With the book on Obama’s presidency officially closed, it’s time to look back at the predictions made by leaders of the Republican Party (and conservative movement) about what was going to happen under an Obama Administration. Now that Trump is at the helm, the day of reckoning for all of the right-wing prognosticators is here. So let’s issue a report card.
Here’s the key: (T) – True; (F) – False; (P) Paranoid; (C) Crazy; (BSC) Bat Shit Crazy
Prediction #1 – Obama will open the borders for illegal immigrants. As far back as 2008, conservatives have been pulling this one out. The idea was that Obama would tear down our borders and make the U.S. a haven for illegal immigrants and terrorists. In reality, Obama signed a $600 million bill in 2010 that assigned hundreds of more federal agents to protect the border, increased training for border agents, and implemented the use of drones to detect illegal immigrants crossing the border. Under Obama, there were more American agents protecting the border than under any other president. Despite Trump’s campaign rhetoric that illegals were “pouring in,” it was determined in 2015 that more Mexicans were actually leaving the United States than entering it. And in 2016, the Center for Migration Studies reported that the number of illegal immigrants living in the United States was at its lowest level in 10 years. It goes without saying that the borders were never “opened.” Final Grade: F/P
Prediction #2 – Obama is planning on becoming a permanent dictator and will run for a third term in 2016. Originally reported by the fake news site burrardstreetnews.com, this theory became big news in 2016 and was quickly circulated by right-wing news organizations and talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones (infowars) and shared by scores of conservative Facebook users. Final Grade: C
Prediction #3: Obama will be revealed as the Anti-Christ, and the world will end before he leaves office. This might be my favorite prediction. (If you click on the link, it will take you to antichristobama2016.com. It’s a fascinating read.) Not much to say about this one. Final Grade: BSC
Prediction #4 – It will be exposed that Obama is a secret Muslim, a Kenyan, and his birth certificate is a fake. There’s an entire Wikipedia page devoted to all of the Muslim theories surrounding President Obama. The birther theories were just as widespread and proven to be equally baseless. No evidence was ever produced despite Donald Trump employing his team of investigators who were supposedly “finding amazing things.” Obama’s birth certificate was verified, and even Donald Trump finally acknowledged that Obama is an American citizen. Final Grade: C
Prediction #5 – Obama will put children into mandatory work camps where they will be required to serve the federal government. This prediction flew under the radar, but it was actually said out loud by a U.S. House Representative. In 2009, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said in a radio interview that Obama was going to round up young Americans and put them into “re-education camps” where they would be brainwashed to believe liberal propaganda and then required to serve the federal government. Final Grade: BSC
Prediction #6 – Obama is going to outlaw private ownership of gold. Glenn Beck, whose show was bankrolled by the retail gold seller Goldline International, went as far as to say that Obama was going to confiscate all of the privately-owned gold in the country. Funny to think about how this would have happened logistically. Final Grade: P
Prediction #7 – Obamacare will include “death panels.” This theory, propelled by Sarah Palin and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in 2009, widely circulated in the media and on facebook pages near and far. The idea was that under Obamacare, government-appointed bureaucrats would decide who gets to live and who gets to die, based on some Communistic cost-benefit analysis. The prediction had no merit and no basis in reality. Obamacare has of course been in full swing for several years, and nary a death panel has been found. Final Grade: C
Prediction #8 – Obama is going to confiscate all of the privately-owned guns in America (aka The Obama Gun Grab). Sen. Rand Paul and other gun enthusiasts alleged that Obama was going after America’s guns. The issue of gun control is an interesting one for the simple reason that even though 0 federal gun control laws were signed during Obama’s 8-year presidency, gun enthusiasts still consider Obama the gun-grabbing president. In fact, gun laws are actually looser now than they were when Obama took office because he signed a bill that allows people to take concealed weapons into national parks (i.e. federally-owned property). Obama actually increased gun rights for Americans. Final Grade: P
Prediction #9 – An Ebola epidemic will spread in the U.S. because Obama allowed American Ebola patients to return home. Fox News ran with this story in 2014. Other conservative sites took the story ones step further and said an Ebola epidemic would be intentional because Obama could imprison the sick and dying, another bizarre prediction aimed at the fringe right-wingers. Local lunatic Alex Jones included on his website (infowars) that Ebola was a “trial run” for a deadlier disease that Obama was going to unleash on America. For those keeping score at home, only 3 Americans were brought to the U.S. for treatment of Ebola. They all lived; the Ebola disease was not spread to anyone else; and the only death from Ebola in the United States was a Liberian man visiting Texas. Final Grade: P/BSC
