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Obama's Legacy: How will he rate as a President?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 06:10:36 AM EST

It is becoming increasingly clear that the next US President is likely to be either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many have remarked that this is like a choice between the risible and the almost unthinkable. Indeed President Obama's approval ratings have been moving steadily north as this pantomime has unfolded - even as he sits marooned in Office, without a legislature he can work with. Shortly after his election in 2008 I had this to say of the incoming President:

Behind his winning rhetoric of Change, Obama has managed to maintain a remarkable opacity about what he would actually do as President, particularly when it comes to the USA's pre-eminent role in world affairs. Sure he will try to get troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later and redeploy some of those resources to Afghanistan. Sure he is more predisposed to multilateralism and diplomacy rather than starting more wars - for example with Iran. True, he won't be a climate change denier, a free market deregulater, a cold warrior, or a bombastic proponent of the "New American Century" where all other powers are supposed to supplicate to the shining city on a hill. But what will he actually do, and do his early appointments give us any clues?

The first thing to be said is that he brings a new world view to the office - one explicitly opposed to the neoconservative neo-imperialism so characteristic of the Bush regime. Obama's African heritage, his Kansas roots, his Indonesian schooling, and his Hawaiian youth all help to give him a sensitivity and appreciation of the world outside continental USA. His actual foreign policy experience may not be much greater than Sarah Palin's, but at least he doesn't believe that living next to Russia and Canada constitutes a qualification for high office.

But besides his stimulus package, which helped the recovery from the 2008-10 recession which had threatened to become the deepest since the Great Depression, and the Affordable Care Act, what has he actually achieved? Has it gotten to the stage where we have to give credit to a US President for not actually starting any more wars, and for having used diplomacy to lessen tensions with Iran and Cuba? To what extent is he responsible for the mess in Syria and Libya, or was there simply no good solution there? Has the Israeli/Palestinian situation improved, and is there more he could have done? No doubt he would have achieved far more had the Democrats not lost the 2010 mid-term elections, but should he bear some responsibility for that defeat? Could he have done more to turn his 2012 re-election into a victory in Congressional elections as well?

Please use the comments below to give us your assessment of his Presidency.


Display:
Personally, my view is that he has been as good a President as could have been elected in the USA at this time, what with the takeover of the institutions of state by the oligarchs and their minions... If I were to fault him, it would be for his administrative inexperience, for putting triangulators like Rahm Emanuel into positions of great power where they proceeded to cut off all progressive options at the knees even when Democrats did control Congress. However his legislative record isn't too bad when you consider he only had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate for a few months until Sen. Ted Kennedy died.

I don't know whether it was naivety or a strategy designed to drive the GOP off the reservation, but his negotiating tactics with Republicans were never going to achieve a good outcome. Sometimes it seemed as if it was Republican extremism that saved him from making bad compromises a la Bill Clinton.  And then he seemed to focus almost exclusively on his own re-election rather than ensuring he also has a Dem Congress he could work with in his second term. If he could win a second term by a 4% margin, he should also have been able to secure a congressional majority, despite the gerrymandering and voter suppression of his opponents.

All in all, though, he could have been a lot worse, and those who decried his efforts may yet yearn for his time in office when faced with a President Hillary or Donald Trump.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 12:05:03 PM EST
"All in all, though, he could have been a lot worse, ..."

The story of American politics ... either it is worse ... Dubya ... or it could have been a lot worse. Like the choice between Trump and Hillary. Never anything good. All that potential, all those resources ... wasted.  Like some kind of tragic history from the Roman Empire.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 01:09:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the bottom 80% of the US economy, the recession never ended. So while it did not sink like a rock, it did not rebound.

Wars he had few. Afghanistan and Iraq continues, Libya and Syria and Ukraine was started. The US encouraged those wars by arming and financing. The empire ball got kicked further along the same trajectory.

In a hundred years, his legacy will read: Obama, first black president. That is it.

The presidency is not all powerful and I don't know if he could have done better.

by fjallstrom on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 04:56:38 PM EST
Prosecuting a few banksters would have helped,
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 12:55:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given that both he and Clintstone are in their pockets, never gonna happen.
by rifek on Sat Apr 23rd, 2016 at 10:17:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that remains the essence of the problem. Hillary can only bring more of the same with regard to the financial sector. Time will tell if that will get the country through four more years of kicking the can of financialization down the road. I suppose it is conceivable that our financial parasites could begin to take care that their host survives, but that would be more likely were there just one big  parasite. Instead we have a horde of giant, competitive parasites. Sanders would at least start the process of changing by seeking more progressive candidates for Congress and the Senate. Clinton will actively repel progressives because they threaten her agenda and her cozy relationship with the financial sector.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Apr 23rd, 2016 at 04:43:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think he's been roughly what I thought he'd be.

