George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan are considered to be among the greatest presidential leaders in American history. All of them navigated the country through turbulent times in which America was threatened by outside forces. Washington led the American Revolution. Lincoln won the Civil War and freed the slaves. FDR managed the country through World War II and dug the U.S. out of a depression. JFK faced down the Russians in Cuba and averted a nuclear confrontation. Reagan brought down the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War.
So, where does Barack Obama rate among past U.S. presidents? As with a number of highly rated presidents, Obama has fought wars; in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against terrorists. He has attempted to reconstruct our society, initially by offering health care reform, and now as he attempts to reformulate immigration policy.
Let’s examine seven important areas and assess Obama’s performance in each category.
1. Health Care
This was Obama’s first major initiative after being elected in 2008. Obamacare is an extremely expensive attempt to provide affordable health care coverage to all Americans. In a nutshell, the program will supposedly benefit 30 million Americans. This would be acceptable if the other 290 million Americans in the country would stand to gain something from Obamacare.
The president promised to lower overall health and medical insurance costs, which have not come to fruition. So now, the price tag for Obamacare is substantially higher and only a limited number of Americans will benefit from it. The program will not begin until 2014 (maybe), six years after it was first proposed.
What else is wrong with Obamacare? To mention a few:
- Many uninsured people do not want to pay for it. Note: The program does not work unless all Americans participate (especially the healthy ones who may offset the sickest among us).
- Many states have refused to cooperate affording Americans only one choice. Having choices was intended to be another benefit of Obamacare.
- The medical community is generally unhappy with the effort to date.
2. Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
Obama has been in office 4½ years and these wars, or remnants of them, continue. Lives are still being lost and lots of taxpayer money, needed in the U.S., is funding fruitless initiatives. And worse, all the lives and treasure invested in these countries will not produce a democracy (not that this should be the ultimate objective) or even peace among the different social groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shiites and Sunni are anxious to reengage each other and continue their 1,000-year struggle after the U.S. disengages completely.
Obama had an opportunity to prove he is a great wartime leader by ending these conflicts immediately. Lives and money would have been saved, and the outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan would be exactly the same. Unfortunately, his generals and diplomats, who thought they could salvage hopeless situations, seduced him into increasing the American presence in the region.
3. The War On Terror
Frankly, Americans do not know whether Obama is doing a good job fighting terror. Al-Qaeda was supposed to be defanged, but the Benghazi scandal has proven otherwise. Obama is using drones to kill suspected terrorists throughout the Middle East. He despised this type of warfare when Bush was conducting it, but now he has an affinity to this “safer” way to kill “his” enemies; apparently Obama is comfortable in his role as judge, jury, and executioner.
GITMO was supposed to be closed the day Obama took office. “Oops,” he exclaimed. “Where am I going to transfer all of the mass murderers and terrorists if I close GITMO?” The facility is still in operation, and Obama keeps criticizing it. It’s been four years, Mr. President. You own GITMO.
America supports 10 or 15 or 20 million undocumented aliens. The situation screams for leadership and creativity. Two steps backwards follow every step forward in the debate. The president has not taken a hands on role in this controversy including offering an endgame. What will the status of these people be the day legislation is signed, one year later, and 10 years later regarding citizenship and the right to vote?
Everyone in our nation’s capital hates each other. Obama has done nothing to temper partisanship. His opponents are so frustrated by his arrogant and aloof style that they will do anything to foil his initiatives. Obama has declared war on all Republicans, the Tea Party, conservatives, fat cat bankers, affluent Americans, and any one who disagrees with his policies. It is folly to expect any productive legislation between now and when this president’s tenure is completed.
Has any presidential administration in recent history been more secretive than Obama and his aides? He and his people are opaque. Their aversion to transparency has fueled the Internal Revenue, Associated Press, and Benghazi scandals. Cover-ups, a desire to turn missteps into positive events, and shifting blame to opponents and subordinates are destroying the Obama legacy.
No energy policy. Scandals. No improvement in prospects for African Americans and Millennials (Obama’s greatest supporters). A continuing debt crisis. No effort to stem the tide of entitlement growth.
Needless to say, my assessment of this president is not good. The country suffers endlessly, and he wants Americans to have hope and to trust him. His oratory that propelled him into office has become a never-ending string of broken promises. America has lost faith in its leader, and so our confidence and excitement about the future has waned.
If I were an Obama adviser, I would recommend he immediately develop better relationships with his adversaries in Congress; it is never too late. Otherwise his administration will be fallow for the next 3 ½ years.