As Ryan Lizza writes in the New Yorker: "Obama didn't remake Washington. But his first two years stand as one of the most successful legislative periods in modern history. Among other achievements, he has saved the economy from depression, passed universal health care, and reformed Wall Street."
So when are President Obama's critics, people like Paul Krugman and Mitt Romney, going to offer President Obama an apology? Both have often loudly predicted that he made the economy worse and was putting America on the wrong economic path. Both are being proved wrong by the economic comeback we are in. I mention them not to pick on Krugman, who I respect, or even on Romney (who I regard as vapid and bought and paid for by corporate interests) but to make a point: President Obama is going to have the last laugh on his critics, no matter what ideological spectrum they hail from.
President Obama is succeeding in spite of the fact that he's been up against a Republican Party willing to destroy the economy in order to destroy him.
As the New Yorker notes:
"Two well-known Washington political analysts, Thomas Mann, of the bipartisan Brookings Institution, and Norman Ornstein, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agree. In a forthcoming book about Washington dysfunction, 'It's Even Worse Than It Looks,' they write, 'One of our two major parties, the Republicans, has become an insurgent outlier--ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.'"
We all know the Right's critique of the President has failed. Rush Limbaugh did not get his wish! But what of the Left? The tone of the criticism of the President on lefty blogs has been persistently negative and none too prescient. According to his critics on the Left President Obama "sold out to Wall Street." He didn't "bring the change he promised," he "is just like the Republicans," etc., etc.
And I'm not even counting the shrillest voices on the Left and Right who have accused President Obama of either/or undermining national security -- by being a "secret terror-codling Muslim" -- or using drones to "murder civilians," because "he is just like the Republicans and part of the corporatist elite."
I happen to be a white 59-year-old former Republican. I happen to be a former religious right leader who came to my senses in the mid 1980s and quit the hate and fear religious right machine. (I explain about why I left the religious right in my book Crazy For God.) I also happen to have been one of the most vocal (and one of the first) Huffington Post bloggers. I was blogging there when we emailed in blogs then were called by the person who posted them. I supported then Senator Obama, just about every week during the Democratic primary season in 08. Back then I had lots of company at HP from the top down. It seemed we were all rooting for Obama.
Not anymore. I still blog at HP and other sites like Alternet but have actually been kicked off several progressive sites for continuing to support the president. (No kidding.)
About 6 months into his presidency lots of bloggers at HP and elsewhere seemed to run out of patience not just with President Obama but with reality itself. President Obama "disappointed" them. I stuck with the President because I believed then, and believe now, that he is smarter, kinder, more reliable and morally superior to his critics let alone to the political alternatives. I also know that the presidency is not as powerful as many people seem to think it is including many liberal commentators who claim to live in a fact-based world. I'm grateful if any president can get anything good done at all.
The Left and Right have united in predicting President Obama's failure and even seeming to root for it, if nothing else to prove they were right. So will the "sky is falling" prophets of doom on the Left and Right -- who have made it a national pastime to predict the "failure" of the Obama presidency -- start to climb down now that all their dire predictions are falling flat re the economy (that Obama did not ruin!) and wars ending (that Obama did not start!)?
The wars are ending and the economy is coming back. Good for the country. Bad for the doom pundits of the Left and Right.
Anyone who thinks Obama didn't "bring change" fast enough is living in a fact-free dreamland. First, they have no to little idea about how limited the president's powers are. Second, they have no idea what this president in particular faced. We'll get the change promised but it will take 2 full terms and it will never live up to the expectations of the utopian groupies of the Left who thought they'd voted for a messiah not a mere president.
So why has change taken "so long"?
- President Obama inherited a far bigger economic and foreign policy mess than anyone predicted....
- Many Republicans obstructed our first black president far more ruthlessly (and with racist overtones) than any (sane) person would have predicted...
- President Obama's "friends" on the Left were as shortsighted and mean-spirited as his enemies on the Right...
