Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Obama Report Card

Well, President Obama has been in office for almost six months now, and I think it is fair to really weigh in on his performance. (I vehemently disagree with the "100 days" crap- that's just not long enough to make real policy decisions). This is my personal opinion, of course, and is heavily weighted towards the issues I see as pressing.

Foreign Affairs- A I think Obama has done a really good job of mending the fences internationally. After Eight years of Bush doing everything he could to inflame hatred of America and Americans globally, Obama has made a real effort to back away from the former administration's incendiary rhetoric. He's had a couple of missteps- the gift gaffe and a generally weak response to North Korea- but overall, he's been saying and doing what needs to be said and done. I especially commend his Egypt speech- a conciliatory statement to the Muslim community was long overdue.

Economy- B Obama, by and large, is as much along for the ride on the whole economic runaway train just like the rest of us. He inherited the tanking econ, he inherited the bailout, he inherited the underlying causes of the problem. All he can do now is stay the course, which is pretty much what he has done. I, for one, have no problem with things like the "nationalization" of GM, but I would like to see more emphasis on corporate responsibility and accountability so that we don't keep ending up in these messes.

Iraq/Afghanistan/War on Terror Abroad- C After a really strong start on Guantanamo, Obama has really been floundering with his policies and statements on these issues. Six months after taking office, I have seen very little actual change in the war, and the Guantanamo and torture backpedaling are most disheartening. Obama needs to fulfill his campaign promises by getting us out of Iraq, articulating a timeframe and goals for Afghanistan, and unequivically renouncing the use of terror or the holding of "detainees" without due process.

Civil Rights- D This is where Obama is really falling down. He needs to end DADT now. It would be so easy, and would cost him so little. While he was at it, I wish he would start pushing hard on the restrictions on women in combat. He also needs to use the bully pulpit to move towards federal recognition of same-sex marriage. There is simply no good argument against same sex marriage, and unless Obama wants to be on the wrong side of history, he better act now. It would also behoove him to take a firm stand for womens' reproductive freedom. Repealing the global Gag Rule was an excellent first step, but all of this "abortion is a necessary evil" talk he puts out needs to end. He is giving the high ground away to the forced birthers, and we can clearly see what they do with the "high ground"- see Dr. Tiller's assassination.

Health care- B- OK. Obama has put health care on the national agenda, but he needs to articulate a vision, and stand firm. The system is irretrievably broken, and wishy-washy stop gap measures are not going to fix it.

Energy/Environment- C Obama needs to get on the ball, and really articulate a vision here. The time is ripe- people want to see change in this area. With the grassroots behind him, Obama could take on big business, and force change.

Domestic Terrorism- C Obama needs to make strong, sweeping statements against things like Dr. Tiller's assassination, and the shooting at the Holocaust Museum. He also needs to use these incidents to draw out the links between so-called mainstream "conservative" groups and the actions of this terrorists, because believe me, there IS a connection. The president MUST go on record strongly condemning such acts AND the organizations that spew the hatred that agitates the actors. In short, he must frame them as terrorism.

Overall- B- Obama is off to a good start, but he has plenty of room for improvement. He needs to worry less about political strategy and expending political capital, and more about being true to the vision he articulated during the campaign. It was that vision that got him elected, and it is only that vision being realized that will keep him there.