He passed ACA.  That is, obviously, the big one.  We have been trying to pass health care reform since the Roosevelt administration.

And by "Roosevelt," I mean Teddy, not FDR.  Already the uninsured rate has crashed, and the implications of it will grow over time as more state legislatures cut the crap and get on board with the Medicaid expansion.  It is working better than expected.  It will be improved.

He got financial reform.  It does not break up the big banks, as many want, but it does put in place the infrastructure to dismantle previously-TBTF banks.  It also created the CFPB, which is going to be an excellent agency.

He passed the too-small stimulus.  The too-small stimulus was still a shitload better than no stimulus.  The economy is recovering.  Unemployment's at 5% -- one-third lower than when he took office.  And contrary to popular belief, all the indicators suggest the labor market is tightening.  U6 is getting down to normal levels.  Jobless claims hit a 42-year low today.  Wage growth is finally starting to accelerate.  Job growth will likely come in at around 11m in his second term -- the best since the '90s, without a bubble propping us up so far as I can tell, and in spite of the obvious slowness of the housing market.  He fought the GOP to a draw on austerity, and maybe he and Paul Ryan have even sorted out a deal to end the sequester (we'll see).

He saved the automotive industry and the UAW.  He prevented a complete economic collapse of the Rust Belt.  GM and Chrysler are in the best shape they've been in in over a decade.

He normalized relations with Cuba and has laid the groundwork for doing so in the future with Iran, probably preventing what could be the most catastrophically-stupid war yet.  The work with the latter has also allowed the two of us to hopefully talk some sense into the idiot Iraqis (and gotten rid of that dirtbag Maliki), and that will hopefully lead to reconciliation between the Shia government and Sunni minority.  These things will also likely lead to the collapse of ISIS within a year, without having bothered with the DC playbook of throwing troops at the problem.

As far as we're concerned, for better and worse, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are basically over.

He appointed two really, really good SCOTUS justices.  He may appoint a third yet, which would flip the Court ideologically, securing Roe for a generation and enabling us to overturn a lot of shit rulings that have been implemented in the last few decades.

Those SCOTUS appointments helped ensure that same-sex marriage became the law of the land.  He also repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell and used pretty much every lever at his disposal on executive orders to enhance the rights of LGBTQ folks.

I can tell you from personal experience that DOJ in my world has been much tougher on cracking down on corporate crime.  Elections do matter on these things.

Bin Laden's dead.

He pretty much destroyed the coal industry.

There's lots more, albeit less significant, good stuff.  The Fair Pay Act, the CAFE standards, a bajillion executive orders, etc.

There's bad stuff, too.

He also idiotically got involved with Syria and Ukraine.  The only upside is that the involvement isn't all that great.  And unfortunately, none of the candidates running in 2016 on either side appears to believe in us being less-involved than we are now.  But I do think we and the Russians are now mostly on the same page in Syria.  And we'll sort it out in Ukraine.

He also mostly continued the surveillance policies.  Which, of course, sucks.

The stimulus was still too small.  He should've appointed Goolsbee or Volcker over Summers.  We could've recovered much quicker.

As with any president, there's lots of good, lots of bad, lots of meh.

There's FDR and Lincoln up top, and then there's the Pierces and Dubyas at the bottom.  Everybody else, in my mind, is somewhere in the middle.  FDR passed the New Deal, Social Security, won WWII, etc.  He also interned Japanese citizens and fire-bombed German cities.  Lincoln opposed slavery, built infrastructure, won the Civil War.  He also suspended democracy in Maryland and allowed Sherman to destroy the livelihoods of Southerners, friend or foe.

Obama's a flawed man.  They all are.  He's also the greatest president since FDR.  And it's not close.  I'd put him somewhere near the top of that middle group.

He was also black.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 06:26:52 PM EST
Flawed in what way?  I would have thought his personal qualities, rhetorical skills, and family life were his strongest assets.  Many have criticised him for being aloof, but you do not want the President to get involved in every bunfight.  You want a President to pick their battles, and strike only when they can win.

Maybe he couldn't schmooze like Bill Clinton, but would any amount of schmoozing have cut any ice with the Republicans, besides pissing off progressives?  The fact that Maureen Dowd doesn't like him is a plus, in my book.  He has kept the Dem party more or less united, behind him, which puts the Dem nominee in a much stronger position to win the election.

