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Matthew Lynch, Ed.D.

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Grading Barack Obama's First Term

Posted: 04/23/2012 8:48 pm

America's focus is on the 2012 presidential race. Will Barack Obama be elected to a second term or will a new challenger knock him off his throne? I think it's safe to say that at least half of the country still supports President Obama, even though they may not agree with all of his policies. When Obama assumed the presidency, he was charged with resolving the nastiest set of problems and issues of any incoming commander-in-chief since Franklin D. Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933. Obama immediately served up a range of big-ticket solutions that included the unprecedented stimulus package, the auto bailouts, and a health care bill.

Since then, Obama ended the war in Iraq, killed Osama Bin Laden and implemented regulations to improve the environment. In addition, he implemented Race to the Top, began the drawdown of U. S. forces from Afghanistan, appointed two women to the Supreme Court, and ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I could go on and on, but in the interest of time, I think I'll stop there. In spite of all of these accomplishments, for many Americans, Obama's first-term as president has left much to be desired.

Obama's hecklers come not just from the right, but from other progressives and from well-known African-Americans. A lot of people seem to think that Barack Obama works for them and when they don't get the reaction they want from pulling his strings, they call him a puppet to somebody else. The president has a whole lot of work to do and a great many needs to tend to, but the impression across the board is that people believe the president should work for them and them alone.

Although the president's ability to directly influence policy is usually exaggerated, he still wields a considerable amount of power and influence. For instance, executive orders allow him to operate proactively in areas where congress has failed to act. However, they are contentious because they permit the president to make key decisions, without the approval of Congress.

As he nears the end of his first term, many laymen and politicos alike are pondering this question; how will the first African-American president's initial term be remembered? Presidential historians will not have the advantage of hindsight for a decade or two, but when it comes to grading Obama's Presidency, ask yourself the following questions. Did he make good on his campaign promises? If he didn't, were there extenuating circumstances that stood in his way? Are the criticisms that he has received, warranted? What grade should his presidency receive?

Since the president's first term is not quite complete, the best that I can do is offer an interim assessment. Any definitive assessment will have to wait until after the 2012 election. I will assess Obama's presidency by asking myself the same questions that I posed to you.

Did he make good on his campaign promises?

Politifact.com, the Pulitzer Prize-winning site published by the Tampa Bay Times, contains a special feature called the Obamameter. One of the lists that it publishes is "The Obama Scorecard," which assesses 508 campaign promises made by Obama with the following ratings: promise kept, promise broken, compromise, in the works and stalled. I used this unbiased tool to determine whether or not Obama kept or is progressing towards fulfilling his campaign promises. According to "The Obama Scorecard," he performed as follows: promises kept- 35%, promises broken- 12%, compromises- 11%, in the works- 28% and (promises) stalled- 13%. Also, it is important to point out that 0.4% (2) of his campaign promises have not been rated yet.

On 74% of his promises, Obama kept, comprised or is in the process of fulfilling them. Also, 13% of Obama's attempts to fulfill his campaign promises stalled not because of him, but because of partisanship. Out of 508 campaign promises, Obama has only broken 12% of them, which is mind-boggling when you consider the current political landscape. According to these results, the president did a good job of keeping his campaign promises; however, you can be your own judge.

If he didn't, were there extenuating circumstances that stood in his way?

In some situations, it seems as though Obama can't catch a break. Regardless of what he does, for some people, it will never be good enough. In some instances, President Obama proposed legislation to Congress that either did not make it to the House or Senate floor or simply failed to garner the necessary votes for passage. Also there were times when in order to avoid giving the president what he wanted, the opposition simply voted down legislation that was good for America.

To be clear, Obama's obstacles have come not just from the right, but also from Obama's own party and prominent African-Americans. In response to some of these occurrences, Obama used executive orders to act in areas where congress failed to act. What else can he do? In spite of extenuating circumstances, President Obama continues to keep a smile on his face, and he sticks to his message. So as you can clearly see, in some situations, there were extenuating circumstances that stood in his way.

Are the criticisms that he has received, warranted?

A large majority of the criticisms are uncouth, disrespectful and engineered to discredit Obama's patriotism, religious beliefs and competence. The toxic venom that has been hurled at Obama is unprecedented in modern politics. When in modern times have people openly called for the assassination of a U. S. president? Never.

When I hear scholars such as Cornel West lambasting President Obama for giving oligarchs and corporate America a free pass and for failing to make the "war on poverty" a top priority, I cringe. Not because I believe that Professor West's criticisms have no merit; I cringe because I know that that Obama's detractors will try to use it as rhetoric to further discredit him. At the end of the day, he gives his heart and soul to his presidency and he should be afforded the respect that his position demands. At the end of the day, there may be a small percentage of the criticisms that may be warranted, but nobody's perfect.

What grade should his presidency receive?

As I stated earlier in this piece, when Obama assumed the presidency, he was charged with resolving a nasty set of problems and issues. In response to this, his administration rose to the challenge and fostered positive change and progress in America. Because of this, I think the president deserves an B+, which reflects his solid record as Commander-in-Chief.

At the end of the day, we are all entitled to our own opinion, and I am sure that many on the right and left will disagree with my assessment. So remember, my opinions are just that, my opinions. I am looking forward to reading your comments and I encourage you to use this article as a springboard for discussion.

 
 
 

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