Saturday, December 19, 2015

OMG Somebody Noticed Obama Is Rational -- and Accomplished

If the Obama presidency were a football game, it'd be in the fourth quarter
with Obama leading the Republicans, 52-36. The winner? I'd bet on Obama.

I'm not surprised David Ignatius of the WaPo thinks Barack Obama is rational and cool as a cucumber. It's also not surprising that Ignatius thinks Obama is cool verging on cold, as in too removed to fight for his agenda. I get that but don't believe it. Obama fought for stuff and won a lot of stuff. So says Ignatius, after all:
Certainly this was a year in which the president delivered on the rationalist’s agenda, against intense emotional opposition. He achieved an Iran nuclear deal that was bitterly opposed by Israel and the GOP; a Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade rejected by much of his own party; a normalization of relations with Cuba that broke a national political taboo; and a climate change agreement that triumphed over a right-wing cult of rejecting scientific evidence.
This was a good year, you might conclude, for fact-based governance. But watching the swelling movement symbolized by Trump, you might think otherwise. It’s a paradox that Obama can have so many successes, and yet be seen by some at home and abroad as weak.
Obama’s political education has been expensive, for him and the country. He came into office believing that good ideas would prevail. He disliked the messy, boisterous work of salesmanship and retail governance. Perhaps he worried deep down that some of the opposition to his policies was rooted in prejudice against him as an African American. Perhaps he was right.
Perhaps? Ya think? And that list of accomplshments were just those of this past year. That would be a legacy all to itself. Add in healthcare reform, a reasonably managed economic recovery (yes, he did things, like going along with TARP, saving GM, getting the stimulus through, launching an expansion of alternative energy, tacitly supporting QE 1, 2, and 3), holding off assaults on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid other social safety-net programs, having a hand in guiding our nation to more inclusiveness (ending DADT, encouraging same-sex marriage, attempting to soften our hardened stance on immigration, refusing to pander to anti-Muslim fears), and trying to extricate our way out of Middle East wars and succeeding to an extent.

Sure, the Arab Spring, other than Tunisia, has been a series of catastrophes not of his own making -- with the possible exception of Libya, but the jury's still out on that one. Drone strikes as an alternative to boots on the ground has been uneven, and some may be right that assassination by drone as a tool of war is quasi-legal at best, though how we fight such an asymmetric war as we find ourselves in is challenging to say the least. I consider myself a pacifist, but in the current atmosphere I have trouble caring when Obama takes out al Qaeda and ISIS leaders from the air, just as the anti-death-penalty person that I am didn't lose any sleep over the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

I haven't gotten everything I ever wanted from any president in my lifetime, which goes all the way back to Harry S. Truman. I've liked a lot of what all the Democratic presidents did and most of what George H. W. Bush did. Eisenhower got the interstates going and warned against the military-industrial complex. Hell, in hindsight Nixon was a liberal, albeit an extremely paranoid and racist one. Only Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush epitomized the political and economic philosophies I deplore. St. Reagan got away with murder but W. not so much. Funny that.

Obama promised at his press conference yesterday to "leave it all out there on the field" in his final year. I don't doubt for a minute that he will, anymore than I don't doubt for a minute that the GOP will fight him to the last down. And I won't be surprised when he exits a winner.

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