What has Pres. Barack Obama accomplished in his first year in office? To hear conservatives and Republicans tell it, the answer is “nothing.” This, from enthusiastic supporters of the party that has enthusiastically voted “No” on every single piece of legislation this administration has put in front of them. What has the Republican Party accomplished to pull itself out of the doldrums to date? A “purity test” that even Ronald Reagan couldn’t pass!

All of the above explains why I find it so refreshing to read Jacob Weisberg’s assessment of Obama’s first year — “brilliant.” Indeed, Weisberg  writes that “by January, [Obama] will have accomplished more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt.”

The case for Obama’s successful freshman year rests above all on the health care legislation now awaiting action in the Senate. Democrats have been trying to pass national health insurance for 60 years. Past presidents who tried to make it happen and failed include Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Through the summer, Obama caught flak for letting Congress lead the process, as opposed to setting out his own proposal. Now his political strategy is being vindicated. …

We are so submerged in the details of this debate … that it’s easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the impending change. For the federal government to take responsibility for health coverage will be a transformation of the American social contract and the single biggest change in government’s role since the New Deal. If Obama governs for four or eight years and accomplishes nothing else, he may be judged the most consequential domestic president since LBJ. He will also undermine the view that Ronald Reagan permanently reversed a 50-year tide of American liberalism.

Obama’s claim to a fertile first year doesn’t rest on health care alone. There’s mounting evidence that the $787 billion economic stimulus he signed in February—combined with the bank bailout package—prevented an economic depression. …

When it comes to foreign policy, Obama’s accomplishment has been less tangible but hardly less significant: He has put America on a new footing with the rest of the world. In a series of foreign trips and speeches, which critics deride as trips and speeches, he replaced George W. Bush’s unilateral, moralistic militarism with an approach that is multilateral, pragmatic, and conciliatory.  …

TMV’s Michael Stickings, writing at his own blog, speculates that at least part of why Obama has gotten so little credit, even among his supporters, relative to how much he has accomplished can be traced to the irony of high expectations:

It’s like, if he doesn’t remodel the entire American way of life for the better — fixing health care, righting the economy, reversing global warming, ending terrorism, establishing world peace — he is somehow deemed, even by those inclined to continue to support him, by those who generally agree with him, to be a failure. It is to be expected that conservatives wish failure upon him, and upon America if he can be blamed and they can score some political points, and applaud his perceived failure at every turn, but it is disheartening when those who should know better, those who should have the good sense not to rush to judgement, criticized him with such gusto.

Or, as Steve Benen puts it, “There have been plenty of painful missed opportunities, but as first years go, this isn’t bad.”

Kathy Kattenburg
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elrod
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elrod
6 years 9 months ago
I agree wholeheartedly that his first year has been successful overall. Take away the progressive purity activists on the left and the Reaganite Irredentists on the Right and you have a very productive first year. The biggest issue – the economy – remains a very sticky proposition…but for reasons we understood back in late 2008 – jobs always follow the market by several months, the precarious status of banks, excessive influence of banks on the government (despite their precarious capital position), overvalued real estate, etc. The Obama Administration’s response has been smart for the most part. Sure, I wish there… Read more »
dduck12
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dduck12
6 years 9 months ago

“But overall the first year has been an important recalibration of American politics after 30 years of conservative rule.”

Are you including the Clintons (yes plural)?

$199537
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$199537
6 years 9 months ago

I wouldn’t describe it as “nothing”, I would describe it as “poor”.

I do agree that the impossibly high expectations raised during Obama’s campaign have probably hurt his image now that he has to actually govern. Obama and his supporters are completely responsible for those expectations, though.

kathykattenburg
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kathykattenburg
6 years 9 months ago

I wouldn’t describe it as “nothing”, I would describe it as “poor”.

Really? How would you describe what GWB accomplished in his first year? On this day in GWB’s first year — November 29, 2001 — what had he accomplished?

