Why Obama Likely is Secretly Glad Hillary Lost

Am I the only person who thinks that in Barack Obama’s heart of hearts lies a glimmer of glee now that the Clintons won’t be moving into the White House when he moves out?  Roll your eyes in skepticism, if you will. But hear me out before launching a barrage of Bronx cheers.

Yes, yes, I know.  Obama took time out from his busy presidential schedule to campaign for Hillary.  On the other hand, he’s taken time out to play golf, fly off to vacations, fund-raise, and do other things unrelated to the business at hand.  Face it: the garrulous guy has always loved being on the stump.  In fact, he delivers speeches better than he delivers the promises in them.  And even if he isn’t allowed by law to run for a third term, he has sufficient conceit to believe that he could handily have whipped both Hillary and The Donald.

Obama would be the first to remind us that the longer the contentious 2016 presidential campaign dragged on, the higher his approval ratings rose, if only because he was not actually a candidate.   Still, our sitting president is vain enough to take this as a sign of his enduring popularity, of which he intends to take full advantage when he leaves office.  In a way, it will help him that Secretary Clinton was defeated, since there now appears to be no other Democrat who is capable of reminding the world how he won two elections and did much good. 

Such a rationale could ensure that Obama remains a significant -- and even idolized – figure  among disillusioned Democrats.  Republicans may not approve of how “un-presidential” he has behaved since the November election.  But in the eyes of his supporters, he is still the only undisputed hero they have.

Then, of course, there is the weighty matter of whether the election results will jeopardize Obama’s highly-coveted “legacy.”  At the close of every recent presidential term, there seems to be a general obsession  with how historians  will  judge it -- even if the verdict is to be rendered  long after  we are no longer  around to care.

Those with uninformed opinions resort to the cliché that “history will decide” whether a leader has been good or bad. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for example, ignored the treachery of Cuba’s recently deceased Fidel Castro, instead handing permission over to “history” to decide the fate of his legacy, as if his heinous crimes against humanity could, in fact, be judged less harshly as they retreated into time.

As for U.S. presidents, there are plenty whose legacies have been forgotten or no longer heralded.  I think it is safe to say that the average citizen’s knowledge of history precludes the prudent evaluation, one way or the other, of past leaders’ lasting effects.  To complicate matters, what would appear to be a flawless justification for historical recognition could become overshadowed by some other less salient event.  Richard Nixon scored a historic coup when he opened up relations between the United States and China, a rising giant  “lost” to the world for many years before then.   But many more people today would associate Nixon with sins in The Watergate than with successes in the Far East.  Future generations may or may not see it this way.

As for Obama, his legacy was assured at the moment of his election. No matter what else he did or did not accomplish, he will go down in history for his unprecedented feat of becoming the first black President of the United States.  He doesn’t need health care reform to insure this abiding distinction.  And besides, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, she would certainly not have retained his legislation in its present form.  Jealous of having had her own health care plan shunned by Congress sixteen years earlier, Ms. Clinton would gladly have made changes to her predecessor’s legislation, including its name.

Well, then, what about the issue of any personal guilt Obama might assume for Hillary’s defeat?  Not to worry.  He may feel the Democrats’ pain, but he’s made clear that he doesn’t feel in any way responsible for it.   When he jaws about blame for the election loss, it’s all about the evil influence of Fox News or the party’s diminished ground game or the lackluster voter turnout among Democrats.  Any understandable hint of disappointment on his part is eased by the satisfaction of knowing that he did a whole lot better at the polls than she did.  Do you suppose he’s deflated when analysts point to his 2008 and 2012 superior performances in states and districts clear across the board?

The long-time Democratic rivals may have publicly hugged and praised each other, but  considering the deep, if barely disguised, dislike between the Obamas and the Clintons,  Hillary’s drubbing must  give the outgoing president  some secret scintilla of satisfaction.  Had she replaced him in the Oval Office, Hillary would also have usurped him as the presiding figurehead of the Democratic Party. Instead, Obama survives as its most popular figure.  And even more importantly, he will have an opportunity to sound forth to the world.

For eight long years, Obama has been the Moralizer in Chief.  All those pew-bound Sundays of bombast obviously hit their mark, since Jeremiah Wright’s most famous congregant likes nothing better than to lecture Americans on who we are and who we must not be.  Now that Obama has a new and hostile administration to target, the future ex-president will eagerly speak his mind on a global scale, where his fees for moralizing -- or demoralizing, perhaps  -- will ensure a handsome lifestyle.

You may rightly ask if the president isn’t deeply disappointed that America failed to put a woman in the White House.  Possibly.  But maybe he is thinking that he was able to crash through a significant barrier while she wasn’t.  And then there are the political prospects for Michelle Obama, who, by all accounts, was better received than candidate Clinton when they traveled together on the campaign trail.  Maybe Obama figures that if Hill and Bill didn’t make the first husband/wife to each preside in the Oval Office, there’s hope for Barack and Michelle!  It’s a long shot, but so were a lot of other things in his life.  Few would be surprised, certainly, if the First Lady ran for a US Senate seat from Illinois   If it takes some pressure to usurp a Democrat incumbent, so be it.

The bottom line of Barak Obama’s future probably won’t change all that much as a result of the election outcome.  Regardless of his successor, he will remain an ambitious guy resistant to becoming the ghost of politics past. And with the happy prospect of being internationally sought after as speaker and statesman, along with a bit of pie-in-the-sky as to being the future First Gentlemen of the United States, how sad can Obama really feel about Hillary’s defeat?

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