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Entering The Fourth Quarter, Obama Is At The Top Of His Game

Memo Pad Politics

Entering The Fourth Quarter, Obama Is At The Top Of His Game

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Alan Gross, who was en route to the United States from Cuba, in the Oval Office, Dec. 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama’s strongest detractors have never decided if he’s a tyrant or a weakling. Right up to the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans scorned his fecklessness and inability to lead.

The Ebola virus (remember Ebola?) was going to kill us all; ISIS militants were about to conquer the entire Middle East. Bare-chested Russian strongman Vladimir Putin had swallowed up Crimea and menaced Eastern Ukraine, while sissy Obama maundered about economic sanctions with the equally lame European Union.

Much was made of an April press conference where the president defended what the Washington Post described as his “dogged, incremental” approach to foreign affairs.

He said the big thing was to avoid errors.

“You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run,” Obama said. “But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.”

Editorial page writers less savvy than their sports page colleagues generally missed the point of the metaphor. See, in baseball nobody can hit a three-run shot without a couple of singles or doubles hitters first getting on base.

The important thing is not to pop up by chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Obama was talking about patience, not manliness.

As usual, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, memorably dubbed the GOP “foreign policy Tweedledee and Tweedledum” by the LA Times’ David Horsey, called for something more robust without saying exactly what it should be. A good thing, as fighting the Russians in their own backyard has been the downfall of military geniuses for centuries.

Needless to say, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) concurred. But hold that thought.

GOP celebrities competed to express their admiration for the Russian strongman. Rudy Giuliani thought it was really cool that Putin needn’t trouble himself overmuch with democratic debate:

“Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day. Right? He decided he had to go to their parliament, he went to their parliament, he got permission in fifteen minutes,” Guiliani told Fox News. “That’s what you call a leader.”

No, that’s what you call a dictator.

Meanwhile, the inimitable Sarah Palin could apparently see Putin’s firm pectoral muscles from her front porch. She sexualized the whole thing, pretty much all she’s got.

“Obama, the perception of him and his ‘potency’ across the world is one of such weakness,” Palin said. “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”

Never mind that the United States has become the world’s number-one oil producer on Obama’s watch.

Maybe you can guess where I’m going. Only eight months later, and Russia’s economy is on the point of collapse — due partly to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration and the feckless Europeans. The decisive Russian strongman let his bare chest write a check that his virile posterior suddenly can’t cash.

Putin himself blames Western sanctions for only 25 percent of Russia’s economic woes, attributing the rest to the worldwide fall in oil prices caused partly by vastly increased U.S. production. In his recent press conference, Putin wasn’t exactly singing “Kumbaya,” but neither was he expressing belligerence.

“Russia has toned down its talk on the Ukraine crisis in the past month,” reports the New York Times, “and some of its most incendiary language, like ‘junta’ and ‘Novorossiya,’ a blanket term used for the separatist territories, is no longer used on state-run television news.”

Now may be the time for the guy in the “mom jeans” to let Putin know quietly that the U.S. has no wish to impinge upon Russia militarily, and that mutually beneficial understandings are possible. Because while it’s amusing to mock the GOP’s unrequited romance with Putin, a Russia in chaos isn’t in our best interest or anybody else’s.

Meanwhile, President Obama has switched sports metaphors. “My presidency is entering the fourth quarter,” he said last week. “Interesting things happen in the fourth quarter.”

Judging by the weeks since the midterms, could end up qualifying as the political understatement of the year. Recognizing Cuba was merely the most dramatic in a series of decisive actions by the White House. Could Obama end up actually deserving that Nobel Peace Prize the Norwegians foolishly awarded him in 2009?

Regarding Cuba, the Cold War ended in 1991, and with it any need to treat the island nation as a mortal enemy. Listening to Cuban-American politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio complain reminded me of hearing my grandfather venting endlessly about British mistreatment of Ireland — a country he’d never visited.

