Monday, March 21, 2016

The Presidency of Barack Obama

President Obama seems to be a mixed bag. It seems that people either really like the guy, or they really hate him. And some people really, really hate him.

Me, I am one of those people who fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to President Obama. I certainly did not believe all of the hype surrounding the man, and what truly was a a myth that was created, and which certainly helped get him elected. If President Clinton reminded me of President Kennedy for various reasons, then the mystique, and that incredibly hopeful spirit that this man represented a brighter future for the country, reminded me of that hopeful, youthful spirit surrounding Kennedy as he ran for president and, ultimately, throughout his all-too brief presidency, which was of course cut off by an assassin's bullet.

It seemed that at the time, everyone thought that this guy was going to fix the nation's problems. Everyone seemed to realize that George W. Bush had been a truly terrible president, and we needed someone who was going to come in and fix things. Many people thought that we had that man in Barack Obama. Unfortunately, the contemporary political mindset for too many Americans seems to be that the primary responsiblity - and some people seem to believe that it is their only responsiblity - is to go out and vote. Once they have done that, they seem to think that their work is over.

So, paradoxically, one of the very things that got Obama elected also has come to work against him - that positive feeling of hope and change, and that this would correct what ailed the country.

People became disappointed with him in time, although it is not entirely fair to blame him for all of these things.

Shortly after he was elected, there was the emergence of the Tea Party, and right wing extremism, really not all that different from the neocons who had enjoyed their way and had their day during the days of George W. Bush, suddenly were blaming President Obama for everything. It seemed like they just woke up and only noticed how bad the country was once their guy, Bush, was out of office, and Obama was in office, and they automatically blamed Obama for problems that, quite clearly, were created by Bush. In eight years, Bush took the United States from a respected nation, the world's only superpower, and in as short a time span as possible, turned America into a nation that the rest of the world distrusted (with some validity) and came to view as the greatest threat to world peace.

These noecon Tea Party activists suddenly allowed themselves to voice their hatred, even though the rest of the country was wondering why they had not noticed all of these horrific things about the country earlier - like when Bush was in office. The erosion of civil liberties, increased surveillance of American citizens by an increasingly tyrannical government, out of control, wasteful government spending that caused the national debt to explode, outrageous and immoral wars begun under false pretenses and with no exit strategy. These were all things that really spiraled out of control during the Bush years, far more than the Obama years - although it should be noted that President Obama sure seemed to drag his feet with ending some of these detrimental policies.

Still, all of this served to erode Obama's meteoric popularity, which likely was inevitable, anyway. The thing is, he was neither worthy of all of the accolades that seemed to come to him so easily as he was running for president. I still think that Nobel Peace Prize was an absurdity and basically a misplaced sentiment of urging by the international community to keep America on what was perceived to be the right political course.

In all likelihood, it would have been impossible for Obama to live up to the enormous and unrealistic expectations that many Americans had of him. There are no magicians in Americans politics, and the reality was that the country's numerous, very serious problems would need considerable time before improvements were seen. And since he did not come and wave a magic wand to fix everything immediately and painlessly for Americans, he was blamed and blasted for being a terrible president.

Now, I think that is nonsense, and it is grossly unfair for those neocon Bush supporters to blame Obama for so many of the problems that his predecessor created.

That said, I personally found Obama disappointing for some of the things that he continued from the Bush administration, as well as some of the things that he either dragged his feet on, or outright did not get accomplished. It was disappointing to see the increased surveillance on Americans themselves, and it was disappointing that Obama did not close Guantanamo. It was a major disappointment that he largely ignored environmental legislation and policy for almost his entire first term, even if he prioritized it officially for his second term. It is a huge disappointment that he seems to be a corporate elitist in politics, that he has no problem with de facto corporate supremacy, and that if anything, he often seems to be intent on expanding that grim reality. The for profit prison system continued to grow during the Obama years. And despite the improvements to the healthcare system with the passing of Obamacare, ridiculous prices for medicine is still very much a thing in this country right now.

Yet despite these limitations which make me personally feel lukewarm at best about this president, the fact of the matter is that after what is approaching eight years of President Obama, the nation as a whole is far better off now than it was back when he first took office, after eight full years of President George W. Bush. The economy is far, far stronger, even if it took a while for the economy to get there. I am still not convinced that the numbers reflect the actual strength of the economy for a majority of Americans, but there are obvious improvements nonetheless. Also, Obama did not engage his nation in two full wars, like his predecessor did. Some criticized his waging war on Libya, but as the saying goes, there are no boots on the ground there, or anywhere else, because Obama did not commit American troops to an unjustifiable war like Iraq. He may have lost some of his popularity overseas with some of the things - particularly the surveillance issue - that his administration was responsible for, but he did not do anything that sparked the worldwide condemnation of American foreign policy, like his predecessor, where the entire world felt outraged, and there were massive protests literally the world over.

Indeed, I think that the United States is in a better place now then it was pretty much at any time under George W. Bush, even though I wished he had gone farther in helping out average, ordinary, working class Americans instead of focusing on healthy numbers for Wall Street and corporate boards.

His presidency was a mixed bag, as probably could have been predicted. However, it was better than that of George W. Bush, and the fact that the country recovered as much as it did following the fiasco that we found ourselves in 2008, with a seemingly endless war in Iraq, with an economy on the brink of an abyss, with numerous corporate scandals hurting Americans and their sense of pride and belonging in the larger economy, and the generally incompetent rule of the Bush administration. We have seen improvement in these nearly eight years, which has meant that once again, the lies coming from the other party are being exposed as exactly that: lies. Obama, far from being the anti-Christ that was going to ruin the country, has improved the status of the country far more than most people (myself included) thought possible given the state of things in 2008.

And for that, he deserves tremendous credit.

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