President Obama announcing his executive actions on guns. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
Opinion writer

I guess it’s ironic that President Obama, an affirmative gun-control advocate, has presided over the greatest expansion of gun sales in U.S. history. But the whole affair is somewhat robbed of its irony because it’s all so predictable. The president may as well have convened a meeting at the White House to ask his advisers what they could do to increase gun sales in the United States. I don’t see how this White House could have done anything else to more effectively create conditions where more people want to buy a gun.

The president makes no secret of his contempt for gun owners. Remember, as far back as 2008, he ridiculed the simpletons who “cling to guns or religion.” Well, after seven years of the Obama presidency, there are more frightened hands clinging to more guns than ever before. And rather than sincerely making an effort to work within Washington to make our streets safer, Obama prefers to issue meaningless executive orders on gun control — measures that would have done nothing to stop any of the several high-profile mass shootings that have taken place in recent years. Since the president knows his actions will increase gun sales, and he knows what he is calling for now would not have prevented the shootings he uses as props, what exactly is he hoping to accomplish? I think at this point, he doesn’t have much to do and is just pretending to be president.

It’s not just the contrived gun-control efforts that lead me to think Obama is mostly pretending. Let’s face it: As he enters his final year in office, he is a spent force, he is ineffective and unengaged in Washington and he is ignored — or worse, taunted — abroad.  So what is he supposed to do with the limited time he has left in office?  Well, the best ways to pretend to be president without actually doing anything are to issue executive orders and travel.  Neither require dealing substantively with anyone who doesn’t work for you, and it’s almost guaranteed that everyone will be courteous and welcoming pretty much wherever the president travels, even though there is no expectation of a tangible result. Given the very real problems and threats that we face, an agenda of cosmetic executive orders and pointless travel may not be as extreme as fiddling while Rome burns, but it could easily be viewed that way.

While Obama decides where to travel and issues his meaningless executive orders from the Oval Office, the 2016 race to succeed the president is heating up, and the Republican candidates will make it their business to highlight the president’s every weakness, in hopes that they will be seen as a remedy.  Similarly, the Democratic candidates will have to make it clear that they were against all the bad decisions the Obama administration made, and they will promise that they will do things differently. In politics, bad gets worse, and we don’t know what peril a disengaged president will bring. The president has gone into retirement mode too early. He needs to do more than just pretend.