Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Beginning of the retrospectives on the "liberal Republican" Presidency of Obama

Obama just gave his final State of the Union speech as President Tuesday night. Though of course he has another year to serve as President.

But it occasioned some early retrospectives on his Presidency.

Robert Reich posted on his Facebook page 01/11/2016:

Tomorrow night will be Barack Obama’s final State of the Union – the last time he addresses a joint session of Congress. So it seems like an appropriate time for a few thoughts about his presidency.

First, I think historians will judge it to be among the most successful – saving the U.S. economy from a second Great Depression, enacting the first almost-universal health insurance system (something neither FDR, nor Truman, JFK, LBJ, or Clinton could get done), finding and killing the person who engineered the worst terrorist act ever to occur on American soil, and, all the while, holding at bay the most disciplined, adamantly right-wing Republican Congress in history. The Obama administration has played the long game, and mostly won.

Second, Barack Obama as a person has exhibited extraordinary coolness under fire. No president in my lifetime has come under such relentless, scathing, disrespectful (often thinly-veiled racist) attack from political opponents and opportunistic pundits, and yet he has never wavered from the dignified tone he set for himself and his presidency at the outset.

Third, this administration has not been marred by scandal – no revelations of self-dealing by high officials, no sexual exploits, no illegal political payoffs, no secret and illicit deals. To laud a presidency for its lack of scandal may be a sad commentary on our era, but given the harshness and meanness of politics it is nonetheless a significant achievement.

It is not all roses. I won’t easily forgive the mass deportations, the early emphasis on deficit-reduction, the compromises on civil liberties, the absurd Trans Pacific Partnership, or the failure to put tough conditions on Wall Street banks that got bailed out. The Administration has been way too kind to big corporations and Wall Street. Fifty years ago we would have considered Obama a liberal Republican.

But given the times and the circumstances, he has done remarkably well. That’s a provisional verdict, of course; there’s still a year to go. [my emphasis]
Digby looks back with considered disappointed at his seven years as President Bipartisanship in The dark age of congressional warfare: Inside Obama’s last State of the Union & the fight for the future of government Salon 01/12/2016:
Republicans didn’t even pretend to be dealing in good faith and decided that their midterm victory meant they had a mandate to control the government from one house of Congress. The result was the debt ceiling crisis, a government shutdown and sequestration. The president proposed his Grand Bargain idea of cutting Social Security but the Tea Party would have none of it as long as the White House insisted on getting some revenue from the wealthy. It was hopeless.

As former Obama administration staff member Dan Pfeiffer said, “He had hopes of being able to change the polarization, not just in the country, but in Washington.” But they learned it was a lot harder than they thought. Pfeiffer said it was President Obama’s biggest regret that he had not been able to deliver on that promise.

But nobody could have delivered on that promise. The polarization that exists today has always been with us. What’s new is that the two parties are now divided ideologically when in the past the ideological divide existed within both of them. Our system, with all of its checks and balances, doesn’t work very efficiently under such conditions.
Charlie Pierce looks back with his jaded optimism (Maybe the President Should Just Drop the Mic at the Podium Tonight Esquire Politics Blog 01/12/2016):

He has been as progressive a president as our stunted, money-drunk politics allows, and that's been enough. Has he disappointed me? Yes, which gives him something in common with every president of my lifetime. But, as far as I'm concerned, if the president were to stand up in the House chamber tonight and, in the course of delivering his final State of the Union, if he were to tell the Congress that the State of our Union is better than it was when he took office despite all the efforts of the congressional majority to make it worse, and if he were to explain to them that, no, he has no fcks to give about any of their sorry asses and he's going to go right back down Pennsylvania Avenue and go back to work, I would not blame him a bit. If he were to drop the mic behind the podium, that would be cool, too.

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