Barack Obama's Transformational Moment
President Barack Obama said he did not want just to be president but a "transformational president," and as he starts his sixth year in office, one must acknowledge how he has transformed both the presidency and America itself.
Under Obama, the executive branch abused power beyond what got Richard Nixon out of office on the threat of impeachment. It sent spy agencies after U.S. citizens and reporters, used tax authority to hurt political foes, and dispatched the Justice Department to aid friends (Black Panthers or Muslim groups) and to punish/threaten those it viewed as unfriendly.
"I have a pen and a phone," President Obama repeated several times in recent weeks, promising to enlarge his use of presidential decrees and "findings" beyond anything done by presidents before him, such as appointing most of the Federal Trade Commission or the National Labor Relations Board without congressional approval.
Indeed, President Obama acted as if he were Chief Justice Obama as well as House Obama and Senate Obama, by invalidating laws or parts of law passed by Congress -- such as parts of the immigration statutes and the new healthcare law, among many others.
Meanwhile, President Obama has been legislating his laws and making unilateral appointments by decree.
Abroad, Obama changed America's eagle into an ostrich, its head in the ground, wagging its tail feathers in the air, "leading from behind." Atom bombs in Iran: rationalize and temporize. Chemical weapons in Syria: dither and delay. Russian violations of nuclear arms treaties: smile and ignore.
At home, Obama changed the eagle into an opportunistic vulture, scavenging off the working class, the young and the wealthy, without helping the poor and elderly.
"This can be a breakthrough year for America," President Obama told Congress, asserting his leadership left America "better-positioned" than when he took office. He claimed unemployment had declined, but actually, official "unemployment" is dropping only because many people are drooping, having ceased looking for jobs.
The sad truth: for every three working-age Americans who work, two do not work. As CNN's economic staff observed, "the slice of Americans involved in the labor force has shrunk to a level not seen in 35 years."
That is not progress, but a return to the worst economic times under Jimmy Carter.
Obama's "State of the Union" speech was more like a half-time show at the Super Bowl with Democrats serving as cheerleaders jumping to their feet to applaud a president touting "achievements" in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan -- how he kept the U.S. out of war, brought troops home, and gave peace a chance for Arabs and Israelis.
But the "facts" and "figures" cited by Mr. Obama were really fictional accounts that bore no resemblance to a chilling reality. Almost singlehandedly, Obama has reversed 30 years of American diplomatic success in the Middle East by undermining America's two most central regional allies -- Egypt and Israel.
Obama invited the Muslim Brotherhood into power in Egypt, pretending it was "moderate" when it is really the world's largest Islamic terror group as well as bitterly opposed to Israel and Western values. Obama similarly encouraged the murderous Assad regime in Syria, sending an ambassador over strong Congressional objections.
More than 130,000 people have been killed in Syria since Obama tried to "engage" the Assad regime, and some of them were killed by the kinds of chemical weapons that Obama swore to stop.
The president and his feckless secretaries of state -- Hillary Clinton and John Kerry -- claim to be pushing the Arabs to peace with Israel, they actually pushed mid-east peace away more than any leaders in U.S. history.
It was the Obama Administration's negotiating stance that got the Palestinians to call off all talks with Israel for more than two years, after Obama-Biden staked out a more pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli negotiating stance than Yasser Arafat, insisting on an Israeli settlement freeze as a prerequisite to talks.
Obama-Biden-Clinton-Kerry have put great pressure on Israel not to build housing for Jews in Jerusalem while removing pressure on Iran not to build its bomb, and while removing pressure from Syria to destroy its chemical weapons.
Obama and Clinton also pressed Israel to apologize to Turkey for being attacked by Turkish-funded terrorists aiding Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Obama-Clinton also sucked up to Turkey's Islamist leader Recep Erdogan who froze Israel out of NATO counter-terror exercises.
This is the same Erdogan who jails more journalists than any other world leader and who has been Barack Obama's favorite Mideast leader.
In Iraq, Obama seized defeat from the jaws of victory, returning the country to the mayhem of Al-Qaeda terror and Iranian ascendancy. In Afghanistan, Obama surged in and surged out on a wave of rhetoric, and U.S. casualties also surged and for no purpose, merely to serve as a show of muscles that flex but do not follow through.
Obama's traveling salesman, Vice President Joe Biden, had claimed that Al-Qaeda was dead and the U.S. auto industry in Detroit was alive due to Obama, but a truer verdict is that Detroit is bankrupt and that the auto industry has not returned the billions in bailout funds, while Al-Qaeda is actually alive and spreading.
Those terrorists inspired or organized by Al-Qaeda have now set up operations in much of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, back in Iraq, the Sinai Desert, and even in the West Bank and Gaza. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder deserve some of the credit for crippling Western abilities to gain human intelligence.
Obama-Holder have stopped interrogations of captured terrorists, giving them the same legal rights as an American teenagers suspected of stealing a car, and they have blunted law enforcement attempts to focus on the Islamic terror danger, preferring to concentrate on the non-existent "threat" of "hate crimes against Muslims."
For more than ten years, FBI statistics show that this is not true. There are consistently six times more hate crimes against Jews. With Obama's support, Holder is about to promulgate "anti-profiling" guidelines that would prevent law enforcement from even examining the radical religious motives and ties of Islamic terror suspects.
But when the Islamic terror continued -- in Fort Hood, Boston, Benghazi, and elsewhere -- Obama changed the subject. Continued Islamic terror is filed under the categories: workplace violence, spontaneous demonstrations, man-made disasters.
Information that led to Bin-Laden and that protected America pretty well from 2002-2008 was developed using bipartisan-supported and narrowly focused terror surveillance plans and limited targeted killing of terrorists started by George W. Bush. Obama stopped many of the Bush programs, including interrogation of terrorists.
Obama has bragged about killing terrorists using drones, but his team has evaded charges about widespread killing of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obama does not admit that developing U.S. drone technology -- for warfare and intelligence -- expanded under the Bush team that was more careful about its use.
When terror struck U.S. diplomats on 9/11 in Libya, we know only that the president and Secretary of State Clinton cannot remember what they knew or where they were or why they wanted everyone to believe it was all some spontaneous demonstration spurred by some Christian Arab extremist publishing an offensive You tube video.
As the Arabs say -- Allahu A'alaam wa-antum la-ta'alimun -- "God only knows, and you do not know." Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton are making sure that neither God, nor any U.S. officials in Libya get to testify before Congress. The same thing applies to top IRS officials who get full pensions and refuse to talk to Congress or the press.
Barack Obama promised an open White House, whose decisions were transparent and reached without interference by "fat-cat" lobbyists. In practice, Obama has built the most imperial and hidden White House, where everything is scripted, where even press photos are supplied by the White House photographer.
There are few candid pictures in the Obama White House, and there are even fewer candid moments. That, too, is a transformation.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He teaches at Bar Ilan University, was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel's Ministry of Public Security, editing the Orient House Archives of the PLO. He is the Schusterman Visiting Professor at University of California, Irvine 2013-14.