Some have complained that all I do is defend President Obama. I wonder how many of those who have complained have noticed that my defenses of Obama have all been against attacks by conservatives…every single one. None of the conservatives ever bothered to ask what I didn't like about Obama.
But I believe in looking at the big picture, at a person's performance as a whole, rather than at this or that issue where I agree or disagree with that person. In school, we call these 'report cards', while in most occupations, we call them 'performance evaluations'. The P.E.'s may be more professional, but report cards are more accessible…more fun. While we can all imagine what kind of report card most conservatives would give Obama, not everyone sees things from the progressive point of view. Perhaps the conservatives will learn something from seeing things as progressives do. In my experience they're not known for their ability to empathize, but I'll try anyway.
Economy: A+. How can anyone honestly call it otherwise? As bad as things still seem to be, when compared to America's recoveries from recessions past, we're recovering in record time. The recession officially ended in August when the economy stopped receding and began to grow. This will mark the shortest interval between the bottom point of the stock market and the end of the recession since at least WWII. Furthermore, if we begin having positive job growth before August, that will be the quickest turnaround in employment following a recession since at least 1900. These are both despite the fact that this 'Great Recession' was by nearly all accounts the worst economic upheaval in America since the Great Depression. In the end, 'winning ugly' is still winning, and the numbers are clear. President Obama richly deserves an A+ on the economy.
Health Care: C. Too many promises made during the election campaign were broken, and instead of giving the health insurance industry its richly-deserved comeuppance, we get the proverbial half a loaf: no public option, no true universal health care, legally-enforced membership in health plans, but in return there will be no more denial of care for frivolous reasons, and the coverage for adults will not begin until 2014, and the plan should – should – add little or nothing to the deficit (which could not be said of ANY of the Republican plans). My oldest son will be able to get health care in 2014 that he can't get now. Obama's done that for my son — but the Republican plans would have done NOTHING for my son. That means a lot, come the first Tuesday of November 2012.
The 'War on Terror': B. President Obama's actually closely followed what he promised during the campaign. He said he'd begin pulling the troops out of Iraq, and we are on track to have all combat troops out by August of next year, just like he said. Also, I heard on the radio this morning that in December 2009, there were NO American combat troops killed in Iraq; I hope that's true. Obama said he'd increase the troops in Afghanistan, and he is doing so in compliance with the requests of the generals on the ground. Furthermore, the FBI/CIA et al have thwarted quite a few attacks, apparently. Some have gotten through, but it is flatly impossible to stop them all – which is something the conservatives don't seem to realize as they vilify President Obama for thus far doing a significantly better job guarding America against terrorists than the previous administration did. Obama could do better, IMO, but he's already head-and-shoulders above the White House's previous occupant who apparently cared little for the troops that he sent into harm's way.
The Justice Department: D. Why? Because President Obama needs to grow a pair and get the Bush appointees out of the courts. He could do this with 'recess appointments'. He also failed to pressure the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those who committed torture — and those who approved and ordered it — under the last administration. He has not closed down Gitmo as he promised…although since two Gitmo alumni that the Bush administration released apparently went to Yemen and joined al-Qaeda, perhaps he is right to not be too hasty about how to close down this abomination, this travesty against American values and tradition.
The Environment: C. President Obama is striving as best he can to get with the rest of the world concerning global warming…and to get the rest of the world on board. The fact that there are so many domestic conservative Luddites opposing him cannot be used as an excuse for not doing more. He also should have earmarked FAR more of the stimulus money to green technology.
America's Energy Independence: C. This grade is strongly linked to the grade on the environment, and President Obama's failure to support green technology with more than words and campaign promises.
Bipartisanship: B. President Obama has striven mightily to include the Republicans and their ideas in his efforts — witness the 181 earmarks included in the Health Reform bill passed by the House of Representatives, despite the vehement opposition by all the House Republicans but one. Obama would get an 'A', but he has allowed his desire for bipartisanship to hinder his efforts to fix the American health care system.
International Diplomacy and Foreign Relations: A+. Despite all the claims otherwise by the conservatives, there would have been almost no possibility of a popular uprising by the moderates in Iran without Obama's diplomacy and outreach. The very fact of his election bettered our relations with much of the world, including the Islamic community, most especially the most populous Muslim country on the planet – Indonesia. What the conservatives don't understand is that when people feel warmly towards a country's leader, one is much less likely to attack that country, and more likely to aid that country against a threat. Not for nothing is the old saying, "You can draw more flies with honey than with vinegar." Obama understands this. The Rabid Right doesn't, not at all, as is shown by their perpetual perception of Obama's diplomatic efforts as proofs of political weakness, even as modern versions of Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany.
Commander-in-Chief: B. Though he has not yet been tested by a true crisis, President Obama is obviously much more circumspect about his use of American troops, and is more respectful of the risks they must face. However, he's shown that he is not afraid to use force if need be, as is evinced by the coming increase in troops in Afghanistan, the predator strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and even the rumored use of Blackwater mercenaries in covert ops in Pakistan.
Domestic Policy (not including Health Reform and the Justice Department): B. One of the first things President Obama did after taking office was to sign the Lily Ledbetter Act, preventing further such miscarriages of justice allowed by the Conservative tradition of ignoring the law and for all intents and purposes ascribing to the business world Alistair Crowley's 'prophecy' that "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." Furthermore, Obama's striving to pass the creation of a new cabinet-level department, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and also created the Food Safety Working Group, which is tasked with protecting America's food supply and is jointly overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. However, he has failed to repeal that grand violation of the Constitution by the Bush administration, the Patriot Act.
It should be noted that I have not included a grade on his personal morality, for 'morality' is not always a desirable trait in kings – or their modern equivalent, presidents..for in the final analysis, the results such leaders bring about for the countries they lead are all that matter.
In summary, then, I'd give President Obama a solid grade of B, possibly B+. I strongly disagree with some things he's done or failed to do, but overall, in the big picture, he's done quite well in the face of two wars and the worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression.
Am I wrong? Possibly. I once wrote an op-ed for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer congratulating Bush 43 after the first democratic election held in Iraq. I had been a Democrat for about ten years at the time. I didn't realize then the extent to which his administration had ignored domestic and international law, and I did not know then that he had knowingly initiated the invasion on false pretenses. So I know that I can be wrong…but in this case I doubt it. President Obama's doing very, very well so far. I can only hope he eventually makes right on his failings that I enumerated above.