In sum: Ebola never happened, ISIS is in retreat, the cost of gasoline’s way down, and the U.S. economy grew by a remarkable 5 percent last quarter.

Entering the fourth quarter, Obama’s at the top of his game.

Photo: President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Alan Gross, who was en route to the United States from Cuba, in the Oval Office, Dec. 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)


Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate.

A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows.

Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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  1. Eleanore Whitaker December 24, 2014

    Wow…praise for the president and no sour grapes from the bulls of the right? I’m shocked…or else they are slow on the uptake. Generally, a tiny word of praise or credit for this president has the right wing trolls going berserk.

    1. booker25 December 24, 2014

      It’s early yet, give them time.

    2. joe schmo December 24, 2014

      Well, praise the Lord and pass the wine and wafers. Hate to burst your bubble……not so fast….not necessarily the case.

      “U.S. President Barack Obama’s approval rating has hit a 2014 high, but pales in comparison to Americans’ opinions of a former president during his second term.”

      “The president’s approval rating had dipped as low as 40 percent earlier as recently as six-weeks ago.”

      40ish% is nothing. Clinton was at 67% at this time. Bush at 48%.

      I think this article is jumping the gun a bit.

      1. WhutHeSaid December 24, 2014

        The American economy is poised to become the fastest growing economy on Earth in 2015. Wages are starting to rise. We’ve had the largest GDP growth in 11 years, and the DOW has jumped to an all-time record. Health cost increases are slowing as more people become insured — some for the first time. Retailers are doing great this holiday season as more people have extra money in their pockets and consumer confidence is increasing.

        It doesn’t matter what you Obama-hating bigots say. America is back on the right path and getting stronger every day. Obama’s approval ratings, which don’t matter so much since he’s not running for any office, will just keep rising as the economy improves. That’s just how it works.

        Sorry to say “I told you so”. No, actually I’m not sorry. You bigots have been left with egg all over your face.

        1. Buford2k11 December 24, 2014

          Many more up votes…good call

        2. BillP December 24, 2014

          It doesn’t matter what “really” takes place in this country the right wing trolls like Schmo will write their usual crap. Schmo quotes W’s approval rating at the 6 year mark but doesn’t mention how it is trending. W’s approval kept going down until he left office under 30%. President Obama’s rating are trending upward and should continue to do so as the economy gets better. Schmo rated Putin better than President Obama & liked Russia economy better than the US. That shows his understanding of economic conditions in the 2 countries – 1 getting better and better (US) the other going down (Russia). He also claimed the ruble was doing better than the US Dollar, to quote a former Texas governor “oops”.

          1. joe schmo December 26, 2014

            Dude it still doesn’t account for Presidents like Carter. Yes, and Putin was on a high note. But just like us, he shouldn’t have put all his eggs in one basket. Remember the Russians are still new to this free enterprise thing. I’m sure there will be some failures along the way. Putin is liked more than Obama and much more shrewd. That is a gimme. Americans know all about doing business and competing since we have been dealing with freedom for centuries. We know how to compete in a free market system globally, but sometimes I wonder for how much longer since we are getting somewhat lazier. When the going gets tough the tough get going and that is what has happened with our Oil boom.

          2. BillP December 27, 2014

            What has Carter got to do with this conversation? You keep writing comments about how badly the US economy is doing and how Russia is better than the US. You do love to make grandiose statements like “Putin is liked more than Obama and much more shrewd.”. Well shmuck tell me which country is doing better. Russia’s economy is falling and the ruble is sinking while the US economy is getting better & better and the US dollar is up versus the major currencies. Another bs statement is “Putin is liked more than Obama and much more shrewd. That is a gimme”. On this site we are all to use to your dumbass comments like that one. Though this comment “When the going gets tough the tough get going and that is what has happened with our Oil boom.” is meaningless and totally cliché The more you write the more ridiculous you sound. Even your use of the word coming from you its stilted.

