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Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in At TMV | 19 comments

Sullivan on the “Failed Presidency” Meme

Andrew Sullivan debunks the “failed presidency” meme on The Daily Dish.[icopyright one button toolbar]

Just a year ago, I had a conversation with a friend as the healthcare website was crashing. All that mattered, we agreed, was if, this time next year, the healthcare reform is working and the economy is doing better. Well, both those things have happened – Obamacare is actually a big success so far; the growth and unemployment rates are the envy of much of the Western world – and yet we are now told that he’s a failure. WTF? The architects of the Iraq War – like, yes, Clinton and McCain – somehow believe they have a better grasp of foreign affairs in the twenty-first century than he does. And the party that bankrupted this country in eight short years now has the gall to ignore the fastest reduction in the deficit ever, and a slow-down in healthcare costs that may well be the most important fiscal achievement of a generation.


Add to this two massive social shifts that Obama has coaxed, helped or gotten out the way: marriage equality and the legalization of cannabis. These are not minor cultural shifts. They are sane reforms, change we can absolutely believe in and have accomplished on his watch. Jihadist terrorism? It has murdered an infinitesimal number of Americans in the past six years, compared with almost any other threat. Yes, Americans are still capable of PTSD-driven panic and hysteria over it, and Obama has failed to counter that more aggressively, but to be where we are in 2014 is something few expected after 9/11.


The idea that he has “lost Iraq” is preposterous. We “lost” Iraq the minute we unseated the Sunnis, disbanded the Baathist army and unleashed the dogs of sectarian warfare.

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center

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  • slamfu

    The GOP’s constant drumbeat accusing Obama of everything under the sun is just mindless. If Obama walked on water they’d say its because he can’t swim. It would be one thing if they could back it up, but its all in their heads. They only make themselves look more foolish.

  • dduck

    Didn’t AS just recently write a negative Obama article? Or did I imagine it.

  • sheknows

    Sullivan is really all over the place regarding Obama.
    I think he cannot reconcile his own criticisms of him with the stupid and often groundless criticisms from the Republicans. One minute he has sympathy, the next the he is critical.

    Poor Andrew… but we have to read his myriad musings. 🙂

  • The problem with Sullivan is that he sometimes goes overboard in his criticism in areas where he disagrees, making it seem contradictory when he does a post like this to debunk all the groundless criticism.

  • Sullivan has been broadly supportive of Obama as a sane, mature bulwark against the radical, fundamentalist insanity of the modern Republican party. He is intellectually honest enough to criticize Obama on issues where they disagree. Main among these have been Obama’s ISIS policy and his refusal to prosecute key members of the Bush administration as war criminals for their implementation of torture as US policy in violation of domestic and international law.

    Sullivan’s support for Obama is based in his view of the President as a temperamental conservative in that he seeks to bring change gradually while preserving the best of existing cultural and political institutions. Ironically, Obama is hated and excoriated by those who call themselves conservatives but are actually the opposite–right-wing radicals.

    I am a fan of Sullivan’s because I think he sees these important issues with unusual clarity and nuance.

  • JSpencer

    The GOP started distancing itself from concepts of honesty and fairness long ago, and the gap widens more all time. They decided to put the hate on Obama from day one, to make attacking him their number 1 priority, and to pull out all the stops. In their own minds they are crusaders and that’s all that matters. It matters more than the truth, more than decency, more than the American people. It’s out of control and it’s been wreaking havoc on the country all through this new century. Millennials and minorities had better get off their asses and start voting in considerably higher numbers or it will only get worse. No b!tching rights if you don’t vote. We get the government we are stupid enough to elect.

  • SteveK

    In Defense of Obama by Paul Krugman

    Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn’t deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

    First, however, let’s take a moment to talk about the current wave of Obama-bashing. All Obama-bashing can be divided into three types. One, a constant of his time in office, is the onslaught from the right, which has never stopped portraying him as an Islamic atheist Marxist Kenyan. Nothing has changed on that front, and nothing will.
    There’s a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as…someone who ”posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.” They’re outraged that Wall Street hasn’t been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ”neoliberal” economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have constrained even his much more modest efforts. It’s hard to take such claims seriously.
    Finally, there’s the constant belittling of Obama from mainstream pundits and talking heads. Turn on cable news (although I wouldn’t advise it) and you’ll hear endless talk about a rudderless, stalled administration, maybe even about a failed presidency. Such talk is often buttressed by polls showing that Obama does, indeed, have an approval rating that is very low by historical standards.

