In Defense of Barack Obama

Today's New York Times included an article by Nicholas Kulish referencing a Pew Research Poll showing that President Obama is more popular abroad than at home. I highly recommend checking out the poll but the Times article missed the mark by asserting that "Obama is struggling at home". This narrative that "Barack Obama is in trouble" has spread like wildfire through mainstream media and partisan outlets alike. 

My question is... how is Barack Obama struggling at home? 
Oil spill aside, what has Obama not been able to accomplish during his first 18 months in office? Name a piece of major legislation that he has thrown his weight behind and not passed. I don't believe Obama has experienced a legislative defeat to date. In fantasy baseball we'd call those results "video game numbers".
Yet, the prevailing narrative is that Obama has not achieved anything; Jimmy Carter Part Deux: Liability in the midterms.  
OK, maybe the Nobel Peace Prize was more puff than policy but let's look at what the man has achieved in his first year-plus. Here are my Top 5 Obama Accomplishments...
Healthcare Reform - like it or not, President Obama passed the most transformational piece of legislation in 40 years. Presidents (Republican and Democrat alike) have tried to pass healthcare reform since Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. The President got it done during the most heinously partisan political environment this nation has seen in generations.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - again, you can love it or hate it, but Mr. Obama got it done. I am not a fan of some elements of the bill - such as "Cash for Clunkers" or the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit - but our economy is definitely in better shape now than 2008.
Presidential Memorandum on Fuel Economy Standards - it's fair to point out that Congress started working on this before President Obama was in the White House, but the President was able to bring Big Auto to the table and get them to buy into raising fuel economy standards to 35 mpg. This underrated piece of legislation was an enormous step forward for our country. Kudos Mr. President.
Sonia Sotomayor - Obama's Supreme Court nominee was confirmed easily. He even managed a couple of Republican votes - which probably took more effort than winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Expect Elena Kagan to have a straightforward confirmation as well.
Diplomacy - According to the same poll, 90% of Germans believe Barack Obama "will do the right thing in world affairs". George W. Bush received 14% despite giving Angela Merkel a backrub.
Barack Obama's high favorability ratings in Europe are amazing because they come at a time when Europeans (and others) could be forgiven for turning their backs on America following a global economic crises cooked up on Wall Street. If the global meltdown - commonly thought of as "America's Mess" - happened during the Bush years, Europeans would be burning American flags in the streets. The fact that they are not is a credit to our President.
Mr. Obama's numbers in America aren't too bad either. According to the Pew poll, 65% of Americans trust the President to do the right thing in world affairs. If you watch the news, you could be forgiven for thinking the number was 16%... 6% if you're watching FOX. 
Don't be surprised if President Obama passes financial reform, cap and trade and immigration reform during his first term. He is truly one of the most effective political operators in modern American history. Shame on the media for being seduced by an easy narrative - "Obama in Trouble!" - rather than reporting from planet earth. 
At this point, the only thing proven to slow down Barack Obama is a hole in the ground somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

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  • Good Assumptions All

    But..Obama had to give up something for those legislative successes.

    The Recovery Act (ARRA) was also being worked on prior to him taking his seat in the Oval Office, the big win that has defined him is the Health Care Reform, which may very well also be his undoing.

    The greatest negative, outside the calamity of the Gulf Spill is unemployment which has increased beyond even his comfort zone. Those temporary jobs the Census provided will now disappear and the national unemployment rate will stay near 12%. THIS WAS THE FIRST ISSUE THAT NEEDED TO BE TACKLED - Health Care should have followed after people could actually afford to pay for it.

    Like it or not, Obama has blundered. Whether he, or his handlers, are the cause has yet to be determined. Also, whether he is liked by Europe or the other Continents is immaterial - home is where the results must be made and that he hasn't done to the satisfaction of better than 60% of the populace.

  • Michael - thanks for being the first person to comment on Realpolitik! Good point on ARRA.

    Not sure about unemployment staying at 12% next year - we'll see.

    I think your characterization of European opinion of Obama as unimportant is misplaced. In a global world public opinion does matter beyond one's borders. As we speak, Obama is trying to arm twist the EU into maintaining stimulus spending to deal with the global economic crisis. Public opinion will dictate that decision as much as economic policy. Just one example.

    Thanks again for checking in. More political junk food to come next week, so stay tuned.

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