President Barack Obama is entering the fourth quarter of his presidency, one marked by partisan divisions that have frustrated most Americans. But the president, as he makes the turn for the finish line, has already wracked up an impressive list of accomplishments during his tenure despite the blindly fierce Republican opposition.
Since his party's defeat in the midterm elections, President Obama has taken the initiative. He has announced that the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba, as well as an executive order on immigration, and a climate treaty with China. Each of these announcements is historic in their own right. And together they signal the president is not going quietly into the night.
President Obama has enjoyed a great deal of good news these past six weeks. Government estimates show that the U.S. economy grew at a spectacular 5 percent, and the Dow Jones stock index reached record highs, fueled in part by corporate profits, which have been up year-over-year for 12 straight quarters.
Unemployment is at 5.8 percent, the lowest rate since the president took office. Total nonfarm payroll increased by 321,000 in November, led by professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing. Meanwhile, fuel prices continue to drop as the price of gas has fallen for 89 consecutive days. AAA says that this is the longest streak on record, and that prices have fallen 36 percent since last April.
Falling gas prices have hit both Russia and Iran hard, along with U.S. led sanctions. Just a few months ago Republicans were praising President Vladimir Putin for his leadership traits as Russia annexed Crimea and caused unrest in parts of Ukraine. Now Putin is struggling mightily to keep his economy afloat. Those same Republicans criticized the president for attempting to negotiate a nuclear treaty with Iran. Yet falling gas prices and tough sanctions have brought the Iranians closer to making a deal than any saber rattling ever did.
The president's strategy for handling ISIS has stopped that group's momentum. The president formed a coalition of countries to launch targeted air attacks, and he helped nudge the failing Iraqi government back from the brink. He has also kept America safe from terrorism, and he made the killing of Osama bin Laden a top priority.
North Korea posed a serious threat with its alleged cyber-hacking of SONY's emails. This in response to a movie, The Interview, which is a comedy focused on North Korea's leader. But it has been reported that President Obama, who promised a proportional retaliation, discussed the matter with China. Suddenly, North Korea lost its Internet connection. Now the movie will be released after all on Christmas Day.
And the president's singular greatest legislative success, the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has expanded healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans, and it has helped significantly lower the rate of growth of health care costs. His 2009 stimulus package put the breaks on the crashing economy, and his auto bailout preserved thousands of jobs. Today, the U.S. auto industry is healthy. Each of these initiatives was done in spite of furious opposition from Republicans.
Lately President Obama has looked like that confident leader American voters thought they elected way back in 2008. Since his first day in office he has been attacked continuously by conservatives. He has been accused by many of his Republican opponents of being born in Kenya, a Muslim, an emperor, disengaged, distant, a liar, and ill-prepared for the office. On the very day the president was first sworn into office, Republican leaders vowed, in a secret meeting, to do all they could to block, delay, denounce and defeat him. For them it was war.
Throughout his first six years in office, the president has remained persistent, while being buffeted by the partisan winds, and the thunderous exhortations of so-called experts and conservative political pundits. Of course, in today's media landscape, anyone can be a critic and get airtime.
Even his supporters sometimes express frustration because the president has refused to act for the sake of acting, shoot from the hip, or jump to conclusions. His approach, no matter the issue, has been measured, studied, thoughtful, cerebral and yes, lawyerly.
Beginning in January, Republicans will be the majority party in both houses of Congress. They will try to repeal Obamacare, undo the president's immigration order, stop normalization of relations with Cuba, pass the Keystone Pipeline, cut federal social programs,and spend taxpayer dollars re-investigating Benghazi and the IRS. There will be the usual shrill denunciations of the president, and some GOP members may move to impeach him.
Of course, for President Obama, it'll be just another day at the office.