Prediction #10 – Obama will kill his critics in his second term. My research revealed a litany of major conservative pundits, radio show hosts, and right-wing news sites that were rife with predictions about Obama rounding up “patriots,” putting people into “re-education” camps, making people sick, brainwashing people, assassinating his critics, eliminating news and media outlets that didn’t support him, silencing dissidents, and yes, murdering them. Final Grade: BSC
Prediction #11 – Obama is going to bring 100,000 Muslims from the Middle East to the United States with the plan of making the U.S. a Muslim country. Another one of those bat-shit crazy predictions. Even if Obama did manage to bring in 100,000 Muslims to the U.S., they would make up less than 1/3 of 1% of the population. How these relocated Muslims would take control of 300 million well-armed Americans dispersed over 50 states and thousands of miles is not clear. Those Americans losing sleep over this possibility can now sleep soundly. Final Grade: BSC
Prediction #12 – If Obama is elected, there is guaranteed to be another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. In 2004, Dick Cheney predicted that if we elected John Kerry, the country was guaranteed to be hit by another major terrorist attack, similar to 9/11. And starting in 2008, the same charges were leveled against Obama. The dailycaller.com (a conservative “news” site) reported as late as June 2016 that a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil was “almost guaranteed” before Obama leaves office because of his reckless foreign policies. This echoed what conservatives had been saying for the last 8 years. Of course no terrorist attack on U.S. soil (committed by a non-American) occurred in Obama’s eight years in Office. Final Grade: P
Prediction #13 – Obama’s stimulus package will worsen the recession and raise unemployment. Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and we saw a massive recovery in less than a year and job growth on the rise. All of the doom and gloom was unfounded. Unemployment of course went down; and when Obama left office, unemployment was at its lowest rate in nine years. Final Grade: F
Prediction #14 – Obama will raise taxes on all Americans and to unprecedented levels. Obama did raise taxes, but only on the top 3% of income earners. For those Americans making less than $400,000 a year, their taxes did not go up. Pointing to the 3% who did see a raise in their taxes does not count as a prediction coming true because Obama campaigned on the promise of raising taxes on top income-earners. This was no surprise. Despite the raise, taxes did not rise to an unprecedented level. The taxes paid by the top 3% of income earners is still less than what they paid under President Reagan. Final Grade: F/P
Prediction #15 – Obama should and will be impeached over what happened in Benghazi. Congressional inquiries led by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee determined that the Obama administration was guilty of no wrongdoing regarding Benghazi. They concluded that neither Obama nor his administration lied about the facts surrounding Benghazi. Despite these facts, the politicization of this issue continued for the next several years. Obama of course was not impeached, and charges were never recommended by the Intelligence Committee. Final Grade: F/C
Prediction #16 – Obama wants to start a race war. This prediction is actually a collection of predictions made by a multitude of far-right wing pundits who made claims that Obama was creating a Black army, gearing up to exterminate White people. These predictions varied from person to person, but the basic gist was that Obama was a racist (despite being half White and having a Caucasian mother who raised him) whose ultimate goal was to declare martial law and create a war against all White people. Ted Nugent was one of the leading chargers on this front. Final Grade: BSC
Prediction #17 – Republicans warned that Obamacare would kill jobs and cripple the economy. Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans claimed that Obamacare would result in the loss of 2 million jobs or more. Despite these baseless claims, Obamacare coincided with the biggest increase in jobs in 20 years. It’s impossible to directly connect Obamacare with the jobs increase, but one thing is clear. The implementation of Obamacare did not result in any type of crippling to the economy or coincide with a nationwide loss of jobs. Final Grade: F
Prediction #18 – Because of Obama’s regulations on the oil industry, his energy policies, and his unwillingness to approve the XL Pipeline, gas could reach $10 a gallon. Gas prices reached an all-time high under George W. Bush in 2008, and Republicans made the claim that they would go even higher under Obama. A number of Republican politicians (e.g. Sen. Mike Lee) made outlandish claims about skyrocketing gas prices under Obama, but Newt Gingrich’s prediction takes the cake. When he ran for president in 2012, he predicted that gas prices would rise to $10 a gallon during Obama’s second term; and his campaign slogan was $2.50 gas! For the record, when Obama left office last month, the average price of gas was $2.31 a gallon. Final Grade: F
