Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Blaming Obama

I've been mulling this one over for a long time.  It's been 6 years since Barack Obama was elected president the first time.  He was elected again 2 years ago, which means he again persuaded a majority of voters to cast ballots for him.  And yet people of all views constantly blame him for whatever they think is wrong, as if he could correct all the sins of the world with a wave of his hand and simply chooses not to.

I'll take flack for this, but I don't need an explanation when I hear someone with a southern accent say, "I can't stand Obama."  Many from the South, especially senior members of Congress from the South, can't stand the idea of a black man in charge, and they don't bother to hide their feelings.  Interestingly, the self-identified Republican caller on CSPAN, who used the N-word about the president, was attributing hatred of "that n*er Obama" to Republicans in general.  (He was from San Diego, sigh.)  But I heard a caller on Michael Krasny's Forum program this morning ranting (in a New York accent as I recall) that he hated Obama even though he voted for him.  Why?  Because we went through an economic meltdown (which Mr. Obama was instrumental in ending, by the way), and no bankers went to jail.

I'll get to that in another post, but right now I want to posit a theory:  I believe a lot of the people (maybe even some Southerners, but certainly all the annoyed "lefties") who "can't stand" Obama, say that because he isn't doing what they wanted him to do.  They had an agenda item - jailing bankers, or raising the minimum wage, or "taking care" of immigration, or some other item.  He said he was on our side, and we assumed that he would take care of our agenda item. Then when he decided that other things were either more necessary or more possible, we felt betrayed.  I personally feel betrayed by his hounding of the press; he said he'd be "transparent," and he clearly isn't.

But I'm not in his shoes.  I don't sit down in that office and have to answer to the entire country, plus the rest of the world.  No one who has never been President of the United States can really grasp what that job is like.

And I think he's done a good job.  He's done a lot of what he promised; a lot of what he promised and didn't get done (immigration, tax reform) can be reasonably blamed on the Republican Party, which openly declared they wanted him to fail.

He entered office in something as close to the Great Depression as I hope we see in our lifetimes.  His team pulled the country out.  We are not where we'd like to be, but the financial system isn't in meltdown.  There was a time there where nobody could get any credit - banks couldn't get the short term loans they run on - that's now fixed.

He said he'd get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan; we're out of Iraq, and we're about out of Afghanistan.  Leaving Iraq may have been a mistake in hindsight, but I couldn't see any flaw at the time in the way he handled it; Al-Maliki's demands were not reasonable.  Leaving Afghanistan - we'll just have to see.  But he kept the promise.

He said he'd fix health care, and he did - more people now have health care than did before.  It isn't perfect, but it was designed by a committee and you know what that means.  (It didn't help that the U.S. government is incapable of managing large IT projects; but that predates Obama by decades.)

On top of all this, he is calm, dignified, intelligent, and publicly unflappable. You never have to wonder what he just said.  As far as I can tell, he's done overall about as good a job in the Presidency as anyone could do, under very difficult conditions.

I also want to give him credit for something he didn't do. He didn't get us involved in the mess in Syria.  I think he knew - and I agree with him - that if we send American troops into Syria, we will own Syria; and we'll own it for decades.  At some point the Middle East either has to fix itself or deteriorate into warring tribes.  I don't want to own Syria.

History will judge him, no matter what the Republicans say.  It will be very interesting, if I live long enough, to see what that judgment is.


  1. I can recall clearly thinking, when Obama was running his first Presidential campaign, that here was a very well-behaved choir boy, the kind who runs errands for the pastor and becomes an Eagle Scout with a God and Country award. He looked and sounded like a young fast-talking carpet-bagger who'd come up through the tough neighborhoods of South Chicago, who'd gotten himself a law degree and a cute wife and was hoping to be the first black man in the Oval office.

    He promised a lot of things, but was stingy on details. "Yes, we can!" But it was never clear what it was that he (and presumably us?) were saying yes to.

    It all became clearer when he took office. He grew up in the Chicago machine politics, and he was a centrist. He didn't like to take strong stands, and he wanted his legacy to be mild, even self-effacing.

    I liked that he wanted to disengage from the Middle East. I liked that he wanted the middle class to prosper. I like the environmental ethics.

    But I didn't like the immigration nation stuff, and I didn't like his playing the public race card--which he did several times.

    As a leader, he's seemed somewhat out of touch with his people, and has not chosen to "lead"--though, of course, leading us into war isn't the kind of leading I ever wanted.

    His health care plan is deeply flawed, and may not be fixable. It's going to cost a good deal more than any of us dreams, and it's going to be abused, by the poor, and by the drug and insurance companies, because we don't have a single payer system. This has already led to some serious problems for our family, i.e., my wife having to drop a doctor she'd had for 20 years (who'd seen her through her cancer and other problems). To the usual frustrations we've always had with our carriers, we now can add a host of new ones that arise directly from the new legislation.

    On balance, I think Obama gets a C+. Yet, looking back once more, I can see how I never really had much faith in him. He's very charming, and very slick, but he lacks negotiation skills, and seems uncomfortable with political in-fighting, the very thing a President must have to lead and get things done.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you say. I think we all hoped for more from him. And as I said - he did some of the things he promised, which we all wanted him to do, as in, get out of Iraq and (soon) Afghanistan. I don't think we can blame him specifically because we are about to get back into Iraq.

    I also wished he'd supported single payer; I'm sorry to hear you've had problems with Obamacare. My husband and I are fortunate to have unusually good employer health care (for however long that lasts), and haven't been affected by the exchanges.

    I stand by my statement that a lot of the things he takes flack for, especially flack from the left, are things where the complainers would have done it differently if they had been in charge. He wasn't enough of this; he was too much of that. And he really is more of an academic don than a politician.