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Prospect of current presidential candidates will create nostalgia for President Obama

Milam's Musings, milambc@miamioh.edu

As the 2016 presidential election rolls along, a startling thought occurred to me: I'm going to miss President Obama.

I'm assuming I'm not alone in this sentiment, considering Obama's job approval is at the highest weekly average it's been since May 2013, reaching 50 percent, according to Gallup.

Yearning for Obama to stay longer in the White House isn't hard to understand, given that Americans are likely facing a Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton general election.

And before you start in on me, I want you to keep in mind two things:

1) I have no interest in repealing the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would eliminate term limits for the president. There's no good reason for any person, no matter what they're doing in office and how well or not they're doing, to have an extended stay there. The last thing I want is a repeat of the disastrous FDR presidency.

2) More importantly, my political philosophy is anarchism. President Obama, like most presidents before him, has engaged in activities abhorrent to someone of my persuasion. When I judge a president, I judge them with that consideration in mind. In an ideal world, the office of the presidency wouldn't even exist.

But still, compared to George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him and his likely successor, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, President Obama is "least abhorrent."

Here's the thing. Anarchists like me - or just those who genuinely seek a more limited government - ought not to see it as a zero-sum game, wherein, we jump straight to limited government or everything is a bust.

Big government arrived here gradually over time and any "wins" we can put in the column of reducing its size and power are worth celebrating.

As such, let me briefly go over a few reasons why even anarchists and limited government-minded folks ought to be yearning comparatively for more Obama.

For the record, I could add counters and caveats to the areas in which I'm about to praise Obama, especially on foreign policy, since I'm working from that baseline of abhorrence. But, for the sake of the discussion, I won't do that right now.

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Rhetorically, Obama says things about American power and foreign policy that are refreshing.

The Atlantic's 2016 cover story, "The Obama Doctrine," explores this extensively, but there are some important takeaways.

For instance, Obama disdains the foreign-policy establishment, saying, "dropping bombs on someone to prove that you're willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force."

Or how tired he grew of watching Washington unthinkingly drift toward war in Muslim countries.

Or how he rightly says that ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States and that he repeatedly reminds his staff that "terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents and falls in bathtubs do."

Or his recognition that the 2011 intervention in Libya didn't work and that it's a total "shit show" right now. Unlike Clinton, on the other hand, who refers to it as a use of "smart power" and said "we didn't lose a single person there," overlooking the death and destruction for Libyans.

Moreover, Obama helped move the United States (at least marginally) forward on better relations with Iran and to a larger extent, Cuba.

All in all, Obama has demonstrated less willingness to use American military might.

The same most certainly can't be said about Clinton. And, as for Trump, he's a wild card, because who really knows what he believes? If we take Trump at his word, he'd like to bomb the families of terrorists, upgrade our torture methods and he continually makes the point that our military has been diminished (it hasn't).

On the domestic side of things, the biggest area Obama has been a "win," inasmuch as a president can be a win, is on criminal justice reform.

Obama visited a federal prison, a first for a sitting president. Yes, it's a symbolic gesture, but optics in politics matter.

During his presidency, Obama has granted 184 clemencies (as in, commuting the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders), which is more than the last four presidents combined, according to Fusion.

In 2015, Obama also used his executive power to "ban the box" on all federal job applications. On job applications, applicants will no longer have to fill in the checkbox regarding a criminal record.

Clinton certainly talks a big game now about criminal justice reform, but the only reason to think that is the case is because it's now politically safe to do so. I have no confidence that she would actually be good on the issue if she gets in the White House.

Furthermore, despite the plethora of practical reasons to be against it, as well as the moral, Clinton still supports the death penalty. For what it's worth, Obama still supports it "in theory," but at least he seems troubled by its practical implications.

As for Trump, he most certainly wants to get "tough" on so-called illegal immigrants by deporting them and building a wall. Trump also said in one of the Republican debates that the police are the most "mistreated people in the country," which made me chuckle when I heard it.

Finally, as much as people may disdain it, likability matters to some degree, and Obama is at least likable. It's inconceivable to say the same of Trump or Clinton.

The state of democracy in America is a real "shit show" when the two leading candidates are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Is this the best we can do? Is Mencken right that we deserve to get one of them through our blessed democracy "good and hard?"

Matt Welch had it right in Reason magazine when he said about Obama, "It's a pathetic statement about contemporary American politics that a few short years from now, libertarians may start to feel nostalgic for the guy."

I'm already feeling nostalgic, as the Obamas prepare to move out and the manure truck backs up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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