Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Here's what's (been) great about: the Obama administration

By: Emma Shinn

It seems to me that once a President gets into office, he’s completely screwed from the word “go.” No matter what is done, it was always the wrong thing to do, and very few people are going to agree with it.

There is a saying which states that “you can please all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” In the case of the President, however, I would advocate amending that to simply, “you can’t please anybody. Ever.” That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s still tragically close to the reality of being the leader of our country.

This seems to have been especially true when it comes to the current administration. While a great many people will recall making fun of George W. Bush when he was in office, the fact of the matter is, the Bush White House managed to pass a number of far-reaching and influential policies, including the advent of the Department of Homeland Security following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The Obama administration, on the other hand, has seen widespread support among voters and other citizens, but has been far less successful in actually carrying out its agenda. This is largely due to the fact that the President has had to work in conjunction with a Congress that literally seems to get nothing accomplished. The lack of policy-making, whatever the reason for it, has lead to what feels like a constant barrage of negative attention being lavished on the President and his staff. But perhaps we should take a moment to acknowledge some of the achievements that have been made over the past three years.

As far as actual legislation goes, President Obama might not have the most extensive policy history, but there have been quite a few major positive victories. Since taking office, Obama has gotten the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy (barring openly gay soldiers from serving in the military) repealed; signed a bill that upped the money spent on national defense, military personnel and equipment, and foreign policy; and forged new trade agreements with South Korea and Panama. He has also enacted multiple policies that work towards causes such as controlling childhood obesity and getting healthier food into schools, protecting children from domestic abuse, protecting the environment, discouraging hate crimes and establishing stricter sentencing for those who commit them, and protecting the identities of credit-card holders and internet users.

In non-legislative terms, Obama has also made great strides that seem to be constantly looked over. The President has given speeches on, appointed personnel to further, and generally advocated greater global cooperation and civil rights. He has withdrawn American troops from warzones – as promised - and yet is still called “weak” when it comes to foreign policy. Even the most publicized military operation of the last four years, the killing of Osama bin Laden by Seal Team 6, has been contributed by and large to nearly inconsequential actions of the previous administration, rather than to the Commander-in-Chief who authorized it.

I would say that President Obama deserves more credit as a positive leader than he’s gotten. I understand that, after the brilliant, heart-stopping campaign he ran in 2008, it’s easy to say that he hasn’t followed through on his promises. However, we need to look at some of the reasons for this. The President has been up against opposition from the very beginning. He has faced a Congress that simply would not work with him (or with each other), who ended up with the lowest approval rating of all time, and we still wonder why he hasn’t passed more of the legislation that we’d like to see. The media’s lack of faith in his abilities to uphold the words of his campaign also contributed; a little negativity goes a long way in making things seem hopeless.

I’m not absolving the administration of blame for the things they’ve done, or not done, to appease the masses. I’m not saying that everyone should suddenly start looking back at the last three years through rose-tinted glasses, and imagine that everything has been fantastic in our government. I’m just asking that, come November, when everyone goes to the polls and ponders over who to vote for, you take a moment to say to yourself, “What has been great about the Obama administration?”

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