The initial stage of the 2016 election cycle is upon us, coinciding with Obama’s final year – the lame duck season. This would seem the appropriate time to issue some kind of report card. How Obama is perceived to have performed in office will determine who’s elected next year, no doubt. That’s the significance.
Legacies aren’t finalized for decades in most instances. But to be fair, enough is on record to allow rudimentary evaluation. We don’t have to let the dust settle to draw some conclusions.
When history looks back, it will probably elevate the first African-American President to a higher level than what we presently see – a President under duress – due to Republican hostility and obstruction. The lack of traction wasn’t his fault in most instances, but some.
Comparing Obama to the current GOP line-up makes him look like a Black JFK. Or a 21st Century Abraham Lincoln canonized to black granite on Mount Rushmore – much to the consternation of next-generation rightwingers. The stark contrast between Obama’s intelligence [manifested by his mastery of the King’s English] and the 15 GOPers eagerly competing to replace him makes his report card look better all the time. However, comparisons are but grading on the curve, not an established science or consistent yardstick.
Likewise, personality, in many situations, gets in the way of a teacher being fair. Let’s get that out of the way. Barack and Michelle Obama are two of the most likable and attractive people on the planet. Who wouldn’t admire them (except racists and rightwing ideologues)?
But let’s also take likability out of the equation.
SPEECH and COMMUNICATIONS: “A+”
Never have I heard such moving and articulate speeches. Obama made us proud every time he stood behind the podium. The sound of his voice was so refreshing, especially after Bush’s eight years of banjo-picking language mutilation.
RESCUING THE ECONOMY: “B+”
America was on the edge of another Great Depression. The downside of Obama’s rescue mission was the bailing out of Wall Street while neglecting Main Street. To receive a solid “A” would have required more fairness to Obama’s main constituents: the Middle Class. Of course, Republicans would have attempted to block his every attempt. But didn’t he enjoy a big majority in the House and a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate?
PROSECUTING WALL STREET BANKSTERS: “F-”
Eric Holder decided not to prosecute ONE Wall Street Bankster that caused the near collapse of the U.S. Not one. What was his excuse?
PROSECUTING BUSH ASSOCIATES FOR TREASON AND FRAUD: “F”
Cheney was never investigated, much less indicted for treason and deliberately lying America into war(s). Neither was Karl Rove for his complicity in outing a CIA agent to get back at her ambassador husband for exposing Bush for lying the country to war. Nothing was done. Justice was denied. The Downing Street Minutes were not even explored. Eric Holder decided from the start not to investigate, nor interrogate, past crimes of the Bush administration – for what reason? Their excuse: for “continuity of government”. In other words, Obama didn’t want to cause further turmoil other than what the nation was enduring economically at the time. Upsetting the apple cart might have been too much, in their view, and pursuing justice by prosecuting war criminals of the highest magnitude might have put the country in a tailspin. Justice was not only denied, it was slaughtered.
REPLACING KARL ROVE’S U.S. ATTORNEYS WITH OBAMA’S: “F”
Eric Holder also did not remove the rightwing political hacks that Karl Rove had put in place to politicize the Justice Department. This was another massacre of Justice. The excuse might have been Republicans blocked every nominee. But didn’t Democrats enjoy a filibuster-proof majority for over a year? The result of Eric Holder’s decision is chaos and gridlock throughout Obama’s terms.
SAVING THE AUTO INDUSTRY: “A+”
If Obama had taken Romney and Republicans’ advice, America would have sunk. Obama saved the industry – which meant 10+ million jobs. If Detroit would have been ignored, a recovery would have been impossible.
STIMULUS PACKAGE: “B”
The $787 Billion package was meant to keep the U.S. economy alive while at the bottom of the Great Recession. It could have been more, but definitely wouldn’t have survived after the 2010 election. America needed a jump-start, and this was the best Democrats could come up with (given that Republicans fought them the whole way).
FINDING BIN LADEN: “A”
Bush and Cheney seemed to want Osama bin Laden to be part of a pretext to bolster defense and continued military entanglements. Osama bin Laden was Bush’s prop. For whatever reason, Bush decided that not going after Bin Laden would help the war effort. It took a Black President to clean up the White President’s mess.
ENACTING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: “C”
Supposedly, it was the best they could do given the circumstances. Consistent with past practice, Democrats caved on every issue while constructing the new healthcare system while at the same time Republicans tried to block every effort – even the suggestions they offered. The Dems assumed that granting concessions would cause opponents to come around and compromise a bit. Not one Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act – even though Democrats gave them what they demanded. With the current political climate, it’s not just a problem of give-and-take, it’s polarization and the absolute demonization of progressive Democrats.
THE ROLLOUT OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: “D”
Obama was not keeping track of his healthcare team, obviously. The rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s website was just an indicator. To be one of his premiere presidential achievements, the ACA was not ready after years of lead-up time. Obama’s staff and cabinet clearly were not doing their jobs. They knew Republicans would pounce on any weakness, so they gave them all kinds of reasons to pounce.
THE EFFECT OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: “B”
The product turned out to be much better than the rollout. Millions more are insured than before. Medical and insurances costs are not growing at such an astronomical pace. Republicans have attempted the repeal the act 60 times (going so far as shutting down the government in 2013), and state governments under their control have denied millions coverage. The partisanship of the GOP is incredibly evil. They damage the nation to benefit the party, and that’s their priority. Party before country. Where would the ACA have been had they not obstructed at every turn?