    Paul Krugman goes on to discuss point-by-point Healthcare, Financial Reform, The Economy, The Environment, National Security, and Social Change.
    In each category he notes specifics on the success NOT failure of the Obama Presidency.

    Boy are the nutters going to go wild on this one.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks for the link, Steve. I had not read it. A great, balanced summary of Obama’s accomplishments and failures — every president, every human being has the latter.

    I especially but partially agree with:

    “And I wasn’t wrong. Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically.”

    “Especially,” because Obama was truly naïve. Never in is wildest imagination did he expect such a vile, destructive, “let-America-fail-so-that-we-can-blame-Obama” disgraceful, Republican chicanery and he did not kick-ass back as hard as he should have.

    “Partially,” because he is still naïve. He is still too decent, and naïve, to forcefully fight back against those a ‘holes.

    Just my dos centavos.

    Love the conclusion:

    Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don’t care about the fact that Obama hasn’t lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn’t quite say, a big deal.

  • dduck

    Krugman. LOL

  • Krugman got it right. (I have also been planning to do a post based upon Krugman’s article).

  • dduck


  • As Krugman said, ” But there are a number of reasons to believe that presidential approval doesn’t mean the same thing that it used to: There is much more party-sorting (in which Republicans never, ever have a good word for a Democratic president, and vice versa)..”

    Therefore we have responses such as “LOL” and “Wrong” which show this knee jerk opposition while ignoring all the actual argumetns given by Krugman regarding Obama’s successes.

    Of course Krugman doesn’t get into the important fact that there were far more substantial reasons for Democrats to oppose Bush’s actions in office.

  • SteveK

    dduck – I think if you read the article you feel the same about Paul Krugman today and you did in January of 2013
    TMV – Giving Credit Jan 21, 2013

    dduck – I don’t always agree with Krugman, but I am all for giving credit where it is deserved, a trait that is a rarity everywhere including here at TMV where sniping and long, long comments substitute for cogent, concise and accurate presentation of facts designed to fairly shed an even light on the subject instead of “scoring points”.
    I also think PK should have mentioned Obama’s effort with “gun control”, which I think is fantastic.

    Much of what Krugman has written in the past, which he mentions briefly in this article, has not been supportive of Obama’s policies and that gives the balance in this article more reason to at least read it and see if there’s a POV worth considering.

  • Dduck–if you think Krugman is wrong, fine. However, the throwaway one-liners fail to meet this site’s standard. That standard is detailed and specific arguments. If you think you have a case, make it. The drive-by snark won’t cut it.

  • Krugman’s comments on Obama have evolved over the years. I think that early on he was critical of Obama based upon disagreements on policy matters.

    Two things have altered how he discussed Obama. First there are all the off the wall attacks on Obama from both the right and many mainstream commentators, and he responds to these in his current article. Secondly, he is doing a better job of separating differences of opinon with a more centrist president from outright condemnation where he disagrees. This includes both recognition of Obama’s actual accomplishments and realization that whereever he disagrees with Obama, the Republicans would be far, far worse.

  • JSpencer

    Krugman. LOL

    Krugman’s long been a lightning rod for the right. They just don’t like the guy, whether he’s right or wrong.

  • dduck


  • bluebelle

    Republicans stink at governing but excel at spin. What really should be seen as a systemic failure — given our dysfunctional Congress is heaped on Obama instead, as though he controlled all the levers of government. Rush Limbaugh hoped he’d fail in 2008, and the GOP has done everything in its power to create that impression.
    He’s portrayed as a dictator who ignores the Constitution at home, when he uses his presidential powers, and portrayed as a weak leader abroad, who has diminished American power.
    The attempt to make him appear illegitemate during his first term failed, so now they must paint him as a failed president– to equate him with GWB, so that that stain on their history is neutralized

  • JSpencer


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