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President Obama’s Report Card for 2013

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on January 8, 2014

Every pundit, columnist, cable news network commentator, and average citizen who is paying attention, has spoken about the “terrible year” President Barak Obama had in 2013. President Obama seems to acknowledge it himself. This is bemusing to me, because on my scale Obama had an absolutely spectacular year.

Before you read my report card, though, I ask you to keep in mind the absolute obstructionist opposition of the Republican Party in 2013. This obstruction was a drag on all of governance. How Obama performed, and as important, how Obama dealt with that obstruction, must be taken into consideration. Call it grading on the curve, if you will, but it cannot be ignored. My grades are below:

Obamacare: A+++ after a long, gradual takeoff of four years, Obamacare is becoming more fully implemented, and the results are going to be historic, profound and extremely popular. This legislation was under relentless attack by Republicans all year. The House made itself look more foolish, if that is possible, by voting to repeal it about 40 times, yet there it stands.

From here on, the program will follow the normal trajectory of major social legislation: a bumpy, grumpy start; improvement; expansion (ultimately, in this case, to a single payer system); and great popularity, while dragging conservatives along behind.

This will not happen overnight. It took 17 years until all states adopted Medicaid, the last being my own personal state, Arizona, which is pretty consistently the last to catch up on anything. In this case, I think Medicaid acceptance will take much less time, as the federal program is just too good for states – even really backward states – to eschew. I expect all of them to be aboard by the next presidential election, or very shortly thereafter. Overcoming resistance to other aspects of the program may take longer, but are inevitable.

My view is that the computer glitch, which was unquestionably a major screw-up, will become a distant memory, and a non- issue by 2016.

I am curious what the Republican strategy is going to be in 2014. Throughout 2013, their message seemed to be, “We must stop this thing from having happened.”

This is President Obama’s signature goal, and it has been from the start. There has been nothing close to it in the past, though it was first proposed by President Truman in the 40s. I think he should be very proud of this achievement, and I think history will agree.

Syria: A++ Obama avoided our direct involvement in this civil war, while at the same time eliminating chemical weapons from Syria’s arsenal, and probably assuring that no other country will use them any time soon, if ever. There seems to have been an element of good luck involved (sometimes it is better to be lucky than good), but I doubt it.

Those eager to involve us in another wasteful and counter-productive war in the Middle-East (I’m looking at you, Senators Graham and McCain) see this differently, but I see magnificent diplomacy here. Syria’s in a hell of a mess, but it’s their mess, and only they can sort it out. Obama seems finally to understand this about Syria, and indeed the entire Middle East.

Iran: A++ Obama began negotiations with Iran, a country with which we have not talked in 34 years, over its nuclear intentions. This is a marvelous first step, after all those years, bartered for a measly $8 billion in sanctions relief. Things could fall apart in 2014, but at least we are engaging, and we have reason to be optimistic. It is obvious that the sanctions regime is working to bring Iran to the table, a regime we could re-institute quickly if talks falter. Even better, the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, seems to understand that the advantages of rejoining the global community outweigh its current position, and its nuclear intransigence.

This is an extremely important negotiation, because, make no mistake, we will live with Iran’s having nukes if we must. We are already living with worse. So, we need to put our full effort into this. Congress is trying to muck it up, raising their level of worthlessness from useless to worse than useless. Nevertheless, the Obama administration got us here.

Those eager to involve us in another wasteful and counter-productive war in the Middle-East (and I’m looking at you again, Senators McCain and Graham), well, see Syria above. Your positions on these two issues make you come off worse than Barry Goldwater.

Iraq and Afghanistan: A+ Obama got us out of Iraq recently, and will have us out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. I regret that these two events are tragically late, and Iraq should never have been undertaken in the first place, but it is getting done, and, more important, Obama did not get dragged back into Iraq in 2013, as that country is sliding to its inevitable disintegration, as predicted by all those paying attention, including Ali A. Allawi, our own then Senator Biden and moi. Senators McCain and Graham, on the other hand, continue trying to stop our withdrawal from having happened. Good luck with that.

Israeli and Palestinian Peace: A++ Obama was magnificent on this one. He has Secretary of State John Kerry, who really believes in this cause, working diligently to achieve one. If Kerry is successful, a long shot, he will have a place in history. If he doesn’t, Obama will be seen as having tried. In the meantime, Obama doesn’t really care one way or the other. He, with Kerry, are working on Iran, a higher priority.

Consider all these accomplishments together, and Obama was Magna Cum Laude on foreign policy in 2013.

 

The Budget: A Obama got one. A budget is mandated, but Congress had been unable to agree on one since Republicans decided they would rather ruin the country than do their duty. It’s not a very good budget, in fact it is a poor one, in my view, but it is a budget, and it will put a lot of the crap we had to endure in 2013 behind us.

More important, in opposing Obama last year, Republicans shut down the government temporarily and threatened the whole global economy. They came off looking irresponsible, not to say dangerously nuts, and they are unlikely to try anything like that again, including over the debt ceiling in 2014.

Social Issues (read Same Sex Marriage, Weed and Reproductive Rights: A Obama has done relatively little on these issues, except go with the flow, and in so doing has been very successful. The first two of these issues are resolving themselves among the public, and reproductive rights, while still contentious, is turning more and more women against the Republican Party. Obama, while not impeding the public progress on these issues is hailed by advocates, and criticized only by those who are never going to vote for Democrats anyway.

