woody zimmermann 120The “reasonable” Obama – that exemplary outgoing POTUS who promised a “smooth” transfer of power to President-elect Donald Trump – is giving the country, not to mention his political opponents, a lesson in his concept of an “orderly” retreat from power. Timid Republicans, who naively believed that the gracious, “post-partisan” president would actually go quietly, are watching open-mouthed as Mr. Obama joyously torches everything he can on his way out the door. It is a wonder to behold – an absolute primer on a “scorched earth retreat,” Russian-style. To illustrate my claim, I cite the following examples (not necessarily a comprehensive list):

Cancellation of off-shore oil-drilling leases. Last week Mr. Obama issued an order prohibiting future offshore oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea and in all but 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea. He also designated 31 major underwater canyons off-limits for drilling, from Heezen Canyon, off New England, to the Norfolk Canyon near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. As authority for his order, Mr. Obama cited section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, which a president can use to designate national monuments to permanently protect parcels of land from development. Allegedly, the act contains no provision for a later president to undo those protections. Thus, Mr. Obama claims that his order cannot be reversed by subsequent executive order. A new act of Congress would be required to accomplish that. Dan Naatz of the Independent Petroleum Association of America deplored Mr. Obama’s leftward shift on energy: “With one month left in office, President Obama has succumbed to environmental extremists’ demands to keep our nation’s affordable and abundant energy supplies away from those who need them most by keeping them in the ground.” (Mr. Obama’s claim of “permanence” for his ruling will undoubtedly be tested in the courts.)

Prisoner-releases and sentence-commutations. Recent commutation of the sentences of 72 federal prisoners has brought Mr. Obama’s total of such actions to nearly 1,000 – the most of any president in history. This is part of Mr. Obama’s campaign against sentencing laws which have produced overcrowded US prisons full of minority prisoners who received long sentences due to controversial mandatory minimum sentencing rules. Past presidents have granted pardons and commutations on compassionate grounds, or because they believed an injustice had been done. But Mr. Obama has done it because of his political disagreement with federal law.

Emptying Guantanamo prison. Mr. Obama is attempting to make good on a key campaign promise: to empty out and close Gitmo. In his 2008 campaign he had vowed to close the prison, claiming that its very existence was a “recruiting tool” for terrorists. Last week, Mr. Obama announced plans to send another 17 or 18 of the 59 remaining inmates to Italy, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Most military experts agree that the 59 who remain are the “worst of the worst,” with at least 27 designated as “too dangerous to release.” During his terms Mr. Obama has released and/or repatriated scores of prisoners, many of which have found their way back into terrorism operations.

Russian “hacking.” The story that Russian penetration of our voting computers and hacks of Democrats’ e-mails aided Mr. Trump and damaged Hillary Clinton has been a convenient explanation for Mrs. Clinton’s fumble of a sure win. Although penetration of election computers isn’t possible, since they are not connected to the internet, Mr. Obama has done nothing to assure the public that this could not have occurred. He has simply remained aloof and allowed the tale to take on a life of its own. When voters finally saw that it couldn’t have happened, Dems accused the Russians of turning voters against Mrs. Clinton by hacking her e-mails and the e-mails of Democrat officials. Mr. Obama has encouraged this tale by letting the CIA state publicly that the Russians definitely did this. There is, however, no agreement among other national security arms that this scenario actually occurred – and even less agreement that it influenced voters. But the whole thing has smeared Mr. Trump’s win – another ember in the scorched earth.

UN Security Council’s resolution on Israel. Last week, a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory was put to a vote in the United Nations Security Council. The original UN charter specified five permanent members of the Council (The USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, China and France) who could exercise veto power over any SC-resolution. In the past, the USA has always vetoed any anti-Israel resolution. But on this latest occasion, our ambassador was directed by the White House to abstain – thereby allowing the resolution’s adoption. (The UK and France voted against, but did not veto it.) Mr. Obama’s non-action was seen as a parting slap at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose relationship with Mr. Obama has been strained during most of Mr. Obama’s tenure. But the resolution is more than symbolic. It automatically becomes a tenet of International Law, branding Israel as a violator. The repercussions of this might adversely affect peace in the Middle East, as well as the entire world. As with other of Mr. Obama’s closeout actions, this one also cannot easily be remedied by a new president’s direct action. A new Security Council resolution introduced to reverse this one would almost certainly be vetoed by China or Russia. Only some hardball politicking by our new UN ambassador can get the resolution repealed.

