Obama is in a tough spot.
His biggest promise was to “change the tone of politics in Washington”, by seeking a return to respectful political dialog, careful deliberation rather than pandering to voters, and actual governance rather than sound bites. But in keeping his promise, he is being denounced as not being tough enough. Americans love to complain about partisan bickering, but if you aren’t partisan and dirty enough, they criticize you as weak and ineffectual.
He has also been the recipient of the Republican strategy of “throw out attack after attack, no matter how ridiculous or untrue, and see what sticks” (with the full cooperation of the media, eager to sell). I remember when they were attacking Obama because he was “doing too much”. That didn’t work, so now it has switched 180 degrees and all you hear is that Obama hasn’t accomplished anything. Do we really have that short an attention span?
For example, Newsweek blasts on their cover “Yes He Can (But He Sure Hasn’t Yet)“. Even Saturday Night Live piles on, saying that Obama’s two biggest accomplishments are “Jack and Squat”. This is plain silly.
Esquire magazine takes on this idiotic conventional wisdom in “Whaddaya Mean Obama Hasn’t Done Anything?“, which lists the impressive things that Obama has accomplished in his first year. You know, Jack like reversing the economic downturn and singlehandedly changing America’s reputation in the world, and Squat like banning harsh interrogation, funding stem-cell research, appointing Sotomayor to the Supremes, and cutting taxes.
Yeah, cutting taxes, remember that? How quickly we forget.
Not to mention that it looks like he will manage to get health care reform through Congress, despite insane opposition from the insurance and drug industries, the Republicans, other assorted wing-nuts, and even some of the more hard-line people on the left. Health-care reform — that’s something that even more politically savvy presidents like FDR and Clinton failed to achieve.
So on this Christmas Eve, let’s try to be thankful. I want liberals to remember all the things that Obama has done for them: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, ending Bush’s war on medical marijuana, reversing the total politicalization of our justice department, restoring funding for overseas family planning, and those things I mentioned above. I want conservatives to appreciate that Obama didn’t cut and run from Afghanistan or even Iraq, but instead worked with hard-liners like General McChrystal and Leon Panetta to keep America strong, getting tougher on Al Qaeda in one year than all of the attacks from the Bush years combined, and the above-mentioned $288 billion tax cut. I want business leaders to appreciate how he bailed out the economy, reversed the credit crunch, saved the American auto industry (did anyone notice that Ford Motors announced a billion dollar profit this week?), and managing to go longer without a major terrorist attack than when Bush took office.
As the Esquire article sums it up:
So the question, a year since we elected him, isn’t how much Obama has accomplished. The question is why we’ve turned so small and mean…
Let’s have some holiday spirit, and appreciate what we do have, instead of bemoaning what we don’t have … yet.