erbil and Basrah, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Barack Obama rose to power on the promise that he would restore hope and bring necessary change to a system that, by 2008, most Americans no longer believed was working for them. 

Sadly, those Americans who believed that the future would be bleaker for their children than it was for them and their parents, were right. Obama failed to deliver. His supporters claim that he cleaned up an epic mess inherited from George W. Bush and his Republican Party. 

Of course, that’s just a convenient excuse that the Left uses to cover up for the fact that Obama did not live up to his promise

Sure, the Democrats blame the Republicans for Obama’s failures. But that’s not why he failed. Obama’s presidency failed because the forty-fourth president was, first, in-over-his-head.

Second, Obama was as partisan—if not more—than his Republican opposition was. 

Obama: His Five Biggest Mistakes 

Just look at his five biggest mistakes as president. You’ll see that every misstep he made was the result of Obama behaving as a radical Leftist rather than bipartisan moderate that he claimed he was during the 2008 General Election (of course, remember, most of Obama’s career before then and his campaign for the Democratic Party primary in 2008, Obama ran as a Hard Leftist).

5. Healthcare Reform

The Liberal commentator, Bill Press, wrote an interesting book at the end of Obama’s presidency in 2016, in which he criticized Obama from the Left. According to Press, Obama failed as the transformative president he vowed to be because he did not outright nationalize the American healthcare system when he had the chance to do so. 

This is, of course, lunacy. 

But Press was correct in highlighting Obama’s passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as being one of his biggest failures as president.

It seems paradoxical to make this claim. After all, Obamacare is likely the forty-fourth president’s greatest domestic policy achievement. 

The problem for Obama and the Democrats was that the bill was totally insufficient to their goal of making health insurance more affordable. Plus, Obama failed to get a single Republican vote in the Senate, for example, they created an atmosphere of ill-will in Washington that plagued the Obama Administration until its final days in office.

First, consider the policy implications. There’s little doubt that healthcare policy in the United States before Obama took office was a disaster. It was far too costly for ordinary Americans and things weren’t getting any better over time. 

Access to affordable healthcare was a leading contributor to personal bankruptcies. Getting sick in America was truly a death sentence for many—if not literally then certainly financially. 

Yet, Obama’s solution didn’t make sense. The problem with America’s healthcare system is primarily the health insurance market. The way it is structured and managed creates cost overruns and harms the American people. 

Obamacare did not really address this. 

In fact, Obamacare was largely written by the insurance industry.

Simple solutions to making health insurance more affordable, like allowing for Americans to window shop for the best priced policies by going outside their states were completely ignored in favor of a policy that forcedmillions of Americans to pay higher premiums and possibly lose access to their preferred physicians. 

Next, think about the way in which Obama forced the policy through. Rather than rolling up his sleeves and midwifing a truly bipartisan bill—something that was possible, given how many years Republican groups, like the Heritage Foundation had worked on various proposals for healthcare reform—Obama decided to work only with his own party to pass the bill.

Since the Republicans had been routed in the 2008 elections because Americans were sick of the GOP after the twin failures of the Iraq War and the 2008 financial crash, the GOP did not have the numbers to stop or even slow down the passage of the ACA. 

Obama and the Democrats knew it. It was far easier for Obama to simply let the Democrats have their way with the bill rather than negotiate and compromise with the minority party to create a workable alternative that might have created actual reform. 

The fight over Obamacare, by the way, not only solidified the dividing lines in Washington, D.C., but it also led to the radicalization of the Right that the Left has spent the last decade whinging about (as if the Left played no role at all). 

The tone and behavior of the Democrats during the ACA passage was set by Obama and muddied the political waters likely for a generation.

4. America’s Debt

The next greatest failure of the Obama Administration was the failure to rein in government spending and to winnow down America’s onerous debt. When he inherited the White House from George W. Bush, Obama did have a gigantic mess to clean. 

That’s true, though, of most American presidents. 

Obama’s solution was not to buckle down and deal with the crises he was dealt. Instead, his solution was to ignore the tragic reality he and the country faced and to pretend as if the debt was meaningless—by tacking on loads more debt, to spend money on Democratic Party wish lists. 

