Obama: The Comeback Kid

In Issues and Debate on December 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Today, President Barack Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislation that forced gay and lesbian servicemembers to live a lie for 17 years. This repeal is not only historic in terms of civil rights, but represents a campaign promise made by the President just over 2 years ago. Liberals and gay-rights activists have been chomping at the bits to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as well as the Defense of Marriage Act since they passed through Congress some years ago. With the election of Obama and Democratic control of the U.S. Congress, the opportunity was ripe for some movement on these very issues. The irony of this repeal comes as Democrats will soon lose control of the U.S. House and the President has been perceived to be on his political knees. Within the past 2 weeks, President Obama has shown that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Much to the chagrin of the liberal base, President Obama has recently saved unemployment benefits in a deal brokered with congressional Republicans to extend the Bush era tax-cuts. Though this move may have angered some on the Left, moderates are hailing it as a sign that the President is not without compromise as many conservatives stand speechless if not tearless. The Bush era tax-cuts represent an extension not just for the wealthy, but for all Americans and that is no small thing. With tax-cuts, unemployment benefits, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell out of the way, word now comes that the U.S. Senate is ready to ratify the new START Treaty with Russia, reducing nuclear armaments and providing greater transparencies of nuclear arsenals for both nations. Surpisingly, many congressional Republicans have crossed over just enough to make all of this happen. The truth is, American Governance is a game of compromise and highly utilitarian at its core. Obama is ready to play this game.

Despite the Healthcare debate of 2009, President Obama appears to be at his best when he is being underestimated. This reality is analogous to the early days of the 2008 election season as well as the final primary battle the President endured with Hilary Clinton and the right-wing media. Obama prevailed at the time and he has prevailed this past couple of weeks. He has found a small slice of space by which to meet in the middle while maintaining a left-center position far greater than that of President Bill Clinton. He is able to garner plebiscitary support from political heavyweights on both sides of the aisle and may now enter his third year in office with some very real victories that cannot be tainted by Palin-esque euphemisms such as ‘death panels’ or ‘socialism, communism, fascism, etc.’ Expanding freedom for gays and lesbians cannot be viewed through some fallacious political kaleidoscope with pictures of Obama as Hitler, for Hitler dreamed of exterminating gays as some Christian fanatics do in America today. Obama cannot be decried by the Left for tax-cuts to the wealthy as those same cuts benefit a struggling middle class and provide extended relief for those who are unemployed.

Indeed as we look back on the first 2 years of Obama, we must not forget what great things have occurred. The President has put two women on the Supreme Court and the first Latina in the process. Though Healthcare Reform was hotly contested, the President pulled it off. General Motors has been resuscitated and is building electric cars, all while recently going public on Wallstreet. The stimulus package may not have provided new jobs for the unemployed, but all research suggests that it saved millions of jobs otherwise.  TARP has saved the economy from further ruin and is on a faster pace to be paid back than originally estimated. On the foreign front, Obama has stopped the spiralling of America’s moral standing on the world stage by simply cutting out the hawkish rhetoric of the Bush years. Combat operations in Iraq have come to an end, drawing down a war begun under false pretenses and conducted with little respect for America’s fighting men and women as well as America’s spiralling budget deficits. Has Obama accomplished everything promised? The answer is no as it is for all Preseidents, but the last two years have had successes yet to be fully measured and this President has much more time, opportunity, and political capital than his critics and proponents would like to admit. 2012 is still a long way off and there is much work yet to be done. Happy Holidays.


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