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A Legacy of Division and Distrust

America's Recovery Demands a New Direction

September 26, 2016

On October 30, 2008, Barack Obama announced to a wildly cheering audience: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Back then, his audiences cheered everything he said; but more objective listeners were troubled by those words. What “fundamental” changes were needed in a country that was then the envy of the world?

Soon after his election, his perception of America and his vision for change became apparent. He suggested that American exceptionalism was just an illusion, a meaningless reflection of the same pride citizens around the world feel for their countries. Instead of touting America’s greatness, he began traveling around the world, apologizing for what he saw as America’s imperfections and arrogance. His apology tours continue today. Recently, he suggested to Asian audiences that, among other things, Americans are selfish, lazy, and racist. Sadly, many Americans, mostly progressives, bought into his corrosive rhetoric, and national shame began to creep into American culture. A divide was created between proud and self-loathing Americans.

But that was just the start. Obama’s obsession with wealth redistribution and perceived social injustices encouraged class envy and deepened our racial divide. His reflexive defense of suspected criminals and suggestions of endemic racism in our police departments created widespread distrust of our law enforcement agencies, particularly among minorities. Obama’s open border policies are now dividing the country along ethnic lines. While rightly arguing that legal immigration has made America stronger, he bypassed Congress to decimate the laws regulating the process.

The policies he illegally implemented have invited hoards of unidentified aliens and refugees to surge across our borders. With only cursory screening, or no screening at all, authorities simply can’t know their impact on our country. Some will bring crime and terror. Others will bring poverty and disease. Most are unskilled and will likely strain our welfare programs. Many will retain social mores incompatible with American values and will Balkanize a country already deeply divided. The critics who have legitimate concerns over their impact on America’s future are branded as hateful xenophobes.

The distrust created by Obama is not just among our citizenry. According to a Pew Research study, public trust in our government has hovered at historically low levels throughout Obama’s administration. One CBS/NYT poll in 2011 disclosed that only 10 percent of Americans trusted Washington to do what is right. There has been little improvement in those numbers since then. That mistrust is easy to explain. Early into Obama’s administration, a covert gun-walking operation was uncovered involving the BATF.

Obama’s Attorney General refused congressional demands for related documents, and Obama invoked Executive Authority to keep them secret. That was followed by the IRS scandal, targeting Obama’s political opponents. There were the efforts by the VA to conceal excessively long waits for patients, followed by the destruction of those related documents. There were the false promises about Obamacare and the misleading statements about the Iran nuclear deal. And, of course, there were the lies about the Benghazi massacre, which eventually led to Hillary Clinton’s covert communication system and her gross mishandling of classified national security information. The congressional investigation of that matter was hindered by the State Department at every turn, in a clear effort to protect Clinton.

But the final straw came after Obama assured the country that Clinton had done nothing wrong, after Bill Clinton quietly met with Obama’s Attorney General, and after that same Attorney General announced she would relinquish her prosecutorial authority and accept the FBI’s recommendation. After that chain of events, FBI Director Comey came before the public and laid out a clear, prima facie criminal case against Clinton. Then he announced that his year-long investigation, involving untold resources, disclosed no prosecutable criminal activity by Clinton. Documents later revealed that during her perfunctory three-hour interview, she experienced 39 memory lapses. The whole scenario satisfied only Clinton’s staunch supporters. Everyone else saw it as another example of this administration’s reciprocal back-scratching policies.

America is in trouble when apolitical government agencies violate their own rules to accommodate politicians; and when civil servants believe they are supporting their country by defending a wayward administration, widespread corruption is inevitable. Barack Obama has fundamentally changed our country. He is handing his successor a deeply divided citizenry, intensely distrustful of its government.

Can either candidate unite the country and restore trust in government? Donald Trump’s critics don’t believe he can. They point to his many controversial statements, arguing that he is divisive and unfit to lead.

Then there’s Hillary, who, like Obama, has built a political career on wedge issues and divisiveness. It is Clinton who chooses to focus on the things that make us different. It is she who brands Trump supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic. After suggesting those citizens belong in a “basket of deplorables,” how can anyone take seriously her campaign slogan, “Stronger Together”? At Obama’s side, throughout her tenure, she parroted his corrosive rhetoric on social injustice, and as President she would perpetuate those policies that have divided us as a nation. And anyone who believes she can restore transparency and integrity to Washington just hasn’t been paying attention.

Abraham Lincoln talked about the perils of a divided nation 150 years ago when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” If Hillary Clinton is elected, she may prove him right.

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Peter Lemiska has spent more than 28 years in government service. He is a former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service and an Air Force veteran. His political commentaries have been widely published online and in print.