It is time for a brief appraisal of the first five years of the Obama presidency. Time is normally a great benefit in analyzing a presidency, due to the fact that the passions of the moment are difficult to overcome, in order to give justice to how a President did while he was President. But instead of waiting for 25 years, it might serve us all well, to take a step back and take a breath so to speak, so that we may assess President Obama’s performance so far.
First let us be honest with ourselves, we live at a time in history, when we demand instant gratification. We want change now. If in our personal lives we are having a hard time, it is nice to have someone to blame, and as President Truman once, famously said,”The buck stops here.” Yes, the buck and responsibility stop at the desk of the President of the United States. We all like to blame someone and it is easy to blame any President of the United States for all that is going wrong. I like to paraphrase President Lincoln, who once talked about how you can only please some of the people some of the time. Well, today, we might add in this era of the 24 hour news cycle, the tag line, that no President can please any of the people any of the time.
In order to give a fair assessment let us review a bit of history.
Before President Obama took office, conservatives correctly perceived that the election of the president meant a return of the Democratic Party to the traditions of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. They saw his election as a very real threat to their view of government. A titanic struggle has ensued where the Republican ideas of less government were pitted against President Obama’s view that government has a positive place in the lives of Americans. The struggle of the view of government being bad versus government being a positive force for good began.
Their efforts to make President Obama appear to be not one of us, started from the beginning, with the birther movement. It was all part of an effort to de-legitimize his presidency.
When President Barrack Obama took the oath of office in late January, 2009, the United States was involved in two wars. Most importantly, we were on the precipice of a second Great Depression.
September of 2008 saw the near collapse of the world’s financial system. The bank collapse set in motion a severe recession, when unemployment grew rapidly. The year, 2009, saw negative growth. We, as a nation, were reaching for the panic button. Our future seemed bleak and uncertainty ruled the day. With negative growth and lower tax revenue our national budget deficit grew tremendously. The great tragedy of it all was the human pain and suffering that occurred across the nation. Statistics do nothing to describe adequately the anguish and destruction to individuals and families that transpires when a nation goes into such severe economic distress.
Many states were in a sad state of affairs having to deal with mandatory laws requiring the balancing of their budgets.
The United States was not alone in facing the prospect of economic disaster. Europe was hit hard and their unemployment skyrocketed.
President Obama’s leadership along with the Federal Reserve leadership of Chairman Bernanke saved the day.
Let us be fair and give credit where credit is due in recognizing the contributions of President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson, in helping to prevent an imminent collapse by bailing out the banks.
If you do not learn the lessons of history you will in fact be condemned to relive the errors and tragedies of the past.We were fortunate that our leaders recalled those lessons of the past. There is no doubt in my mind that the combined efforts of the Bush administration in late 2008 , and the early days and months of the Obama administration, helped to avert a financial catastrophe.
Just as a reminder, The Great Depression of the 1930’s also had a banking collapse, and it took quick action on the part of Franklin Roosevelt to put the brakes on the collapse. The FDIC grew out of those awful days, and we still feel more secure because our deposits are insured.
Chairman Bernanke, a student of the Great Depression correctly saw that the greatest danger we faced was another deflationary cycle that the 30’s had witnessed. When you can not sell your goods that you produce for more than the cost of producing them, you face the danger of deflation.
Both President Obama and Bernanke had the courage to do what was needed to right our ship of state. They recognized the dangers implicit in the falling economy and both of them worked together to keep things from getting worse.
Many among us still do not understand why deflation is our greatest economic threat. Bernanke flooded the system with money in order to keep us from sinking further into the abyss of deflation.
It took the largest infusion of money in history to get us out of deflation in the 1930’s and the event that saved our collective bacon was World War II.
The type of pump priming that John Maynard Keynes would have recommended to bail us out of the Great Recession never occurred.
President Obama with the help of Congress recognized the danger we were in and they passed a stimulus package that included tax cuts, money for states that were close to financial ruin and a little under 100 billion for actual job stimulus.
But due to political considerations, the stimulus package, lacked the size necessary to grow the economy adequately. As a result of the lack of sufficient stimulus, we have all suffered longer as a result. The emphasis on austerity contributed to the slowness of the recovery.
