It's already six months into President Obama's second term and it's been a busy one for the Commander in Chief. Tragedies, natural disasters, scandals and stagnate initiatives have all captured the attention of the country and kept the President on his toes. Here is a look at how he has performed in five key areas during these first six months of his final term in the White House:
Gun control legislation - B+
Just prior to the start of President Obama's second term was the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. At the time of the incident, the President sent his condolences and said "In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this." Six months later, however, legislation meant to keep assault weapons out of the hands of private citizens is stalled. The same goes for a proposal to expand background checks. This isn't only the fault of the President, of course. Democratic senator Mark Begich of Alaska, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Speaker John Boehner of Ohio are just a few of those standing their ground against gun access reform. His track record on gun control is commendable, especially considering the opposition that he faced. He will need to step his game up in his second term to increase gun safety before he leaves the White House.
Economy - B+
Based solely on numbers for the first six months of 2013, the President is excelling in helping the economy to recover. The Gross Domestic Product rose 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and consumer spending rose 3.4 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the month of May, 175,000 nonfarm jobs were added - a higher number than the predicted 163,000. In the past three months, wages have gone up 1.2 percent. Also in May Obama became just the fifth President to double the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index while in office. The only bleak spot, relatively speaking, are the unemployment numbers. That number rose from 11.7 million to 11.8 million in May. Still - 63.4 percent of the population is considered "labor-force participation" and that number is steadily climbing back to the pre-recession number of 66 percent. The economy is certainly still recovering at a sluggish pace - the slowest since World War II. But looking solely at the past six months shows that the initiatives of this President are steadily rebuilding the economy.
Healthcare reform - A
While most of the hard work in this category was done during his first term, the President is making all the right moves as the biggest piece of Obamacare - insurance options for over 45 million uninsured Americans - inches closer to reality. The group Organizing for Action will spend upwards of $1 million in the summer months to taut the benefits of the new programs and educate the public on when they can start shopping for subsidized private insurance (October 1). With so much negativity and confusion surrounding health care reform in the past, get ready to see the many positives of this sweeping legislation during the second half of 2013.
National Security Agency Scandal - B+
Allegations of a government-led surveillance program, fueled by exiled National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, have really hurt the President in terms of approval ratings. Before NSA details were leaked, the President enjoyed a 53 percent approval rating - just one point lower than his all-time high. A poll conducted between June 11 and 13 by CNN and ORC International found that number has dropped to 45 percent in only a month's time. Of those polled, 50 percent said they disagreed with the statement that President Obama is "honest and trustworthy." But my grading system is not about polls. It is about how I feel the President has performed in these areas in the first six months of his second term. While I feel he could be a little more transparent, I do not think that the President is part of some grand conspiracy to invade the privacy of citizens. I don't think he cares who I messaged on Facebook yesterday, or where I spend my money online. I do think any Internet surveillance program is in place for the sole purpose of national security but so far the Obama administration has handled the scandal admirably.
Immigration reform - A
The President has acknowledged that the immigration process in the U.S. is flawed. Rather than "ship back" the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., he has proposed reform that would grant these and future immigrants a path to citizenship. Though the President's landmark DREAM Act failed, applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program average over 3,000 every day. It is not a permanent solution, but protects these illegal immigrants from any action in the next two years. For many months, the President has allowed the nearly 900-page immigration reform bill to be handled by a bipartisan group consisting of eight senators, in early June he put himself back into the spotlight and passionately spoke on the need for the bill to pass. For it to gain the public support it needs, and in turn the Congressional pressure, the President needs to put himself completely behind the initiative and continue to speak publicly on its necessity.
Overall grade - A (3.58 GPA)
These past six months have seen many moments of strength for the President, but also some weak ones. He hasn't come out as strong in his second term as his supporters would have liked to see, but he is setting the groundwork for a potentially ground-breaking couple of years.
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