And you are opposed to Obama’s performance for ideological reasons, so the high expectations issue isn’t an issue for you at all.

$199537
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$199537
6 years 9 months ago

Going by memory, I think in November 2001 Bush was still riding the crest of popularity post-9/11 so I’m not sure it’s a good comparison. I think Bush did do a good job immediately post-9/11 otherwise his presidency was mostly a failure.

Do you think GWB should be the standard we judge Obama by?

kathykattenburg
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kathykattenburg
6 years 9 months ago
I think in November 2001 Bush was still riding the crest of popularity post-9/11 so I’m not sure it’s a good comparison. Yes, 9/11. That’s my point. Do you think GWB should be the standard we judge Obama by? Absolutely not. I’m just surprised (well, not really) that you judge Obama’s performance after a year in office as “poor” when the only thing that GWB accomplished in his first year was to ignore and dismiss all the many warnings he was given of an impending terrorist attack. That’s an accomplishment, of a sort — it’s something he’ll be remembered for.… Read more »
$199537
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$199537
6 years 9 months ago

I don’t see how Bush’s performance has any bearing at all on judging Obama’s performance. He should be judged on his own merits.

kathykattenburg
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kathykattenburg
6 years 9 months ago

Well, since you’ve already said you judge most of Bush’s presidency to be a failure, I’ll just say fair enough and leave it at that. It’s not as if you’re saying Bush’s first year was filled with soaring accomplishments.

JeffersonDavis
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JeffersonDavis
6 years 9 months ago
“I don’t see how Bush’s performance has any bearing at all on judging Obama’s performance” You must remember, DaGoat. This is a knee-jerk reaction from liberals when their idol is being criticized. It’s been a year and they still can’t stop saying “What about what Bush did?” to every critical question. I personally think that President Obama has done a decent job. I support him as Commander-in-Chief thus far but am cynical on most of the rest. I stand against most everything that Kathy stands for, but in all fairness, President Obama has not put forth anything for which she… Read more »
kathykattenburg
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kathykattenburg
6 years 9 months ago

I support him as Commander-in-Chief thus far but am cynical on most of the rest. I stand against most everything that Kathy stands for, but in all fairness, President Obama has not put forth anything for which she voted for him.

I thought he had, but you know better than I do why I voted for him, so I must be wrong.

JeffersonDavis
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JeffersonDavis
6 years 9 months ago

First of all Kathy, I didn’t claim to know why you voted for President Obama.

Your banner causes (abortion, homosexuality, etc) have yet to be addressed by the President even though he promised a bunch of things during the campaign.

So educate me, Kathy.
Tell me some of the reasons that you voted for Obama and which of those issues have come to pass.

michaelD
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michaelD
6 years 9 months ago
and what does the extremely poor performance of the shrub have to do with what obama has/hasn’t accomplished? i’ll easily grant you that bush was an exceptionally poor POTUS. how does that earn obama or any other president a pass when it comes to performance or lack thereof? clearly, it doesn’t. the fact that bush was so terrible a president has no bearing on obama’s misdeeds whatsoever. and obama is doing plenty of things WRONG. appointing turbo-tax timmy as sec’y of the treasury; [not firing turbo-tax timmy]; renominating ben-dover bernanke for a second term as president of the FOMC; not… Read more »
Ethos
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6 years 9 months ago

I wouldn’t even qualify his performance as lacking the full force of “high expectations.” He does get four years, last I checked. Considering the enormity of both the economic bailout and “universal” health care, I don’t understand why anyone is faulting him for keeping out of even more contentious issues such as DADT.

The most important steps his administration has taken have been rolling back numerous environmental disasters (and others) that Bush put into place, either through executive order or EPA mandate.

Ethos

elrod
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elrod
6 years 9 months ago

I honestly wonder how contentious repealing DADT is. I bet Congress repeals it next year as part of a defense authorization bill. Maybe it’ll sweeten the way for Democrats to pass an authorization bill for Afghanistan – repealing DADT might get some progressives on board. But I doubt it will happen that way.

