There is a rising chorus of impatient progressive bloggers, some on these pages, calling Obama a failure and a do-nothing president only nine months into his first of four years as president. SNL's "do-nothing skit" on Obama may well have empowered some on our side to start playing on the fringes of the Limbaugh sandbox. While the charges and name-calling are not as vicious as the Limbaugh Lemmings, it has started nonetheless.
So what has our newly-minted asshole president been doing for nine months?
Let's start with what he has not done. He has not found a cure for cancer, reversed climate change, ended poverty, brought peace to the Middle East, ended all wars, created enough new jobs, or created a single-payer healthcare system. These are big ticket items that no president will ever accomplish, so it is a little disingenuous to suggest a standard for Obama that does not apply to all past presidents or to future presidents. As Princeton economics professor Alan Blinder says in assessing what Obama has accomplished so far, "If he seems to have achieved little, it's partly because he set out to do too much." To which I would add, and we created an unrealistic agenda for what we wanted him to accomplish.
Let's continue with what he has done. First and foremost, none other than theWall Street Journal, in an assessment titled, "Democrats Quiet Changes Pile Up", says he has accomplished more in nine months than George Bush did in his first nine months.
Let's be specific:
1. Significantly, he buried the Imperial Presidency of George Bush and restored the Constitutional balance of government by respecting the equal standing of the legislative branch of government. As a former constitutional law professor, this is a major matter of change of tone and style that he promised during the campaign, and he has delivered. (Not pretty or necessarily effective given the Reid-less leadership in the Senate, but we are a constitutional democracy.)
2. Passed and signed the stimulus package, the biggest piece of legislation--ever--in blinding speed, thus being able to start to stabilize the economy, with GDP now projected to grow at the rate of 3 percent by the end of the year. Check the comeback of your 401K since Obama has taken over.
3. Stabilized the top 20 banks without federalizing them.
4. Reduced the rate of foreclosures inherited from the Bush administration.
5. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that makes it easier to sue for wage discrimination, a dramatic reversal of the bill's fortunes under Bush.
6. Granted regulatory power to the FDA to control tobacco products, another dramatic reversal of the Bush years that industry has lobbied hard to prevent.
7. Signed the Matthew Shepard Hate Act that expanded federal hate crime protection to categories of sexual orientation and gender, to the major consternation of the Religious Right.
8. Killed the F-22 fighter jet program, a popular program with Congress, saving billions of dollars.
9. With a stroke of a pen, enacted, by executive order, (see correction below in comments, it was a bill signing) the largest conservation measure in 15 years, spanning the Bush and Clinton records.
10. Implement an electronic medical record system before any healthcare legislation was introduced. This new technology will be singularly responsible for saving lives and reducing the high administrative costs of healthcare, a key element of reform.
11. Extended a $2500 tax credit to 5 million families to help with college tuition.
12. Cooperated with Japan in bringing a $5 billion stabilization package for Pakistan.
13. Engaged the Muslim world in a dialogue, beginning with his unprecedented speech in Cairo, followed by an interview with Al Arabiya, and face-to-face discussions with Iran, a total reversal of the Bush years of Muslim baiting and hate.
14. Dramatically reversed the reputation of the United States around the world, with now most nations looking favorably on the US, and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize as one consequence.
15. Agreed to plan for bringing the troops home from Iraq, at a slower pace than what he promised, but based on knowledge that commanders-in-chief, not candidates, have.
16. Brought the White House online, doing for the White House what he had done for political campaigning. There are now online Q&A's with the administration, and a White House blog.
17. Released the names of all visitors to the White House, a total reversal of the secret Bush years.
18. Told Mexico that the US is responsible for some of their drug problems, a no small, but truthful admission.
19. Restored the rights of states to regulate the medical use of marijuana without fear of federal law enforcement intrusion.
20. Banned the use of torture, and he has begun a complete review of the torture policies under Bush.
21. Appointed the first Latina to the Supremes: Imagine what would have happened to the Supreme Court under four more years of radical Republicans. Obama has thus averted a long-term dramatic swing to the extreme right on the court, and appointed a progressive to keep matters in check.
In summary, and to those on these pages and elsewhere who see things differently, I say this feels a little like Waiting for Godot. Let's recall one thing that Samuel Beckett said in the mischievous play:
"The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all. It is true the population has increased."