Some Thoughts on Obama's Young Presidency


Hello there, internet.  This week I will leave for Washington D.C. and experience a semester in the nation’s capitol.  It seems fitting then, that I will serve as Southwestern University’s official “Inside the Beltway Correspondent.”  As an employee of the Democratic National Convention, I will be feeding all of you as much Liberal propaganda  as possible. So if you don’t like Obama, don’t fret, I will do everything I can to make sure that you do.

Haha, just kidding…sort of. I don’t shy away from my political beliefs, but I’m no one’s tool. I’ve been critical of Obama and my party before, and I’m sure I will be again.

On that note, let’s talk a little bit about Obama’s presidency. Regardless of political orientation, no one can deny that it has been eventful. Look at it this way–  1 1/2 years ago, who would have thought that Iraq would  be a blip on the radar screen amongst a torrent of other pressing issues. The financial meltdown and the bailouts it brought, rising unemployment, health care reform, chaos in Afghanistan, climate change legislation, and a slough of other policy issues  have captured the political imaginations and fervor of millions

Some of the President’s critics assert that Obama has taken on too many issues and failed to evaluate the political climate properly. For example, “why push for health care reform when the economy is in the toilet and the budget deficit continues to skyrocket?” Others claim that Obama has failed to provide strong leadership within his party, losing control over the Democratic message and at the head of the blame for Congress’ ineptitude throughout the health care reform debate.

Even the proudest Democrats must admit that there is a lot to be concerned about. Unemployment has climbed past 10%, health care reform continues to stall, and Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat went to a former male model and current Republican. Throw other major issues into the fray like two wars and you have a pretty big s*** show.

Despite all that, I’m going to make a case in favor of the President. With all the problems out there, it’s becoming an increasingly difficult case. Nonetheless, somebody’s got to do it.

So here goes. Let’s begin with the first criticism– that Obama is taking on too many issues at once. Obama has chuckled at this charge and rightfully so. Health care reform is integral to economic recovery. Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcies and the United States spends $2.3 trillion on it annually. Simply put, this is an issue that Obama cannot put aside any longer. Nor can he cast aside the fate of Afghanistan, nor the employment status of millions of Americans, nor climate change, nor any issue that his critics say causes a drain on his focus. These problems are too systemic and too dangerous to ignore. He was elected to take on these problems and he must continue to do so.

Now for the question of Obama’s leadership. Personally, I think this criticism is a little bit unfair. Most presidents during their first year have a great deal of trouble commanding congress. Democrats picked up a great deal of seats during the 1982 Reagan midterm elections and vice versa during the 1994 elections during Clinton’s presidency. Both of these presidents had growing pains, but eventually learned to work with and benefit from their relationships with the legislature. I believe Obama can do the same. What is different now is the complete lack of leadership from the Republican party. Never before has there been such blatant and mindless opposition to a president’s agenda as today. Not a single Republican voted for the economic stimulus, health care reform, or climate change bills. The president now has the absurd challenge of getting a positive agenda through a Congress whose minority party works for nothing but his destruction. Many people like to compare medicare and social security reforms to the current healthcare debate, but the Republicans then were at least willing to compromise and eventually came to vote in favor of those crucial reforms. Here, the president must deal with a party that is seemingly bent on destroying him and everything that he stands for.

Those that criticize Obama on presidential leadership of Congress should take note of one particularly revealing statistic. According to Congressional Quarterly, 96.7% of legislation Obama has taken a public position on passed through into law. That’s an all time record for any president, even 3 points higher than the famed Congressional expert Lyndon Johnson. If Obama can push through the current (albeit slightly weakened) version of Health Care reform, his early presidential record could be considered legendary.

Because it’s only been one year though, we cannot evaluate the full impact on much of Obama’s policy. The stimulus package is an obvious example of this. What we do know is that when Obama took over a year ago, the United States was losing more than 700,000 jobs a month. In November of 2009, the job loss had dropped to less than 50,000 jobs a month. There is much room to improve, but you can’t argue with the fact that the early and decisive actions regarding the stimulus and yes, even the bailouts, prevented a total and longer lasting economic catastrophe.

Phew. That’s not an easy argument to make. Remember, this is a blog not a research report. Despite my tired hands, I really want to say that we can’t give up on the man who ignited such sweeping passion last year. Perhaps what we should keep in mind is that Obama didn’t just get himself elected. A whole boatload of people helped him out. Now that he’s president, progressive Americans can’t sit back and wait for him to fix everything on his own. We’ve got to keep fighting, we’ve got to remember that change is possible. However, we must remember that positive change is only possible if we come together, get out there and make it happen.  So let’s do it. I’m ready to go.

I will write again soon. This was a long one, but it’s also my first…I had a lot on my mind


Tim Clark

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