It's hard to see how he could have tackled income inequality more decisively without control of congress, but despite this, the economy seems to be moving in the right direction just in time to favour the Dem party in Nov.  (Electoral memories are short, it's improvements in the last 3/6 months before an election that matter most.

I worry about Trump.  People keep putting a ceiling on his potential support, and he keeps breaking it. I can see the Republican establishment falling in line behind him, largely because they have no other option. But he could also increase the Republican voting base beyond what a GOP establishment candidate could have achieved, appealing to independents and poor whites in a way Hillary (and probably Sanders) could never manage.

What an appalling vista... could Americans really be suckered by such a snake oil salesman?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 07:50:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't mean flawed really on a personal level.  As a person (at least to the extent I can read him), I love Obama.  He's witty, dry, cynical, often gloriously sarcastic -- he's my people.  He's a Level 100 Master Troll.

And he's damned funny, which is the quickest way to my heart.

His family seems great.  I love Michelle.  Among the few bits of praise I have for the press is that they've mosty left Sasha and Malia the hell alone.  There's a certain respect the press has given the Obamas that they never gave the Clintons in that way, and I think some of that is a function of Obama clearly viewing reporters as inferior beings carrying a tradition of pathetic discourse that best resembles high-school gossip.

He clearly doesn't take any of that shit seriously, and I suspect through off-the-record conversation, the press, while not liking him particularly, has developed a certain respect for him.

By "flawed," I mean that we're all prisoners of our time and place in the universe.  When a bunch of career-service CIA operatives and four-star generals are telling you the best course of action is to intervene and do X, or when you're a president fearful that a terrorist attack might mean losing reelection, or despite your silent support for same-sex marriage you don't think the country is quite there yet -- you'll tend to go down the easy (but wrong) path.

What I appreciate about the man was his cautiousness and appreciation for nuance.  He might well start down that path, but he was willing to say, "Yeah, I'm not going whole-hog into that, certainly, but I'll trust you to do a little while I think on it, and we'll see how your little shakes out."

That leads to murkiness in policy implementation.  Sometimes it results in cowardice, too.

But on the whole, I think it worked quite well.  And there were moments he was bold.  It was after NC passed a bunch of gay-bashing bullshit that he -- before his reelection campaign -- came out for same-sex marriage, for example.

Nuance and cautiousness can be aggravating.  Particularly the latter, when things seem so fucked-up as they often do these days.  But I think they're more virtue than vice on the whole.  They're the default positions of properly-functioning grownups.

And, given that we're such a nation of drama queens, that's something I'll miss a great deal when he leaves, because I know it's not coming back for a while.  I've lived through a bunch of manchildren as presidents and major political figures.  I was born under Reagan.  My first real memories of politics in modern America are of Ross Perot and then the Lewinsky trial (I didn't pay much attention really until college).  I remember all the Clinton-Gingrich drama.  I remember "Al Gore's no different".  Chimpy McFlightsuit launching that god-damned war.  And a press full of glorified frat and sorority pledges that ate that bullshit up.

Children, all of them.

Obama was my reward.  He was a damned grownup who'd put forth practical stuff, with the math done right, and the i's dotted and t's crossed, and respond to the fake hyperventilating of the GOP with some hilarious bit of snark.  And then get it done.  And it would work.

But he still had his fuck-ups.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 08:37:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...adding:

I didn't address Libya, but I probably should.

I had no great desire, from a practical standpoint (or what I think is one, anyway), to overthrow Gaddafi.  I also don't think we could morally allow him to go slaughter Benghazi.

I also thought that by not committing fully one way or the other, we'd wind up babysitting rebel groups in a civil war stalemate, because I didn't think the rebels could take Tripoli.  On the flipside, I'm largely a non-interventionist and so, of course, vehemently opposed to neocons adventurism that prescribed overthrowing Gaddafi and expecting to implement rainbows and unicorns -- and then perhaps having another Iraq on our hands.

I don't know what the hell the right call was there.  And I don't think Obama did either, judging by his statements and actions.

It's murky in my mind, but, in all honesty, I'd have probably done the UN and no-fly-zone stuff, too.  I probably wouldn't have tried much to help the rebels beyond that.  It wasn't black-and-white, to me.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 08:00:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by fjallstrom on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 09:02:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was intended to be quotes. Ah well, you all get it.
by fjallstrom on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 09:02:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On Libya, I agree that it was a hard and ugly decision.

The Libyan problem had a few phases, from what I've read, and it's not entirely clear when the US and foreign powers actually got involved, and this matters a lot.  So it's hard to say for sure.