President George W. Bush could make the argument that he ballooned America’s debt load up the way he did to combat the Global War on Terror and for his Wall Street bailouts as he left office. 

And while Obama could make the claim that he was simply continuing those responses to deal with the ongoing emergencies, there was so much other spending that occurred that did not to happen it begs the question: just what was Obama thinking? 

Obama spent more tax dollars than all 43 presidents who came before him. This was born out of the Keynesian belief that one can spend their way out of economic decline. You cannot. All that does is weaken the economy, reduce your currency’s standing in the world, and set yourself up for the mother-of-all bankruptcies. 

There was a pristine opportunity for Obama to transcend his ideological biases. 

In 2011, for instance, then-Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) had a plan to create a “Grand Bargain” with President Obama. This “Grand Bargain” would radically restructure the federal government’s budget by reining in excess spending and selectively raising taxes until the overall national debt could be reduced to a more manageable size.

This would require political courage of the sort that President Obama lacked. 

Who wants to cut goodies (especially going into a reelection campaign, such as Obama was in 2012)? 

It’s easier to paint Republicans as a bunch of miserly racists intent on throwing grandma off the cliff and making the rich wealthier. Rather than work to create a “Grand Bargain” that would have made America a stronger, more prosperous, freer nation in the long-run, Obama refused to negotiate; he scuttled his talks with Boehner and doubled-down on the excessive spending. 

The major economic crisis that the United States is speeding towards today is the direct result of Obama’s failure—his willing refusal—to address the emergency when it could have been contained and resolved before becoming the crisis we’re heading into today.

3. Russia and China

Today, it is obvious that the two greatest security challenges the United States faces are China and Russia. When Obama was sworn in as president in January 2009, however, that was not at all clear (it was to foreign policy nerds like me, but it was still a matter of debate). What was clear was that both Beijing and Moscow were making increasing moves to complicate life for the United States as the sole remaining Superpower.

In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin had journeyed to the Munich Security Conference and went on a legendary rant where he accused the United States of evil imaginable. Less than a year later, Putin illegally invaded his neighbor in Georgia. He launched attacks on Estonia, too. Meanwhile, he was increasing his ire against Ukraine. All these events happened in plain view and were known to Obama and his advisers when they took over from George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, Obama opted to unilaterally remove the ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield that the Bush Administration had been building in Poland. 

After that, Obama effectively conceded American nuclear weapons supremacy to Russia with the New START Treaty. President Obama then pleaded with the Russian leadership to give him more time to negotiate after he was reelected in 2012. 

That sign of weakness went over well in Moscow. It partly explains why Putin invaded and annexed Crimea. Obama did nothing in response, setting the stage for the current Russo-Ukraine War plaguing the world.

Regarding China, there were a series of provocations that the Chinese undertook against the United States during Obama’s presidency. At each turn, Obama refused to rebuff China’s aggression. 

That, in turn, invited more aggression from China. 

When Beijing began its illegal island buildup in the South China Sea, President Obama refused to respond. It created a new paradigm in the Indo-Pacific that favored China and weakened America’s standing there. Since that time, a slow but steady bleeding of American power and influence in the region has occurred that has decisively favored China. 

Obama’s Russia and China policy failures directly created the nightmare scenario of a Sino-Russian axis of autocrats in Eurasia that is today threatening to displace the United States as the dominant world power.

2. Empowering Iran

If the passage of the ACA in Obama’s first term was his to be the forty-fourth president’s greatest domestic policy achievement (it wasn’t), then the Iran nuclear agreement in President Obama’s second term was to be his foreign policy masterstroke (like the ACA, it wasn’t). 

Obama was operating on the naïve assumption that the Iranian regime, despite its public appearance of being led by millenarian religious zealots, was a rational actor seeking normalization in a world that had isolated them. 

Part of Obama’s goal was to distance the United States from the Middle East after more than a decade of being bogged down there. Unfortunately for Obama, carefully laid plans, or perfect academic theories on how humans should act rarely translate well in the real world. The Iranian regime could not be trusted. 

