In this President Obama 2010 Report Card we will define the measures of what makes a good grade. No doubt people will have different opinions about the value and even constitutionality of the policies he has enacted since he became the chief-executive. Making those determinations are much more subjective.
How about the President’s strategies and tactics? How effective has he been? Has President Obama fulfilled his promises? Where does his first two years rank him among past presidents?
First, we should remember what he came into. Some say he inherited the worst situation of any president in history. President Bush left office with two major wars and one of the worst economic disasters in American history. The deregulation and supply-side economic theories had been tested, measured and found wanting. President Obama took office with the challenge of digging the country out of a huge ditch.
He also had some pretty lofty goals adding to the difficulty of this presidency. We will break down the challenges and achievements by subject, trying to gauge how effective he has been in accomplishing the goals he set out to achieve, as well as the historical significance and relative challenge of those goals. We start with the greatest accomplishment.
Health Care Reform
No matter where you stand on the issue of the health care bill, President Obama was extremely effective in passing one of the most significant pieces of legislation in U.S. history. Health care services make up 1/6 of the American economy. An overhaul of such magnitude deserves more than passing credit. Standing up to the powerful lobbies of such a massive industry also demands major kudos.
Despite the odds, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law in the spring of 2010. Whatever criticisms there may be of the law, the legislation is something equivalent to and probably greater than Social Security or Medicare. Time can only tell how public perception will change on the issue. Regardless, no one can dispute the significance of this bill.
The President had succeeded where many others had failed time and time again. FDR, Truman, Kennedy and LBJ all envisioned some sort of national health care system. Even Richard Nixon introduced the idea of a mandated coverage, building on the existing structure rather than handing it over to the government. No doubt this was part of Obama’s strategy today. Reagan had expanded Medicare to cover catastrophic coverage. Bill Clinton pushed hard for national health care reform, but it never even came to a vote.
Today, the strategy was right. The American people supported the idea, as evidenced by Obama’s campaign promise and subsequent election. The tactics won the battle, but were risky. The fight certainly left the president wounded. Having the courage to take on the problem is an important measure of the man.
Many Americans still don’t understand the bill. There is a common distaste for the deals and maneuvers it took to pass the legislation. Many say they wanted more time. The President has paid the price in approval ratings and in the 2010 midterm election.
If there is any criticism one can point to, it is in the public relations battle. The people were not sold, and perhaps were persuaded by the opposition. On the other hand, this was part of the immense challenge. The Democrats were battling against the most powerful interests and lobbies in the country and their extremely effective PR machine. That being said, one cannot help but believe that there were mistakes made in dealing with the opposition and with the public.
Nonetheless, if we said nothing else of his other accomplishments, this one act alone cements the Obama administration as one of America’s greatest presidencies.
In part II of the President Obama 2010 Report Card, we will analyze the administration’s economic policy. Did he answer the challenge adequately? Stay tuned for more.
Justin is the publisher The Nevada View, which has earned the recognition in the Washington Post’s “Best State-Based Political Blogs,” as well as being awarded the “Most Valuable Blogger Award” by the local CBS affiliate in 2011. Follow him on Twitter @McAffee