        3. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          Does that detestable word ‘OIL’ mean anything to you:) Fuel independence. Obama didn’t have a thing to do with it. Not even his EPA or restrictions could contain its progress on PRIVATE LAND. I think it is hilarious. American ingenuity and FREE ENTERPRISE hard at work. Giving the Middle East a run for their money.

          You are just as bigoted, I might add.

          1. WhutHeSaid December 26, 2014

            Yes, Obama made the US the largest oil producer on the planet. Not GW Bush, not GHW Bush, not Ronald Reagan — BARACK OBAMA.

            Because you despicable bigots can’t find anything bad happening to blame on Obama, you try to claim that the good things that are happening are DESPITE Obama. But it’s just bigot-flap, of course, and the whole world knows better. All of the historic good things happening in America infuriate you bigots, because you’d rather see bad things happen to America than credit a black man for achieving those things.

            Too bad for you and all of the other bigots. Obama won — you are utterly defeated. The black man outsmarted you in every possible way, and America benefits from it. Sorry ’bout your luck.

      2. latebloomingrandma December 24, 2014

        Oh, put a sock in it , Schmo. I’ll say again, if we at this time, with these metrics, had a President Romney for the past 2 years, the right would be singing his praises and taking credit for the whole thing, while being gratefully happy for getting rid of that nobody Obama. But there is no president Romney. So you are stuck with a fairly successful President OBAMA

        1. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          You’re probably right. But I also believe we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in. Guaranteed.

          ‘Fairly successful’ is an overstatement.

      3. Independent1 December 24, 2014

        Let’s see 48% and 51% – numbers that are within the PROBABLITY of the poll at being 50/50 – remember those numbers are not 100% accurate they have at least a +-of 3% going either way.

        But George Bush’s approval rating on 1/1/2007 – almost exactly where Obama is now in his two terms – of 37% vs 59% disapprove, IS REALLY TELLING as to how far Bush’s approval would be trashed: being 29% approve and 69% disapprove in December of 2008!! Talk about a DISASTER!!!!!!!!

        1. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          Aww shucks, you will say anything to make that loser in the White House look good.

          Why not post some concrete facts for a change.

      4. elw December 24, 2014

        Ronal Reagan had a 48% approval rating in December of his 6th year in office. So how do you get that his rating were higher than Clinton’s or Obama’s?

        1. Independent1 December 24, 2014

          He gets that because all Joe Schmuck knows how to do is distort the truth!!!!!

          1. elw December 24, 2014

            No kidding, they twists every number he writes down. Do you think he knows what schmuck means – I doubt it.

          2. Independent1 December 24, 2014

            I doubt it too. RWNJs are not very quick at the wheel.

          3. elw December 24, 2014

            HA, plus the fact it takes a bit of sensitivity to other cultures to pick up the real meaning of words like “schmuck.”

          4. sleepvark December 24, 2014

            schmuck from the original German might mean any of these; adornment, trinket, even jewel. However, when transformed into Yiddish it suffered a bit of debasement. Current use here in America includes; an unwelcome person (in its most gentle use), penis, or the skin left over from a circumcision. The online Urban Dictionary gives a number of less than flattering definitions including loser, putz, idiot . . .

          5. elw December 26, 2014

            If you have to look it up – you do not understand how to use it. Just the way you tend to use it, proves that. You are like a White boy trying to talk ghetto.

          6. sleepvark December 26, 2014

            au contraire, elw, I understand its use quite well, but in order to elevate things just a tad above the gutter, I cited a source. Not that I have a problem with the gutter . . .

          7. joe schmo December 26, 2014

            Funny how decadent your thought pattern is. Typical libtard. Over educated yet perverse and primitive. Guess you didn’t have anything to say as usual so you looked up the word schmuck. LOL You can dress them up but you can’t take them out. I’m sure glad I am a conservative.