It all comes down to the very beginning, and how one views it. One narrative goes like this. Quaddafi was tolerated by the West, and nobody really had an axe to grind with him. Inspired by the popular protests in Egypt and Tunisia, similar protests started up in eastern Libya. The Libyan state had already withered pretty severely by that point, thanks to Quaddafi's deliberate anti-state policies.  He was getting on in years as well, and a good number of Libyans of all strips may have thought it was time for him to go.  Central control collapsed in the Benghazi area, and government forces retreated to Triopli.  At this point, it was a mostly spontaneous action in Libya, and a fair number of moderate and liberal types were involved.  They wanted a normal government, but were inexperienced and provincial.

That's phase 1.  Quaddafi was not going to give up, though, and had violently crushed rebellion before.  He gathers his forces up, with lots of old but still somewhat effective armor, and threatens to destroy them all. The Benghazi rebels believed it, and desperately cried out for help.  They were not really capable of defending themselves in any serious way, and were rolled in every engagement.

Here the US definitely jumped in, because we destroyed Qaddafi's army on the road - quite simple to do.  We didn't really mind Qaddafi so much when he was a dictator we could deal with, but at that particular historical moment the US was not going to support the violent subjugation of popular, apparently pro-democratic protests - no matter how unready those protestors were to actually take power.

The problem is, even with the main force of Qadaffi's army destroyed, the Benghazi types were too weak to actually take over, and we started arming them.  And here things went to crap. The liberals and moderates didn't know how to form an army, and didn't have the widespread support to do it anyway.  The people who could fight were independent and shady, and grew more so with guns and money.  And jihadis moved in, because that's what they do.

If all that is vaguely accurate, than I think the "no good option" description is pretty solid.  Unless one believes that the Arab Spring protests were entirely the creation of the CIA, than this was a problem of local origin that presented the US, and the international community, with no good options.  Once the protests had begun, our options were "Allow Quaddafi to massacre them all," or "Chaos."  Well, a total occupation would be a third option, I guess, but nobody was ready to or interested in doing that.

Arming rebel groups hasn't turned out very well.  But, would NOT arming the rebel groups, after saving them from Quadaffi, have resulted in anything better?  It's not like they would have joined together and sang kumbaya.  Quadaffi's state would have dug in, and the Benghazi region would have still fallen apart into militias and jihadis and chaos.  Is that any better?

Sometimes things collapse of their own accord, and the US is not the only actor in the world.  Doing nothing is a choice of its own, with consequences of its own.  I don't know enough about the situation to say anything definitively.

by Zwackus on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 08:02:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Zwackus:

Here the US definitely jumped in, because we destroyed Qaddafi's army on the road - quite simple to do.  We didn't really mind Qaddafi so much when he was a dictator we could deal with, but at that particular historical moment the US was not going to support the violent subjugation of popular, apparently pro-democratic protests - no matter how unready those protestors were to actually take power.

Eh. The US very rarely objected to violent suppression of pro-democratic arisings and I certainly won't believe that was the case here without some serious evidence.
And to reiterate my stance on "humanitarian" interventions of any kind: There are quite a lot of projects that would need comparably little resources, do no harm and would save the lives of hundreds of thousands. Until everyone has clean drinking water I laugh at proclamations by our leaders about how important saving innocent lives is to them.

by generic on Sat Apr 23rd, 2016 at 01:56:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"There's FDR and Lincoln up top, and then there's the Pierces and Dubyas at the bottom."

Was never into Prez history; from wiki

"Pierce, who had been a heavy drinker for much of his life, died of severe cirrhosis of the liver in 1869. US historians and other political commentators generally rank Pierce's presidency among the worst."

"Critics often point to his handling of the Iraq War, specifically the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, that were the main rationale behind the initial invasion--as well as his handling of tax policy, Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 financial crisis as proof that George W. Bush was unfit to be president."

Good times.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 12:52:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It may surprise many to find that I agree with Drew on most of the points he lists about Obama. I cannot but help admire the person, the husband and the father he is. I fear what Hillary might bring to foreign policy and feel she will be a big comedown from what Obama demonstrated could be done. And I cannot fault him for not being heterodox in his economic views.

ON THE OTHER HAND, he was a professor of constitutional law and became the President of the United States. Yet he consciously decided to forbear enforcement of the law on wealthy financial sector executives who brought the country's financial system and economy into meltdown. Worse, he went to some lengths to insure that they paid no significant price. In so doing he contributed significantly to the decline of the rule of law in the United States and made mockery of equal justice for all under the law.

