The things about President Barack Obama that I find endearing are also the things that I find annoying. And incidentally, we’ll probably be seeing more of these things in the last two years of his Presidency, now that the Republicans control the Senate.
I admired Barack Obama for being an open-minded centrist and a
conciliator, and also for standing by his principles, regardless of what
anybody thinks (a paradox, I know). In 2008, I read his book, The Audacity of Hope,
and, although I would go on to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, I
really liked Obama’s book. The reason was that he seemed to me to be
trying to understand where people of different ideologies were coming
from. He rejected right-wing conservatism, but he also acknowledged
where it made valuable points, and he admitted that the Left’s ideology
was not perfect, either. He presented himself as one who could bring
factions together, while reminding voters in the Democratic primaries
that Hillary was a divisive figure.
But, paradoxically, I also respected Obama’s stubbornness. He would
not allow his opponents to define who he was, but he fought back. When
Hillary and later McCain tried to portray him as green on foreign policy
because he was open to meeting with the President of Iran without
preconditions, Obama offered a cogent defense of his stance. Obama even
highlighted McCain’s irresponsible statements (i.e., bombing Iran),
putting McCain on the defensive! When Obama was inaugurated, I
respected him for proceeding to nominate Chuck Hagel as Secretary of
Defense, even though many Republicans were highly critical of that
choice: after all, didn’t you know? Israel is always right, and we made
such good moves in the Iraq War, so Chuck Hagel was obviously misguided
in straying from such truths. (I’m being sarcastic here, in case
readers can’t tell. More than one person mistakes my sarcasm as what I
But the strengths I admire can also become traits that turn me off!
On conciliation, how many times did President Obama roll over and let
Republicans do what they wanted? Remember the sequester. And, when
Obama decides to be a fighter, he comes across as arrogant, acting as if
he is above the political process and blaming the other side, promoting
good ideas when we know that those ideas have little chance of passing,
at least not in this political climate. What is especially sad is when
he merges these two approaches. For example, he talked tough about
Syria, then didn’t deliver.
Now that the Republicans have the Senate, we’ll see more of the same
thing. Sometimes, President Obama will agree to Republican demands.
Other times, he’ll talk tough from a position of powerlessness. That’s
my prediction. I will give him this, though: he will probably continue
to make efforts to do what he can as President to effect his vision,
through executive orders, perhaps through whatever power he has to
decide on the administration of funds. But the Republicans in Congress
will challenge him every step of the way.
I don’t really regret voting for him, considering the other options
that were out there. Although I voted for McCain, I now have my doubts
that he would have made that good of a President. He would have
probably gone the opposite extreme to where Obama is: he would have
conducted a bellicose foreign policy, which wouldn’t have been helpful.
The Supreme Court would also be further right than it is now. That
would be bad, considering the horrible decisions that have come from the
conservatives on the court now (i.e., Citizens United).
I also doubt that Romney would have been that good of a President.
He was making gaffes almost every week, alienating foreign allies. Even
though today I look at the world and feel that it is falling apart, I
doubt that McCain or Romney would have made things better.
Maybe we shouldn’t have elected a man who had so little political
experience. Barack Obama was a community organizer and served two years
in the Senate. His supporters assured themselves that he was smart and
charismatic, and that would compensate. Well, he is smart! But Jimmy
Carter had a high IQ, and he was not a particularly effective
President. It takes smarts to be President, but it also takes more than
academic knowledge. It takes competence.
So where should I go from here? There’s Hillary. I don’t like her,
but maybe she is more politically savvy and competent than Barack Obama
has been. I also appreciate a point that more than one progressive
article has made: that a lot of reform can occur at the local level. A
number of states and cities have raised the minimum wage. Some states
have progressive health care policies.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that I would do a good job if I were
President. Being President is a tough job. But we all have rights as
citizens to have opinions about our leaders and whether they are