Obama’s Gambit

The Roman historian Suetonius recounts that in his waning days, the emperor Tiberius had grown “thoroughly disgusted with himself” having besmirched the honors and successes of his youth with extravagant devotion to a great variety of sexual perversions, interspersed with the paranoid murder and persecution of enemies, real and perceived. Recognizing that history would not look kindly upon him, Tiberius cast about for a solution. What he came up with condemned his country to madness and tyranny, but indeed improved his own image. Tiberius adopted the son of the man he probably murdered to ascend to emperor, the obviously sadistic and insane Gaius Caligula, and bequeathed Rome to him.

President Obama is more popular at the end of his quasi-imperial reign than Tiberius was at the end of his. Feted and flattered still, it is unlikely that Obama feels disgusted with himself, if that’s even possible. Nor, of course, is Obama a deviant or a murderer, or Hillary obviously sadistic or insane. 

Nonetheless, like Tiberius Obama is a failed leader. At least the Roman balanced the budget. Obama is, in his spending habits, Caligula-like. His foreign policy is a shambles, he (and by implication his nation) is internationally disrespected, his administration from the IRS to the Justice Department is hopelessly corrupt, his signature legislation which commonly bears his moniker is imploding, race relations are tattered, police are regularly gunned down on the streets, Islamists terrorist hack, blow up or gun down civilians to boot, while the country staggers through the worst “economic recovery” in its history, bolstered by an phony zero interest rate inflated stock market bubble that will eventually explode. If not for a compliant mainstream press, and Obama’s historic position as the first black President, he might indeed be as unpopular as Tiberius was in his last days.

Given this, Obama probably can’t help but be overjoyed by the degrading and humiliating farce that is this year’s election. At a minimum it is a certainty that his successor will be reviled by at least half the nation and roiled by the election for many years to come, no matter who wins. That both Clinton and Trump are manifestly unpopular to the majority of voters practically guarantees that Obama will be fondly remembered by a lot of Americans for at least some time, if not into posterity.

Obama has been a lucky guy his whole life and it appears that run is continuing, though it must be said that like Tiberius, Obama has had a hand in ensuring that his succession will be messy at best, utterly disastrous at worst.

It is a commonplace that Obama has no love for the Clintons but he never seems to have waivered from supporting Hillary, despite her manifest faults, many of which he was eager to point to eight years ago. Part of that is just the way politics work, but some of it is Obama’s judgement of Hillary, couched all those years ago with the typically dismissive phrase “likeable enough,” by which Obama meant “She’s horrid.” He can’t help but look good in comparison.

Hillary’s troubles since the email scandal broke might have swayed Obama to put his considerable influence behind someone else, except for the prospect of his own positive reflection in the light of a Hillary presidency, and not incidentally his own involvement in the email affair. FBI Director Comey’s July exoneration of Hillary was in the view of many necessitated by Obama’s own legal exposure. Just as likely, Obama must have been, and must still remain, afraid that if he turns on Hillary, she will drag him down the email rat-hole for his own illegal use of her private server. On the other hand, a “successful” Hillary presidency (however unlikely) would make the case that Obama created truly transformational change in the country. A much more probable failed Hillary presidency will make many Americans and historians excuse Obama’s many foibles.

While nobody can know what a Trump presidency will bring, it won’t bode well for either Hillary or Obama’s legal exposure. It is highly unlikely that Trump would pursue Obama for his own dereliction and corruption after he leaves office. And Trump could turn magnanimous toward Hillary too, which would be politic, but also not in keeping with Trump’s election boasts or his temperament.  Would Hillary take Obama down with her if a Trump Justice Department were to pursue the email scandal to its deserved end? Do we even need to ask?

Obama’s on the hook too, and unlike Tiberius won’t have sweet death to relieve him of the nightmare of potential prosecution for his own misdeeds should Hillary not prevail. Obama’s powers are nearly imperial, but not quite enough to guarantee his own successor, no matter how much he and the Democrats try to improperly tilt the election. He has to know that at this point Hillary’s election will be a disaster for the country, miring the country in a constitutional crisis, but the bright side for Obama is the same one that animated Tiberius -- he’ll look real good in comparison. 