Worse, this is part and parcel of his own path to become one of the wealthy elites in this country. His actions cement his standing with the financial sector, guarantee his presidential library will be as sumptuous as he can imagine and that his family wealth and position will continue to rise. As a rags to riches story it is impressive. But it shows that either he had no real principles or that he lacked the courage to stand up for them when he had the power to do so. By reinforcing the existing double standard with the law he betrayed and undermined all that the progressive tradition in US politics has accomplished since the beginning of the 20th Century.

So YES! HE IS FLAWED! AND SO HE WILL BE REMEMBERED.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 11:25:36 PM EST
Since Nixon at least, the presidents serve those interests foremost. The broad public (one side or other) gets just enough merit to find appreciation.
by das monde on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 04:15:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Carter did start the deregulation process, under him it focused on bringing down consumer costs in air travel and business costs in communications with the breakup of The Bell System. These were not so blatantly pro financial sector interests. I haven't really looked at the Ford Administration from that point of view and it was Nixon who established the EPA and OSHA. From Reagan onward it was shovel privileges to the financial sector and receive escalating contributions from them. Campaigns became very expensive and the financial sector strongly favored Republicans.

Clinton split off part of the financial sector, hedge funds, thus creating a way Democrats could cash in on the gravy train, and, in return, gave the financial sector their heart's desire with the repeal of Glass-Steagall and refusal to regulate derivatives. This added bipartisan approval to the corruption of US politics.The process has gone downhill rapidly from there under B43 and Obama legitimated what Bush had done.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 01:03:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ford was too busy dealing with the Nixon fallout and winding down Vietnam to really be much of anything.

Carter's deregulation of the airlines had its pluses and minuses (as with all things).  Good for consumers on the price front.  Not so good for airline workers.  Seems to swing wildly between good and bad for airlines on the whole.

The airlines are always a mess one way or the other.  It's just a clumsy industry.  Unfortunately, the industry's now becoming heavily concentrated on major routes with all the M&A stuff that's gone on over the years.  And unfortunately, fighting those M&As -- as the Obama DOJ tried to do with (say) USAir-American -- means fighting an unholy alliance of business and labor.

Breaking up the Bells was probably good on the whole.  Not adding a lot to prevent localized monopolies was a problem, though.

Financial deregulation really got kicked off with Reagan.

Carter had his own flaws.  Let's not forget who started the whole genius idea of arming the mujahideen in Afghanistan.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 04:55:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Obama was faced with a difficult choice in the midst of what was threatening to become the deepest depression since the Great Depression. He could try to prosecute and thereby further alienate key figures in the financial establishment which might have exacerbate the recession still further.  On the other hand he could be "pragmatic" and work with them to build a recovery.

Sure, they had gamed the system to the detriment of the common good, but such had been the scope of the prior deregulation, it is far from clear to me that any such prosecutions would have been successful.  The problem was that much of what they had done was no longer (or never had been) illegal.

Even if there had been a few successful high profile prosecutions, would that have changed much, and at what cost to economic recovery? "A few bad eggs" would have been the get out of jail card for the rest of the financial community.

Sure, I think there has been long term damage in terms of the loss of moral hazard for TBTF banks and shadow banks and Directors behaving irresponsibly.  But that has to be tackled with much tighter anti-trust and personal responsibility regulation NOW, and that can only be done with a strong majority in Congress.

Even now, after all that has happened, and with much public anger directed at Wall Street, it is far from clear that the political will and electoral advantage exists for decisive action on that front.  Certainly until Citizen's United is overturned, and all corporate donations are made legally synonymous with bribery, I can't see that happening.

To Blame Obama for not doing that in 2009, when the political will may not have existed in Congress, and the priority was to re-boot the economy, seems to me to be somewhat harsh. He never claimed to be anything but pragmatic, even as a community organiser.  In any case, in a mature Democracy, prosecutorial decisions should never be in the hands of elected politicians.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 02:23:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It appears that he had already made his choices back in the spring when he started having regular telephone conversations with some of the big Wall Street CEOs. When the crash happened it was just a matter of following through on what he had promised - that he would be there for them. He had made them promises and he kept his end of the bargain. Can't blame him for looking out for his family, but at the expense of the rest of the nation?

And in January enough of the big players were or would be underwater and in need of rescue that he could have demanded what ever he wanted and have gotten it. Sure hey would have been angry, but he didn't have to go nearly as far as he could have to have a major effect on the tone and structure of the industry going forward. But he asked for nothing when he could have gotten anything. To me that is unforgivable. Yet I still enjoy him in his ongoing performance as POlTUS - as with what he did from London on his way back from Saudi AND what he did in Saudi.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 11:53:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't buy the line that he sucked up to the rich to help his family get richer.  He has no need to worry about his financial circumstances in any case.  

