Regardless of their view on his politics, everyone could not argue that Obama was, and still remains, an articulate, erudite and charismatic politician that commanded respect and admiration. What’s more, he came with tidings of hope and change – easy banners to fly when you’re a relative rookie in the game of politics. Four years on, however, and now he is the incumbent trying to hold on to office, but what how much of his campaign promises have proved to be empty rhetoric and how much of a difference to American politics has he actually delivered.
On the face of it Obama looks like he can be placed in the same category as any other politician, full of impressive rhetoric that served nothing but to facilitate his path into our hearts and the White House. Within days of his inauguration, Obama signed executive orders to close down the military prison in Guantanamo Bay yet, as I write, it is still fully functional. On the Environmental front, Candidate Obama promised to ensure that 10% of U.S. electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012; 25% by 2025; and establish a low national carbon-fuel standard – none of these have been met. Though he criticised the practise of writing legislation behind closed doors, much of the negotiation done on the Recovery Act, the budget and health-care reform were done behind by “top Democratic leaders behind closed doors, and often without the presence of Republicans” according to great interactive graphic in the Washington Post. With regards to foreign policy, Obama has not ended the war in Iraq within 16 months; His interaction with Iran has not been as direct and uncompromising as promised and Tehran is yet to cease its Uranium enrichment programme.
But politics is never simple and judging Obama’s success as a leader by listing the number of promises he has completed and the number he hasn’t would be an insulting the intelligence of all involved.
Obama did not play his first term safely by anyone’s standard, he picked his National Health reform as his hill and battled for it, courting lawmakers and key figures in politics and even fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court in order to get the bill passed. Though successful, it did cost him the House in January 2011 after some massive Republican midterm victories. Though more whyley analysts would have advised the President to go for increasing jobs and improving unemployment figures to get more votes during the midterm elections, I think Obama might have been influenced by Nolan’s Dark Night and chose to be the President that America needed as opposed to the President that America wanted.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to eliminate “some of the worst practices of the insurance companies” — pre-condition screening and premium loadings, policy rescinds on technicalities when illness seems imminent, annual and lifetime coverage caps. It also sets a minimum ratio of direct health care spending to premium income, and creates price competition bolstered by the creation of three standard insurance coverage levels to enable like-for-like comparisons by consumers. Though massive insurance companies will always continue to try and repeal this law, the tact gone for here, is to try and reduce the cost of living for the poorest in America.
The loss of the House was a massive blow for the rest of the Obama administration’s term. It has made it very difficult for him to pass any new laws with ease and out of 25 key issues, 15 remain as “works in progress” including reversing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest; Giving the Federal Reserve greater oversight over the financial institutions it has been called on to bail out; and streamlining the financial aid process amongst others.
It would be naive, however, to think Obama has been a huge failure. Let’s not forget that the Obama administration managed to neutralise Osama Bin Laden, and handled the BP oil crisis with a calm grace that was mistaken of indifference. I could wax lyrical about how one of the first catastrophes the Obama administration woke to the wake of the financial crises that had been brewing ever since Bill Clinton (Yes, Clinton and Not Bush) repealed the Bank Holding Company Act by signing the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 and decided not to regulate derivatives. Not a fine start for anyone but the Obama administration pushed $787 billion bill in 2009; and a tax cut and unemployment fund extension agreement reached by Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans in 2010 and extended again to cover 2012.
Did Obama fail to make good on the majority of his campaign promises? Indeed he has but I’m not saying that is due to the mannie Republicans not playing ball!
One thing is certain: he did not dance the Capitol Hill Waltz and play a safe first term. He certainly made no friends in Wall Street or within insurance companies and you may well argue that he can only put his name next two relatively few success: Healthcare, Bin Laden, expanding hate-crime statutes.
The question now is: does he deserve a second term? In my opinion, this is a leader who has the foresight to see the importance in providing $2.7 Billion in non-military aid (more than double his campaign pledge of $1Billion) to Afghanistan in order to prevent the country slipping back into Taliban rule due to lack of infrastructure, education and development (Tom Hanks’ Charlie Wilson’s War is a good introduction before hitting the books!). Obama has also showed through his actions that he is willing to put aside his own interests in order to benefit the country – placing Hillary Clinton as his Foreign Secretary, even after the harsh words exchanged during their campaigns. He is also a strong advocate of bipartisan dialogue in order to provide a united front in foreign policy.
The definition of a lie is a false or inaccurate statement; and by that definition, the majority of Obama’s campaign pledges have been proven by time as lies.
Regardless, it is up to you the reader to determine whether or not you chose to find Obama an excuse for letting us down, for example taking into consideration how America needs to remain diplomatic with Russia and China and that both do not feel sanctions against Iran are necessary. Or you could choose to give no quarter and confine him to the group of the few 1-term presidents in America’s history, along with Ford, Carter and Bush Snr to name a few.
In many ways, the President of America is the President of the World and in my opinion, Obama is the first in a long time to take both foreign and domestic roles equally seriously. He has has taken steps towards social justice in America and social stability in Afghanistan; and those are legacies that are not to be scoffed at. The one thing that President Obama should be careful with is to fight a clean campaign, just as he did as a candidate and be confident in the fact that if fails to secure a second term, the ideals that he has instilled and the bar he has raised for entry into the Oval Office will remain long after he steps down.