To evaluate presidents’ performances before at least a generation after they have left office is usually an exercise in futility. But an early review of Obama’s record can at least give us some idea of how future historians and political scientists might evaluate his administration.
No president has ever been the target of more vicious, vituperative partisan attacks and contrived legislative roadblocks than Barrack Obama. GOP attack dogs were pledged to block him on every level on his every legislative effort, and did. But he has endured, not unscathed mind you, but with a gentleman-like stoicism and without a whimper.
When he took office President Obama faced five monumental challenges: to guide the nation through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, to get us out of an unresolvable quagmire in Iraq, to at least make a beginning on national health care, to adopt an energy policy that would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and to restore our international standing and respect.
Immediately after assuming office Obama pushed through legislation that rescued major U. S. corporations from bankruptcy and saved untold jobs. Since 2010 we have seen the creation of 14 million new private sector jobs over 72 straight months, an unemployment rate sometimes less than five percent and a historically unprecedented run in the stock market.
Early on the President reaffirmed our commitments and responsibilities internationally, restoring long-lagging respect.
Obama eventually got us out of George W.’s brainless Iraq adventure by choosing from an array of bad possible decisions. But we must still deal with a bloody conflict there that has been going on for almost a millennium before there even was a United States. And now the emergence of ISIS, the successor to Al Qaeda, has further complicated matters. But at least the Middle East Muslims are now preoccupied with destroying each other rather than Israel.
From an absurdly complex medical system, by far the world’s most expensive, the Affordable Care Act, has made it possible for Millions of previously uninsured Americans to obtain coverage regardless of preexisting conditions. In the rest of the developed world health care is a right, not a marketable commodity. But the GOP’s answer has always been "No national health care system whatsoever; none!" The last Republican seriously interested in national health care was Teddy Roosevelt.
Although he was vigorously opposed by the Republican right wing, religious fundamentalists and other members of the Flat Earth Society, Obama has made a start to address global warming. The U. S. has just signed a historic agreement in Paris which commits virtually every nation on earth to a common effort to reduce carbon emissions. Trump, by the way, vows to cancel it.
President Obama has been roundly criticized for the normalization of relations with Cuba and the nuclear treaty with Iran. But even a hint of suspicious nuclear activity by Iran will result in the immediate restoral of all sanctions. And we have maintained uninterrupted trade and diplomatic relations with practically every other communist country in the world since World War II. What’s so different about Cuba? With the USSR gone Cuba poses a threat only to its own people.
President Obama will be remembered for his exceptional political, intellectual and moral leadership. But most of all he will be missed for qualities so sadly lacking in both his predecessor and successor: dignity and class.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.