He certainly seems to have made a big impact in the UK. Boris Johnson - London's answer the Donald Trump - is so upset he resorted to racist abuse of the President.  Always a winning line...

As for Saudi, a re-alignment was long overdue, which is not to say anyone should welcome a disintegration of Saudi into Syrian or Iraq like chaos...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Apr 23rd, 2016 at 06:18:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that service to the rich was already his life path even before he became a Senator. The Pritsker  family were his chief patrons and he helped with the 'redevelopment' of housing projects on the South Side of Chicago that led to both gentrification and the pricing out of many poor blacks from Chicago. People's estimate of the moral worth of that 'accomplishment'  from a 'community activists may vary. I doubt many of those formerly inhabiting the redeveloped housing projects would think they had benefited and it was they who Obama was supposed to help by community development. In order to help the community it became necessary to destroy the community.

Penny Pritsker, whose family benefited greatly from the development, made out like a champ, becoming Secretary of Commerce. Obama is loyal to his friends and now has a vastly greater pool of friends upon whom to draw. Obama's admirers either forgive or are blind to his dark side. I cannot help hold both sides in view.

Of course subsequent generations of a newly wealthy family can profoundly change their life courses compared to the founder. Joe Kennedy made his fortune in the liquor industry import trade during Prohibition and was a big admired of Hitler. The movie 'Pritsky's Millions' is a fictionalization of the activities of earlier generations of the Pritksers.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Apr 23rd, 2016 at 09:48:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
2009 was the best time to break finance's power. However it would have taken a true radical and been very risky. Just imagine the process: First you need to install people from outside the finance sector and probably outside the political establishment. Otherwise the only thing you can hope for are cost-of-doing-buisness fines. That would already have been enough to alienate Congress and the Senate. So then you have to browbeat them into doing what is right. It would have been a glorious donor double cross and could very well have worked. But why do it? No system that makes you president can be all bad now can it?

Certainly until Citizen's United is overturned, and all corporate donations are made legally synonymous with bribery, I can't see that happening.

I don't see that happening now that the Democratic party has embraced the core logic of "show me the exact vote these hundred thousand dollars bought".

by generic on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 10:47:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A mediocrity.  Obamacare was a bandaid that is already coming unstuck.  His economic policy sucks. And aside from the Iran deal, which he appears to be trying to trash, his FP is nothing to brag about.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 12:54:14 PM EST
Leave the bragging to the triumphalists. It is their stock in trade. With US foreign policy it is a matter of how much for which you have to apologize. With Obama it is the lowest it has been since before Carter, possibly since FDR.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2016 at 11:57:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He was yet another DLC operative who pretended he was going to do things by compromising with people who were not going to compromise, thereby giving himself a pat excuse for getting nothing done.  Time and again he was bidding against himself in negotiations until he had nothing left to take off the table.  He refused to make the Republicans say "No" so he could use it against them.  He never put single payer on the table.  If he had,  he ccould tell current critics, "I tried to do more, but the Republicans made me leave the insurance companies in charge with the ACA."  But he has proved incapable of that.

He left financial policy in the hands of the neolibs who wrecked everything in the first place.  He not only did not pursue the banksters, he turned everything over to Geithner and Summers and let the Jamie Dimons write the new regs for themselves.  In finance and just about everything else, he did very little to reverse industry capture of the regulators.

Foreign policy is a dumpster fire.  Still in Afghanistan, still in Iraq, now in a pile of other places too, drone strikes all over the place, still operating Gitmo.  Routinely outmaneuvered by Putin.  The mere fact that he has stopped calling it the Global War on Terror doesn't mean he hasn't expanded it,  and also expanded its domestic use and abuse.

Domestic issues have been left unaddressed, and our education system is still marching in exactly the wrong direction.  Just glad the last kid graduates next year, and I'll no longer have to deal with it.

