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Monday, November 5, 2012

Why Obama is a Great President

Posted by on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 9:08 AM

On the eve of the election, I looked back to how I was thinking four years ago, shortly after Obama's election:

After eight—perhaps twelve—years of terrifying, out-of-control skidding it finally feels as though our collective feet have found purchase. We've finally stopped our plummet, or at least started to stop our decline, far closer to the edge of a deep abyss than any of us would like. Or so I hope.

Trudging back up is going to make the next four years (and probably many more) as difficult as anything known to the overwhelming majority of us. And have no more illusions. It won't be the Chinese, the Russians, the EU. We must be in the lead of the difficult rise as much as we were the leaders of the swift and easy fall.

In a very difficult (hopefully first) four years, Obama has done that and more. We avoided the real risk of a second Depression. He managed to push through a true (if flawed) universal health care law. Even in our wildest dreams, I suspect most of us wouldn't have expected as clean of an exit from Iraq, a winding down in Afghanistan—let alone the ending of the Libyan and Egyptian regimes.

Obama has earned my vote not because he is not Romney, but because for what he's managed to accomplish—in the most difficult of circumstances.

Jonathan Chait (of NY Mag) makes the case:


Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy. The general thrust of his reforms, especially in economic policy, has been a combination of politically radical and ideologically moderate. The combination has confused liberals into thinking of Obamaism as a series of sad half-measures, and conservatives to deem it socialism, but the truth is neither. Obama’s agenda has generally hewed to the consensus of mainstream economists and policy experts. What makes the agenda radical is that, historically, vast realms of policy had been shaped by special interests for their own benefit. Plans to rationalize those things, to write laws that make sense, molder on think-tank shelves for years, even generations. They are often boring. But then Obama, in a frenetic burst of activity, made many of them happen all at once.
...

It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration. Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through. Many of his own advisers, both economists steeped in free-market models and advisers anxious about a bailout-weary public, argued against his decision to extend credit to, and restructure, the auto industry. On Libya, Obama’s staff presented him with options either to posture ineffectually or do nothing; he alone forced them to draw up an option that would prevent a massacre. And Obama overruled some cautious advisers and decided to kill Osama bin Laden.

The latter three decisions are all highly popular now, but all of them carried the risk of inflicting a mortal political wound, like Bill Clinton’s health-care failure and Jimmy Carter’s attempted raid into Iran. (George W. Bush, presented with a similar option, did not strike bin Laden.) In making these calls, Obama displayed judgment and nerve.

(Chait's essay is worth a complete read)

So does the War Nerd (of the Exiled, Exiled Online and now NSFW Corp)

When you look back at Obama’s wars, you get a pretty clear idea what went wrong over the last four years. It wasn’t the way Obama’s team handled the wars. Truth is, they did damn well at that, better than I ever thought they would....
Considering the full-spectrum tactical/political/strategic disaster he inherited in Iraq, it’s gone way, way, WAY better than it had any right to.

The Obama administration isn't as liberal as some of us would like because the country isn't as liberal as we'd like. Find Obama to centrist or right wing? Vote for Obama, then fight for a more liberal congress, more liberal governor, more liberal State Legislature. Convince your independent and conservative friends of your ideas.

 

