My scorecard for President Obama’s first four years

Shepard Fairey's second Obama hope poster from 2011, at the time of the Occupy movement

Shepard Fairey’s second Obama hope poster from 2011, at the time of the Occupy movement

In January 2009 I wrote a blog post about My hopes for President Obama’s first four years.

The unspoken assumption was that he would be re-elected for a second term, and so he would have a “first four years” and not just “four years”.  Such was the feeling of hope in the long-ago, golden days of January 2009.  Not that a Democrat would earn re-election, but that a president would be worthy of re-election.

And really, that should have been a warning sign.  Hope?  Optimism?  About politics?  Get real.

So here’s the list of things I hoped the president would achieve four years ago, along with how I think he did on each point:

  • Close Guantanamo Bay detention center.  This has not happened.  In fact, the man assigned to make it happen was recently quietly re-assigned and nobody was appointed to replace him.  This whole issue appears to have slipped from the mind of the public.  The Obama administration blames Republicans in congress for blocking the process.
  • End the recession.  This has not happened.  Well, according to the strict definition of the word, the recession has been over for a long time but I don’t think anyone would argue that the economy is still FUBAR (in every country).  Not to mention the unemployment rate.  I don’t really know how much blame to lay at the administration’s feet over this, since nobody seems to actually know how to fix it.  What are economists good for, then?  In addition, none of the financial companies responsible for the problem in the first place were prosecuted or faced any consequences whatsoever.
  • Leave Iraq.  This has happened!  And yet the War on Terror lives on in drone strikes and Afghanistan.
  • Repair the damage to the constitution.  This has not happened.  The Patriot Act was renewed, and the civil liberties situation is if anything worse than it was under Bush.
  • Environment policy.  This has not happened.  BP spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and there was no change in environmental policy.
  • Network Neutrality.  This has not happened.  In fact, there were several close calls with laws designed to limit freedom on the Internet (SOPAPIPACISPAACTA) with more coming.

So the final tally is one out of six.  Not great.

Osama Bin Laden was found and killed under Obama’s watch, but since I don’t buy into the War on Terror, it doesn’t feel like much of an achievement to me.

This wasn’t on my radar at the time, but using his first two years of having both houses, Obama passed a law to improve the healthcare system in the US.  There’s no question that it needs improving, and although it’s progress, even this controversial “Obamacare” law doesn’t do enough to fix it.

In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy something may be done about the gun issue, but it’s already being watered down, so I don’t hold out a lot of hope for actual positive change.

Since writing the original post I’ve come to understand the American system of government better, so I think that my hopes were unrealistic in the first place simply because they were things that the executive branch just can’t do.

Also since the right wing of American politics has moved even further right, in comparison Obama looked like he was on the left, but I think objectively he’s more center-right.  So the hopes that Obama would balance out Bush’s actions were doomed from the beginning.

I still think Obama is a good guy, and I hope he does good things with his remaining four years, but I couldn’t begin to enumerate any specific hopes this time around.

And then in four years it’s all up in the air again.