EDITORIAL: Obama out

Published on January 13, 2017

Bidding President Barack Obama adieu.

©whitehouse.gov

Many Canadians watched with admiration and perhaps some regret this week as U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his farewell speech to his nation.

He was eloquent, as always, saying he remains optimistic about the future as he spoke to 20,000 emotional supporters in Chicago and millions more watching on television.

By almost every measure, America and Canada are stronger today than when Obama became president. Our relationship with the U.S. has never been better.

Plenty of Canadians would like to see another four years of Barack Obama’s stable and reassuring hand guiding the Oval Office. A true friend of Canada will soon be the ex-president.

And just as one American president is exiting the stage with style and grace, his successor is about to be inaugurated amid rancour and controversy. The differences between the two men this week couldn’t have been more obvious.

Our apprehensions are well-placed, as president-elect Donald Trump became embroiled in even more fresh controversy and chaos a week before his swearing-in.

Trump was vilified at the Golden Globes by Meryl Streep for having mocked Serge Kovaleski of the New York Times, a reporter with a disability. His cabinet nominees faced tough questions in the Senate on allegations of racism and lying under oath. Trump was already under fire for defending Russia and its alleged intrusions into the U.S. election over the hacking of emails.

This week he faced disturbing, new allegations about business and personal issues involving Russia.

Trump’s first news conference in over five months turned into an attack on the freedom of the press. His accusations about fake news and fictitious stories were unseemly; those same stories were actually proven factually correct later that day.

Trump announced he is going to largely ignore conflict of interest guidelines involving his business empire. He will act as both president and corporate leader.

Could things get any worse?

Let’s go back to Obama. He talked about strengthening democracy and challenged his fellow citizens to become more engaged in the process. We often like to complain about politicians but sometimes fail to acknowledge the good things they can achieve. This is true in any democracy.

Obama himself barely touched on his many achievements in his farewell speech, preferring to discuss his vision for the future.

Obama backed efforts to curb climate change and protect the environment. He supported trade deals, accepted science and reason and looked outwards to the world. Canada shares those values.

So far, our country has stayed largely under the radar of president-elect Trump, who has directed much of his criticism towards Mexico and China.

Eventually he may turn his attention northwards; maybe even shortly after his inauguration on Jan. 20.

So as we wish Obama a fond farewell, we await his successor with some unease.

There’s no predicting what could happen next.