Barack Obama did not go out quietly. His unquiet final acts were, in part, overshadowed by a successor who refused to come in quietly and, in part, by Obama's own endless, sentimental farewell tour. But there was nothing nostalgic or sentimental about Obama's last acts. Two of them were simply shocking.
The shortest honeymoon on record is officially over. Normally, newly elected presidents enjoy a wave of goodwill that allows them to fly high at least through their first 100 days. Donald Trump has not yet been sworn in and the honeymoon has already come and gone.
You can kick the can down the road, but when Kim Jong Un announces, as he did last Sunday, that "we have reached the final stage in preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic rocket," you are reaching the end of that road.
"When the chips are down, I have Israel's back."
-- Barack Obama, AIPAC conference, March 4, 2012
The fall of Aleppo just weeks before Barack Obama leaves office is a fitting stamp on his Middle East policy of retreat and withdrawal. The pitiable pictures from the devastated city showed the true cost of Obama's abdication. For which he seems to have few regrets, however. In his end-of-year news conference, Obama defended U.S. inaction with his familiar false choice: it was either stand aside or order a massive Iraq-style ground invasion.
Democrats spent the first two decades of the post-Cold War era rather relaxed about Russian provocations and revanchism. President Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for suggesting that Russia was our principal geopolitical adversary. Yet today the Dems are in high dudgeon over the closeness of secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, to Vladimir Putin.
The most amusing part of the Trump transition has been watching its effortless confounding of the media, often in fewer than 140 characters. One morning, after a Fox News report on lefty nuttiness at some obscure New England college -- a flag burning that led a more-contemptible-than-usual campus administration to take down the school's own American flag -- Donald Trump tweets that flag burners should go to jail or lose their citizenship.
Twenty-five years ago -- December 1991 -- communism died, the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disappeared. It was the largest breakup of an empire in modern history and not a shot was fired. It was an event of biblical proportions that my generation thought it would never live to see. As Wordsworth famously rhapsodized (about the French Revolution), "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven!"
One of the more salutary outcomes of the recent election is that Democrats are finally beginning to question the wisdom of basing their fortunes on identity politics. Having counted on the allegiance of African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, unmarried women and the young -- and winning the popular vote all but once since 1992 -- they were seduced into believing that they could ride this "coalition of the ascendant" into permanent command of the presidency.