I voted for Barack Obama for president because I saw him as left of center. Obama's record as an Illinois state senator (1997-2004) and his short time as a U.S. Senator (2005-2008) provided me with little or no evidence that he was a progressive or a far-left liberal. Perhaps, his "call for change," the fact that he is the first Black-American U.S. president, and some wishful thinking, gave Obama a progressive look to some. Hilary Clinton or John McCain/Sarah Palin were not acceptable alternatives to me. For the most part, I am not disappointed in Obama's presidency so far.
Let's take a look at his record of accomplishments during his first 17 months in office,
Arguably, he has done more than FDR and LBJ -- the standard many use to measure accomplishments -- in the same amount of time in office.
Here are just a few of his major accomplishments: health care reform (imperfect though it may be); a$789 billion economic stimulus package; auto industry bailout; selectingSonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court; credit card reform;allowing more federal money for stem cell research;new policy on Cuba (allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones); financial regulatory reform; successful challenge to Arizona's immigration law; and improved relations with Russia. And this is only a partial list.
Although the Democrats hold a majority in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, Obama had to deal with the Congressional Blue Dog Democrats, and the lack of a filibuster-proof Senate much of the time. At the beginning of the 111 Congress,
there were 435 Representatives with 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans. Of the 257, 54 are a coalition of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats and without them, the Democrats do not have a majority in House.
At the start of the 111 Congress, there were 58 Democrat Senators with Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders officially listed as Independent, but who usually caucused with the Democrats, giving them 60 votes. Of these, there were about nine Blue Dog Democrats. Without them and Lieberman and Sanders, the Democrats did not have a majority, and certainly not a filibuster-proof Senate. At the time of the health care debate, Senator Joe Lieberman said hewould joina Republican filibuster of any health care legislation that included a public option, leaving the Democrats at the time one short to defeat a filibuster. That's why the health care legislation does not include a public option.
Clearly, the Blue Dogs exercise considerable sway in both Houses of Congress and Obama's (and Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Reid's) accomplishments are that much more remarkable.
Finally, Obama had to deal with the Republicans, the party of "no." The Republicans hope that constant opposition will pay dividends at election time. When Republicans vote "no" in unison, then every Democratic vote becomes crucial, and every Democratic senator can demand to be bribed. The Republican "no" strategy is irresponsible because an opposition that never compromises means gridlock.
Unfortunately,there is little media attention given to how much he has done in his first 17 months in office. Rather, the media has focused almost exclusively on Obama's critics, without holding them responsible for the uncivil, unconstructive tone of their disagreements or without holding the previous administration responsible for the mess Obama inherited.
I admire Obama for focusing on results that take time to come to fruition. When things go too slowly to suit the left or not in the direction that suits them, they become frustrated and blame the moral character of their leaders. Some day, the left (and progressives) might get around to blaming Republicans.
Of course, there is much to be done during the remaining half of Obama's first term in office. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear ambitions, immigration reform, global warming, an energy policy, eliminating the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, reduce unemployment, and reducing the $1.47 federal deficit, come quickly to mind. The very difficult takes a little bit longer. This means that liberals and progressives must keep Obama's feet to the fire during the remaining part of his first term in office.
Hopefully, the democrat and independent voters will wake up in time to punish Republican candidates at the mid-term elections. If you are disappointed with Obama, ask yourself whether voting for Republican candidates would be in your self-interest.
I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since (more...