Obama’s First Year, A Reality Check!
For anyone who has read my blog, they know that I support President Obama as much as anyone does. Some on the left have abandoned the ship, I question whether they really were ever on the ship to begin with. I attribute much of this to ignorance. Ignorance about what he actually ran on during the election, ignorance about the state of politics in Washington and ignorance about where the majority of the American people stand on issues. This ignorance grew out of lack of attention to what candidate Obama actually said and proposed during the campaign.
I had several friends who were staunch Hillary Clinton supporters and whenever I talked to them during the campaign, all I heard was “style” and “process” comments, berating his slick speaking ability, his lack of experience, the 3 am phone calls, bitter comments….you know, all the crap the media kept trotting out that had nothing to do with policy or visions for what he wanted to accomplish. People hear what they want to hear when they are adamantly supporting one candidate over another. I’m sure I did the same to Hillary, dodging gunfire in Bosnia etc.
So now that we are back to reality and out of campaign mode, many who didn’t pay attention to those pesky details are upset that he’s not delivering what they had fantasized were his positions. The biggest example of this is Afghanistan. Candidate Obama made it very clear that he was going to increase troops in Afghanistan and phase us out of Iraq. I heard him when he talked about it, did the Jane Hamshers and Arianna Huffingtons even listen to what he had to say? Selective amnesia anyone? So when he followed through on his promise, why would these progressives act like he went back on some imaginary promise? He did exactly what he said he would do.
I’m not a big fan of war and violence in any form, I’m definitely a dove in the hawk/dove analogy. But considering the can of worms that Bush/Cheney opened up and then left for this president, I’d say he’s handling it about as good as you could. The one thing that makes me believe that we have a job to do in Afghanistan is the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and of course the two countries are very much connected by the Taliban and other extreme groups that are straddling the borders between these countries. Abandoning the area, like many on the left want, would be a major disaster for the world, not just the region. It appears that the Obama administration is taking things seriously with the capture of the Taliban’s top commander recently and the operations they’ve been doing in Pakistan to minimize their power.
Andrew Sullivan (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) had a very good post about Obama’s first year, you can find the whole thing here. I highly recommend reading the whole thing. One of my favorite parts of the post is…
His inheritance is one even Republicans concede was the worst since Reagan’s: a global economy spiraling into a possible Second Great Depression; a deficit exploding just as long-term debt was poised to enter the red zone; failing banks; an imploding car industry; two flailing wars; a deeply polarized country; a mortgage crisis; a collapse in America’s moral standing after the Cheney torture regime; 30 million Americans with no health insurance; crumbling domestic infrastructure; and eight wasted years in the fight to mitigate climate change.
So where did he go wrong? Was the stimulus too big or too small? In retrospect, it looks like a pretty good balance in putting a bottom under the economy without adding too much debt. Was the bank rescue insufficient, as many liberals at the time argued? Nope. If you judge by results, Obama got it right: no nationalization and targeted bailout money led to a stunning turn-around in which many of the major recipients of aid were able to pay it back within a year. Last week, Obama announced a big new tax on the banks to get back the rest and is preparing a major new bill for financial re-regulation. In other words, he didn’t succumb to leftist populism or right-wing ideology. He neither attacked the banks nor let them off the hook. And it worked. The global economy has since stabilized – something that was by no means inevitable.
On the foreign policy front, the president has done incredible work at restoring America’s image around the world. We ARE more safe now than we’ve been since 9/11, there is no question in my mind about that. Here is Andrew Sullivan’s take on that…
More broadly, his quiet demotion of inflammatory rhetoric in the war on Jihadist terrorism in favor of talking softly and taking one Qaeda leader out at a time strikes me as a shrewder way to win this war than Bush’s grandstanding. On Iran, he helped the Green Movement immensely by removing the “Great Satan” card from the Khamenei junta’s weakening hand. If he can target sanctions precisely at the Revolutionary Guard, he could help some more. But his breakthrough was in understanding – as any conservative should – that this is the Iranians’ revolution, not America’s. And the job of the West is to get out of the way.
Finally, Andrew writes about his prospects going forward and the state of Republican politics.
This rabid conservatism – one that seeks more tax cuts as debt spirals, that thinks Gitmo is an asset in the war on terror, that wants no extension of health insurance, no bailouts, no stimulus – may well ride some populist anger to short term success at the ballot box (watch Massachusetts’ by-election next Tuesday). But under Obama, the Republicans have become whiter, more extreme, more religious, and synonymous in the public mind with polarizing figures like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn beck. This may be a good ratings strategy for a cable network like Fox News, but it’s a highly risky one for a party attempting to win back the center.
Change has never been easy for people to take and it opens you up to all sorts of carping from all directions. Some don’t want the change, others want different change (even if you never promised them their fantasy change), others want their change faster or different and much of the carping and hatred is rooted in racism, plain and simple. They may not always say it outwardly, but it’s not hard to figure out when you scratch just below the surface.
His critics would have you believe that his first year was a disaster, to them I say “wake up, take a drink of reality.” In just one year, President Obama has made major gains at putting America back on track as a compassionate, efficient, people-centered country where decisions are based on how they will impact people, not corporations like Haliburton, Blackwater, Bechtel, Exxon…..and the list goes on. Sure, he isn’t the left president I would have in my fantasy land, but I don’t live in that fantasy land, I live in a country that elected George W. Bush TWICE! President Obama is helping to steer the ship back on course and the only way to change the American people’s mindset is through persuasion and giving them concrete reasons why it is in their best interest to also care about people.