Obama and the Cherry Tree: A Presidential Legacy

From Obamacare to the Iran deal, the outgoing president leaves behind a record of deception

Thanks to early George Washington biographer Mason Locke Weems, every American knows the Cherry Tree Myth. A young George Washington cut down one of his father’s cherry trees, and when confronted about it, he responded, “Father, I cannot tell a lie; I cut down the tree.”

The story isn’t true, but it does capture Washington’s legacy in a nutshell: the president of high ideals and unimpeachable integrity. The sort of man who would win the presidency by unanimous vote.

Noticeably omitted from the slow-jam are super-accurate lines like, “I took a $10 trillion debt and doubled it” or “Have fun watching your health care premiums swell.”

The Cherry Tree Myth also works as a measuring device for presidential legacies. Simply imagine — based on how they conducted themselves in office — how each president would have handled Cherry-Treegate. Here’s how I imagine a young version of President Obama would navigate the situation:

Father: “Barack, did you chop down my cherry tree?”

Obama: “I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday.”

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Father: “Well, if you didn’t do it, who is to blame?”

Obama: “Part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant.”

Father: “Do you know how long it took me to grow that cherry tree and how much work I put into it?”

Obama: “You didn’t build that.”

It’s fitting that the Obama administration is going out with a blinding grand finale of a fake narrative. Russian intervention, fake news, the Electoral College, James Comey — they’re tossing progressives handfuls of scapegoats like parade candy, and the mainstream media is treating everything they’re fed like every word is gospel. It’s been standard operating procedure for years.

The administration creates a narrative, and the mainstream media accepts it on faith. The entire Obama presidency has been one fake narrative after another.

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Ironically, in their effort to aid and protect Obama’s presidency, the mainstream media actually sabotaged it. What if the mainstream media had done their job and aggressively vetted the Affordable Care Act? They never would have gotten away with relying on a “lack of transparency” and “the stupidity of the American” voter that Jonathan Gruber, an Obamacare architect, claimed they used to force the bill down American throats. Obamacare, his major domestic policy accomplishment, has never stopped being a disaster and will soon be disassembled for the greater good.

His major foreign policy achievement, the deeply flawed Iran nuclear deal that Iran has already violated more than once, is no better than Obamacare. It was a terrible deal that barely survived an attempted veto override.

Constitutionally, a treaty requires concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate. Obama just barely got one-third of the Senate on board for the Iran deal, and even that required another of Obama’s signature propaganda efforts. Remember Ben Rhodes explaining how they created support for it? He bragged that they were able to create “echo chambers” in the media because “the average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

The media also never demanded better economic solutions to the weakest, slowest recovery in recent memory. Instead, they touted straw-house talking points which instantly blew down amid even minimal huffing and puffing. Remember when President Obama slow-jammed to those talking points on Jimmy Fallon? “We’ve added 14 million new jobs and lowered the unemployment rate to under 5 percent.”

Even Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile knew the talking points were nonsense. She wrote in a now infamous WikiLeaks email, “I think people are more in despair about how things are — yes new jobs but they are low wage jobs.”

She knows the U-3 unemployment rate they tout doesn’t care how much a person makes. The U-3 doesn’t care if your pizza was delivered by a nuclear physicist or if that’s an aerospace engineer cutting your grass for 20 bucks. If they did any work for any money, they’re employed — end of story, commence slow-jam. The U-6, which takes underemployment and marginal employment into account, still — after all these years of Obama’s policies — has not returned to pre-recession levels.

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Noticeably omitted from the slow-jam are super-accurate lines like, “I took a $10 trillion debt and doubled it” or “Have fun watching your health care premiums swell.”

But this didn’t fool Middle America. No narrative can dupe people into thinking there’s cash in their wallet, or that they can afford their new health care premium, or that their wages aren’t stagnant, or that they love their employment situation. That’s why CNN’s exit polls tell the true story of America’s economy: 62 percent of voters said the condition of the national economy is poor while only 36 percent said it’s good.

Obamacare, Iran deal, economic recovery. Those will be the three big resume items when Obama applies for his legacy — which will be one of grand narratives that never matched reality. He’ll be an important figure in history because he was the first black president, but in terms of accomplishments he will not be remembered as the transformational president he thought he’d be. Even if history is kind enough to forget the scandals (Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS targeting, etc..) he’ll be a Grover Cleveland-type character that the media always insisted was Lincoln.

Eddie Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.

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