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.