At this point with the last four Republican nominees spilling out of their clown car every couple of days and rolling around in the mud, it would seem that all President Obama would have to do to win re-election in November would be get his name on every state ballot and then go on a nice, long vacation. If ever there was a political party hellbent on self-destruction, it would have to be this year's teabagger-infested GOP. Clearly the base is in control and will be satisfied with nothing less than an ideologically pure, mouth-breathing racist wearing a ball cap and packing a handgun - as the Republican Party's nominee for President, and the final four are furiously slugging it out in a sordid attempt to be that man.
But in the event that the Republicans eventually nominate somebody who is able to move at least somewhat closer to the center of the political spectrum, the President is still in a relatively strong position based on the record of his first four years in office. Yes, he was a disappointment in some respects, but he was not a constant, day-in-and-day-out disappointment like his immediate predecessor. This President does have some positives that he to which he can point.
Today there was an article on the Internet at theweek.com by Paul Brandus entitled "Obama's Top 5 Successes." I agree with the author's selection and ranking, but want to embellish liberally with a few points of my own. Those "successes" follow in reverse order.
5. Getting Out of Iraq: George Bush started the war with Iraq under the pretext of that country having weapons of mass destruction. (It had absolutely nothing to do with Bush's daddy issues of one-upping the Old Man by going further than Pappy Bush had done in his own war with Iraq. No sir, this was a necessary war to rid the world of a menace. And if you believe that horseshit...), but Bush went to war against Iraq while our forces were already at war in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and ostensibly looking for Osama bin Laden. Many of the young Americans who fought in Iraq did so with the notion that it was somehow payback for 9/11, when, in reality it had nothing at all to do with 9/11 - and George Bush and Dick Cheney did nothing to disabuse them of their misconception.
The figures out of the Bush wars, according to Paul Brandus, are 4,484 American deaths, 32,000 wounded, expenditures of $806 billion, and an estimated $1 trillion needed for the future medical care of the wars' veterans until 2050. That insane price tag does not even address the deaths and injuries of Iraqi men, women, and children, and the near-utter destruction of their infrastructure and economy. But, hey, Junior got Saddam when his daddy couldn't. That's got to be worth something!
Of course, as Paul Brandus points out, the eventual Arab Spring would have undoubtedly toppled Saddam as well, but what would have been the glory in that?
Good for President Obama for getting us out of Iraq. He could have done it quicker, cleaner, and more completely, but he did finally manage to extricate our fighting forces from a war quagmire that could not be won in any conventional sense of the word.
4. Improving America's Image Abroad: America had a lot of goodwill from around the world after the attacks of 9/11, but much of that goodwill quickly evaporated as we began showing our uglier side in the prosecution of the wars. Suddenly we associated ourselves with things that were insults to humanity: secret prisons, prisoners without rights, images of Abu Ghraib, water-boarding, and the practice of extra-ordinary rendition. We had always been the good guys, but something happened on the way to the Middle East.
President Obama came into office and the world heaved a literal sigh of relief. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, some would argue before he even had a chance to earn it, and during nearly four years in office not a single person, foreign or domestic, has lobbed a shoe at him. The man has legitimate international chops and is respected in places where we need to be respected. His superlative choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, also served to greatly increase the importance of our nation in the world.
3. Passing Health-Care Reform: The President made good on his pledge to sign a universal health-care bill into law during his first term. The bill and the process were bitterly attacked by the health-care and insurance industries through their allies in both political parties in Congress, but the will of the people and the President ultimately prevailed and the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land. True, the bill was not perfect, but a product was ultimately passed that mandated that every American have health insurance (which may yet be overturned by a tone-deaf Supreme Court), allowed young people to remain on their parent's health insurance policies until the age of twenty-six, did away with denial of coverage due to existing pre-conditions, made it much harder for insurance companies to rescind coverage, and did away with lifetime limits on insurance coverage.
2. Getting Osama bin Laden: Osama bin Laden was a member of a well-respected Saudi business family who went off to do his own terrorist thing. The first reaction of the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks - which were carried out almost exclusively by Saudi's - was to get important Saudi's, including members of the royal family, out of the country and safely back to Saudi Arabia. Then the administration turned its focus toward Afghanistan and declared war on the Taliban. One of the goals of that effort was to track down and capture or kill Osama bin Laden. At some point early on, that focus began to wane, and the Bush administration seemed to change their target of choice to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. When Bush left office years later, Saddam had been captured and executed, but Osama remained at large.
Under the policies and leadership of Barack Obama, the American focus returned to Osama bin Laden, and he was ultimately cornered and killed. Mission accomplished!
1. Preventing a Depression: Paul Brandus compares the economy that Obama inherited from Bush as being a house on fire, and notes that Republicans got out by "the scruff of their necks - and now don't like the way Obama put out the fire." He quotes GDP figures that indicated the economy was in free fall when Obama became President. Obama used the "much maligned" stimulus bill to save the nation from tumbling into a catastrophic depression. And yes, Brandus admits, money was wasted, but ultimately it kept things, such as unemployment, from becoming much worse.
My own measure of President Obama's economic savvy is that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen from just below 8,000 on the day he took office to nearly 13,000 today. Real numbers equaling real economic growth. Also, General Motors was on the verge of bankruptcy when Obama came into office. The new President made a decision to help the automaker stay in business with government loans. Today America's largest car manufacturer is leaner, meaner, and well on the road to complete recovery - and it is pumping out thousands and thousands of beautiful pay checks every week!
So, if the Republicans get their act together and challenge President Obama with a candidate in November who is not completely nuts, the President will still have a formidable record on which to run. And while President Obama may not have been all that we had hoped for, he is definitely head-and-shoulders above what the loyal opposition has coughed up so far.
Four more years!