Comments (20) RSS

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Pope Peabrain 1
War Nerd talks as though he lives at the height of the Roman Empire instead of 2012. We finally have a thoughtful, competent president, folks. Let's not blow it!
Posted by Pope Peabrain on November 5, 2012 at 9:30 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 2
Slog has several hard-left morons who will disagree with this premise vehemently, but will be unable to offer any pragmatic alternatives.
Posted by Matt from Denver on November 5, 2012 at 9:38 AM · Report this
3
good not great. he failed to explain why we had the financial crisis and we're relativcely unprotected from another one. he failed to articulate the 1% 99% thing, others did. he failed to explain why middle class income is down $4K in last years. he also doesn't have much of a program, if you read it it's mainly tax cuts for small business plus drill baby drill. The failures here are relativcely simple. he even conceded billdawg is needed as explainer in chief. he is also lacking in forward vision/happy warrior gene, even going so far as to tell everyone this is his last debate. wtf, if he loses he won't run again? what the holy fuck? he seems peeved he has to run or explain things. he was handed the biggest object lesson since 1929 in how come we need government and has failed to convince people we need government; he's still in a defensive crouch; he can't even make his jobs bill the acme of the campaign, because omg it's government jobs; he accepts the republican notion that govt jobs don't count by continually showing the chart with only private sector jobs. he had a chance to explain it all over again in his they dind't build it comment flare up, and failed to even try. the president's main tool is persuasion, and he's not that great at it. he will eke out a win, largely due to demographics only, without strengthening our position politically to get a real jobs program or infra investment or to get keynesianism back in as the default notion of most americans.
Posted by he gets a B on November 5, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
8Way 4
Thanks Jonathan for saying "Chait's essay is worth a complete read" vs the moronic Slog standard of "Required Reading".

I think I will actually read Chait's essay now.
Posted by 8Way on November 5, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
The Max 5
@3 I agree he's good not great. You don't get to be great in this political zeitgeist without winning a second term.

I also agree that his biggest weakness has been in failing to win over the Real Conservatives, the people who want steady, cautious leadership, what really is best for us all, and really don't give a tin shit in a hurricane about the hot-button issues in large part because they are hot-button.

But I disagree vehemently with you on your point of criticism dunning him for basically having already decided against running again if he loses.

In a post-XXII Amendment America, it would be the height of arrogance to seek to Grover Cleveland. It's by definition a busted agenda. It would be bad for the Democratic Party and bad for the nation.

Sure, there are circumstances that could arrive to make running on a blown agenda the right thing to do, but he'd almost have to be drafted by the party to make it anything other than an act of monstrous egotism.
Posted by The Max on November 5, 2012 at 10:09 AM · Report this
6
@2, I will vote for Obama. He has absolutely not been a "great" president.

It is telling that neither Chait nor Golob mentions civil liberties, the war on whistleblowers, extrajudicial assassination of American citizens (including a teenager), drone strikes on a deceitful definition of "militants", the violation of his own interpretation of the War Powers Act, warrantless wiretapping, a total failure to prosecute torturers from the last administration, or continuing rendition.

As I said, I will vote for him because I'm a pragmatist and think Romney would be an absolute unmitigated disaster for this country, and because I don't think that my vote to a third party would help. But "great"? No. Or, if you think so - Golob? others? - make the case, SPECIFICALLY responding to the paragraph above. Why is that litany of civil rights horrors not disqualifying for "great"?
Posted by Ancient Sumerian on November 5, 2012 at 10:17 AM · Report this
7
we guess if you lower your expectations enough you could consider him 'great'.....
Posted by How Low Can You Go? on November 5, 2012 at 10:23 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 8
Hasn't Obama also toned down the overuse of power of the executive branch that G.W. Bush had been sort of abusing?

That alone is worth a lot of points in my book.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on November 5, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
9
@5. why wouldn't he run again? and more important, why would he say today this is my last debate, admitting the point? it's very defeatist.

in this we should emulate the brits. you're in, you're out, you go back in, not a big deal. see it's not really about him. his problem is his main message was look at me, I am so improbable, isn't america great! instead of keynesianism pro big govt. for the middle class. if the democratic party had a vision, sure we'd take an ex president. the amendment you cite does not apply till after you're elected twice, why remove our man who got the most democratic votes EVER even if he loses from running again? that's so democratic typical....throw away power instead of building on it. we'd take clinton again in a heartbeat and a obama secondmatch against romney would be awesome as it would be romney with the lousy record to defend. we invested in obama. he would owe us! you think we'd be better off with someone like, oh, andrew cuomo? what?
Posted by obama 2016 if needed on November 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM · Report this
10
@8, look at my post @6. In those respects, generally, pretty clearly, no.

