(Actual Post Date 2/14/10)
Very few issues are as divisive as defending a sitting President, and your opinion on this matter is most likely predicated upon whether or not you voted for the current Commander-in-Chief. In just over a year since Obama has taken office, many pundits and voters have cast their opinion about Obama’s first year in office, which is also a hotly debated topic, which typically reflects the political divide between the major parties. However, no politician in recent memory created the kind of unbridled enthusiasm and fervor for change in Washington in the manner that Obama did. With his ubiquitous campaign slogan, “Change You Can Believe In”, Obama was able to rally even the most apathetic of voters to join his movement and shout in unison, “Yes We Can! Yes We Can!” But one year later, it seems as though these slogans can be only heard in whispers at the water cooler or at Obama’s occasional town hall rallies.
Many of his supporters, especially young voters may be feeling a bit skittish and skeptical about Obama’s ability to actually bring change to Washington politics and deliver on his campaign promises such as Health Care Reform, investments in alternative energy and job creation through green technology. So far, it appears that although he’s been unable to pass the current health care reform bill, he has at least begun to address the issues of skyrocketing health care costs through reform, which is something the Bush administration completely ignored and also an issue that has been dormant since HillaryCare was crushed by Republican opposition. As Obama stated in his first State of the Union speech, he didn’t propose health care reform because it was good politics, he simply sought to deliver on his promise to the American people that he would hold health insurance companies accountable.
To some supporters, it may seem that Obama is being unfairly criticized by the media and by his naysayers, and of course the Republican party, and this argument may have some merit, especially considering that Fox News is now officially and unabashedly the Official Media Sponsor of The Republican Party. But in retrospect, most Presidents in their first year of office, have had less than stellar beginnings, much of this has to do with shifting attitudes in Washington about the new guy in charge, disenchantment among the more conservative or liberal factions of each party with their President’s agenda and also the inherent media bias that exist in political reporting, which seems intent upon destroying a first year President’s credibility. A prime example of this media bias would be the way that Clinton was personally attacked his first two years in office, with Whitewater allegations, rumors of affairs and an alleged murder cover up in his close circle, unfortunately the affair rumors would turn into fact and almost unravel his presidency.
However, in Obama’s case, he inherited two wars and an economy on the brink of implosion. And despite saving the American auto industry from collapse, signing legislation to curb predatory lending in mortgages and credit cards, holding big banks accountable for taking bail out money, instituting Cash for Clunkers, creating the $8,000 housing rebate and saving millions of jobs via the stimulus bill, Obama is still struggling to define his presidency. Part of the reason that he’s still struggling to define his presidency, is that he and his administration are too humble in touting his accomplishments in his first year, furthermore, the Democratic power players who helped get him elected have been inept at promoting the positive aspects of his achievements. Despite SNL and the right wing media attempting to peg him as a “Do-nothing” President, Obama has clearly worked hard on his agenda and on establishing America’s trust in him. He’s already conducted ten times more press conferences and network interviews than Bush did in his first year, clearly that’s a sign of a leader who wants to lead.
The other prevailing issue that trumps Obama’s accomplishments is the continued loss of jobs and the inability to document substantial new job creation through the American Recovery Act. According to the non-partisan OMB, the stimulus bill did actually create almost 2 million jobs, but that was just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of jobs that have been lost over the past year, which Republicans will quickly blame on Obama, despite the fact that job loss is an extension of the Great Recession that was presided over by Bush.
So it appears that the remainder of Obama’s first term will be defined by his ability to get meaningful health care reform passed and help spur the private sector to create more jobs, a task that seems a bit dubious because the government is designed to regulate private industry when necessary, such as banning monopolies, but it has not been involved in creating jobs in the private sector. Corporations have clearly taken advantage of layoffs and reduced labor forces to increase their bottom line, but are in no hurry to rehire at levels prior to the recession, which is the real reason why the recovery is still lagging. Perhaps one way to increase job creation is to incentivize American companies to bring back some of the jobs that were outsourced to foreign countries by offering them tax credits.
The good news for Obama is that most Presidents are rarely defined by their first year in office, many have stumbled out of the gate, overcome media bias, appeased their constituents and governed over Congresses dominated by the opposing party. Obama appears to be poised to be the leader that many of us hoped that he would be, he’s learned from his missteps and admits his shortcomings thus far, but by virtue of his sincerity and passion, he still inspires hope that real change will come eventually.
Barrington D. Ross