There were times I wish he had said more and times I wished he said less, got emotional, but not too emotional. Anywhay, here it goes:
Obama the politician. Firstly, anyone who can get elected president in the modern era must be a heckuva politician. That being said, he really wasn’t tested during the first two years as he held strong majorities in the House and Senate. However, he did lose the independents in the mid-term elections partly due to his aloofness and detachment from real issues such as jobs while delving into smaller matters such as the Professor Gates incident in Cambridge. A strong close in 2010 as he solidified his base with DADT repeal to counter leaning to the center on the tax cuts deal.
Obama the Commander-in-Chief. While 50,000 troops remain in Iraq, combat activities have ended under his tenure, while gains in Afghanistan have been realized through a measured surge of combat troops. While he can neither take the credit nor the blame for Iraq’s future success or failure, that one is on Bush, Afghanistan is his war and the sooner we exit this failed state the better off we will be. Maintain the capabilities to harass and hinder Al-Qaeda, but nation building with Karzai is a doomed proposition.
Obama the Chief Diplomat. While many on the right live to ridicule him on his willingness to project an America that can admit its shortcomings, in reality his relations building in Europe and Asia will pay dividends as America continues to deal with issues on the Korean Peninsula, China, Iran, and India. Recent victories against China in the WTO, free trade agreement with South Korea, enhanced sanctions against Iran, alignment with India, and forcing China to deal with North Korea are significant. Secretary of State Clinton has exceeded expectations and hopefully she will receive the commensurate recognition. The failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue will not harm him because no one else has succeeded there either.
Obama the Domestic Head of State. Thanks in part to healthy majorities; President Obama was able to push his domestic agenda. Under his stewardship, the US economy did not fall into the abyss as a number of legislative, stimulus 1.0, and executive actions kept the economy grinding forward until the US consumer decided two years later to open his wallet. That in itself is a tremendous achievement, and coupled with DADT repeal, new START treaty, saving GM, stimulus 2.0, increased stem cell research, increased border security, Lillie Ledbetter Act, Food Safety Act, Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act, financial reform, and healthcare reform add up to a high profile and high productive first half.
By the numbers: The Dow was at 8,218 on Bush’s last day and on December 31, 2010 it closed at 11, 578, a 40% increase. Unemployment is still too high at 9.8%. His approval rating has settled in at the 45-49% range, and purchasing manager indices are all up.
Obama got aggressive during his first two years when he had Congressional majorities, realizing that resistance to his agenda would be insurmountable after the mid-term elections, he played offense in the first half and will now let the Republicans take the lead for the next two years. During the campaign, Obama was at his best when he was counterpunching, a position he will assume against a disjointed relatively inexperienced opponent starting on January 3rd.
Looking at his performance agnostically over the last two years, Obama has had some tactical hiccups such as his handling of the 2010 Christmas Day bomber and the government’s slow response to the BP oil spill, but strategically he has accomplished what he set out to do and some of the things that didn’t get done: DREAM Act and Immigration Reform will end up hurting the Republicans more than Obama and the Democrats. And just like an NFL Quarterback, the President tends to get more credit and blame then he deserves.
All said and done, he is not a Marxist, Muslim, anti-American, transformational leader or corporatist. He is a progressive, a realist, and above all a politician…and a good one at that.