Europe is an example of too little stimulus. Several countries like Spain are still buried in the depths of what for them has been a depression.
For any other presidency, an honest assessment would be that President Obama helped to prevent our sinking into a worse financial disaster than what we experienced.
He has also put into motion the American exit from 2 wars. This is no small feat. It is much easier to get into a war than to get out of one. We should all be grateful for the end of our military involvement in those theatres of war.
Americans are tired of war. Iraq was an unpopular war and Afghanistan has proved to be as difficult a situation as one could find. No foreign power has ever been successful in changing Afghanistan. Alexander the Great may have temporarily conquered it, but he died soon after that happened. The British Empire found Afghanistan a quagmire and they were most happy to exit that country.
It is a huge achievement to leave war behind!
On the foreign policy front there have been other successes under the Obama presidency. A nuclear arms agreement with Russia was a major achievement.
Recently, we have seen the thawing of relations between the United States and Iran. Anything that can be done to avert a major war is a good thing, and time will tell if major progress will occur in thwarting an Iranian nuclear program. But at least we are talking and moving forward which is contrary to what the so-called conventional wisdom was as any prospects of peace were mocked by others who thought that the only outcome would be another war.
The judgement of history is still out on our continued willingness to give up liberty for security in the so-called war on terror. The Patriot Act continues to endanger our freedoms. Big brother is truly watching and listening to what we do and say all in the name of security. The difficult question is whether or not President Obama could have done more to champion freedom as opposed to government listening in our conversations and lives?
The President and Congress have received criticism for their failure to end the detention of suspected terrorists in other countries. The impending trials of the major figures in the attack on 9/11, are fraught with legal pitfalls. Both of these areas of security are dangerous areas where the slippery slope of security over freedom may have severe consequences in the future for our individual liberty.
With the cloud of partisanship hanging over us, it is hard to tell whether there are scandals or whether they are just being made up for partisan gain. We need to wait to when the dust and din of the media noise machines are finally quiet to determine the truth or fiction of the alleged scandals.
Many Presidents tried unsuccessfully to pass a health insurance bill to help ensure Americans from the financial hardships that sickness brings with it.
President Obama has succeeded where others have failed. He passed with Congress’s and the Supreme Court’s approval a law that will slow down the ever more expensive health insurance system that we have. The law has ended pre-existing conditions, and many more Americans will feel more secure in knowing they can now go to the doctor rather than the emergency room.
If anyone expected the rollout of the ACA to be error free they were naive to believe so. Glitches were to be expected and nothing is more complicated than health insurance. What is important is that people, our fellow citizens are getting insured when they were not insured before.
What is shameful, are the actions of governors in red states that have sought to nullify federal law. Their inactions have made it much more difficult for the citizens in their states to get the insurance coverage that they need. The partisan fear is that the ACA will work.
The right to have good health is a moral imperative.
Social Security had its problems as did Medicare, when both programs first began, but few Americans today would be willing to end either program.
Thousands of people have already signed up for the ACA. Kentucky is a good example of how the ACA is working. For any family or person who now has insurance they can now go to bed with the peace of mind and the knowledge that they have health insurance.
Without looking any further we can conclude that there have been huge achievements. Whether you like the changes that have taken place is another issue. These are highly partisan times and a person’s view of a Obama presidency can be affected by what political party one belongs to.
If ones judgement is colored by your membership in a political party, it wouldn’t matter what he has done or not done. That is why historians have so much fun looking through the prism of time in determining whether a president was strong or weak. An assessment of a president, any president for that matter, has to be placed into the context of the times in which he or she led the country.
In looking at the time in which President Barrack Obama became president, citizens should consider the unusual reaction by the opposition party. Historically it is very difficult to recall such a time, unless you go back to the time immediately after Reconstruction, to find another era of this type of partisanship and rancor. Republicans decided to not cooperate with an incoming President. There was no honeymoon, but rather it was decided by the Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and others that the object of their opposition was to ensure that President Obama was not re-elected. Well, that sure didn’t work for them. The needs and wants of we the people went the way of the dodo bird, and partisan advantage became the goal.
