US President Obama bids farewell

In his farewell address Barack Obama warned Americans to resist divisive trends and defend democracy. What will remain of the Obama era?

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Observador (PT) /

Republicans will destroy Obamacare

Obama's legacy is already being destroyed, economist Luís Aguiar-Conraria complains in Observador:

“He has left at least two very important legacies: he has shown that even members of minorities can become US president. And equally important, he introduced a healthcare system that despite its various defects helps US citizens who have no health insurance. It will be difficult to reverse the first legacy but the reversal of the second is already under way. Many people believe that the separation of powers in the US system will prevent Trump's free fall into the grotesque. But on this particular issue there is no counterweight. The Republicans want to destroy the system and the first step was taken a few days ago in the House of Representatives, where 227 representatives voted for a proposal that will pave the way for the dismantling of Obamacare.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Warnings also valid for Europe

The fact that Obama urgently warned of the dangers facing democracy in his farewell address should also give Europe pause for thought, Le Monde warns:

“It is alarming in itself when a US president feels compelled to make such self-evident statements in 2017. In the same breath Obama warned his fellow citizens of 'a weakening of values that make us who we are', and against 'external aggression'. So he is convinced: the various hacker attacks that took place in the 2016 election campaign were very much aimed at weakening American democracy. The words of farewell that Barack Obama addressed to his country's voters can be applied to most European democracies. His warning concerns us all.”

Turun Sanomat (FI) /

Successes and failures

Barack Obama's presidency had its ups and downs, Turun Sanomat explains:

“Obama can be proud of what he has accomplished. The economic crisis of 2008 quickly gave way to growth, employment rose, relations with Cuba were re-established, the nuclear agreement was reached with Iran, the US signed the Paris climate agreement, Osama bin Laden was shot dead, the banking system was regulated, the Affordable Care Act guarantees health insurance coverage for low earners, and same-sex marriage was legalised. ... His biggest failure is perhaps on the domestic front. Obama's term in office ended with the Democrats losing practically everything to the Republicans. Obama will have to take responsibility for the continued conflict and social division.”

Delo (SI) /

Obama's legacy is global conflict

Obama wanted to underline his achievements in his farewell address but particularly as regards foreign policy his results are meagre, Delo concludes:

“The politician who, even before he was elected, promised to sit down at the negotiating table with his country's biggest enemies often proved over eight years unable to talk even with the US's best friends. The US's recent 'childish' revenge against Israel in the UN Security Council is a prime example of this. Already before Obama's presidency Russia was no close ally of the US, but part of Obama's legacy is that he managed to bring the world a little closer to a situation that could develop into a global military confrontation.”

ABC (ES) /

Wars, racism, growing inequality

Overall Obama's presidency was not a success, ABC concludes:

“Obama knows that he will be judged more for his rhetoric than for his results which, analysed objectively, testify to a mediocre to negative presidency. But this is the privilege of the Democrat presidents, who are judged by what they say rather than what they do. What we have at the end of the Obama era is five ongoing wars - Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan - a virulent racism crisis, a middle class divided by growing inequality (despite good results on Wall Street and on employment) and - surprisingly for the progressives - more than three million undocumented immigrants sent back or deported to their country of origin.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Hesitation was his Achilles heel

Obama failed to live up to his promise 'Yes we can', La Repubblica complains:

“The balance sheet of international politics, that is the gains and losses chalked up as a result of the strategy of a big nation, is never as predictable as that of a company. Donald Trump, who is used to calculating everything in hard cash value, will soon discover that. But the disappointment with Obama outside the US is rooted in a vice that still seemed like a virtue in 2009: his tendency to hesitate. The man who sent a signal of hope with his famous slogan 'Yes we can' was unable to free himself from an existential condition that has fundamentally influenced his life and political history: the fear of contradicting and making enemies. ... The fear of appearing too radical and too militant in the eyes of the white majority. ... Obama is by nature a moderate, perhaps too reflective, too intelligent, to be commander in chief.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

The US given a more humane face

De Volkskrant's US correspondent Max Westermann doesn't agree with all the criticism of the outgoing US president:

“Obama brought the economy out of the worst crisis of the century and is leaving it in a much better state than it was before. … Obama gave his country a more humane face and the list of his foreign policy successes is long. … It is undisputed that Obama is a person of great integrity, a dignified president who made his decisions carefully and who along with his family is a model of respectability. For this reason the Obama critics are clearly going too far with their disparaging stance. … It has been scientifically proven that the president's skin colour is colouring opinions about him. American researchers have found that Obama's approval ratings would be several percentage points higher if he were white. So a black president needs to do more to achieve the same levels of approval.” (HR) /

Victim of evil powers

The departing US president will go down in history as a tragic figure, believes:

“Obama's successes during his first mandate will be remembered, but everything went awry in his second term - both at home and abroad. Not because his initial ideas were wrong, but because they didn't fit in with the interests of globalisation and profit-making, or with their powerful representatives behind the scenes. A president is leaving the stage who has been devoured by the system that brought him to power. The big players supported him for as long as he was useful to them but once they'd understood that he was against them and that he didn't want to understand the rules of the game, they let him go downhill toward the end of his mandate.”