          8. sleepvark December 27, 2014

            lady schmo, we’re all glad you’re a conservative, or at least not one of us. Your stench is bad enough from this comfortable distance.
            And I’ve had plenty to say. When it’s about you, it just isn’t very nice, but it’s true and needs to be said.

          9. joe schmo December 26, 2014

            LOL phallic anyone. I think I can relate more to the German translation of the word. Unwelcome person:) Oh well……

          10. joe schmo December 26, 2014

            Sensitivity to other cultures…..? Even if they stab you in the back you still walk around and say they would never do such a thing. You are a fool. All you can rely on are injudious emotions. You are stuck in a utopia that does not exist. No common sense and no reality. You are the true bigots. The haters of patriotism and caring for your FELLOW MAN. You are the race-baiters, thieves, violaters and looters. Who are you to say what’s right and wrong when what is wrong is right in your blind eyes.

          11. joe schmo December 26, 2014

            LOL, and you think you are….that’s a joke….. No reality there.

          12. joe schmo December 26, 2014

            You people never upload or link info. I should be the one calling you liars……

          13. joe schmo December 26, 2014

            You never share valid information or articles so how would you know.

        2. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          This was already in 2011



          “American voters give Pres. Obama a 39 percent approval rating, which is
          close to his lowest-ever score of 38 percent in Dec. 2013, the poll

          Hmmmm….I did look up Reagan’s approval rating for the 2 terms he was in office. It was mostly above 60%. Only dropped once which is more than I can say about your guy. Just look up approval ratings of presidents. Of course, Obummer isn’t listed yet because he is not out of office but just judging by the articles written and his track record, I believe he will come out on bottom with Carter and Ford.

          1. elw December 27, 2014

            According to Gallop’s historical record President Reagan had an approval rating of 35% in January of 1983 and it remained in the 40’s all through the entire year. His approval rating between December and June of 1986 ran in the high 40s for the entire period.

      5. Independent1 December 24, 2014

        And did you forget to mention that in Reagan’s 2nd year in office he had a 35% approval rating??? The lowest approval of any president since 1900 in his 2nd year in office!!!!!!

        1. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          Sorry, you will never be able to touch Reagan. He has already gone down in history as one of the best……

          1. WhutHeSaid December 26, 2014

            Obama has already outperformed Reagan in every way except one: Reagan is STILL the reigning champion of runaway federal spending, with a fiscal responsibility record lower than anyone else in history. That’s not exactly surprising since Republicans ALWAYS increase spending and deficits more than Democrats and are ALWAYS more fiscally irresponsible.

            What’s the matter with your other two bigot-boys — the Bushies? Need to go back more than a quarter century to find a Republican President that all people do not agree was a total failure?

      6. Independent1 December 24, 2014

        And about that 39% who strongly disapprove of Obama’s presidency – YOU DON’T SUPPOSE, given that 37% of Americans are registered republicans – that almost 99% of that 39% strongly disapproving are brainwashed GOP sheeple just keeping with the program?????

      7. Independent1 December 24, 2014


        1. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          Not with the information I got. Obama has had the lowest approval rating of anyone since WWII. Anyone can see it or feel it. You have your blinders on again?

          1. WhutHeSaid December 26, 2014

            Obama’s Presidency isn’t over yet, and the economy is booming. Obama has outperformed every GOP President in recent history in every possible way. You America-hating bigots are infuriated, but you’ve been thoroughly ass-whupped and outsmarted by the black man. All you can do is whine incessantly, because you are powerless to do anything else. You’ve been defeated, beaten, whupped, bested, spanked, creamed, killed, hammered, thwarted, bitch-slapped, thumped, routed, trounced, crushed, thrashed, trashed, mastered, clobbered, punked, foiled.

            The black man has beaten and outsmarted you in every way possible, and made you look like a bunch of ignorant baboons. I know it hurts you knowing that the black man has proven his superiority over you. Sorry ’bout your luck.