by rifek on Sat Apr 23rd, 2016 at 10:49:18 AM EST
To answer the original question: I don't know.
A lot of his accomplishments remain somewhat dubious. There was some financial reform but he was also committed to TPP which would more than revoke any progress in that area.
Obamacare did drastically decrease the number of uninsured but that's neither here nor there. I still haven't seen anything solid on it's effect on health outcomes and protection from financial ruin. Except the Medicare extension of course.
Also correct me if I'm wrong but this need for a super majority is not really a constitutional provision but rather subject to the whims of the senate leadership.
I suppose he does deserve credit for not jumping into Syria and Ukraine with both feet like a lot of the crazier elements of his administration wanted him to. Also for finally removing Cuba from the US shit list. And despite the silly song and dance about the nuclear program the US seems farther away from setting fire to Iran than it has been in decades.
I'll also give him a passing mark on his handling of the economy because we are now grading on a curve and the Eurogroup exists.
He does deserve condemnation for the way he normalised both terror war logic and elite immunity. Having Osama shot and the corpse dumped in the ocean was really the worst possible way to end this. Even if we forget about the financial industry and the torturers for a moment, just in the last few days he declared: "There is classified and there is classified" about Clinton's E-Mail arrangement.

In conclusion I don't think Obama had strong believes or principles going in. He also seems rather risk averse. So I'm not surprised he largely followed elite consensus and didn't pick fights with any really powerful interest groups.

by generic on Sat Apr 23rd, 2016 at 06:54:19 PM EST
In his own words:
When asked about his presidential legacy, Obama said he was proud of the healthcare reforms, which received huge cheers from the audience, and said of the US response to the 2008 financial crisis: "Saving the world from great depression - that was quite good."

He also listed diplomatic deals with Iran and the response to the Ebola crisis as highlights during his presidency. "I'm proud; I think I've been true to myself during this process."

by das monde on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 12:55:37 AM EST
When you have admired bankers from at least your adolescence and have gotten your start in politics by making a strategic alliance with the Pritsker family in Chicago and sacrificed the housing of a great many of those you were supposed to be serving as a 'community activists' so that the Pritskers could make hundreds of millions off of gentrifying former housing projects it is both easy and profitable to continue being true to one's self as POTUS.

I did not know about his role in 'development' until the summer of '09, and I only supported him after three other primary candidates had dropped out, he had defeated Clinton and secured the nomination. But then I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I had been maddened by his coy campaign language and his failure EVER to promise specific changes, but, as president elect and as a new president he was personally likeable. But his refusal to do anything specific about the banksters became more alarming as '09 proceeded into summer, when I despaired of him - correctly so.

Perhaps it is just that I am that much farther left than many others at ET that I remain Obama's fiercest critic here. But, to me, an inability or refusal - whichever - to recognize the damaging effects of financialization in a time when the effects are overpowering all else in our society makes him as unfit to serve as B43's domestic profligacy, destructive foreign policies and general obliviousness made W. And yes, his allegiance to the financial sector is what led him to refuse to even allow discussion of a public option for the ACA.

No national US politician will be worth even bothering to piss on unless they deal with financialization and until that problem is resolved or the constitution  dissolves and the country breaks up. Rather than a healthy vibrant society the USA now resembles more the dead carcass of a cow, bloated, rotting and beset by maggots.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 09:59:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with Geezer and would add the acceleration of "affluenza" contrasted to the oppression of the underclass (the unequal application of justice to rich and poor) during the Obama years. He had ineffectual Justice Dept to prosecute the law and a militarized and free-handed police as enforcers for poor people.

Also the media consolidation allowed under Clinton has reached peak effectiveness under Obama, to propagandize the fact that the loss of steady well-paying factory jobs is inconsequential--that the economy is "great" and "recovered" when most people are living paycheck to paycheck supplemented by credit card debt and working temporary service jobs with no benefits.

He has diminished the Bill of Rights, equal justice and peoples ability to earn a secure future, basic tenets of the country.

To paraphrase Obama himself, his legacy will likely be at least "he didn't do stupid sh*t".

by mminch on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 12:49:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He was one of the best Republican presidents of recent times.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 07:33:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My my, hasn't this blog turned sour. I've had time to think ... never a good thing ... Obama's legacy ... what does this mean ... to whom?  Why you, stupid! What will you remember about the "Obama years".

Well, what stands out in the Dubya years?  One key moment. Ah yes, 9/11. There's Dubya reading "My Pet Goat" to a classroom of children and a flunky comes up and whispers something in Dubya's ear. I don't know if anyone recorded that whisper; I don't care what anyone SAYS was said. My take was "Sir, it has begun. Don't blow this." After all, there haven't been any significant consequences to 9/11, have there? Did any group of people benefit? Not the first responders, that's for sure.

