Monday, January 16, 2017


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

      President Obama has been busy with his phone and pen since November 8th.  He expelled 35 Russians and signed an executive order placing sanctions against Russian for cyber attacks on the United States.  He also informed Congress that he would resettle 19 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Obama had vowed he would close the facility when he was elected and while he hasn’t been able to do that, but he has reduced the number of prisoners from a high of 700 during George W’s term to just 40 today.  President elect Trump has vowed to keep Guantanamo open and perhaps add more prisoners. “I want to make sure that if we have radical Islamic terrorists, we have a very safe place to keep them,” Trump said.  
     In December, Obama also commuted the sentences of 153 prisoners and pardoned 78, many serving sentences for non-violent drug related offences.  Over the last eight years, Obama has used clemency powers to shorten the sentences of over 1,000 offenders, which is more than all previous presidents combined.  President Obama has focused on trying to reform drug sentencing for non-violent offenders and has gotten some support in Congress on both sides of the aisle, but legislation died last year in committee.
     Also the POTUS set aside land in Utah and Nevada as national monuments, much of which leaders in those states said could be used for energy exploration.  In Utah, it was over 1.3 million acres and in Nevada over 300,000 acres.  The Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes has vowed to sue the feds over the EO affecting his state.
      Obama also placed U.S. owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and Atlanta off limits for future oil and gas exploration.  He banned future mining claims in Yellowstone.  He has appointed hundreds of people to boards, and created the Council on Community Solutions, which is charged with strengthening partnerships with communities and the federal government.  “This administration has been dedicated to leaving the federal government better and more effective than we found it,” the POTUS said last month when he created the new council.
     No doubt a significant number of the above will be overturned when Donald Trump takes office, but the fact that President Obama felt compelled to sign a flurry of Executive Orders on his way out the White House door reveals a great deal. 
     First, Obama wants Trump to overturn his Executive Orders.  This wasn’t about policy- it was about politics.  He was positioning for the Democrat Party in the future.  If Trump overturns Obama’s EOs, then the talking points become what Trump opposes, not what he is doing.  Obama knows the liberal base needs energizing after the November defeat and the way to do it is to paint Trump and all Republicans as uncaring, anti-environment racists.  It is a risky strategy, but it is clearly the only hope the Ds have if they expect to do well in the mid terms in 2018.
     Second, Obama’s vow to make the transition smooth was a lie.  Normally Washington DC goes into a ‘holding pattern’ in a presidential election year.  Few major policy issues are taken up in an election year because Congress knows a new Congress and POTUS are being elected.  Protocol dictates wait until the new elected leadership is swore in before taking up the people’s business.  Obama breached that protocol big time.  Every POTUS have a few last minute pardons, but never in our nation’s history has a president unilaterally taken such action as Obama has- and clearly without consulting his successor.  Obama has done everything possible to make Trump’s first few months in office difficult and that is intentional.
     Third, we haven’t heard the last of Obama.  Most former POTUS give their successors space and stay out of the public eye, but in his ‘farewell’ speech he said he plans to remain engaged in policy after he leaves office.  Certainly that is his right and with Trump vowing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act- the ‘crown jewel’ of his eight
years in office, perhaps it is understandable, but this would be unprecedented in modern times. Former presidents normally don’t criticize the sitting POTUS, but expect that to change.
     In his farewell speech, President Obama said: “If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”  I have agreed with little this POTUS has done or said in the past eight years, but he is absolutely right about how change is accomplished- by hard work and persistence.  As George Allen said, “The world is run by those that show up.” Are you showing up?

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