At this point it is probably too early to give President Obama a final grade as a US president. To make the list the issue had to be good or bad for a large segment (say 60-70%) of the population, not just his own party or the other party. For example, Democrats nationally have less power and influence after President Obama than they have in my lifetime. Since half of America would put that in the best column and half would put it in the worst, it’s the kind of thing I want to avoid.
Best of Obama
- He actually did something on healthcare. With the run up to Obamacare, I did a lot of homework on the healthcare system in America. I wrote about it back in August/September 2009 if you are interested. It has lots of pretty sizable holes. While the actual bill that was created and its implementation has been almost universally seen as a disaster (even by Bill Clinton), I have to give him a lot of credit for actually doing something instead of just talking about it. There were a lot of injustices in the old healthcare system and Republicans did nothing about most of them when they had a chance. Had President Obama taken the approach I suggested and isolated specific issues he could have gotten most of what is broken fixed without all the horrible side effects Obamacare brought.
- Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan. This may be a surprise to some people and maybe it will prove to be a non-issue, but there really are a lot of areas in America that do not have reliable high speed internet access. This is a really big deal to the economic, health, and social futures of these people. Of course you can say if they want internet they should just move to the city, but if everyone did that we’d have no food,fewer vacation spots, and more unemployment. When you think about how those of us with high speed internet use it, and how often we use it, it’s pretty clear what an advantage it is. It’s good that he made spreading high speed internet a priority.
- Being who he is. I read many left wing authors like to say that the greatest accomplishment of President Obama was his wonderful personality and being the first black president. I think they are overstating it, but I do think it is important. The fact that something is irrelevant to me (which his skin color is) doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. It could be that I am simply wrong or insensitive or undervaluing something. important. I loved reading the story of the time he let a little black boy feel his hair after the boy asked, “I want to know if my hair is just like yours.” To many Americans, representation matters and it is significant that a man of a very humble background and broken home rose to he highest office in the land.
Worst of Obama
- Immoral foreign policy. It’s hard to imagine a foreign policy that hurt more people than his did. I’m not saying that he did it on purpose, I just think he came in being successful giving speeches and somehow he thought if you just talked to people nicely they would respond. He seemed unable to see that his action or inaction could have serious unintended consequences and refused to see that some people are just evil. He led Iranian freedom seekers to believe the US would support them and then did nothing, leading the government to imprison many of them. He told Syria that there would be consequences if they used chemical weapons and then did nothing. He attacked Lybia, destabilizing North Africa for no apparent reason. He is the only 8-year president who was at war from the first day to the last. His short sightedness in Iraq was almost as bad as George Bush’s point person there, and his policy there is what gave ISIS a chance to thrive. His misreading of the situations in the Middle East and North Africa greatly contributed to the refugee crisis, which handed the immigration issue to hard core right wingers and brought the world Brexit and Donald Trump.
- Hyper partisanship. More than any president before him, President Obama treated those who thought like him as friends and those who disagreed with him as enemies. He treated those with different views as “nothings,” as if they didn’t even exist. I believe that he more than any other one person has brought us to a season of contempt that was addressed in a well written New York Times article. When he did listen to someone with an alternate view, he seemed to do it as a photo op and then immediately ignored anythingo they had to say. Even his token Republican in his administration was fired when he disagreed with the party line. Anyone can argue that others were equally partisan, but the President has the opportunity to change the tone in ways nobody else can, and he simply didn’t do it. He spent eight years wagging his finger in the face of his political opponents saying things like “we won, get over it.” A good article addressing this in more ways can be read here. The unhealthy political climate we have now is due to President Obama more than any other single person.
- Absence of accountability after scandals. I have had to laugh at so many of my friends posting things about how President Obama served for eight years without a single scandal. John Fund covers those well in his Jan 17 article so I will not retype everything we know about Solyndra, Fast and Furious, the Cambridge Police debacle, the Benghazi cover up, IRS targeting, the Black Panther voter intimidation, etc. I will say that President Obama is responsible for allowing each of the perpetrators to face no consequences. When bad behavior is not held accountable it creates more bad behavior because nobody is afraid of getting caught. The fact that Eric Holder could keep his job after Fast and Furious ended up killing U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry is beyond reprehensible.