Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 20, 2017

I’m dreaming of a bleak Christmas, my mind full of the ways Barack Obama’s presidency is going down in history. Yes, with every Christmas card I write, as the song goes.

Here’s the thing making Republicans joyful and triumphant, and Democrats dark on the winter solstice: Obama left his legacy undefended on the field. There’s nothing to stop President-elect Donald J. Trump from knocking it down like a house of cards — with pleasure. With every appointment, he makes clear that Obama’s America is under lethal attack. He’s sending in the Marines to run the Pentagon; the CEO of Exxon, with ties to Vladimir Putin, to State; a critic decrying public education to Education; a doctor in the House who aims to dismantle Obamacare; and a climate change doubter to protect the environment.

Each one is a gift.

Give him this. President Obama had a fine arc since the summer of 2015, on foreign and domestic fronts. The Iran nuclear deal and singing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral for nine murdered black churchgoers signaled a greater confidence and command. Yes, I was a believer. The president would end his eight years on a high note, just as he came in, as the answer to our hopes and fears of all the George W. Bush years.

Yet besides the numbing loss of Hillary Clinton, his chosen successor, Obama has faced hard realities: Russian hacking to influence the election, not to mention the fall of Aleppo, Syria’s city in shambles.

James Comey, the FBI director, is our own heartless Ebenezer Scrooge for Christmas 2016. Charles Dickens, get me a rewrite for “The Christmas Carol.” Comey, a pious Republican when he was appointed by a Democratic president — Obama — may have caused the wings of the electorate to flutter just enough to halt Clinton’s closing momentum.

Comey made a big deal about new emails on Clinton’s private server, days before the election, giving a “misdirect” to the public. It turned out to be for nothing — naught! — except it hurt her in a close race. On a wild goose chase, Comey became immersed in the House Republican witch hunt of her, not staying true to the larger duty to the American people. Her enemies could not have scripted his moves better.

Even more egregious, the FBI made no good-faith effort to contact John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman, to tell him about Russian hacking of campaign communications, including his own. Come on. Podesta was outraged to find the FBI made one phone call that went to the help desk. If Comey were doing his job properly, protecting national security, he would have briefed Podesta in person, in the light of day, during the campaign. Comey spent too little time on the real thing, and too much on a false pursuit of Clinton inside the FBI brute of a building.

It kills me that Obama appointed a Republican to the 10-year FBI post. It flatters his vanity to be above the partisan fray. Preening has consequences, causing Obama to leave us with the House, Senate, Supreme Court and White House, all on the other side. I’m sorry, but that’s rough. And rare.

Back to writing Christmas cards. I search for the words to share with a couple in Baltimore whose golden son was paralyzed when he hit a sandbar in the summer in Cape May. I write how resilient they are, that I’ve thought of them often. And, I added, I hope they haven’t lost their faith.

I’m not religious, but play me Handel’s “Messiah” anytime — and my heart will leap when the trumpet sounds, after the chorus sings Hallelujah. My true faith was grounded in politics, in democracy, in the founders and framers. Now it’s shaken as never before. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, authors of the Constitution, played a cruel joke on us. It’s called the Electoral College.

Ironically, they conceived the high-minded system to check the worst impulses of the masses, if they should elect an unscrupulous crowd pleaser. They meant to prevent Donald Trump from taking high office. Instead, they prevented Hillary Clinton from her rightful place, given she won the people’s vote by nearly three million.

Oh, yes, President Obama’s last White House days will go “down” in history — this bleak midwinter. Merry Christmas.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.

IMAGE: U.S. President  Barack Obama delivering a statement in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington October 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst