Barack Obama

Barack Obama's Presidency

Real successes of the Obama presidency:

  • Healthcare reform. Baby steps (we really need single-payer universal healthcare), but good steps (cover the uninsured, change rules, etc). But ultimately it failed to stop cost increases.

  • Minorities and rest of world energized and amazed by existence of a non-white US president (a real achievement).

  • Repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in US military.

  • Slowly unwinding Bush's economic crash and wars.

  • Killing Osama bin Laden. Approval of that operation was a tough, risky decision. It easily could have failed horribly, with loss of life among Pakistani civilians and our SEALs, wrong target hit, SEALs captured, etc. If it had failed for any reason, Obama would have been tagged with all the blame. So he deserves much of the credit once it succeeded.

  • Kick-starting renewable energy, to the point where economics are taking over and making it unstoppable.
    Justin Doom's "U.S. Expects $5 Billion From Program That Funded Solyndra"

Paul Glastris, Ryan Cooper, and Siyu Hu's "Obama's Top 50 Accomplishments"
PCTC's "President Obama is Progressive. Here Are 245 Accomplishments So Far"
Michael Grunwald's "The Nation He Built"
/u/mdawgig comment on reddit

Record really Obama not Reagan

Claimed successes that really are failures:

  • ???


  • Continuation of Iraq war.
    Pouring good money after bad in a failed attempt at nation-building and democracy-building. And he made campaign promises to end this war. Instead, he let it drag on for most of his first term. Obama should have ditched the timetable negotiated by Bush, and ended that war ASAP.

  • Continuation of war in Afghanistan.
    Pouring good money after bad in a failed attempt at nation-building and democracy-building.

    From Thomas Friedman column in The New York Times, 26 June 2011:
    When President Obama announced his decision to surge more troops into Afghanistan in 2009, I argued that it could succeed if three things happened: Pakistan became a different country, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan became a different man, and we succeeded at doing exactly what we claim not to be doing, that is nation-building in Afghanistan. None of that has happened, which is why I still believe our options in Afghanistan are: lose early, lose late, lose big, or lose small. I vote for early and small.

  • Starting war in Libya.
    A failed attempt at nation-building and democracy-building. If the Libyans can't sort out their own problems, we won't be able to do it for them. Okay, all it cost USA was some cruise-missiles (and later some dead people in Benghazi).
    Goran Tomasevic's "Libya's collapse"

  • Starting war against ISIS.
    If the Iraqis and Syrians and neighbors can't sort out their own problems, we won't be able to do it for them. Okay, all it cost USA so far is some air-strikes.
    Ryan Cooper's "America's new war in Syria is a total disaster"

  • Continuation of the "Patriot Act", continuing the trampling of our rights and freedoms. Why can't we have (secret) judicial oversight and control of secret wiretapping and record-searching, with properly-approved warrants ?
    Alex Kane's "5 Ways President Obama Has Doubled Down on Bush's Most Tragic Mistakes"
    Alex Emmons' "Obama Opens NSA's Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for Trump"

  • Continued Bush-era habit of grabbing more power for the Presidency, damaging the balance of powers in the federal government. Asserted no declaration of war was needed for the Libyan War because we had only a "supporting" role in the war, not a leading role, or because "US troops were not involved in hostilities" there.

  • Backed out of his promise not to prosecute federally for medical marijuana if in compliance with state laws: Paul Armentano article.

  • Continuation of Bush-era response to the 2008 crash: bailing out banks instead of homeowners.

  • Continuation of Bush-era financial regulation personnel and policies.
    Financial regulation clearly needed a thorough rebuilding from the ground up, and little was changed.

  • Total failure on promise to make government more transparent.

  • Total failure on reforming campaign finance and money-in-politics (one of his signature issues in previous offices).

  • Less access for the knowledgeable media (including White House press corps).

From Playboy interview of Helen Thomas 3/2011:

THOMAS: ... People are unhappy. The trouble is, swinging to the right is always dangerous. We end up losing so much in the rush to conservatism. But even Obama has fallen down that hole. He's pushing a conservative agenda.

PLAYBOY: The right doesn't see Obama that way. How is Obama conservative?

THOMAS: Look at Guantanamo. With a stroke of a pen, the day after Obama took the oath he should have said, "We're getting the hell out of here." Same thing with Iraq and Afghanistan. There's no reason for us to be in a war. "They'll all come here if we don't go there." That is baloney. Go halfway around the world to kill and die? Why? Now the veterans can't get jobs. I see stories every day about soldiers being liberated from Iraq only to end up unemployed. Where is Obama? How can he continue these Bush policies that were so mean and rotten and unjust? People had this impression that Obama would be a peaceful president, but there he is, as hawkish as any of them. And Hillary Clinton is no liberal either. She put out the word to "capture or kill" for Afghanistan. What would she do that for, really? Capture or kill? What does this mean? I thought, naively perhaps, that she and Obama would bring change, that they would be different. I assumed wrongly that they would be liberal because he's black and she's a woman. It's maddening.


PLAYBOY: What's your hope for the future?

THOMAS: On a political level, I hope for disarmament. Billions and billions are being spent every week on the war in Afghanistan. We have 700 military bases around the world. What do you think it costs to keep that war machine running? It's not working. I thought Obama would be for peace, but he's not. There are no peacemakers left. There's no antiwar movement to speak of. America just keeps going, keeps fighting, keeps spending. I want the killing to stop.


From Conor Friedersdorf article 1/2012:
[Obama campaigned for "fundamentally changing the way Washington works" and "ending the failed system in Washington" and "Washington has allowed Wall Street to use lobbyists and campaign contributions to rig the system and get its way".]

Then Obama got to Washington, D.C., and rather than make a serious attempt at changing the way the system worked, he worked within the system to pass his health-care reform bill and stimulus package. By his own logic, he guaranteed the failure of the "change" that was the centerpiece of his campaign.

Obama also campaigned as someone committed to running the most transparent administration ever. And once in office he went after whistleblowers with the zeal of a convert. He campaigned against warrantless spying, indefinite detention, use of signing statements, using the state-secrets privilege, and launching wars without Congressional approval. And yet he has proceeded to do all of those things in office, sometimes even more aggressively than his predecessor.
But a reader commented: "Obama put in place the strictest policies yet to limit the 'revolving door' practice of people leaving the White House and becoming lobbyists."

Not sure if it is success or failure:

  • ???

Not his fault:

  • Huge budget deficits and huge increases in national debt.
    The parts due to the inertia of the wars under GW Bush are not Obama's fault. The parts due to the deliberate continuation of Iraq and Afghan wars, and new wars in Libya and Yemen, are Obama's fault.
    The parts due to the implosion of the economy under GW Bush are not Obama's fault.
    Philip Bump's "The story behind Obama and the national debt, in 7 charts"

    Of course, R's like to say "stop blaming things on Bush", as if Obama started with a clean slate: All Obama's fault.

    Bush inherited peace and budget surpluses from Clinton, and handed two decade-long wars, freshly-crashed economy, and bailouts, and locked-in tax cuts, and enormous deficits, to Obama.

  • Failing to close Guantanamo Bay.
    Idiots in Congress (in both parties) tied his hands in every way they could think of. But Obama could have done more: Andy Worthington's "Obama v Trump on Guantanamo and torture"

  • NSA spying scandal.
    Government has been spying on us since at least the days of Hoover's FBI (1920's ?). All officials, both parties have gone along with it.

  • Benghazi, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS in Iraq.
    Some things just happen, and we can't prevent them or fix them.
    Andy Borowitz's "Pressure on Obama to Quickly Resolve Centuries-Old Sunni-Shiite Conflict"

Not sure if it is his fault:

  • Democratic party left in electoral ruins after Obama's last term. Republicans hold presidency, both houses of Congress, soon to have majority in Supreme Court, hold something like 31 out of 50 governorships. Big-city mayorships still mostly Democratic, I think.

From Mike Rothschild's "A Conspiracy Theory Primer - In Fun Alphabet Form!":
O is for Obama, Barack, perhaps the most polarizing President since the last guy (and the guy before him, and so on). President Obama is the center of a multitude of conspiracy theories regarding his origin, religion, citizenship and Antichrist/Non-Antichrist status. Some of these, like the so called "birth certificate" question, have caught on with the public. Others, such as Obama teleporting to Mars or intentionally destroying the economy at the behest of Muslim masters, have not. None have any real legitimacy or solid evidence to support them.

Anthony Zurcher's "What marks does Obama's presidency deserve?"
Damon Linker's "Obama's extraordinary, aimless presidency"

Opposition under Bush and Obama administrations