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Posted by on Dec 31, 2009 in Politics | 23 comments

Obama’s First Year

My boss is not an Obama fan. No, I’m not referring to Mr. Gandelman. I’m referring to the other boss — the one at the company that pays me for what I do. That boss is not an Obama fan — and he struggles to understand why I am.

Two days before Christmas, that boss dropped by my office. I was one of the few still there; many had already left for some extended R&R over the holidays. We chatted about work-related items; about our sons, who long ago attended the same school; and — of course — about the President and his first year in office.

During the latter exchange, my boss asked me, “Seriously, what has he done?” I responded that I’m among those who believe a single year is not enough time to evaluate a President; that it’s important to judge Presidents in the context of their full time in office, be it four or eight years. While that might be a legitimate answer, it’s probably not the best one, not when this President has, in fact, done a lot in his first year. Among other things, he has …

    Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law
    Signed the stimulus package into law
    Banned enhanced interrogation techniques
    Restored funding to overseas family planning organizations
    Restored funding for stem-cell research
    Oversaw the banking rescue
    Oversaw material interventions in the U.S. car industry
    Successfully nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court
    Greenlit California car-emission standards
    Advanced the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq
    Reinforced the U.S. commitment to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan/Pakistan
    Took steps toward resetting the tone of U.S. relations with the Arab world
    Ordered the release of “the torture memos”
    Helped advance health insurance reform – farther than any prior U.S. president

This list relies heavily on the list compiled by John H. Richardson for Esquire. I added the Afghanistan/Pakistan line.

Considering these things, Andrew Sullivan concludes: “No recent president has had such a substantive start since Ronald Reagan.”

Granted, Sullivan (like me) is an Obama fan, as Richardson appears to be. In contrast, Obama’s detractors (like my boss) might disagree with the underlying policy of some items on that list (e.g., health insurance reform); they might consider other items flawed (e.g., adding a start-of-withdrawal deadline to the Afghanistan surge); and they might consider other items not yet worthy of the adjective “completed” (e.g., U.S./Arab relations).

Fair enough. But even if we remove the items that are still works in progress, there are plenty items left for which a point of closure was reached. And whether or not you agree (in whole or in part) with those closed items, they are still closed; they are still tasks completed, as much as Reagan’s were in his first year, despite his detractors’ disagreement.