Why I think Barack Obama is a Good President

Barack Obama, in his first nine months on the job, hasn’t lived up to all the expectations everybody on the left pinned on his “Change” campaign. He’s not a leftist.

“If we can just see ourselves in each other. . . . we can overcome our differences and rebuild this nation.”

“If we can just see ourselves in each other. . . . we can overcome our differences and rebuild this nation.”

He’s to the center-right, for a Democrat. Lots of people find that disappointing — some so much so that they’ve become, in fact, hostile to any and every word he says, action he takes, policy he advocates, or appearance he makes.

I want to say here and now that I think the voices crying out in that hostility are wrong. I think some of them are blaming this man for not making their dreams come true, without recognizing that he never promised he would make their dreams come true.

I think some of them refused to see that a President’s power is limited — not just by the Constitution, despite the work done to remove all limits on Presidential power that is a hallmark of every GOP administration since World War Two, but by law, inclination, and ability to convince Congress to cooperate, at the very least. Other limits on a President’s power come from the budget, public perception (JFK comes to mind: popular as he was, someone disliked him as a person and as a policymaker enough to kill him) and the constraints imposed by treaties, diplomacy, international law (despite the disdain for it often shown by previous Presidents) and the willingness of the world to work with him, or her, to achieve goals.

I think some of the people who now are so hostile to President Obama refused to see any possibility of good arising from any candidate’s winning the 2008 election, when a primary candidate they favored or a general election candidate they supported didn’t win. I believe there were even those who used their dislike of the primary outcome as an excuse to vote for Republican candidates or throw away their votes on third-party irrelevancies, and I’m sorry they found that necessary. I’m glad I didn’t face that constraint of choice, because I live in Texas. I could write in Hillary Clinton if I wanted — or any other candidate, whether or not that person were running. To vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin would have been to vote for going on the same way George W. Bush and Dick Cheney led the country — and I believe their direction ruinous.

But President Obama already has done some good things, I think. Not just the famous stuff — sure, there’s the order to close Gitmo and the equal-pay law, but there’s stuff that’s gone under the radar, too.

Ken Salazar’s rolling back the Bush/Cheney oil grabs of the last administration’s waning days, and in the process saving national parks from being turned into drill pads. I like that. The surgeon general’s not a TV star, but she is a doctor who comes from a different background than most of her predecessors: working with Louisiana’s underprivileged. She’s a black woman, and I think she may be the first black woman to serve in that post.

Steven Chu, Energy Secretary Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture Nancy Sutley, Chair of Council on Environmental Quality Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator

Steven Chu, Energy Secretary Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture Nancy Sutley, Chair of Council on Environmental Quality Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator

Yes, the Republican party is dedicated to seeing him fail, and fighting tooth and nail to get that their way on health care reform and on shutting down Gitmo and on stopping torture. But he’s starting, laregely in unheralded ways, to make the kind of appointments that change things.

He works hard not to be perceived as angry. Those hostile to him use that as another excuse to put him down, by saying he lacks the passion to fight for the policies they want him to fight for — or for the details of legislation they want, whether those desires are practical or not, never mind something he can achieve in the current political climate. When he remains focused and doesn’t fly off the handle, they’re outraged.

I think that’s wise of him.

We had eight years of a guy who couldn’t hold his own temper, let alone lead the nation (and I think this is every bit as true of Cheney as it was of Bush) in a direction away from gut-level aggressive reflex.

President Obama serves as a positive role model, which is a big deal in this country. He’s saying things that not everybody wants to hear, but that’s part of his job.

He’s doing things that go under the radar: the astronomy night at the White House this week is one. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Obama, and the girls, are getting encouragement from the President to do the positive things they’re doing, too.

So, Mr. President, please accept my heartfelt congratulations on your Nobel Peace Prize.

In Oslo, Thorbjørn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and a former prime minister of Norway, explained that Obama’s early international diplomacy efforts helped him beat out more than 200 other nominees to become the third sitting U.S. president to win the award. The sitting presidents to win the prize were Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Former President Jimmy Carter won the award in 2002.

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” Jagland said. “We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year. We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”

Former Vice President Al Gore, a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work on global warming, called Obama’s award “thrilling.”

Don’t quit doing a good job for the whole world now, though. The road ahead will not be short, will not be easy, and will not be lined with cheering throngs throwing flowers and candy, Mr. President. But you’ve undertaken the journey, and you’ve made a good start.

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2 responses to “Why I think Barack Obama is a Good President

  1. the surgeon general we ended up with is much much better than the tv star it looked like we were going to get, but a quibble — she’s from alabama [not all that far from me] not louisiana.

  2. That’s right. My bad.

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