As he runs for re-election, President Obama wants to point to his accomplishments in office. Trouble is, he's having trouble identifying them.
He killed Osama bin Laden, for sure. But after that...
He'd like to say that the economy is getting better, but the slow recovery is hampering his ability to sell that idea to the public. He likes to say that he saved General Motors and Chrysler; his critics argue that he really spent $23 billion of taxpayers' money to force the companies into bankruptcy and save the United Auto Workers Union. The president also has tried to claim that federal spending was increasing more slowly on his watch than in any presidency in 60 years, but the data don't bear out that narrative.
So the president's accomplishments are a little difficult to find. But I'm here to offer assistance. I've combed through the research, and unearthed some achievements the president can claim:
Most deportations. Despite his endorsement of the DREAM Act, President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any president in history. He's been deporting about 400,000 people a year, about double the number in the George W. Bush administration.
Most leaks prosecutions. The Obama administration has been criticized for leaking classified information in a series of campaigns to portray the president as a tough, engaged commander-in-chief. But meanwhile the administration information has used the 1917 Espionage Act to target suspected leakers in twice as many cases as all previous presidential administrations combined.
Most troops in Afghanistan. The United States had about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan during 2008, the last year of President Bush's term. By the end of 2010, President Obama had increased that number to almost 100,000. It's down to about 88,000 now, which still might surprise people who recall candidate Obama's ringing antiwar speeches of 2008.
Most medical marijuana raids. In March 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department would end the Bush administration policy of raiding medical marijuana distributors that violated federal statutes as long as the dispensaries appeared to be complying with state laws. Beginning later that year, however, as Lucia Graves reported at The Huffington Post,
"The administration has unleashed an interagency cannabis crackdown that goes beyond anything seen under the Bush administration, with more than 100 raids, primarily on California pot dispensaries, many of them operating in full compliance with state laws. Since October 2009, the Justice Department has conducted more than 170 aggressive SWAT-style raids in 9 medical marijuana states, resulting in at least 61 federal indictments."
Federal agents have seized property of landlords who rent space to medical marijuana dispensaries and have threatened to prosecute state employees who carry out state laws on medical marijuana.
Most drone strikes. President Obama doesn't like the way the Bush administration treated prisoners at Guantanamo, so he's taking fewer prisoners. The Obama administration has carried out at least 308 covert drone strikes in Pakistan, more than five times the 44 approved under Bush.
Most fundraisers. All presidents spend a lot of their time fundraising. But President Obama leads the league. Political scientist Brendan J. Doherty, author of the new book The Rise of the President's Permanent Campaign, reports that Obama had held 104 fundraisers by March 6, compared to 94 held by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush combined. CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller noted that by June 12 Obama had done 160 re-election fundraisers, twice as many as Bush by the same point in 2004.
The economy may not get much better this year, not with all the taxes, spending and regulation weighing it down. President Obama may be hoping to achieve the distinction of being the president reelected with the highest unemployment rate.
In the meantime, though, he's got a lot of accomplishments he could boast about -- if he dares.
David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer and The Politics of Freedom.
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