The Roman historian Suetonius recounts that in his waning days, the emperor Tiberius had grown “thoroughly disgusted with himself” having besmirched the honors and successes of his youth with extravagant devotion to a great variety of sexual perversions, interspersed with the paranoid murder and persecution of enemies, real and perceived. Recognizing that history would not look kindly upon him, Tiberius cast about for a solution. What he came up with condemned his country to madness and tyranny, but indeed improved his own image. Tiberius adopted the son of the man he probably murdered to ascend to emperor, the obviously sadistic and insane Gaius Caligula, and bequeathed Rome to him.

President Obama is more popular at the end of his quasi-imperial reign than Tiberius was at the end of his. Feted and flattered still, it is unlikely that Obama feels disgusted with himself, if that’s even possible. Nor, of course, is Obama a deviant or a murderer, or Hillary obviously sadistic or insane. 

Nonetheless, like Tiberius Obama is a failed leader. At least the Roman balanced the budget. Obama is, in his spending habits, Caligula-like. His foreign policy is a shambles, he (and by implication his nation) is internationally disrespected, his administration from the IRS to the Justice Department is hopelessly corrupt, his signature legislation which commonly bears his moniker is imploding, race relations are tattered, police are regularly gunned down on the streets, Islamists terrorist hack, blow up or gun down civilians to boot, while the country staggers through the worst “economic recovery” in its history, bolstered by an phony zero interest rate inflated stock market bubble that will eventually explode. If not for a compliant mainstream press, and Obama’s historic position as the first black President, he might indeed be as unpopular as Tiberius was in his last days.

Given this, Obama probably can’t help but be overjoyed by the degrading and humiliating farce that is this year’s election. At a minimum it is a certainty that his successor will be reviled by at least half the nation and roiled by the election for many years to come, no matter who wins. That both Clinton and Trump are manifestly unpopular to the majority of voters practically guarantees that Obama will be fondly remembered by a lot of Americans for at least some time, if not into posterity.

Obama has been a lucky guy his whole life and it appears that run is continuing, though it must be said that like Tiberius, Obama has had a hand in ensuring that his succession will be messy at best, utterly disastrous at worst.

It is a commonplace that Obama has no love for the Clintons but he never seems to have waivered from supporting Hillary, despite her manifest faults, many of which he was eager to point to eight years ago. Part of that is just the way politics work, but some of it is Obama’s judgement of Hillary, couched all those years ago with the typically dismissive phrase “likeable enough,” by which Obama meant “She’s horrid.” He can’t help but look good in comparison.

Hillary’s troubles since the email scandal broke might have swayed Obama to put his considerable influence behind someone else, except for the prospect of his own positive reflection in the light of a Hillary presidency, and not incidentally his own involvement in the email affair. FBI Director Comey’s July exoneration of Hillary was in the view of many necessitated by Obama’s own legal exposure. Just as likely, Obama must have been, and must still remain, afraid that if he turns on Hillary, she will drag him down the email rat-hole for his own illegal use of her private server. On the other hand, a “successful” Hillary presidency (however unlikely) would make the case that Obama created truly transformational change in the country. A much more probable failed Hillary presidency will make many Americans and historians excuse Obama’s many foibles.

While nobody can know what a Trump presidency will bring, it won’t bode well for either Hillary or Obama’s legal exposure. It is highly unlikely that Trump would pursue Obama for his own dereliction and corruption after he leaves office. And Trump could turn magnanimous toward Hillary too, which would be politic, but also not in keeping with Trump’s election boasts or his temperament.  Would Hillary take Obama down with her if a Trump Justice Department were to pursue the email scandal to its deserved end? Do we even need to ask?

Obama’s on the hook too, and unlike Tiberius won’t have sweet death to relieve him of the nightmare of potential prosecution for his own misdeeds should Hillary not prevail. Obama’s powers are nearly imperial, but not quite enough to guarantee his own successor, no matter how much he and the Democrats try to improperly tilt the election. He has to know that at this point Hillary’s election will be a disaster for the country, miring the country in a constitutional crisis, but the bright side for Obama is the same one that animated Tiberius -- he’ll look real good in comparison.