Twelve months to go.
Americans wonder how much more damage President Obama can do. Evidently peeved that his “accomplishments” are not getting enough attention, Obama recently called for backup, inviting several friendly columnists to a Christmas pep rally in the White House, behind closed doors. Promises of transparency having long-since been abandoned, the president’s chat was off the record, but the leavings of it surfaced in stories like that posted by The New York Times, which noted that Mr. Obama is ending 2015 “with a series of accomplishments,” but that those victories have been overshadowed by ISIS.
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The message: Americans are too scared and stupid to appreciate what a terrific job President Obama is doing.
Another view: President Obama has never, not once in 7 years, shared the priorities of the nation. In 2009, voters worried about jobs; Obama was focused on cramming his unpopular “legacy” healthcare bill down the country’s throat, no matter the harm done to job creation, no matter the political divide it caused, no matter the potential upheaval wreaked upon our healthcare industries.
Today, Americans are concerned about terrorism, as they bury 14 in San Bernardino and witness the frightening expansion by ISIS to fifteen nations. Obama, always the odd man out, is focused on climate change.
It is always about the legacy. Going forward, he will evidently try to check two more legacy boxes: closing Guantanamo Bay and posting new rules for gun purchasers. Both pursuits are deeply unpopular with Americans and yet, the president wonders why his approval ratings are so low.
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On January 22, 2009, just a few days after taking office, President Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo. He is still pushing to do so. To that end, he plans very soon to release 17 more “low-level” detainees. Here’s the problem: there are no more “low-level” detainees being held at Gitmo. They were sent packing long ago; some 530 were released during George W. Bush’s presidency. Those remaining in custody are the bad guys – the ones that will more than likely suit up to rejoin the fight the minute they are on home turf.
Paul Sperry, a Hoover Institution fellow, recently wrote about the current review process for sending inmates home. It is a joke. He details the release of al-Qaeda member Ibrahim al-Qosi, a member of Osama bin Laden’s retinue, who knew about the 9/11 attacks and who fought against the U.S. in Afghanistan. He was sent home to Sudan, and almost immediately became a chieftain in a Yemeni al-Qaeda outfit, promising on video to attack Americans. As Sperry points out, almost 200 Gitmo graduates have signed up with terror groups – about one third of those released.
Other notable returnees include the Taliban Five, exchanged for accused deserter Bowe Bergdahl. According to a report from the House Committee on Armed Services, the president’s own internal review “determined that the Taliban Five were sufficiently dangerous to require them to remain in detention.” The release was found to be illegal, and carried out without the participation of “senior officials within the Department of Defense best equipped to assess national security risks….” Three of the five have apparently re-engaged in terror activities.
President Obama maintained in his recent press conference that Guantanamo is a “key magnet for jihadi recruitment.” Many have pointed out that the prolific propaganda that ISIS thugs spew online almost never mentions Gitmo. Al-Qaeda used to publicize the detention facility but ISIS is too busy broadcasting beheadings and recruiting terrorists from the West. This is one of many false narratives spun by the White House. Much more common in ISIS materials is invoking the Crusades, something that Obama actually parroted at last year’s prayer breakfast.
Note that once again President Obama is bucking public opinion. Polling shows that more than half the country thinks we should continue to operate the Guantanamo facility; only 28 percent thinks it should be closed.
Equally unpopular is the president’s push for new gun control laws. Bruised by a recalcitrant Congress in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Obama will seek to issue executive actions on prohibiting the sale of firearms to people on the “no-fly” list, and to expand background checks. Those measures would not have prevented Sandy Hook or the recent killings in San Bernardino, but President Obama considers some action better than no action and is determined to cook up a plan that can withstand court challenges.
His timing is unfortunate. In the wake of the recent terror assault, Americans, for the first time in over twenty years, now oppose a ban on assault weapons – 53 percent to 45 percent, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. That same survey found that 47 percent of the country wants easier access to guns rather than more gun control laws. At the same time, on Black Friday (November 27) the FBI processed a record 185,345 background checks for gun sales; that’s called voting with your feet.
The New York Times recently quoted White House aide Phil Schiliro as saying that Mr. Obama “doesn’t worry about polls and the news cycle.” That assertion is laughable, given his recent confab with opinion-makers. A more likely conclusion is that Obama thinks he knows best, and the public be damned. Only one more year.