Like Obama, next president must deal with unwanted messes
When President Obama entered the White House in 2009, he inherited the unwanted task of finishing two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the previous administration. And, as the voters demanded, he was determined to end those wars and avoid future conflicts.
He also inherited an economy in a downward spiral and what was considered at the time to be a massive wartime debt.
Just like Obama had to in 2009, the next administration will have to deal with the unwanted messes this administration has left behind.
Around the world, the United States faces great power competition unseen in decades, and our unipolar moment may be at an end. Russia has sensed weakness, testing the resolve of the NATO alliance and outmaneuvering the U.S. in Syria. A rising China is now flexing its military muscles, threatening U.S. allies in Asia and trying to claim sovereignty over an entire sea. In the Middle East, a red line was broken and a civil war in Syria was allowed to fester unimpeded, threatening our allies, empowering Iran, and seriously damaging the credibility of our commitments in the region.
At home, despite the president’s 2008 campaign promises, our politics are more polarized than ever, and confidence in nearly all of our institutions is at a disparaging low. Our debt is still out of control, our military has been downsized haphazardly, and our tax and immigration systems are just as broken as the day Obama took office.
Congress, without ever having been given high expectations, somehow still continues to disappoint us. Nonetheless, the odds are very good that the next president will face Republicans in control of Congress, provided a certain nominee does not lead those Republicans farther down the ballot to ruin.
My point is this — voters don’t get to pick the problems that a president inherits, only the president who inherits the problems. And the next president is going to be inheriting a lot of problems.
This is one reason why I find it both the Republican and Democratic races so frustrating. In both primary races, voters are opting for those who can decry the brokenness of the system the loudest, rather than opting for someone who can actually fix it.
In the Republican race in the lead-up to Super Tuesday, there are still two candidates that I believe can set our course aright — John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Both of them have positive conservative visions for America’s future, the foreign policy knowledge necessary to undo the damage of the past few years and the governing or legislative experience necessary to see these conservative goals through to completion.
Another thing they have in common? They are both polling behind Donald Trump, a man with no real conservative principles, less political experience than Barack Obama in 2008, and a foreign policy that would be deemed isolationist if it was not so utterly incoherent and offensive to both our allies and our rivals around the world. The inability of the Republican Party to coalesce around a single serious candidate has only enabled Trump’s continuing dominance.
The Democratic primary has not been much better. A Democratic Socialist, a man whose policies would never come remotely close to fruition if he were elected, has been running neck and neck with a former secretary of state. Bernie Sanders’ grandiose plans would explode our already dangerously high debt and gut our military at a time where our allies call for increased American involvement, not less. All of this naively assumes Sanders would get these plans passed, which with a likely Republican Congress is simply laughable. Not only would his ideas go nowhere, we would have four years of even worse governmental dysfunction than the last five.
Trump and Sanders may have a great deal of popular support, but they are the absolute wrong candidates to deal with the daunting task awaiting the next commander-in-chief. They both have foreign policies that would ruin our country’s standing on the world stage, and they are too polarizing to unite our country, much less sit down and work with a hostile Congress.
We have had two presidents in a row who arguably were not ready to be president when they entered the Oval Office, and both have left enormous messes for their successor to clean up. The last thing we need to do is to continue the trend. If either Trump or Sanders is allowed to enter the White House, I shudder at the mess they will leave behind.
Adam Lemon is a junior majoring in political science and history, with a minor in Russian language. In addition to chairing the Duke College Republicans, he is president of the Duke Alexander Hamilton Society, a student-led foreign policy organization.
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