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Obama’s Ungracious Exit

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Obama’s Ungracious Exit

For at least a moment, it seemed as if Barack Obama might gracefully acknowledge the wishes of the voters who had elected Donald J. Trump as president. Obama gave a statesmanlike address in which he remembered with gratitude George W. Bush’s efforts to ensure a smooth and orderly transition of power in 2009 and pledged to do the same for the incoming Trump administration. Obama even hosted Trump at the White House in an apparent show of good faith.

True, any sitting president should be expected to put the needs of the nation above partisan politics or the bruised egos from a heated campaign. But it seemed like a rare and welcome occasion in which Obama appeared willing to put the country’s welfare above his own ideology.

Obama’s later actions would unfortunately show those words and overtures to be little more than the empty rhetoric and gestures that so characterized his White House tenure. For during the waning days of his presidency, Obama worked furiously to throw as many roadblocks as possible in the way of Trump achieving the reforms for which he was elected. 

Many of Obama’s last-minute actions can and will eventually be reversed. But those actions revealed a toxic combination of arrogance and pettiness, as well as a disregard for how blatant political decisions hurt ordinary Americans who find themselves innocently caught in the partisan crossfire. 

Two examples in particular illustrate how Obama was willing to advance his liberal social agenda, no matter the consequences.

First, case-by-case executive clemency has historically been a safeguard against extraordinary injustices or the recognition of exemplary rehabilitation. Obama, however, used his clemency authority to commute a record number of sentences – more than the last 11 presidents combined – of serious and dangerous criminals, including many who were serving life terms or who used firearms in further of drug trafficking offenses. 

For a president so single-mindedly focused on gun control, Obama was notably lenient toward those who had violated existing federal firearm laws. He pardoned offenders who convictions included knowingly disposing of a firearm to a felon; falsification of firearm background check forms; use of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking offense; unlawfully transporting firearms; possession of a stolen firearm; and felon in possession of a firearm. 

Presumably, most of these prisoners will go back to the same neighborhoods they once tormented with their violent crimes. It won’t be Obama’s high-dollar donors and cheerleaders who will have to deal with the consequences of his decisions – it will be the innocent residents of those communities.

Second, Obama’s Social Security Administration (SSA) finalized a rule that the White House estimated would annually strip some 75,000 disability and Supplementary Security Income beneficiaries of their Second Amendment rights.  His proposal relies on a contorted reading of who counts as a prohibited “mental defective” under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, and primarily affects those without any demonstrated violent tendencies, much less any violent or criminal history.

Indeed, the SSA simply brushed aside empirical evidence the NRA submitted to show the rule would have no public safety benefit. “We are not attempting to imply a connection between mental illness and a propensity for violence, particularly gun violence,” the SSA wrote. Rather, the SSA asserted it was simply following a bureaucratic duty, urged on by Obama’s Justice Department.

That’s because when Congress rejected Obama’s gun control agenda, he pledged to go it alone. He acted simply because he could. Targeting vulnerable people with disabilities, rather than actual violent criminals, apparently does not matter to the outgoing president.

Thus, even as Obama was releasing violent criminals from prison for serious firearm offenses, he was once again stretching federal gun laws to restrict the rights of innocent Americans. 

Thanks to your efforts last November, America has a new president in Donald Trump who will uphold the constitutional freedoms of law-abiding citizens, while making our communities safer by getting violent criminals off our streets.  

Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

Former NRA-ILA Executive Director

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Chris W. Cox served as the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of NRA, until 2019. As NRA’s principal political strategist, Cox oversaw eight NRA-ILA divisions: Federal Affairs; State & Local Affairs; Public Affairs; Grassroots; Finance; Research & Information; Conservation, Wildlife & Natural Resources; and Office of Legislative Counsel. Cox also serves as chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), the Association’s political action committee; president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which focuses on non-partisan voter registration and citizen education; and chairman of NRA Country, an effort to bring country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.