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Assessing President Obama…before he leaves office

Caricature of Steve

President Obama is barely into his second term in office and already would-be historians are writing his biography and assessing his legacy.

Almost daily commentaries attest to the President’s lack of leadership, eroding prestige abroad, declining credibility at home, and inaction on many of his top domestic proposals.

Compounding this gloomy assessment are almost incessant stories about the Republican Party presidential aspirants who have begun their campaigns for the White House four years before the next occupant takes the oath of office.

Enough already.

Mr. Obama has three more years to accomplish much of what he promised during his first and second campaigns.  He achieved much during his first term.

As a Senator, Obama was highly critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He promised to end them as president.  And he has kept that promise albeit not as rapidly or as smoothly as many supporters would have wished.

The President inherited a terrible economic landscape and began the necessary long, deliberate, careful, thoughtful steps to revive it.  His stimulus package helped save troubled financial institutions.  Even if too many banks kept the government money instead of lending it.

The White House bailed out the stalled automobile industry, which saved American jobs.  The housing market is slowly recovering and new jobs are created monthly.

President Obama fulfilled his promise of enacting health care reform.  A goal previous administrations pledged but failed or refused to push.  The Affordable Care Act most likely will be his most important and controversial legislative achievement.

He has been a refreshing, forceful advocate of education reform and the need for improved race relations.

Still, much remains.  Neither the White House nor Congress have agreed on ways to end the nation’s budget crisis.  The now seemingly annual “fiscal cliff” looms again.  Partisan gridlock, ideological sclerosis, and timidity by all players promise continued paralysis.   President Obama still has time in his second term forge a strong solution if he asserts firm leadership.

The Obama immigration reform is held hostage by the same forces that are culpable for America’s current economic malaise.  President Obama still has time to push for passage of fair, humane laws that will bring justice and equity to the millions of immigrants who are contributing to America.

The now epidemic frequency of mass shootings still has not stirred the hearts of those who could enact meaningful gun legislation.   President Obama still has time to force recalcitrant lawmakers of both parties to display compassion and courage rather than cowardice and complicity.

Yes, I have been critical of President Obama.  But I acknowledge his accomplishments.  He prefers persuasion through negotiation and intellectual debate.  But he also needs to show muscle and resolve.  While I respect civil discourse, I also appreciate the no-holds-barred style of Lyndson Johnson or Sam Rayburn.

I think he has been a good president but not great.  Although many pundits may be prepared to write his obituary in negative phrases, I believe that he has time to do much more.

My final assessment of Mr. Obama as president will be reserved for the end of his second term.


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