On January 20th, President Barack Obama will hand over the White House to the most undignified, undeserving person we could ever imagine. Before we take the leap into the horrifying era of Trump, the time has come to remember Obama’s presidency. This is primarily a movie blog, so let’s do it in clips.
This is not an attempt to capture his full presidency. There were many other serious speeches, lighthearted moments, embarrassments and weighty policy issues that are not reflected here. There were positive things like the Cuba thaw, Paris agreement and the Iran deal, but also negative things like Libya, Snowden and drone wars. But these are the visuals I remember from the last eight years.
The night when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, my brother and I were in Times Square; there was commotion and joy, cops trying to direct traffic and CNN broadcasting on a giant TV screen. Fast-forward to January 20th, 2009 and we could see a visibly nervous president-elect screw up the oath… at least that’s what we first saw until we realized that it was actually Chief Justice John Roberts stumbling over the words.
One of Obama’s first “crises” has to be when he appeared at a baseball game in 2009 wearing what was labeled “dad jeans”, or even “mom jeans”. Still, he would not back down, but defended them.
Vice President Joe Biden and Obama became close friends over the years, and Biden was his usually blunt self after one of Obama’s biggest legislative victories, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. As Biden told Obama in this 2010 clip, it was a “big fucking deal”. Seems almost quaint now these days when Trump has made sure that politicians can say or do anything and still get elected.
In 2011, President Obama told the world that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader who was responsible for the 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil. A major accomplishment, and the image we won’t forget is the one from the Situation Room where Obama and his top advisers and officials sat glued to a TV screen, watching footage from the raid on bin Laden’s compound.
The White House Correspondents Dinner was always a highlight, especially since the President became increasingly better at delivering jokes. This clip from 2011 has Obama roasting Donald Trump at a time when no one could anticipate the looming disaster five years later…
Obama started out not believing in gay marriage, but his views “evolved”. After getting rid of the silly “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2010, the President was ready to tell the world in May 2012 that he now believed in gay marriage. Three years later, it became the law of the land thanks to a Supreme Court ruling.
In 2012, Obama was challenged by Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president. The first of their debates was a shock to Obama supporters; Romney was much more on his toes, while the President seemed tired and off his game. He was better in subsequent debates.
The President made slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon part of his campaign.
A month after being reelected, Obama faced one of many gun-related crises during his presidency. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut was particularly painful because the victims were young children. The press conference became one of the President’s most emotional. Still, no meaningful gun legislation was passed because of the almighty bond between the NRA and Republican politicians.
The President’s best State of the Union quip came in January 2015 when Republican congressmen easily fell for a rhetorical trap. This was at a time when the relationship between Obama and Congress was at its most hostile.
The most powerful moment of any Obama speech is this one, from the Charleston funeral of Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people Dylann Roof murdered in a church in June 2015. Can you imagine any other president (with the possible exception of Bill Clinton) actually singing “Amazing Grace” like this?
Part of the president’s job is to pardon turkeys come Thanksgiving. In 2015, his dad jokes both amused and embarrassed his teenage daughters Sasha and Malia.
In 2015, Obama also stopped by Jimmy Kimmel to read mean tweets about himself.
And earlier this year, the President got surprisingly emotional during his last White House Correspondents dinner, ending a very funny barrage of jokes with a touching mic drop.
Barack Obama is leaving the White House with a high approval rating. Over time, he will likely be considered by historians as a very successful president in the ranking game, because he won two terms, made a number of domestic and international achievements and remained popular throughout. America owe him a lot.