DLS
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DLS
6 years 9 months ago
He has done just fine. If coldly rated, he’d be ordinary, average, or mediocre. But he’s done pretty much what anyone could expect him to do so far. He has done a number of things that are demerits, such as behave (along with his team) like elitists out of touch with what the people want or expect much of the time. Trying to silence suppression, beginning with more conservative critics (Fox), and seeking a Commie-style identification and denunciation practice against un-PC news and its sources was sinister. Perpetuating a debased appealing-to-the-lesser-lights “campaign” tactics after taking office was a big demerit.… Read more »
DLS
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DLS
6 years 9 months ago

“[’30 years of conservative rule’] Are you including the Clintons (yes plural)?”

Well, the author of the book I have on proportional represention did (at least in the first edition) put the Democratic Party (or at least its leadership) slightly right of center(!). (Reagan and Thatcher, “far right”)

And more to the point, the 1990s (post-1994) “reformed” “Third Way” Democrats probably were viewed by the far left as conservative…

DLS
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DLS
6 years 9 months ago
“I’ll just say fair enough and leave it at that.” Actually, overall, that’s what we can say about Obama after this year, Kathy. Or “he’s done well enough.” The post-election campaigning has been stupid; the attack on dissent even concerned the majority liberal media (who knew they were next, after Fox and the righty commentators). One Dem critic has Obama and his gang pegged, that they’re kids dressing up and playing the roles they are placed in (this was something I’d noticed and reported independently a number of times this year), and they sometimes seem inept as well as out-of-touch… Read more »
Andy
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6 years 9 months ago
Kathy, I think President Obama has been about average for a rookie President. He’s made several mistakes, but that seems to come with the territory when there’s a new President and a new party that hasn’t been in the executive in 8 years. I’d say he’s begun a lot of good things – at least they sound good – but for me the proof is in the pudding and I’ll wait to see if his initiatives are effective and successful. The economy is one area I don’t think he’s done too well. He didn’t nationalize many Wall Street firms when… Read more »
dduck12
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dduck12
6 years 9 months ago

How can you fairly judge his performance this early in the game? He and his people decided to not waste a “good crisis” to push for BIG programs and changes in government. For this kind of approach, right or wrong, I think it is too early to score.

$199537
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$199537
6 years 9 months ago
He and his people decided to not waste a “good crisis” to push for BIG programs and changes in government. TARP, the stimulus package, the auto bailout/takeover, the health care plan and the escalation in Afghanistan are all big programs Obama has supported or is supporting. I don’t think it’s too early to be critical of the huge gifts Obama gave Wall Street and the UAW, or too early to be critical of pork barrel spending in the stimulus bill and budget. The health care plan is still a work in progress but I don’t think Obama’s “guidance” has resulted… Read more »
dduck12
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dduck12
6 years 9 months ago

You named all the ones I don’t like either. The HCR bill stinks, as is. I was just just trying to give him a little more time before critics, who are always early birds, go too far. And, I hope he moderates his BIG plans.

Leonidas
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Leonidas
6 years 9 months ago

I call it “Foolishness.”Tripling the deficit in just one year, is hardly nothing. Continuning Bush’s policies in Bagram and in several other areas is what I’d call bordering on criminal. Bludering in Honduraswas I’d call stupid.

Now he has done some positive things too, but in my book it is far outweiged b the poor decisions.

kathykattenburg
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kathykattenburg
6 years 9 months ago
First JD: I stand against most everything that Kathy stands for, but in all fairness, President Obama has not put forth anything for which she voted for him. Second JD First of all Kathy, I didn’t claim to know why you voted for President Obama. Why won’t anyone take responsibility for anything anymore? We would so have a world of rainbows and unicorns if someone would take responsibility for what they say!Tell me some of the reasons that you voted for Obama and which of those issues have come to pass.Re-read (or read) my post above. Click on the links… Read more »
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