It's partly a question of how important you think those things are compared to other abuses of the office (although I'm at a loss to think of things that might be more important than these). And the progressive movement in general seemed to think that it was pretty damn important that Bush was imprisoning people without trial. There's not a ton of general objection that Obama now has a kill list.
Posted by Ancient Sumerian on November 5, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 11
@9: You can't compare the President in the American electoral system to the Prime Minister in a Westminster system like Britain. They are apples and oranges. There are a whole range of differences - the most fundamental of which is that in the Westminster model, the Prime Minister is not directly elected by the people. (Yes, yes, the President' isn't either, Electoral College and all that - but it boils down to the nearest thing to direct election without actually being one.)

Not being directly elected also means that a Prime Minister whose party loses power has not been directly rejected by the people either - which allows the PM to preserve some legitimacy that a defeated presidential candidate would lose.

I'd also note that in the modern era it is rare for PMs to return to office after an electoral defeat. Last time it happened in Britain was 1974; in Canada, 1980.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on November 5, 2012 at 11:08 AM · Report this
12
@8 No. That is one of the problems with Obama. He's actually granted more power to the executive branch, such as the signing of NDAA.

I find it odd that I get more shit from Liberals for my far left leanings than I do from Conservatives. And I also call bullshit on this stance that I should vote for Obama and THEN I can fight for the things I believe in.
Posted by sisyphusgal on November 5, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
Jonathan Golob 13
Jonathan Cohn, the national expert on healthcare, throws down for Obama.
Posted by Jonathan Golob http://dearscience.org on November 5, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 14
@12,
Hm. But NDAA was a bill, written by congress, and then signed by the Pres.

I'm talking about the executive branch completely bypassing the legislative (and/or judicial) branch entirely.

I admit I don't know as much about the stuff @6 wrote. Are those examples of the president simply "doing what he wants" against the will of congress? Or did congress also play along?

That's what my original post @8 was about. If the president AND congress AND the supreme court are all complicit in these things, well, that's an issue that's more than just the president's problem. If he's doing it all by himself though, then I'll agree with you.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on November 5, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 15
@6: Because that "litany of civil rights horrors" is hyperbolic and false.

The whistleblower prosecutions is a poorly researched position that only plays if you so not bother to look into the facts. First, all the bluster is because six "whistleblowers" (actually people illegally leaking state secrets), were prosecuted under his term, most of which were actually investigations launched by Bush, and simply continued under the law.

The "extrajudicial assassination" angle only sounds bad because you have chosen to call it an assassination. This is a common tactic for people with no argument: change the meanings of words to make them sound worse. The individual I am sure you are referring to was an avowed operative for Al Qaeda, which is in war with our country. Now, I wish he would have been tried in absentia, but the penalty for treason is death, I am afraid.

As for the war powrs act, give me a break, we have not declared actual war since Korea, yet we conduct military action all over the world every day. If this is your argument, every president since Truman is "guilty" of this.

Warrantless wiretapping is a Bush legacy. Have any evidence of widespread illegal wiretapping by the Obama administration? As far as the "failure" to prosecute the Bush administration as being torturers: well, you are just really stupid if you think this is possible. I would have loved it too, but it is impossible.

As far as "kill lists" go, only the ignorant actually thinks this is an issue. The military has had a "kill list" since 9/11. You may as well call the FBI's top ten most wanted a "kill list" under this logic. All Obama did was demand personal input into the targets the military wants to hit. He has refused the military permision to hit many of them. Why you would want nameless, largely unaccountable generals in charge of this instead, I have no idea. Total non-issue, nothing but bullshit semantics.

I know the most crybaby of liberals need to hate their president if he does not automatically fix everything on day one and usher in a liberal paradise within a few weeks, but you are weak here. This is why conservatives rule politics in this country. So many liberals demand pure perfecton (without bothering to read about anything) or they take their ball and go home.
More...
Posted by Theodore Gorath on November 5, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
16
@14 I see what you are getting at. So Obama has signed about 140 executive orders compared to Bush's 160 during the same period of time. Bush had some signing statements that said the Executive Branch was excluded from 750 laws and could disregard the wishes of Congress if it was in contradiction to his interpretation of the Constitution.