Prediction #19 – Obama will allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the federal government. Franklin Graham, who was a vocal supporter of Trump and who spoke at the Trump inauguration, made this claim in 2011. Final Grade: BSC
Prediction #20 – Jade Helm: Obama’s illegal army will invade Texas, seize all personally-owned guns, and put people in concentration camps. In 2015, a military exercise called Jade Helm 15 sparked intense fear and paranoia in fringe right-wingers. They believed that a routine military exercise was something far more sinister, an Obama-hatched plot to invade Texas, confiscate all personally-owned weapons, and put citizens in concentration camps. They even implicated Wal-Mart in this scheme, saying that abandoned Wal-Mart stores would be used to detain citizens. Final Grade: P/BSC
Prediction #21 – Obama will limit religious freedom, outlaw Christmas, and ban the Bible. Most of these predictions came after Obama signed the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The connection between the legislation and Christianity is not immediately clear, but Christian leaders who criticized it, did so primarily because they saw the legislation as offering tolerance towards homosexuality. This was seen as an attack on the teachings of the Christian church, and thus came the far-right paranoia about Obama banning Christianity and the Bible. Final Grade: P/C
Prediction #22 – Obama will impose Sharia Law in the United States. Another bizarre prediction based on the belief that Obama is a Muslim terrorist. Final Grade: BSC
This isn’t an exhaustive list of every right-wing prediction ever made about Obama, but these are the most prevalent ones and the ones made by some of the most notable conservatives. You can’t cast all of these predictions aside as the lunatic ravings of right-wing extremists. The majority of these claims come from mainstream individuals. This includes politicians (e.g. former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Rand Paul; Senator Mike Lee of Utah, former Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin; former U.S. Representative and winner of the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll, Michele Bachmann, etc.), political commentators with millions of fans (e.g. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones, etc.), major religious leaders (e.g. Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jr.), and our sitting President (Donald Trump).
In a sincere effort to provide conservatives with the benefit of the doubt, I tried earnestly to find conservative predictions about Obama that actually came true. After all, I wouldn’t feel right cherry-picking the predictions that make Republicans look stupid and then ignoring the ones that vindicate them. I researched this exhaustively and even requested assistance from the social media world, but that was little help.
The closest prediction that may have come true is that some conservatives said that an Obama presidency would hurt the economy. This could be based on the sluggish GDP and the increased federal debt. However, this remains a tough sell because by virtually every measure, the economy has improved significantly since 2009. Unemployment is under 5%; there have been 75 consecutive months of job growth (an all-time record); the housing market has bounced back; the Obama Administration set a record for most consecutive months of job growth; and the stock market is at an all-time high. With literally hundreds of different metrics used to measure economic prosperity, we can certainly find data to show that the economy is not perfect; but it’s clear that the economy is not in the toilet, and Obama did not cause an economic depression as predicted. And we arrive at what appears to be another false prediction.
The bigger issue in all of this is the prevalence of fake news and the impact it has on elections. If there is one thing we can learn by studying the predictions made about Obama it’s that fake news didn’t originate with the 2016 Election. It’s been around for at least as long as the Obama Presidency. And it works. If you ask the average Republican about why he/she doesn’t like Obama, it will likely be because of one of the debunked predictions cited above (e.g. He’s not really an American; he sympathizes with Muslim extremists; he wants to take our guns; he’s killed our economy; he’s made us less safe; he’s responsible for the deaths at Benghazi; he’s raised taxes too much; etc.). All of these criticisms are based on what people have heard from fake news sources and deliberately deceitful pundits.
Now that Obama is out of office, it would be nice if somebody on the political right acknowledged that all of these predictions were baseless, dishonest, and politically motivated. If conservatives are not willing to do that, they need to point out which of these 22 predictions is accurate. If none of them are, they owe all of us an apology and an explanation. I won’t hold my breath.