Democratic Candidates Embrace and Reject the Obama Legacy
The two candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination are trying to have it both ways: they want the support of the Barack Obama coalition that got him elected to the presidency twice, but at the same time they are making the case that his policies have failed, and they know better how to fix them.
But the mainstream media have cast the latest Democratic debate as serving neither Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) nor Hillary Clinton, but instead bolstering the reputation of President Obama. While many in the media claim that Mrs. Clinton has embraced President Obama’s legacy more than the socialist Sanders has, a closer examination of her words reveals implicit criticism of Obama’s policies and progress.
While Mrs. Clinton’s words at times did embrace and praise Obama’s policy, both she and Sanders are, in effect, treating Obama’s policies as failures. This is not because, as some argue, they would like to push the hope and change agenda on to greater victories. It is, instead, because there is no way of getting around the fact that Obama’s policies have largely been disastrous for this country.
“In ways sizable and subtle, Clinton sought on Thursday [February 11] to show she was the faithful heir of the President’s legacy, repeating his name more than 15 times throughout the debate,” reported Sam Frizell for Time magazine. Similarly, Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere noted that “On the debate stage Thursday, she [Mrs. Clinton] invoked Obama’s name 21 times along with phrases like ‘I fully endorse,’ ‘I am a staunch supporter,’ and ‘I think President Obama has set a great example.’”
Hillary Clinton must carefully weigh the benefits of appealing to Obama’s remaining base of support while not losing dissatisfied Democrat voters to Sanders. While Mrs. Clinton did, as these media organizations report, continuously appeal to the President’s popularity and policies, both candidates’ words, in reality, serve as an ongoing indictment of President Obama’s legacy.
“I know a lot of Americans are angry about the economy,” said Mrs. Clinton at the February 11 debate. “And for good cause. Americans haven’t had a raise in 15 years. There aren’t enough good-paying jobs, especially for young people. And yes, the economy is rigged in favor of those at the top.”
As we have reported, one of President Obama’s signature falsehoods has been to argue that the economy is doing very well and has recovered. “Back in January, the labor force participation rate was the lowest since 1978,” we wrote. “It has since increased by a mere 0.2%.” Last year The Wall Street Journal called this recovery “the worst expansion since World War II.”
Sanders challenged the claims and accomplishments of the Obama administration in a series of questions he raised during the debate: “Who in America denies that we have an infrastructure that is crumbling? Roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, who denies that? Who denies that real unemployment today, including those who have given up looking for work and are working part-time, is close to 10 percent? Who denies that African-American youth unemployment, real, is over 50 percent?”
Charles Krauthammer described it this way: “Bernie Sanders is careful never to blame President Obama directly, but his description of the America Obama leaves behind is devastating—a wasteland of stagnant wages, rising inequality, a sinking middle class, young people crushed by debt, the American Dream dying.”
Another part of Hillary’s plan, to show she is just as tough on Wall Street as Bernie, is to impose a four percent “wealth tax” on people making more than $5 million per year, which she says would raise $150 billion over 10 years. That’s $15 billion a year. This serves to highlight another aspect of the Obama presidency. While campaigning for the presidency in 2008, Obama said that President George W. Bush had added $4 trillion to the national debt in 8 years, which Obama called “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Since President Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. has added approximately $9 trillion to the debt. Irresponsible? Unpatriotic? In that context, the idea that $15 billion a year will do anything significant while the federal government is spending $4 trillion a year is absurd. It is just class warfare, to show that she is down with the people, just like Bernie.
And Mrs. Clinton can scarcely complain about Wall Street “wreck[ing]” Main Street. She has refused to release transcripts of her paid Goldman Sachs speeches, according to The Daily Caller.
“She spent no time criticizing Goldman or Wall Street more broadly for its role in the 2008 financial crisis,” writes Ben White for Politico. He cites a person familiar with her 2013 speech as saying, “It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.”
Mrs. Clinton also defended her own Wall Street support by pointing to Obama’s big money from Wall Street when he ran in 2008.
One of the President’s biggest failures has been ObamaCare, which has resulted in higher premiums and less care overall. Sanders criticized the many failures of Obama’s signature achievement, decrying how, “Twenty-nine million people have no health insurance today in America.”
Six years after the passage of ObamaCare, the media tout that just 29 million remain uninsured. But that’s about the same number as when ObamaCare became law.
“About 4 million new people signed up for ObamaCare this year, which could be a sign that uninsured number is coming down,” reported The Hill last week. “It remains to be seen, though, how many of the 4 million were previously uninsured.” In other words, enrollees may be simply part of a shell game switching the previously insured across different types of insurance.
In addition, how many people have lost their full-time jobs as a result of the perverse ObamaCare incentives that result in employers hiring fewer full-time employees, and limiting the hours of part-time workers?
“Millions of people have high deductibles and co-payments,” Sanders said at the debate.
According to The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, “All states, with the exception of Mississippi, saw the cost of health insurance premiums increase for 2016” with most states seeing “premium costs rise by double digits.” Remember Obama’s promise that ObamaCare would reduce premiums for the average family by $2,500 per year?
Even the co-moderator of the debate, Judy Woodruff, implicitly lambasted President Obama’s record on race relations. “Secretary Clinton, I was talking recently with a 23-year-old black woman who voted for President Obama because she said she thought relations between the races would get better under his leadership, and his example,” said Woodruff. “Hardly anyone believes that they have. Why do you think race relations would be better under a Clinton presidency?”
The implicit assertion is, of course, that race relations have deteriorated under the leadership of America’s first black president.
Mrs. Clinton also proclaimed during the debate the need to guarantee “that women’s work finally gets the pay, the equal pay that we deserve.” Why hasn’t that happened after seven years of the Obama administration, including the first two years in which the Democrats had majorities in both houses of Congress to push through whatever they wanted, such as ObamaCare?
A Washington Free Beacon analysis conducted last February found that while Mrs. Clinton was a U.S. senator from New York, her female staffers were disproportionately paid 72 cents on the dollar when compared to her male staffers.
Clinton must realize that her words marginalize President Obama’s first piece of signed legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. This law was supposed to bolster pay equality by giving workers greater capability to challenge discriminatory pay practices. Arguing, seven years later, as Clinton does, that equal pay has a long way to go shines a light on President Obama’s efforts on this issue, and highlights her own hypocrisy.
What the debate demonstrated wasn’t, as the media has claimed, how Mrs. Clinton has married herself to President Obama’s policies. Instead, it has exposed Obama’s policies as abject failures that even Democratic candidates cannot defend.
At the same time, this debate was another clear example of how the media rarely ever put the Democrats on the defensive. Amazingly, not a single question was asked about any of the investigations looking into Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in Benghazi, into her handling of classified emails on her private server, or regarding the recently revealed subpoena issued by the State Department to the Clinton Foundation for possible conflicts of interest when Clinton was secretary of state. Some things never change.
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