Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Grading Obama ...

President Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 and encountered a plethora of problems, both foreign and domestic.  Let us examine his progress so far, starting with his domestic actions.

Domestic Policy

Item 1:  American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - Also known as the "economic stimulus plan."  This bill calls for approximately $787 billion to pumped into the economy through various government projects in education, infrastructure, health care, etc.  Although I enjoy seeing the signs telling me about this legislation providing new roads on the interstate, I cringe when thinking about the record spending this bill undertook.

Grade:  B-   Though this bill spends an obscene amount of taxpayer money, Obama was in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.  Had he done nothing, critics would have said he was asleep at the wheel during a major recession.  Much needed projects are being completed, people are being put to work, and slowly we are creeping out of the recession, with unemployment rates slinking back into the single digit range.

Item 2:  Cash for Clunkers / tax credit for home buyers / bailouts - Frustration set in with Americans at the "bailout" of banks, the auto industry and the real estate sector.  Obama deserves credit for helping out the home and auto industries because whether people want to admit it or not, these two industries are greatly intertwined with other industries and they are too important to fail.  Also, they are different from the banks in that these banks were responsible for misrepresenting their value to investors and for backing fixed rate mortages to individuals who they knew could not handle the loan.

Grade:  B+  In helping auto and home industry, the Cash for Clunkers program and tax credit for home buyers helped spur purchases in these two vital areas.  No sympathy for banks though.

Item 3:  Supreme Court Justices - Sonia Sotomayor was an adequate choice to replace the now retired David Souter.  Sotomayor, though liberal, replaced a liberal and definitely has the qualifications to be on the High Court.  Obama's choice to replace the soon to be retired Justice John Paul Stevens does draw concern for Obama's "outside the box" approach to finding someone who has not been a judge before.  Good luck attempting to sneak that by Senate Republicans.

Grade:  I   Obama deserves an incomplete for this one until his second choice becomes less murky.

Item 4:  "Don't ask, don't tell" policy - This policy, which deals with homosexuals serving in the military, calls for American soldiers not to tell anyone about their sexual preference.  In return, the military will not ask about their preference.  Obama has promised to eliminate this policy, which could cause more problems than it solves.  Regardless of how cosmopolitan the president believes our military to be, the reality is that most of our servicemen are not ready to accept homosexuals.  This could lead to internal angst among soldiers and ultimately cause violence. 

Grade:  D-  The only reason this is not a failing grade is because Obama has not rescinded this policy yet.  Political strategy would dictate he waits until the next campaign season to do this -- a shrewd move to court the liberal wing of his party, but dangerous to the cohesiveness of the military.

Item 5:  Health care reform -  Obama promised during his campaign to make health care reform a priority, and he followed through, despite intense opposition from Republicans.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 significantly changed health care coverage by preventing insurance companies from denying citizens based on pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on parent insurance longer, expanding Medicaid to cover more citizens in need, and to provide government subsidies to small businesses to provide them the necessary resources to give employees resources.  Long term research indicates the new method of taxation on wealthier individuals indicates a savings of over $143 billion over the next several years.

Negative points to this bill are not to be overlooked.  This bill was in no way bipartisan, and in fact further polarized liberals and conservatives and giving more fuel to Tea Party radicals.  Moreover, this bill was loaded with pork that easily falls into the category of "wasteful spending."  Also, a challenge to this constitutionality of this bill may exist because it will require all Americans to have health insurance by 2014. 

Grade:  B  This was a much needed change to America, but the price was steep.  President Obama subjected himself to a large amount of criticism for his spending habits and lack of bipartisan support.  Parties cannot cram a bill down America's throat without expecting upheaval.  Mid-term elections in November will be a good indicator as to what citizens think of this.

Foreign Policy

Item 1:  The War in Iraq - With all the domestic drama, Americans appear to have less of a focus on this conflict that began in 2003.  President Obama has stated combat operations would end in Iraq by approximately August of 2010.  At that point, combat troops would be transitioned out until a contingent force of about 50,000 remained (and would stay until the summer of 2011).  This contingency force would aid Iraqi authorities in counterinsurgency training and allowing these individuals to take control of their country. 

Grade:  B-   This plan of action sounds like an ideal way to bring our troops back home.  However, only a few months remain until this plan is supposed to take effect.  Will Obama be able to keep this promise?  Will Iraq be able to handle life on their own?  Too many unaswered questions keep this from being a higher grade.  Also, putting a timetable on withdrawal may only inspire insurgents to "hang on" a while longer until American forces are gone.

Item 2:  The Closing of Guantanamo Bay / terrorist trials - President Obama claimed he would no longer allow prisoners to be held at this facility and the trials of suspected 9/11 plotters would be held in New York City.  While the latter part of this deserves praise for not giving in to the desire to hand over those clowns to military courts, the prisoners are not what most would be considered to be normal detainees.  They should be held at the base in Cuba until their trial, if for no other reason than because their potential escape would be devastating to American morale.

The closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay deserves criticism because it has not happened and probably never will.  Obama promised to have this done months ago and could not produce.  He may have underestimated this situation and, as such, deserves a poor grade.

Grade:  D-  The term "epic fail" comes to mind, but having the terrorist trials in New York City is somewhat of a redemption.  Those trials will serve as a reminder that we hold true to our value that everyone deserves a fair trial in the area in which the crime happened.

Item 3:  War on Terror - This is a difficult aspect of the presidency to assess.  The government has no real indicator of how much damage we have infliced on terrorism, but the president is making an effort to inflict even more damage.

Though Obama took a stance of withdrawal during the campaign, he actually increased the number of troops in Afghanistan by 30,000 (as of December 2009).  Troops were to be withdrawing from Afghanistan within 18 months though.  And still no Osama bin Laden.

President Obama and former President Bush do receive some credit for not having a major terroist incident on the American homeland after 9/11.

Grade:  B    Good work that needs to continue.

Item 4:  Iran -  The president deserves praise for attempting to extend an olive branch to Iraian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Throughout his campaign, Obama believed an attempt to have talks with Iran would be the appropriate step.  Unfortunately, the president's overtures were rebuffed by Iran. 

Since then, Obama has gradually shifted toward a more hard-line approach to Iran, calling for other nations to place economic sanctions on the wayward Middle Eastern nation.  Obama even authorized his top military officials to edit and create new strategies to attack Iran, should the situation ever arise.  Normally, I would disapprove of such saber-rattling, but Iran has consisently shown they want to pursue a nuclear weapons program and have subjected their people to sham elections and violence pursuant to said elections. 

Grade:  A  Obama deserves a high mark for attempting to reach out to a rogue nation, and when that failed, he has remained tough without committing America to a problematic war.

Item 5:  Reduction of nuclear weapons - President Obama signed an agreement with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to reduce the number of nuclear weapons each nation has.  Though a limited nuclear arsenal is desirable for obvious reasons, no need exists to have enough weapons to blow up the world multiple times over.

Grade:  B+  The reason this is not higher is due to the fact that Obama wants to completely rid our country of nuclear weapons.  Though an admirable goal, I do not believe other nations (or terrorists) would abide by any agreement as such. 

Overall grade:  C+ / B-    range.  Our president has a few years left, and though there are reasons to criticize, no one can deny he has been busy.

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