Where has the time gone? Wasn't it just yesterday we were basking in the warm glow of a near-lanslide victory for the then Senator Barack Obama? Was it not only a few hours ago that I could barely speak because I was hoarse from celebratory screaming? I'm certain I just turned off the election returns coverage so I could come in here and compose another post for my blog.
No, Michael, it wasn't yesterday. Time, as it is always doing, has slipped away. John Lennon once wrote, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." I swear to you, I never intended to wait this long to start writing again. I contemplated a 2-3 day break to let the victory settle in, and then I'd be back. It appears my estimate was a little off!
So, how've you been? Are you still writing? Is your passion still as feverish as it was in November 2008? Yeah, I know, it comes and goes. Me, too. I'll wager, though, that you're getting geared up for another fight, right? Me, too.
It feels different this time, doesn't it? I mean, last time, we were looking at an unknown commodity and thinking, "Gee, I hope so." Here, in April 2012, we've had time to get to know the man. We've watched him work, seen how he approaches the job. So, waddaya think? How's he been doing? Me? Well, I'd say, taking everything into account, he gets a B+. If this were "Rate-A-Record" from the old American Bandstand, I'd give him a 75. He's got a great beat, but he's sometimes hard to dance to. Let's look some things over, shall we?
On the plus side, we have the Affordable Care Act. For the first time in American history, we have a national law that seeks to provide coverage for all, while at the same time reigning in private insurance abuses. We no longer have "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", one of the poorest attempts at showing support for Gay people ever devised. The war in Iraq is over. An economy that nearly caused "The Greater Depression" is slowly recovering. People are keeping their homes, and going back to work.
On the minus side, (and some of you believed there wouldn't BE a minus side), Gitmo remains open. The LGBT community still can't get married in most of the country. Americans are still dying in Afghanistan, even though we killed Bin Laden. The GOP grabbed control of the House, due in part to the President's rather lukewarm opening 2 years. And the economic engine, while running better, still has a few misses. Bottom line, there remains much to be done.
As things stand today, Barack Obama will not make anybody's list of the greatest American Presidents. He won't make anyone's worst list, either. He's no Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy or Clinton. Neither is he Bush 43, Reagan, Hoover or Buchannan. Every President dreams of making the first list; and has nightmares about making the latter. President Obama clearly doesn't have it in him to join those lower ranks with W, Regan et al. What everyone still wonders is, does he have what it takes to be at or near the top?
Admittedly, his first term has put him a little behind in the legacy department. He's also a bit of a victim of history. Abraham Lincoln saved the Union from dissolution and abolished slavery. FDR recreated the economy and saved the whole world by winning World War II. John Kennedy stared down the Soviet Union and made them blink. Bill Clinton inherited his own sputtering economy and left office with a budget surplus.
There are, however, parallels to be drawn. Lincoln's Civil War was North vs. South. President Obama is confronted with a different, but no less important Civil War. It is war against Women, Children, the Poor, the Middle Class, etc. Some have even alluded to secession as a possible solution. While we still may have 50 states, the issues facing our current Commander-in-Chief are no less devisive than slavery and states' rights were in 1860. This President will be judged by history, in part, by what he does to reunite a fractured citizenry.
Franklin Roosevelt inherited the Great Depression. He didn't cause it; he wasn't President when it started. But he boldly undertook the most extensive run of government spending in history and rebuilt the American economy. President Obama inherited his own historic economic crisis. His reelection, and his legacy, hangs on the electorate's view of how he has met this challenge.
John Kennedy had the Soviet Union, Communism, and Castro. Hollywood enemies if there ever were. Upon discovering missiles being deployed some 90 miles from our border, he took the nation to the brink of nuclear war. Nikita Khrushchev backed down and brought his missles home. It took a while, but President Obama found and killed the most hated man in American history, Osama bin Laden. History should judge this President favorably for this accomplishment.
Bill Clinton faced a $290 Billion budget deficit in 1993, the largest federal deficit in American history at that time. 8 years later, he turned over a $230 Billion surplus. He could also point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He also balanced the budget. President Obama still faces staggering deficits, high unemployment, and an economy still weakened from the failed policies of the previous administration. History, and the voters, will certainly judge the President on this crucial issue.
In a debate during his run to unseat incumbant Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan asked the now-famous question, "Are you better off now, than you were 4 years ago?" The voters answered, correctly, with a resounding "NO!". Reagan prevailed and served 8 years in the White House. This question will, I'm sure, be asked again this year. It should be asked every time we hold a presidential election. It is perhaps the best yardstick for measuring the effectiveness of any Chief Executive. The answer from the electorate this time should be, "YES!" The country is far from fixed. No president will ever solve all the problems facing a country as large and diverse as ours. But this President has his head and his heart in the right place. The country is moving in the right direction again.
He can't get it all done, even with 4 more years. But, I believe we are better off now than we were in 2008. And I believe we will be better still in 2016 if we are deciding President Obama's replacement rather than Mitt Romney's reelection.
Yes, I'm back. Thanks for waiting.