While people are being critical of President Obama as he leaves office, some of us wish he had been more like he has been in the last six weeks of his presidency during the entire eight years.
He has been very active in the last month, and he has less than one month to go. First, he has pardoned or reduced the sentences of many people in prison for nonviolent drug crimes. As we have seen in Portugal, putting people in prison for drug crimes that are not committed with violence is senseless and accomplishes nothing in the drug war. In one day, President Obama pardoned or reduced the sentence of more people than ever before, an astonishing 231. Let's also hope he pardons Gov. Don Siegelman before he leaves office.
This week, he made an announcement about the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic. Mindful that a Trump executive order could overturn any order signed by President Obama, his White House attorneys found an obscure provision of a 1953 law that allows Obama to do what he did to preserve the Arctic. President Obama did not do this alone, but worked with the prime minister of Canada to accomplish this. He said, as he granted reprieve to these areas: "Today, in partnership with our neighbors and allies in Canada, the United States is taking historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing."
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He went on to say, "These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth. They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region's harsh conditions is limited. By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region – at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels. In 2015, just 0.1 percent of U.S. federal offshore crude production came from the Arctic and Department of Interior analysis shows that, at current oil prices, significant production in the Arctic will not occur."
Although there are climate-change deniers – and having seen what is happening in Antarctica firsthand, some scientists think it already too late and we won't be able to save the planet. However, if we can still make a change, we will know President Obama has tried. Even for the "drill, baby drill" crowd, I would like to ask: Is it right to use up God's resources in 200 to 300 years? Shouldn't we spend the time for science and money using renewable resources for energy?
In another area, President Obama, in signing the Defense Authorization Act, was very vocal about Congress not doing its job. He said: "I am also disappointed that the Congress again failed to enact meaningful reforms to divest unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead and modernize military health care. Instead, the Congress redirects funding needed to support the war fighter to fund additional end-strength that our military leaders have not requested at a time when our troops are engaged overseas supporting the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and against al-Qaida."
Then, with one of his signature issues, the closing of Guantanamo, he excoriated Congress on their lack of willingness to close it.
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To be honest, my late brother, Michael, was the lawyer behind getting the prisoners of Guantanamo legal representation. Costs of keeping these 60 people there could fund years of education for young people here in our states! Right now – like it or not – keeping Guantanamo open is a recruiting mechanism for ISIS/ISIL. Time to close it, and if necessary, after a legal hearing, putting these people in supermax prisons right here in the U.S.
President Obama is being a tough-minded president in his final days. He is being vocal and doing good things with his signature. I wish he had been this way for most of his eight years in office. Although, the people who voted for Donald Trump wouldn't have liked it, the rest of us would have applauded his actions.
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