President Barack Obama’s scorecard for the first two years of his presidency is an unbalanced combination of wins and losses. Considering the promises he made, his progress hasn’t been satisfactory, largely because of the many political hurdles he has confronted.
Obama is “winning” by keeping his promise to monitor the financial services industry as well as his promise regarding health care. Because Obama was able to get the majority vote of Congress, he could sign a bill into law that gives 32 million uninsured Americans access to health care and expands Medicaid — a current government health insurance program.
While it is understandable that Obama’s relationship with Wall Street is strained because of the controversial bailout and stimulus package, the pledge that he made during his campaign to give tax cuts for all Americans — except those who fall into the top 5 percent of the income bracket — has gone unfulfilled. Obviously, Obama believes that this tax cut extension for all but the wealthy could help stimulate the United States economy.
As is the case with much of the socially progressive legislation Obama wants to pass in the House, he is receiving a lot of pushback from fiscally conservative Republicans and Democrats who want tax cuts for everyone, including those within the top 5 percent. The consequence of such debate is the suggestion by House Republicans for either decreased funding or no funding for social programs like the Labour Relations Board, Planned Parenthood and Obama’s recent Race to the Top Education Initiative.
An issue all Americans seemed to have agreed upon was the assassination of terrorist Osama bin Laden. However, there is little bipartisan agreement on whether the recent assassination of Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was justified. The controversy surrounding the approved killing of al-Awlaki stems from his American citizenship, his suspected affiliation with a terrorist group and, most importantly, the premise of the Fifth Amendment.
The Fifth Amendment is significant in this debate because it states that no American can “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The amendment protects al-Awlaki as an American citizen. The fact that Obama has not made a public statement that acknowledges his authorization of the execution speaks to his struggle to reconcile the same debate with the American public.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama’s platform included his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. Obama also made an effort to distinguish himself from his opponent, Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.), by communicating his disdain for the surge — a strategy that McCain was fond of pursuing. The stance Obama took during the 2008 campaign regarding the war on terror is a stark contrast to his advances for the surge once in office. While he announced last week a withdrawal of all troops from Iraq by the end of December, Obama’s platform on war strategy was too ambitious during the time of the 2008 election.
Though some U.S. citizens are expecting Obama to acknowledge his inability to follow through on his deadline, some U.S. citizens might have been satisfied to hear him at least acknowledge that his promise has not been kept. U.S. citizens have observed that progress isn’t being made on this issue, but some believe his losses have been offset with the reversal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The nation is split with people who understand the issues that Obama must resolve — such as those he inherited from the Bush administration — and those who do not.
Obama’s supporters are beginning to realize that his presidency is indeed unprecedented, but is in no way as glorious as they had anticipated. Perhaps his wins and losses in the past 34 months speak loudly of how his opportunities for improvement and proof of achievement are characteristic of a historical moment this country finds itself in: A time with a social and political economy that reacts very strongly to a tightened purse.
Brittany Smith is an LSA senior.