THE 2010 MID-TERM ELECTION: “F-”
Of course, the Obama administration realized there would be a big backlash against the first sitting Black President. (It might be termed a “blacklash”.)They saw indicators throughout 2009 and 2010 – with the birth of the Tea Party movement and the unusual election of Republican Scott Brown to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat in liberal Massachusetts. Signs were everywhere, not just at Tea Party rallies. David Axelrod was a full-time staffer at the White House as counsel to the President over political matters. What did he do? Sat on his ass, apparently. Maybe it would have been excusable had Axelrod returned to Chicago as an unpaid consultant. But he was in-house, on-the-job. Michelle Obama complained about his lack of activity during that time. Barack must not have listened. Meanwhile, Karl Rove recognized the 2010 election’s importance: mid-term, beginning of a decade where the census plays a crucial role in redistricting, etc. Where was Axelrod? If it wasn’t for the dismal failure of the 2010 election, Obama’s terms would have turned out so much better.
THE 2014 MID-TERM ELECTION: “F”
In 2014 Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was in charge of the Democrat’s efforts to save the Senate and maintain a decent minority in the House. Evidently, most Democrats are not fighters, and she isn’t even fired after such poor performance. Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy has long been abandoned, in favor of what? Conceding defeat and keeping the same losers? If the party doesn’t select leaders of accomplishment over some demographic criteria, it’ll continue to fail – even though it’s the majority party. America hurts as a whole when the Democratic Party continues to lose – despite holding all the cards in its favor.
Republicans block every attempt to solve the immigration problem. Obama used his executive powers to try and get around their obstruction. But Republican judges are blocking many of his efforts. If they were not in his way, Obama would be given an “A”. On the other hand, Obama has “tightened” border security more than any of his predecessors, which is never reported by FOX.
Obama should have used his executive authority to close GITMO. Perhaps this is a case of hindsight. Maybe in early 2009 he didn’t realize how acrimonious Republicans would turn out to be. He expected a honeymoon but was only mooned after saying his “I do’s”.
Obama’s perception that Afghanistan was legitimate but Iraq wasn’t – turned out false. Joe Biden informed him correctly but was only given the deaf ear. Nowhere in the Middle East and South Asia are American troops welcome. The sooner we realize this fact, the better. Like South Vietnam, each occupied land will fall back into its own political/religious jungle after Americans leave. So why spend trillions? American wars are now only manufactured by defense contractors for their exclusive bottom line and paid for by uneducated taxpayers and the blood of innocent young mercenaries.
There’s no saving Humpty Dumpty after its great fall. Bush-Cheney broke it; drove America off the cliff with their claim of WMD and nukes. Iran won Iraq, that’s the grand finalé. Shiites and Sunni are forever locked in battle and ISIS is free to roam western provinces thanks to Bush’s attempts to gain political power though false wars. Before Bush came to power, his team planned to invade Iraq. In doing so, they created pretexts, possibly including 9/11, but definitely the Niger forged letter from its Rome embassy (January 2001). Karl Rove calculated that if a Republican president conducted a major war in the Middle East, it would guarantee Republican majority rule for a generation.
So, Rove was much behind the Iraq Conspiracy. Starting in 1997, PNAC (Project of a New American Century) planned the Iraq War but needed Bush to win in 2000 to fulfill their dreams. Who were among its charter members? Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and Jeb Bush.
Vladimir Putin stole the show, but only after Obama had no strategy for three years. It would seem that such an intelligent President as Obama would come up with an effective strategy in that length of time. This cannot be blamed on Republican obstruction or McCain’s rants.
IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT: “A”
There is no alternative. If Iran moderates over a period of years, it will be proven a success. If they cheat and increase hostility against Israel, it will be a failure. But the agreement allows for both possibilities.
The entire Euro-Russian strategies are dismal. It seems Obama can deal no better with Russians than he does with Republicans, and the two might be analogous in a way. Obama seems to overlook flaws in enemies to his own detriment, and both the Russian leader and Republican leaders make him look weak.
Finally, after 54 years, Cuba is brought back into America’s good graces. Obama took a courageous step in doing so. Republicans would never have allowed it, and I doubt they’ll lift the embargo – something that can’t be done by executive order.
The planet is racing toward an environmental holocaust like never before. Nero fiddled; Obama tiptoed around Republicans. Issuing Shell Oil drilling permits in the Arctic while visiting Alaska to pretend to care about melting glaciers is the height of hypocrisy. Future generations will look back and not only curse Republicans for denying there was even climate change, but Democrats who fought to save the planet like sissies carrying library books to a knife fight.
UNION RIGHTS: “F”
2011 Madison, Wisconsin was a test case. Governor Scott Walker and his Republican legislature disbanded state government unions, including teachers. That was their solution to “improving the economy”. Union leaders called the White House repeatedly inviting Obama to demonstrate with them and denounce Walker’s anti-worker, anti-democratic moves. Obama did not show. Who advised the President not to honor his 2007 pledge to “march with labor leaders if their bargaining rights were ever challenged”? The Democratic Party’s response was weak – starting in 2011 and continuing through 2015. The Koch brothers’ puppet, Scott Walker, won a recall and general election since that time. Wisconsin is a blue state whose governor is bright red. This means only one thing: The party apparatus is a failure and derelict in its duty. We visited Madison in March 2011, August 2013, and August 2015 to see how things were going and to attend the Postal Press Association (PPA) Conference.
The average GPA for Barack Obama is somewhere around 2.0 or “C”. But as always, selection of candidates in America is based on the “lesser of evils”. Clearly, Obama is far above the 43rd in his performance and far better than had either McCain-Palin or Romney-Paul took the reins.
I guess a revised report card would be in order 20 years from now, but who can wait? Workers can’t wait. The environment sure can’t. Obama represented “our” time in office. In that sense, he failed. Our “turn” was squandered, and, thus, we’re as angry as the rightwing Tea Party crowd.
Maybe Bernie will turn things around. We demand our turn.