An area that will honestly be difficult to judge is the issue of debt. On this controversial issue, it would be more responsible if we agreed on the initial facts surrounding the premise and the disagreements on who is responsible for the debt if we start out with the right numbers.
We may have a 17 trillion-dollar debt but it is a fact that 6 trillion of the debt we owe to ourselves with federal reserve money out there and the Social Security trust fund and all.
If a president comes into office, as President Obama did with the economy in free fall, where do we place the responsibility for the increased debt. If we are to be honest with ourselves how much of the increased debt was President Bush’s responsibility due to a tax cut, two wars, Medicare Part D, and lower revenue due to the beginning of the Great Recession. And how much of the increase in the debt other than the .9 Billion dollar stimulus package do we lay at the door of President Obama? I am not sure any reliable numbers or complete numbers are in, that would be necessary to arrive at any fair and just conclusion.
It does not serve the people any good to have the air-filled with so much vindictiveness when it comes to this presidency.
President Obama has heard it all, he has been called a communist, a socialist and a fascist. He has heard the refrain that he is not even a citizen. Now we hear the word liar bandied about, constantly. Well, if you lie, you must have the intent to do so. If you erred in judgment or about the facts in your comments, it is not a lie. But this behavior and strategy of attempting to slander a person’s character is not new in politics, we have heard this before. The danger in calling anyone a liar is that it stops the conversation completely because most people find the accusation offensive.
Republican Presidents have heard nasty things said about them as well. It is part of the way we do politics.
The way President Lincoln was portrayed in political cartoons was disgusting.
You need a thick skin to run for office in America. There is a famous story that reflects the fact that our politics can be nasty and hurtful.
President Franklin Roosevelt told the story at the end of a campaign about how rough the campaign had been. He recalled how everyone in his family had been attacked including his dog, Falla, and Falla didn’t like it very much.
No President is perfect and President Obama is far from perfect. No President is or has been perfect, after all, they are human beings who take on the most difficult job in the world.
I, too, have had my own criticisms of the President. I would have preferred that President Obama, talk to the American people more and show more empathy for those who have gone through tough times.
I was taught that a President proposes and that Congress disposes of legislation with an up or down vote. Well, that hasn’t worked for us has it? President Obama has not even had a vote on many of his proposals. His jobs bill is a good example of gridlock. Our nation is desperate for improvements to our infrastructure, but the House of Representatives refuses to give the proposed legislation a hearing or a vote.
President Obama has attempted to have Congress take ownership and come up with their own ideas and suggestions. I would have preferred that he use the bully pulpit more to communicate more clearly on what the ACA means for all of us. He could have spoken to us more on other issues to explain his side of the argument.
But these are not things for me to judge. What is a shame is that we are not talking to one another. We are talking over each other in loud voices and not hearing each other. Our current state of extreme partisanship has clouded our view of what is going on.
What is also a great shame is that major issues need resolution and Congress, for the moment, seems unwilling to even talk about the issues nor to put to a vote what the Senate has passed.
The bottom line is that our emotions and passions are too involved now to make a full assessment of the Obama presidency. It will be up to those who write history to hopefully look dispassionately at the record and the facts in determining how we judge the Presidency of President Barrack Obama.
For many out there in the United States, their opinion is that President Obama, like President Roosevelt, has been a force for good ,where government has been seen as a positive influence in the everyday lives of Americans.
For his opponents he is seen as being a president who was responsible for the increase in the size and influence of government. The dislike and in some cases the hate is so great that if the President helped to begin world peace his opponents would find peace objectionable.
The old story is that if you are not upsetting anyone you are not doing anything. Well, President Obama must have done something then, because he sure has upset a lot of people.
His place in history is already assured. The election of the first African-American President, will forever represent for every young African-American child, the idea and the reality that anything is possible in this country, that any young person can seek the highest office, and strive to be anything they can be.
Very few presidents have entered the office of President of the United States under such difficult circumstances as he did.
His achievements have been numerous. The judgement of history awaits us all, as it awaits this president, as to his place in history. Let us hope that the next few years brings with them, greater bi-partisanship and compromise because we the people need it, want it and demand it, sp that we may hopefully move forward in solving many of the problems that we face.