In response to someone asking why I would say President Obama was terrible (along with Bush II and Trump). The questioner also got semi-excited about the ACA and complained about GOP opposition…
…Beyond that, the “GOP opposition” angle is oversold. (He had full control for two years. And he had workable minorities after that. See: Bill Clinton with a militant GOP Congress, probably tied for second-best president in terms of policy back to Coolidge.) And “opposition” is mostly a tired partisan excuse. (E.g., Trump, the next terrible president, could easily say the same thing, yes?). Bigger picture: we need to call our politicians to something beyond partisanship and excuse-making, esp. these days. Consider the example of Reagan working with the Dems to accomplish a ton of stuff.
For Obama, I’d say it was a lack of significant accomplishments and a number of policy sins. Other than that, he was fine. (He is a polished speaker and a strong family man. He certainly seemed smart enough. And so on. My preferred thesis: it was his lack of experience as an executive that was the key here.)
Expanding on the sins of omission and commission, I’d offer three points. 1.) The ACA is probably his most significant legislative accomplishment. And because it dealt with symptoms instead of root causes, it could not be more than a band-aid on a gaping wound. Beyond that, there are other critiques, including yours. (But again, why make so many excuses for such a “smart” guy with majorities in the House and Senate?) When your signature achievement is mostly a hot and busy mess, that’s a really bad sign. 2.) By any objective standards, by theory and the data, his damage to the macroeconomy/recovery was historically terrible. 3.) He was given a Nobel Peace Prize and proceeded to become the first president to have us at war for eight years. I know there are few people who are really “liberal” anymore, but that really bugs those of us who are.
We’ve had three, going on four, terrible presidents in a row– and that’s with a low bar. Hopefully, we’ll do better in 2024. And thankfully, there can be much more to life than political hacks, partisan enablers, and power-mongering whores.
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