I offer this article that sums up most of the misgivings I have with Obama. I do honestly believe that both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the failures of our government. And if my vote means something, then I should be able to use it to say that I will not vote the Liberal party line to support a party that has shown the same negligence and opportunism that the other party has shown.

But first, let’s be honest about what voting for Obama means. This requires diving into something I actually detest, which is electoral analysis and the notion of what would a pragmatist do. I tend to find the slur that one need be pragmatic and not a purist condescending and dishonest; no one ever takes an action without a reason to do so. Life is compromise. Every person gets this from the first time he or she, as a kid, asks his or her dad for something his or her mom won’t give him. If you are taking action in politics, you have to assume that you are doing it because you want some sort of consequence from it. But even within the desiccated and corroded notion of what passes for democracy in 2012, the claims of the partisans to pragmatism are foolish. There are only five or six states that matter in this election; in the other 44 or 45, your vote on the presidential level doesn’t matter. It is as decorative as a vote for an “American Idol contestant.” So, unless you are in one of the few swing states that matters, a vote for Obama is simply an unabashed endorsement of his policies.
More...
Posted by sisyphusgal on November 5, 2012 at 12:25 PM · Report this
17
@Matt from Denver tries to suck us in with the 'pragmatism' binky, which requires blinders the size of Belltown. Obama's a great president if you add in enough qualifiers to transform Texas into Sweden.

The Joe Strummer of editorial cartoonists, Ted Rall, gives maybe the most charitable assessment of Obama: as with Mikhail Gorbachev, he's the best that our groaning, corrupt system can produce. America will soon collapse, so get in your flag-waving-romance-of-the-presidency while you can. After that, it's the pestilence of medieval billionaires...and @Matt from Denver's attempts to polish that turd.
Posted by Che Guava on November 5, 2012 at 2:12 PM · Report this
treacle 18
I think the entire world should be able to vote for the US president. The US' actions affect so many, they should also get a say in who the leader is.
Posted by treacle on November 5, 2012 at 3:09 PM · Report this
19
@15, if you were interested in dialogue, you wouldn't have called names and utterly mischaracterized me in your last paragraph (suggesting that I'll take my ball and go home when I was clear that I am pragmatically voting for Obama is very silly; calling me a "crybaby" equally so). So rather than respond point by point, I will suggest you read up on the ACLU, which explicitly supports most of the positions I've advanced here, including that extrajudicial killings (including of sixteen year old boys with no known terrorist affiliations, and very bad luck in a father) are not okay, that Obama has increased warrantless wiretapping (that would be the ACLU using Justice Department documents), and on various other related issues.

Even though some of those links directly contradict your speculations ("Have [sic] any evidence of widespread illegal wiretapping by the Obama administration?"), I don't have high hopes that you'll engage. Your intense, weird need to aggressively namecall and belittle a post which merely stated that Obama is not "great" (not that he isn't "good", mind you - merely that he isn't "great") suggests, to me at least, that you're not all that interested in a rational dialogue. Please, prove me wrong: respond specifically to the links I've attached.

But if not, then I hope you manage to read some of this stuff rationally after Obama is (hopefully!) reelected, and realize that in fact some of the stuff Obama has pulled on civil liberties isn't actually that "great". And that we should possibly think twice about calling "great" a president, or anyone, who lies about his values and receives this much justifiable criticism from the ACLU - even if he does a good job in many other areas.
More...
Posted by Ancient Sumerian on November 5, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
20
"The top one percent enjoyed 45 percent of Clinton-era income growth, 65 percent of Bush-era growth and 93 percent of Obama-era growth [through 2010]."
http://blogs.reuters.com/david-cay-johns…
Posted by anon1256 on November 5, 2012 at 4:42 PM · Report this

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