      8. Independent1 December 24, 2014

        Jumping the gun??? 3rd quarter economic surge the greatest since 2003!! More jobs created in 2014 than in any year since 1999!! November monthly job creation the largest in well over a decade!!! America achieving the status of the largest energy producer on the planet in 2014!!! Obamacare re signups and new signups surging with 2 million more people being insured!! Obamacare saving hospitals and states over 6 billion dollars!! Obamacare projected to have saved the lives of over 60,000 Americans!! Obamacare keeping premium increases for 2015 to the lowest increase level in over 15 years according to Kaiser Permanente!! Not to mention all the pluses that were mentioned by the above article!!!



        1. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          In a word.. OIL:)

          Obummer had nothing to do with economy. He couldn’t stop American ingenuity and free ENTERPRISE. Fracking and drilling on PRIVATE LAND.

          Obamacare is failing in Vermont. They are bowing out of the exchange and in Iowa the exchange just went bankrupt. It has to be supported by the State and this is only the beginning. I think….many people who signed up were those on the lower echelon. The poor who don’t have to pay. Believe me quality is dwindling. I already see it in our state with our Drs. Many have become cash only clinics. It goes back to what I have said many times. The wealthy will get quality care because they can afford it. Everyone else will get mundane medical care.

          Kaiser? Go figure. One of the worst medical systems we have.


          If you think I am lying why not look it up:) See I have touched a cord….

      9. Independent1 December 24, 2014

        The only way we could be jumping the gun is if the GOP Congressional majority, voted in by 17% of registered voters and only 13% of all eligible voters, actually follows through on its contrived idiot plans of working to sabotage our economy; as the 14 treasonous GOPers plotted to do back on Obama’s inauguration day of 1/20/09.

        Athough at least one of the conspirators in that inaugural night plotting, Cantor, is no longer in Congress – there are still quite a number of the treasonous actors to follow through with all of the nefarious plots they can dream up. All we can do is hope that Reid and Obama can slow down the destruction these plotters may still create for America.

        1. joe schmo December 26, 2014

          Dream on ‘Mutha.’ Why didn’t your people vote? Were you all too sure of yourselves or did the fizzle die. LOL Nah, I think your media lies.

          Treasonous? Nothing compared to your ilk. You are still of the small percentage enamored by this idiot.

          “Democrats’ problem is turn-off, not turnout
          Even Obama’s core supporters are turning away.”

          Take a look at seven major groups — women, blacks, Hispanics, young peopleaged 18 to 29, liberals, moderates and Democrats — that made up his core supporters in his two presidential elections. Among five of these, Mr. Obama saw support drop from 2008 to 2012; however, the drop since
          2012 has been far greater and across all seven.

          Equally troubling for Mr. Obama is that the support he still retains among these seven groups is soft. For all these groups, their ratios of strong approval to overall approval are well below 50 percent. Even for blacks, the leading group in this ratio, their strong approval is just 43 percent of their total approval. For the rest, it is roughly 33 percent of their total approval.

          While his support is soft among core supporters, his opposition among them is hard. Among women,
          Hispanics, 18- to 29-year-olds and moderates, Mr. Obama’s strong approval rating is greatly surpassed by their strong disapproval rating
          of him.

          Among five of these seven groups (women, blacks,
          Hispanics, 18- to 29-year-olds and moderates), Mr. Obama’s ratio of strong disapproval to overall disapproval is more 50 percent.

          The question will be how much support is left, because right now, one thing is clear: There is a lot less than there used to be.

          Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com


      10. sleepvark December 24, 2014

        schmolina, does your husband know your not brewing his coffee while you post your drivel?

    3. plc97477 December 24, 2014

      It is fun to watch their heads explode isn’t it. If the koch’s knew how much we enjoy watching the trolls go bonkers they would not pay as much as they do.

  2. hjs3 December 24, 2014

    The clowns went home for Christmas in their clown cars but the President is apparently going to play the full sixty minutes here in his 4th Qtr….Oh Dear!