What’s more, entrusting Iran with nuclear weapons was the work of a madman. After all, Iran was one of the world’s leading state sponsors of global terrorism.

Obama believed that if he allowed for the Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran to acquire nukes, with the predominantly Jewish democracy of Israel long having possessed nuclear weapons, and a Sunni Islamic world nominally led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was opposed to Iran, a balance of power that would lead to long-term peace would be at hand. 

That is not how things would go, though. 

Any attempt by the United States to normalize relations with Iran and allow for the peaceful march toward Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities would only militate Tehran further against the West, believing the Western powers were weak and could be toppled.

President Obama even partnered with the Islamic Republic of Iran to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an organization that was itself birthed because of shabby Obama foreign policy when he decided to sloppily withdraw US forces from Iraq. Because of that short-sighted decision, Iran was given carte blanche to expand into Iraq and connect its power base with that of Lebanon, thereby threatening Israel. 

Today, Iran is one of the world’s leading forces of instability. Their growing nuclear weapons capability as well as their newfound alliance with China and Russia, could lead to the breakout of the third world war—something that Obama’s hairbrained scheme in 2015 was supposed to avert.

1. Refusing to Support Joe Biden as His Successor in 2016

It might sound strange that this would be his greatest mistake. A president, especially a two-term president, such as Obama, must always work to solidify his legacy. That’s why it made no sense for him to support his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in her shambolic bid to run for president (for a second time) in 2016.

Although Hillary Clinton had worked for Obama, she was never truly part of his inner circle. She had, after all, waged a vitriolic campaign against Obama in the 2008 Democratic Party Primary. 

Obama had also viewed her and her husband as dangerous moderates.

Hillary and Obama shared little in common, other than the fact that they were both Democrats. Had Clinton been elected in 2016, she would not have secured Obama’s legacy. In fact, she’d have acted more like George H.W. Bush did when he took over from Ronald Reagan in 1989. There would have been a purge of Obama’s people as soon as Hillary was sworn in. 

Obama left his party weaker than when he had found it in 2008. There was but one chance for Obama’s legacy to have been secured: supporting his then-vice-president, Joe Biden, over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination. There’s no greater sign of a failed presidency than leaving one’s own party eviscerated as Obama did. Joe Biden might have prevented that.

Consider this: Biden appealed to the same kinds of voters that Trump was. In fact, Trump’ primary appeal in 2016 was because Hillary Clinton enraged the working-class voters with her “basket of deplorables” running commentary in which she impugned all the members of that traditionally solid Democratic Party voting bloc as racists and smelly ignoramuses. 

Then came the self-inflicted disaster that was her ridiculous email imbroglio. 

While we now know of Hunter Biden’s nefarious activities likely on behalf of his father, those scandals were not well known in 2016. Coming off the heels of his older son’s, Beau Biden, tragic death by brain cancer (in which Beau supposedly pleaded with his father to run for president in 2016), Joe Biden would’ve had massive sympathy going for him. 

And, as Obama’s right-hand-man for all eight years of his presidency, Biden could’ve appealed to the Obama voters in ways that Hillary couldn’t have. 

Alas, Obama stuck to his support for Hillary, despite the fact that everyone knew the Obama and Clinton camps never got along. It almost makes one wonder just what, precisely, the Clintons had on Obama. 

Plus, we all know that, irrespective of their public image as besties, Obama merely tolerated Joe Biden. So, he was never going to support Biden as his anointed successor. Even though Joe Biden ultimately proved that he could beat Donald Trump. 

A Legacy of Failure

There were many more options to pick from when creating this list. These five are the biggest ones, in my opinion, that have negatively impacted the country, the world, and Obama’s party. Most of these failures could have been avoided had Obama lived up to his own promises of being a post-partisan president. Instead, he governed as the most Left-wing president we’d had until that point (now, Biden has surpassed Obama). 

The crises we are living with today are, in many cases, the result of failures and excesses that former President Obama engaged in while he was in office. Historians will remember him as being the first African-American president. As for being a great president, if they’re being honest, they will remember him as the beginning of the end of America as a superpower. 

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A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

Written By

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who recently became a writer for Weichert is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as a contributing editor at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (March 28), and Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.