Guantanamo, Cuba: Incomplete Obama pledged to close this obscene, unconstitutional, scar on our world standing and moral fiber when he was first elected in 2008, and he has tried earnestly.  However, he was opposed by members of both parties, for reasons that confound me. But, in 2013 Obama started making workarounds, and I’m thinking he will get the prison closed before his term expires. I certainly hope so.

Cuba, Cuba: Incomplete Obama shook the hand of Raúl Castro at the Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela, and by so doing may have started a thaw in the relationship between our countries. Such a relationship is not crucial to us, but it is silly not to have a good one now. I hope to see some progress on this in the near future.

Jobs: Incomplete I considered grading this an F, but it hasn’t been a complete failure. Obama has failed to get any kind of a Jobs bill through Congress, despite the fact that the Senate has passed one, and the House says it is their single priority. Unfortunately, while the House says this, they have taken no action on anything except repealing Obamacare.

In spite of this, the economy is improving, slowly; jobs are being created, slowly; the unemployment rate has dropped to 7%; and our national debt is dropping. I cannot call this failure, except on the part of the Republicans.

Immigration: Incomplete I predicted at the beginning of 2013 that this would be the subject most likely to be addressed, because it is obviously in the interests of both parties to do so, since the Hispanic population is growing and both parties would like to have its votes. It hasn’t worked out that way. Republicans cannot seem to get over their xenophobia. In the meantime, however, those two dozen Hispanics who voted Republican in 2012 will change their minds by 2016.

NSA: F Obama has supported the expensive privacy invasion programs put in place by the Bush administration, and has even enhanced some of them. Presidents, even good ones, are reluctant to surrender powers of the presidency once they have been gained. But Bush’s policies were clearly an unconstitutional overreaction to 9/11, and the pendulum will swing back.

Gun Control: F- Shit! What can I say about this beyond what I have already said? We seem willing to accept thousands of gun fatalities every year, including many among young children, rather than face the responsibility of creating sensible laws controlling firearms in the U.S. Sadly, no political leader has the suasion to alter our course on this issue. I remain hopeful, only because I must.

 

Looking Ahead: President Obama seems to share the view that 2013 was a bad year for him, but says that 2014 will be better. I see it just the opposite. I cannot look at this record without giving President Obama an A. 2013 was, in my view, a resounding success. But I see lots of problems for him in 2014.

I do not see a problem passing debt ceiling legislation in early 2014, no matter how loud the Republicans scream about it to feed their base. But I expect nothing to get done, with the possible exception of a farm bill, and nothing but obstruction from Republicans until after the primary filing dates for 2014 elections. So fearful are Republicans of being “primaried” they will all have to sound as crazy as the Tea Party until then.

After that, Republicans may be in a mood to work more collegially with Obama, but I doubt it, and in any case, there won’t be much time until the off-year elections to do much, particularly since the House seems to be planning to take another year off.

Everything hinges on those elections. If they go against the Democrats, the rest of Obama’s term will be more of the same, or worse. If they go for the Democrats, we could see a lot of movement leading up to the 2016 presidential election. If it’s a standoff, who knows?

In any case, it will be as interesting, and as arresting as a train wreck, to watch the Republicans continue to sort out their intra-party divisions.

3 Responses

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  1. Bob Keller said, on January 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Whoa! I’m shocked to say the least. It’s one thing to be an Obama supporter and a strong and unyielding supporter of the Liberal agenda, it’s quite another to give Obama any marks for success.

    His signature accomplishment, The poorly named Affordable Care Act (to which he contributed absolutely nothing beyond overblown sales hucksterism) should be an F—. The program will leave more people uninsured than ever before, will destroy the middle class (who will carry the financial weight of the program) and will quickly collapse into dust. Unfortunately it may also destroy the actual health care system as it collapses. Let us hope that doesn’t happen.

    Over the next four years it will be largely replaced. Unfortunately the program is so tainted it might result in a rebound toward the Republican models rather than the single payer plan we all originally envisioned. It certainly will cost Democrats control of the Senate in 2014.

    Barack Obama is ill suited to be President and has been proven unable to accomplish the job. None of this had to happen. It was all avoidable and a more able politician and manager could have given us the Affordable Health Care Act we all desired and deserved.

    This reply will also be cross posted on my website.

    • EloiSVM42 said, on January 11, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Wizard –

      Perhaps you have a point. Maybe I am just a knee jerk liberal after all. I notice, upon reflection, that I didn’t even mention handling of the corrupt and venal banking industry, which is an F for everyone in government, save Elizabeth Warren.

      Perhaps my view of President Obama is informed by my favoring a single payer health care system since college, and certainly since my personal experience being hit by a car in London. I remain much more positive about the ACA than you, as a means, not an end.
      Regarding or health care system, if the current on collapses, I won’t be particularly upset. It is the most expensive in the world, with only average outcomes.

      Or, perhaps it is informed by revulsion at wasteful, unnecessary wars, which I despise with the heat of a laser. The Middle East presently is an outlier in the world’s arc toward reduced violence. Wars of one kind of another are ubiquitous in that region, and until Obama we couldn’t avoid getting involved in every one of them. Shame on us.

      Or, maybe it is just that I am offended greatly by how the man has been treated.

      I will try my best to replay on your blog as well. Also,

      I still have many questions about blogging. When you have had time to recover from your busiest season – which I hope was successful – I’ll give you a call.

  2. Moe said, on January 11, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I agree with all your points on the report card but I’m pretty dismayed about the NSA and worried a bit about the whole drones program…


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