Some Practical Examples for How to Reshape a Presidential Legacy

Barack Obama is Working to Reshape His Political Legacy in Some Unique Ways.

We can expect the Left and the Right to argue over the political legacy of former President Barack Obama for years to come. While this argument continues, one would also expect President Obama not to sit quietly by without defending his legacy. One way to gain insight into how Mr. Obama plans to mount his defense is by reviewing the work product of his newly formed media company called Higher Ground Productions. In partnership with Netflix, Higher Ground recently released a documentary film called American Factory. The film tells the story of the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) efforts to unionize a newly reopened manufacturing plant in Moraine, Ohio. The plant had previously been operated by General Motors (GM) but was closed in December 2008. The backstory detailing the plant’s closure provides the insight we need into how Mr. Obama plans to reshape his presidential legacy using his own media production.

President Obama’s Involvement in Closing the Moraine GM Plant Is Part of His Legacy.

Congressman Mike Turner, a Republican from Ohio’s 10th Congressional District, recently published a commentary in the Wall Street Journal detailing the terms of a “backroom deal” that Mr. Obama negotiated with the UAW concerning workers at GM’s Moraine manufacturing plant. Moraine’s workers were not represented by the UAW, but by a different union called the IEU-CWA. With the plant’s closure, the Obama-UAW deal saw IEU-CWA workers being forced to apply for job transfers to other GM plants controlled by the UAW as if they were new GM hires. This meant GM’s IEU-CWA workers lost all recognition of tenure along with any consideration of their wage and benefit history in the rehiring process. The net result was that these workers were not rehired and Moraine’s local economy suffered the loss of another 1,080 jobs. Further, these workers, along with many of the plant’s retired workers, lost their health insurance coverage under the Obama-UAW deal.

Obama Did Not Believe the Moraine Manufacturing Plant Had a Future, So He Abandoned It.

After terms of the Obama-UAW deal were made public, Congressman Turner, along with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), joined a bi-partisan group of legislators that called on the Obama Administration to take steps to save the Moraine plant. According to Mr. Turner, administration officials reacted with “disbelief” to this call, and instead suggested that the plant should be torn down and sold for scrap. President Obama would reflect this same attitude toward manufacturing years later in June 2016 when he was asked about candidate Donald Trump’s campaign promise to bring manufacturing jobs back from China. Mr. Obama chided Trump by suggesting he would need a “magic wand” to bring these jobs back. In the end, the bi-partisan efforts on behalf of the IEU-CWA workers and their plant failed to obtain the Obama administration’s support, resulting in the job losses becoming permanent.

Obama’s New Film Tells an Incomplete Story of What Happened at the Moraine Plant.

With no help from the Obama Administration, state and local officials worked tirelessly for almost five years to find a private investor that would restore manufacturing operations in Moraine. Fortunately, a Chinese manufacturer saw the opportunity and made the investment. Mr. Obama’s film American Factory tells this story, beginning with the closing of the plant in 2008 and showing the last manufactured SUV vehicles being rolled off its assembly line. Nowhere in this film is the story told about Mr. Obama’s role in securing the plant’s closure, or his contributions to undermining the employment opportunities of IEU-CWA workers, or their health insurance. The lesson to be learned here is to recognize how a documentarian can use cherry-picked facts to defend a specific narrative. We should expect more of such cherry-picked content from Mr. Obama’s production company in the future, as there is little doubt that it will generate more documentaries that reflect propaganda rather than good journalism.

The Recasting of the Obama Legacy Will Continue from the Obama Presidential Center.

Groundbreaking for the new Obama Presidential Center (the Center) has been delayed due to local political and zoning concerns on the South Side of Chicago. However, construction is expected to begin in late 2019. When the project is finished, the Center will be the largest complex of its kind with four separate buildings spread across 19 developed acres. However, the New York Times reports that this Center will break with precedent and include some major differences when compared to other presidential museums/libraries. First, the Obama Foundation, the charitable organization responsible for fundraising and building the Obama Presidential Center, announced earlier this year there that it has no plans to establish a research library as part of the complex in Chicago. This has some historians expressing concerns about their ability use the Center for conducting research so they can accurately assess the Obama legacy. Also in a break with precedent, the Obama Foundation said it will not partner with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to operate the Center. Instead, the Center will be owned and operated privately by the Foundation. The Foundation will employ the NARA solely for the purpose of digitizing millions of unclassified documents pertaining to the Obama Presidency so they can be made available to the public online.

The Obama Foundation Hopes to Control Communications Surrounding the Obama Legacy.

Private ownership and operation of the Obama Presidential Center means less objectivity in the Center’s communications surrounding the former President’s legacy. Presidential libraries have historically operated as public-private partnerships, a model that has worked reasonably well to dampen the partisan bias in public exhibits and programming. Since the Center will be owned and operated by the Obama Foundation, it will retain complete power to manipulate the Center’s exhibits, programming and public communications. While this arrangement with save taxpayers money by reducing operating costs borne by the NARA at other presidential libraries, it also provides Mr. Obama the power to reshape his legacy in ways that far exceed that of other past Presidents.

In the End the Obama Legacy Will Not Be Salvaged by New Forms of Political Communication.

All Presidents seek to reshape their political legacy upon leaving office, either as individuals or with the help of loyal surrogates. Mr. Obama is no different. However, his work in media production and the Obama Presidential Center cannot overcome the multitude of policy failures that occurred during his presidency. For example, Mr. Obama certainly cannot claim full credit for navigating our country through the 2008 financial crisis given that the economic tools he used were provided to him by President Bush (e.g., the Troubled Asset Relief Program). Likewise, his $787 billion stimulus package did little to stimulate the economy with most of this money being used for state debt relief and the so-called “shovel-ready” jobs that never appeared. Even Mr. Obama’s chief economic advisor, Dr. Christina Romer, noted in Congressional testimony that Mr. Obama’s stimulus would contribute little to economic growth after the mid-2010. Finally, Obamacare did not save American families the $2,500 on health insurance premiums as he promised, but instead significantly increased these premiums while, at the same time, increasing deductibles to the point where many people could not afford to use their coverage. Will the Obama Presidential Center and Higher Ground Productions tell the story behind these aspects of the Obama legacy accurately, or will his political track record be recast along the artful plane of “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor-period”? There is only one thing we know for sure. You can expect to see a future exhibit at the Obama Presidential Center’s museum entitled “I Got Bin Laden.”

Help a Millennial Understand More About the Obama Legacy and Why America Is an Exceptional Nation.

Inspire a Millennial to understand more about America’s founding principles, there is something that you can do. Give them a copy of Conquering the Political Divide – How the Constitution Can Heal Our Polarized Nation. This book provides the grounding we all need in basic civics and economics to help us defend our nation from progressive ideology. Order your copy today by clicking here.

If you would like to suggest a topic for a future blog, or to provide us with feedback on this commentary, email us at: feedback@FreeNationMedia.com

Eric A. Beck
Editor-In-Chief
Free Nation Media LLC
Greenville, South Carolina

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