- And until the Occupy Wall Street Movement came along the President wasn't getting the help he needed from the street to make the unfairness of American life that he's trying to fix into an issue.
- The President -- thanks to Occupy Wall Street -- now controls the debate with the handy phrase of "the 1% v the 99%." Occupy Wall Street did more for moving the country foreword and did more to help President Obama, than all the President's lefty critics combined.
- Occupy Wall Street is doing what MLK and the civil rights movement did for Johnson: it provided the heat Johnson could then use to move his agenda forward. Obama too now has the wind of change at his back.
- Sure, I, like anyone else, wish for more action from the President on many fronts. For instance I wish the President had not been so in love with the idea that we could be moving into a post-partisan world of cooperation.
As the New Yorker put it:
Given my religious right background I'm one of the President's most unlikely fans. Maybe that's because I really know the alternative-- from the inside. I fear the alternative to the President -- far right loons of the Tea Party/evangelical religious right ilk -- and have never felt I had the luxury of being an armchair lefty critic demoralizing Obama's supporters because he's the only person who stands between the village idiots and us.
"Predictions that Obama would usher in a new era of post-partisan consensus politics now seem not just naïve but delusional. At this political juncture, there appears to be only one real model of effective governance in Washington: partisan dominance, in which a President with large majorities in Congress can push through an ambitious agenda... Many of Obama's liberal allies have been disillusioned, too. When Steve Jobs last met the President, in February, 2011, he was most annoyed by Obama's pessimism--he seemed to dismiss every idea Jobs proffered. 'The president is very smart,' Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson. 'But he kept explaining to us reasons why things can't get done. It infuriates me.' "Yet our political system was designed to be infuriating. As George Edwards notes in his study of Presidents as facilitators, the American system "is too complicated, power too decentralized, and interests too diverse for one person, no matter how extraordinary, to dominate." Obama, like many Presidents, came to office talking like a director. But he ended up governing like a facilitator, which is what the most successful Presidents have always done. Even Lincoln famously admitted, 'I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events controlled me.'"
Try Romney and the Mormons on for size if you think Obama has been "slow" to embrace gay marriage! Try Gingrich and the "Christian Zionists" if you think we tilted too far to the far right West Bank settlers and Israeli hardliners! Try the Koch brothers' cronies if you think our president is "owned by Wall Street!"
I know what the stakes are. I know from the inside just how deranged, corrupt and awful the marriage between Wall Street and the unwashed Tea Party/Religious Right anti-abortion, racist, homophobic and misogynist mob really is. I know that these people will buy elections then try and turn America into a theocracy -- on matters of personal morality -- and into an Ayn Rand libertarian and heartless swamp where the 1% eat the rest of us-- when it comes to the economy.
So I've been grateful that a man of integrity, brains and kindness and reasonable moderation (not to mention moderate progressive religious faith) is leading America. I didn't just read about the alternative and "other" side. I was the other side and know what they are capable of.
When we hear that jobless numbers are going down faster than expected, that shoppers spent money over the holidays, that economic forecasts are being revised upward, that we are out of Iraq, that bin Laden is dead, that gays can serve in the military, that Wall Street and the banks are now under investigation, that a woman's right to choose is being protected... it's time for a reassessment of the President's critic's.
And NO I'm NOT saying that any president is above rebuke when you think he's wrong. But fair rebuke is one thing. The endless drip, drip of mindless "disappointed" negativity that has been the hallmark not just of Fox News but has been found on progressive blogs too, is another thing altogether. Enough already! Or at least have the integrity to admit when you're wrong.
The President keeps proving himself smarter than his detractors. More power to him.
President Obama will win in 2012. And 4 years later all that will be remembered about his critics is that they were impatient, deluded and wrong.
Given what was on his plate when he took office and the fact that we're successfully struggling out of both recession and 2 war -- and succeeding -- President Obama is one of the best of the American presidents already. His second term will consolidate that verdict and bodes greatness as his legacy.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is SEX, MOM and GOD: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
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