Thursday, January 19, 2017

Barack Obama

No, the GOP didn't achieve their first goal:  make Barack Obama a one-term candidate.  But they made his life miserable.  And in a way, especially in his first term, so did Blue Dog Democrats, who by the 2010 mid-terms wanted nothing to do with him.   Obama is leaving with an approval rating above 55%.  But there was a time when members of his own party ran when he came to visit.  This is how politics work.  Ask Bill Clinton who was equally unpopular mid-way through his first term.  By 2001 he too had a 50+% approval.

I voted for Obama in the 2008 Primaries and in both elections.  In 2008, I remember telling people that Obama would be better for the Country as an Inspirational President, but Hillary Clinton would be able to get more policy passed with GOP support.  It turns out that most of what I was trying to get across was true.

Obama's biggest Presidential mistake was not believing that his 2008 landslide, and the last time the Democrats controlled all branches, would let his policies sail through Congress.  No, his biggest mistake was believing the GOP would work with him, all the while extending his hand across the aisle.  A fan of Team of Rivals, he envisioned a scenario where appointing GOP names to his cabinet (which he did), and scaling back his ambitions would result in an across-the-board victory.  None of it happened.  And, as I've said before, Blue Dog Democrats worried about their election chances in 2010, didn't help by not backing his bills.  The GOP Tea Party that rose in his victory had little to do with Liberal/Progressive policy and a lot to do with the color of his skin.  There's no denying that racism played a part in many Republican pols and voters in their opposition to Obama.

I can't say enough about Michelle Obama.  Who was as real and inspiring as any First Lady you can think of (Eleanor Roosevelt).   Like Barack, what she does post-Presidency will be a fascinating watch.

But now it's 2017 and Obama's policies and legacy are at risk.  Maybe.  I say this because it often takes years before we can assess a President.  I believe Barack Obama will be remembered as a very good President who managed to govern even when up against a hostile opposition.  That he was able to steer an economic recovery, drop unemployment below 5%, pass a popular, if flawed Health Care law,  hunted down Bin Laden,  saved the U.S. auto industry.  Then there was environmental victories on clean energy and land protection.  And no scandals in 8 years.

My initial reaction during the primary season of 2008 was somewhat astute.  Barack Obama was an inspirational figure.  It may be years before we see someone like him in the White House again.  Character.  That may be Obama's greatest achievement.  Staring down racists and obstructionists he never wavered or showed outward disgust.  Obama exuded dignity even while his most ardent opponents reveled in bigotry.  He's a young man (55) leaving office, which means I can't wait to see what his post-Presidency will be like.  Let's be lucky we had him as our President for the last 8 years.
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