John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu, Good Bye, See You Later Alligator

Posted on January 11, 2017

President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)



In full disclosure, I didn’t watch the President’s farewell address.

I’m just happy that he is leaving, safely, with his nice family, pretty wife, with plenty of money in the bank to buy a big house and pay for college for his daughters (assuming that ex-Presidents don’t get a break on tuition).

I read the transcript. Seemed like boiler plate Obama stuff. “I’m great. The American people are pretty good but could be a lot better. Republicans and conservatives suck.” You know, the typical stuff.

I re-read the farewell addresses of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to give me some historical perspective.

In all fairness, they weren’t that great either.

The two Farewell Addresses that history remembers the fondest were Dwight Eisenhower’s and George Washington’s.

Everybody else’s was pretty forgettable. And that includes President Obama’s.

What made Ike’s address so poignant was its clarity of purpose. He warned us about the military-industrial complex. Coming from a guy who spent his life in the military, it was a dramatic denunciation of his old friends and pals.

I found it particularly ironic that President Obama did his address in his home state of Illinois and his hometown of Chicago.

The rest of the country has recovered from the financial crisis of 2008. President Obama deserves some credit for not completely screwing up everything and allowing the resilience of the American economy to make a pretty good comeback.

But not in Illinois and not in Chicago.

Illinois is one of the few states in America that has lost population over the last ten years. People are leaving the Land of Lincoln in droves because you can’t find a job there. And that's because businesses are leaving because of a broken political system that cranks up taxes to pay off unfunded pension liabilities.

Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa have gained what Illinois has lost because they have Republican governors and a more rational way of budgeting that doesn’t involve bludgeoning the private sector.

Illinois is a basket-case economically.   Chicago is just plain dangerous.

It’s not that dangerous, of course, if you are white and upper-middle class, although what happened to that poor disabled kid, who was kidnapped and tortured by four black kids because he was white, is very disturbing.

But at least he lived to tell the tale of his horror.

For the thousands of black kids who have been slaughtered on the South and West Side of Chicago over the last eight years during the length of Mr. Obama’s term, they haven’t had that option. Because they are dead.

What could President Obama do to stop the carnage on the South Side?   After all, law enforcement is not a federal issue. It’s a local issue, right?

Well, first of all, he could stop ignoring it. As far as I can tell, the President made no national speeches focused specifically on how kids are killing kids on the South Side of Chicago.

The President was quick to judge when law enforcement stepped out of line. When his friend Skip Gates got accosted by a police officer for trying to break into his own house, the newly-elected President was quick the weigh in. The cop was stupid, said Mr. Obama, which elicited such a negative reaction, he had to convene the famous beer summit.

When Trayvon Martin died after a scuffle with a cop-wannabe, George Zimmerman, the President once again decided to opine, on the side of Mr. Martin.

There was plenty of evidence that Martin and Zimmerman had indeed been involved in a fight and there also plenty of evidence that Zimmerman was going to not be convicted.   And yet the President said that Trayvon reminded him of his son, if he had one, which he doesn’t.

When a police officer shot and killed (in self-defense it turned out) Michael Brown, causing all kinds of riots, the President once again condemned law enforcement rather than urge caution until all the facts were uncovered. He ordered his Justice Department to investigate the event and if possible, prosecute the cop. Sadly for those who hate law enforcement, it turns out the police officer was telling the truth and the witness was lying.

He didn’t raise up his hands and tell the cop to not shoot. Brown attacked him brutally. The cop shot him in self-defense.

The President was quick to condemn a history of racism in law enforcement. But when it came to stopping gang violence which has overwhelmed his home town (and my home town) of Chicago, he has done nothing.

Second, the President could have supported the law instead of undermining its enforcement.

His Justice Department decided it didn’t have to enforce laws on the books on the use of marijuana. Eric Holder basically told everybody that he wasn’t going to use government resources to enforce those laws.

That has inspired a whole industry in several states that provides pot to the people. That’s all well and good, and I am for an end to prohibition. But the law is the law, and the Justice Department can’t just magically wish the laws away. The Justice Department's job is to enforce them.

When law enforcement is first undermined by the President, who makes clear he thinks that they are bunch of racists, and then when you have a proliferating drug trade because the President’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the laws, you end up with a pretty toxic situation, in places like Chicago.

Most of the murders and gun violence that has engulfed Chicago is gang violence fueled by the illegal sale of illegal drugs.   Because law enforcement has been degraded and demeaned by the President, it has made the job of the Chicago Police Department even more difficult.   They simply don’t have the stomach to do the kind of work necessary to stop the gang violence and the drug trade.

The Ferguson effect happened on President Obama’s watch. He did nothing to stop it and his inaction made things worse.

It’s interesting to note the reaction to Jeff Sessions, who is currently being grilled by Senate Judiciary Committee and by activist groups.

Sessions has promised to do one thing and one thing only: Enforce the law.

The liberal reaction to that promise is twofold and contradictory. First, they don’t necessarily believe that he will enforce the law, because that’s not what their favorite Attorney General, Eric Holder, did. He refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, he refused to enforce anti-drug laws, he refused to stick up for law enforcement entities, who he called racist.   He refused to enforce our nation’s immigration laws.   The worry among liberals is that Sessions will follow in Holder’s footsteps and only enforce the laws he likes and ignore the rest.

Second, they are deeply worried that Sessions will do what he says that he will do and start enforcing the laws as they were written by Congress.

My view on all of this is that if you don’t like the laws, especially if you are the Attorney General, work to change them.   But certainly don’t ignore them.

I am not in any way an Obama hater. I appreciate his service to the country, and I am glad that will leave office healthy and with a healthy approval rating.

But he could have done much more to help my hometown of Chicago by showing more leadership and providing more support to law enforcement as they battled drug kingpins and child killers.

I’m sure the people of Chicago appreciated the kind words from their favorite son last night, but I think they would have appreciated some real help to fight crime even more.