So what event will I remember Obama for? A lot of people say "Health care" and I would agree if he got single payer through. But he's a pussy and he didn't. No, my memory will be the poisoning of the Flint Michigan water supply, still ongoing, and OBAMA DOES NOTHING !!!  Can't wait till the death statistics to start rolling in.  Are the Feds delivering water door to door for the Flint citizens? Not that I've heard, and Rachael Maddow would be on it if they were. So Flint is a test ... Can a state government poison it's citizens on a massive scale, the Feds do nothing, AND THE SURROUNDING CITIZENS OF MICHIGAN DO NOTHING !!!  Great country you have here! Hell of a species!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 09:01:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I FORGOT !!!  😱 😱 😱

He's the first Prez with a high dermal melanin content.  How wonderful !!!   😁 😁

Can't wait till Trump gets in there ... the first orange Prez.  😝  😝  😝  😝

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 09:36:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And yes, his allegiance to the financial sector is what led him to refuse to even allow discussion of a public option for the ACA.

No, it wasn't.  What led to that was Joe Lieberman.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 04:08:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Be that as it may, he was easily led if not the leader.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 10:24:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And please refresh my memory as to the role Joe Lieberman played.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 10:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks to all the posters here for what has been an interesting and informative debate.  I wasn't aware of some of the issues raised, particularly Obama's early history as a "community organiser" facilitating urban regeneration and gentifrication to the exclusion of some.

There are still some questions in my original post which haven't been addressed, particularly the following:

Has the Israeli/Palestinian situation improved, and is there more he could have done? No doubt he would have achieved far more had the Democrats not lost the 2010 mid-term elections, but should he bear some responsibility for that defeat? Could he have done more to turn his 2012 re-election into a victory in Congressional elections as well?

Any views on the above?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 10:18:25 AM EST
The entire discussion here is quite insightful, in all its myriad directions. I too have learned a bit, or at least gained more perspective.

But shouldn't we at least mention massive targeted killings by drone attack? Obama can't be blamed that the technology matured during his presidency, but couldn't he be blamed for how it is used? Whatever one thinks of the use of this technology, it certainly seems it will now be around forever. The drones will probably even be used to control the robots on the ground.

Doesn't drone warfare as set up under his presidency create altogether new concepts of justice or lack thereof? Have we already slipped down a quite slippery slope? Shouldn't this be a part of the discussion?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 11:50:41 AM EST
Targeted assassination with collateral damage is another of the obscenities carried over from the previous administration and "normalized" with the help of the media under Obama.
by mminch on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 12:04:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The incredibly serious nature of accelerated global warming might well be the most important long-term issue not only of current times, but going well back into the past. There was a powerful opportunity for leadership, especially in amurka. We got what amounts to nothing.

I can imagine his daughters, in a decade or so, telling him he completely failed on that issue, unless as a private citizen he now takes on this issue wholeheartedly. As currently stands, we've hardly moved at all. All the while, he at best enabled fracking, which will have poisonous effects in addition to accelerating global warming.

I even believe his daughters will be quite angry with him as they wake to the new reality. Mountain top removal for coal mining vastly accelerated under his watch, even as the rivers, streams and air  become poisoned.

There will certainly be huge increased expenses for his marvelous new health care system, no? Not to mention the Pentagon already calling global warming a key trigger of warfare in the near future.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 12:03:37 PM EST
Two excellent points. I'm not sure that targeted killing by drones is different in kind from killing by cruise missile or carpet bombing for that matter.  It just means that killing can be more precisely targeted, potentially reducing collateral damage or unintended killings, and the risks to one's own army personnel.

Perhaps this feature - the very fact that collateral damage - and thus PR damage, and risks to one's own personnel can be reduced will lower the moral and cultural barriers to killing one's adversaries still further.  I can see it becoming quite a routine low level decision by some flunky - "Today seems like a good day to take out so-and-so - he's been getting too big for his boots lately."

On the other hand, the availability of drone technology to tackle (say) Isis has reduced the pressure to put boots on the ground in places like Syria - and all the further complications this creates.

It does seem like an issue crying out for some kind of international regulation by Treaty however - certain standards which have to be observed before a targeted killing can be deemed legal under international law.  I was one of the few who raised concerns about the manner in which Osama Bin Laden was executed, when capture and trial seemed possible.  I got zero support on American blogs for that one. Even US progressives didn't seem to see my point.

In any case, good luck with getting any American President to sign up for that sort of Treaty.

As for climate change, yes, Obama did very little.  But again I wonder to what extent personalised criticism of him is justified.  Decisive action was always going to require Congressional approval.  One of my gripes about US progressives is that they seem far too focused on the Presidency and far to little focused on electing progressives to Congress.

Personality politics is always easier than the hard graft of a local campaign.  How many disappointed Sanders supporters are going to dedicate themselves to nominating and electing a progressive Congressman in their district?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 02:30:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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