Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making the grade

So, Barack Obama has been President of the United States for a year and a day now, and everybody and his/her kitty has weighed in on what kind of job he is doing and what grade he should get. Everybody except me and my cat Nicholas, that is. But now we are going to remedy that.

Nicholas is very emphatic about the grade that he gives Mr. Obama. It's an F. As best I can determine his grading system is based solely on what he refers to as "the dog issue." I guess he means Bo. (I'm sorry to admit that Nicholas does have some prejudices.)

As for the grade I would give the President, it is based on my own political prejudices. I am a liberal. In the political world as it exists in this country today, that means that I generally vote for Democrats because they come closest to the values I believe in. There are no liberal Republicans. Heck, there aren't even any centrist Republicans. There is only the far right and the lunatic fringe right.

As a liberal, I voted for Barack Obama for president in the general election. In the primary, I had supported Hillary Clinton because I thought she was the better candidate and because I dearly wanted to see a woman become president in my lifetime. I still think she was the better candidate, but once she dropped out and supported her primary opponent, I supported him, too.

A year ago, Barack Obama took over the biggest mess any president has ever had to deal with on his first day in office. An economy in ruins. Two wars - one totally unnecessary and the other that should have been wrapped up years ago. A country that was despised and reviled around the world. Through his actions, he kept the economy from going off the cliff. (I would have preferred he be bolder, but at least he did the minimum required.) He set some timetables for ending the wars. ( I would have preferred shorter time frames, but these are knotty problems, made so by the previous administration and it is hard to argue against the decisions he has made.) He has issued orders to stop torturing people and has affirmed his belief in the rule of law and his willingness to listen to and cooperate with other countries on a wide variety of issues. This has probably been his greatest success in the past year - turning around the image of this country in the rest of the world.

Where he has failed, and failed miserably in my opinion, is on the legislative front. Instead of providing strong leadership, he has constantly deferred to Congress and left it to them to hash out conflicts. He has been conciliatory in the extreme with Republicans who have rebuffed and denigrated him at every opportunity. He is obviously a decent man who always wants to treat others well, but in order to treat the country well, the country that gave him its reins a year ago, he may need to be less conciliatory. The Republicans, as presently constituted, will never compromise with him and will never be helpful in constructing policies to benefit the country, because they want him to fail. They want the government to fail, because they do not believe in government. In order to succeed with them, President Obama is going to have to be willing to bash some heads together and to provide strong leadership for his fellow fractious Democrats.

The change that I voted for in 2008 was leadership that was bold enough to lead us out of the mess we were in, leadership that would return us to the liberal values that have kept this country as a beacon to the rest of the world in past decades. That bold leadership has not been forthcoming yet. I still have hope that it will emerge but I have to admit that I am getting close to the opinion expressed by Paul Krugman in his blog yesterday, namely that he's "pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama."

My grade, then, for the President for his first year is a "gentleman's C." And I won't hold that "dog issue" against him.

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