  3. Buford2k11 December 24, 2014

    It is funny when all you hear from the right when PBO goes on vacation, is he should be working, and when PBO is WORKING, they want him to stop…they just can’t help themselves…

  4. plc97477 December 24, 2014

    You go Obama!!! Thank you for being my president.

  5. TZToronto December 24, 2014

    Well, logical analysis was never a strong point of the far right. They’re more knee-jerk (pun intended) than anything else. Whichever way the wind is blowing, that’s the way they’ll go–as long as President Obama isn’t going there too.

    1. dtgraham December 24, 2014

      The opening segment of Power and Politics yesterday on CBC was, “Why is the U.S. outperforming Canada now?” Had been the opposite until lately. Don’t know if you caught it. Much praise for President Obama in that segment. They don’t really go into mom jeans or potency or equivocating much on the CBC.

  6. fortunev December 24, 2014

    Can you imagine what the state of our country woiuld be in right now if one of those characters from the GOP wannabe presidential clown car had succeeded? We are so fortunate to have one of the greatest presidents in history at the helm.

  7. elw December 24, 2014

    Well about the only thing the GOP seems to be good at any more is making fools of themselves. They can yell and scream all they want it will not hide President Obama’s very successful Presidency, it will in fact make it look better since all the successes came in spite of him having to fight them all the way there.

  8. pmbalele December 24, 2014

    I told TPs and Repubs that President Obama has a magic wand. He will let you come in like George Foreman and then when you tired he will hit you with Ali’s left hook. Repubs and TPs lied to people during the mid-term
    election that Obama was a weak president. Now Putin is peeing in his pants. He cannot even feed his people. Americans are now enjoying life again with Obama as our President. But we still have here TPs and Repubs whining why Obama is doing so well as president. Obama has characteristic many leaders don’t have: calmness, excellent thinking and charisma. Ask a regular
    person in the street how they love Obama. You will get 88% -99% people love him. The 1 percent are stupid TPs and Repubs who were raised badly.

  9. pm1 December 25, 2014

    Thank you, Gene Lyons. Great piece and spot on as always. The republicans always wind up being exposed for the air-head clowns that they truly are. Obama has done well by just letting their ridiculousness play itself out.

  10. martha bettes December 25, 2014

    President Obama says “Duck You”, Republican Congress ! LOL

  11. Jane Snape December 28, 2014

    With his last set of midterms behind him, Obama now doesn’t have to listen to misguided “centrists” any more. He had to soft-pedal everything until the elections were over — that’s why he and Pope Francis waited until after the elections to spring their Guantanamo and Cuba surprises — but now that they’re done, he’s free to do what he should be doing, which are things that combine good policy with psychic napalm for the GOP’s perpetually-inflamed base voters.

    Keeping the GOP’s crazy base inflamed is absolutely necessary, as it causes them to keep screaming at their congresscritters to IMPEACH THAT DAMNED N—– ALREADY!!! which interferes with the agenda that Miss McConnell and Prematurely Orange wish to pursue.

    From http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-immigration-fight-20141120-story.html

    “Republican leaders who had hoped to focus on corporate tax reform,
    fast-track trade pacts, repealing the president’s healthcare law and
    loosening environmental restrictions on coal are instead being dragged
    into an immigration skirmish that they’ve tried studiously to avoid for
    most of the last year.


    “To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP’s conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president’s immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.


    “Republican leaders are increasingly concerned that if Obama follows through, the anti-immigrant fervor in their party will rise to an unappealing
    crescendo and the rank-and-file’s desire to confront the president will
    overtake other party priorities.”

    Oh boo effing hoo.

    You pricks spent over half a century sowing the racist crazy wind, now you get to reap the effing racist crazy whirlwind.

  12. White Army December 30, 2014

    I think we can all agree that Obama is a crazed lunatic and a delusional menace.


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