The Iran Deal. Mr. Obama’s “legacy” foreign policy achievement was to be the landmark deal that supposedly keeps Iran from getting the atomic bomb – at least while Mr. Obama and his presumptive successor, Hillary Clinton, were still in office. After that, welllll… we would hope for the best. Meanwhile, the deal would produce a “kinder, gentler” Iran, whose leaders would be more inclined to sit down at the Table of Brotherhood to sing Kum-Ba-Yah with us, Israel, Syria, Russia, the reformed Iraq, and the murderous ISIS swine who plan to establish a worldwide “caliphate,” starting in the Middle East. This would be Mr. Obama’s parting gift to us and the world.  But instead of a new, peaceable Iran, we now have a more aggressive, warlike Iran whose leaders are confident that their most outrageous actions will elicit no pushback from a US president who desperately wants to keep his legacy-deal intact until he can get out the door in January. President Trump will be left to untangle (or cut through) this Gordian Knot which (many experts agree) will surely give Iran the Bomb – after which the Islamist terrorists are dead certain to get it, too. (I emphasize the word “dead.”) My “scorched earth” list is ordered in a rough reverse-chronology, with the newest instances first. But ordered by seriousness, the Iran deal would be at the top of the list. A nuclear-armed Iran and ISIS should be (as Thomas Jefferson once said of slavery) a “fire-bell in the night that awakens us and fills us with terror.”

Obamacare. The calumny of Obamacare is too detailed to be summarized in this brief analysis. Suffice it to say that Mr. Obama has repeatedly issued executive orders that fatally weakened the system’s financial foundation. As Josh Blackman has written: “Out of desperation to get as many people as possible signed up for health insurance, the Obama administration has arbitrarily suspended onerous mandates, modified coverage requirements and extended enrollment periods.” Most of these “administrative fixes” were issued to delay the most painful mandates until after the elections of 2010, ’12, ’14 and ’16, to limit the political damage. The public’s growing awareness of these artifices finally produced a Republican Senate, in 2014, and now a Republican president who has declared his intention to cancel the unpopular legislation. He can’t act too soon, for all those “onerous mandates” delayed by Mr. Obama’s “fixes” are about to hit the fan. It will be the mother of all scorched earth retreats, under a putrid rain of political doo-doo.

Shadow government. Undoing 225 years of presidential tradition, Mr. Obama has declared his intention to live in Washington, DC, after he leaves office. He claims that it is so his daughters can finish their secondary educations, but it’s not hard to see that his purpose goes deeper. Mr. Obama obviously intends to keep a close watch on how Mr. Trump governs. In particular, he will try to stop any attempts to undo his “legacy” achievements. He will be a highly visible rallying point for disappointed Democrats who can’t understand what has become of their nice, orderly gravy-train world. In effect, Mr. Obama will be running a “shadow government” from his new DC-digs. He has no plans to fade away gracefully. There’s no law against this, but it won’t smell good to voters who want to feel (and smell) a new, fresh breeze from the nation’s capital.

Weakened military. This problem has less visibility, but it’s very, very serious. With little understanding of how serious fighting men are produced, Mr. Obama has systematically stripped our service arms of strong leaders, and has conducted a ruinous campaign to use the services as social laboratories. This has undoubtedly weakened unit-cohesion, morale, and fighting strength. What some have called the “feminizing” of the armed services has even invaded our last bastion of pure warrior-culture, the US Marine Corps. Through Mr. Obama’s two terms, the Corps has fought a valiant, rearguard action against female, gay and transgender incursions, but it has been unquestionably weakened by resultant lowered standards. Reviving the Corps and shaking off the effects of Mr. Obama’s social “improvements” will be one of Mr. Trump’s most urgent tasks.

Opioid Epidemic. The abuse of both prescription opium-derivative drugs and illegal heroin has reached alarming levels in recent years, with overdose-deaths up dramatically. Although this is cited as a national “health” problem – and it certainly is that – the great unmentioned issue is porous borders that allow dangerous drugs to pour into the USA from Mexico, South America and China. Mr. Obama may not have intended this as part of his “scorched earth,” but it’s just as serious as if deliberately designed. On the other hand, there is no doubt that an important part of the liberal playbook is using crises as reasons to demand more government programs, funding and control. If some misguided policy, like open borders, can produce a crisis, so much the better.

Organized resistance to the Trump Inauguration. Plans to protest and disrupt the Trump inauguration are proceeding, with Al Sharpton in a key leadership role. The internet is awash with reports. The media see no problem with this. Nor do most Democrats – evidently including Mr. Obama. He should see a problem, however. If it happens, it will be a disgraceful spectacle for the rest of the world to see, and a dismal end to his presidency. We’ll look like a Banana Republic – or a Third World satrapy. A word from Mr. Obama could scotch the whole thing. I sincerely hope he speaks it.

Obama’s advice on executive orders. The richest part of Mr. Obama’s scorched earth strategy – the capstone, one might call it – has been his sage “advice” to the president-elect on executive orders. “Do as I say, not as I do…” was the gist of it. In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Mr. Obama said it’s preferable to work with Congress. “My strong preference has always been to legislate when I can get legislation done,” he said. (Who knew?) But he might have added that he did what he had to do to accomplish what he knew the country needed. You just can’t fool around with a recalcitrant Congress when there’s so much vital work to be done… What a guy! If nothing else, he gives new meaning to the term “chutzpah.”


So there you have it – the gracious Obama, the man of the people, the humble public servant just trying to leave the country better than he found it. As the old Irishman said, “It brings a lump to your eye and a tear to your throat…”

What a country!