Saturday, May 09, 2009

My Report Card on President Obama

I give him an A.

I remember listening to the state of the union address back in 2002 (George Bush gave the talk). I listened to the whole thing, and at the end, I realized I didn't agree with anything the President said.

What a difference seven years has made.

After 100 days in office, I give President Obama an A. Considering all the challenges he has faced, and with only a couple exceptions (which I detail below) I have been beyond impressed with his performance.

The overarching reason for his success? I believe it's because the President is doing everything he can to be outside the bubble of Washington. In an interview with 60 Minutes a few weeks back, Steve Kroft asked him about many on Wall Street who were not happy with him (Obama at the time was attacking excessive bonuses). Obama's response was right on the money. When he talks to those on Wall Street, he says, "They need to spend a little time outside of New York."

The President has spent time outside of New York. He's even held town hall meetings in republican friendly areas (Orange County, Calif.). And the questions from the audience are not even scripted. Even his process of reading 10 letters from ordinary Americans every week (I saw a CNN segment on the person who picks the letters) represents his attempt to connect to regular Americans.

The list of my reasons for liking the job Obama is doing is long:

-- Ending torture. Waterboarding is torture. Period. I agree with the President that we can get intelligence from key detainees through respected interrogation methods. More importantly, by not torturing we greatly enhance our image in the world.

-- An honorable ambassador. It's great to see the President received so warmly abroad. He has been both firm but also compromising on his international trips. The bottom line is while I love America, we can't solve our the world's problems by ourselves. And there are a lot of people out there who want to help.

As a side note, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also gets an A from me. It's great to see her abroad with the President. Further, I have been impressed by the entire group of U.S. emissaries, from Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke to George Mitchell. All of them are former Bill Clinton advisers/appointees.

-- Admitting mistakes. We live in a time of petty corruption. The public has had enough with politicians making excuses. President Obama to this point in his Presidency has already said "I screwed up." And you know what, even though he admitted a mistake, the country didn't fall apart and the Presidential office retained its authority.

-- Fixing the economy with an eye on the future. One thing I have definitely learned over the past several months is that green technologies are not cheap. Moreover, more efficient energy creation doesn't necessarily mean cleaner energy creation. President Obama is right to direct the government's role in recovery so that it leads the country where it must go. His focus on greentech and cleantech technologies, and his emphasis on electronic medical records and other healthcare reforms as a prelude to more significant healthcare changes is just what the doctor ordered, no pun intended.

-- His budget. Most of the priorities outlined in the previous bullet are emphasized in the President's budget. Announced shortly after the stimulus package passed, the budget will be Obama's permanent mark on this country. It is what will make him the next FDR. Marking the official end of the supply-side, trickle-down failure of the last nearly 30 years, Obama's budget recognizes that government may not be perfect, but at least it can be somewhat transparent, which is more than I can say for the greed of the average human.

-- His focus on an urban agenda. It's refreshing to have a President who understands the importance of this country's cities. As I live in Boston, you can imagine this concept resonates especially well with me.

-- Focusing the war on terror where the terrorists are. The Al Qaeda that attacked us on September 11 has reconstituted itself in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the Taliban that supported that Al Qaeda is controlling large swaths of Pakistan. That is the epicenter in the global (yes, global) war on terror.

Given all of the above, there are two areas where I do, in fact, disagree with the President, and it's important to outline them below.

1) Certain aspects of his energy initiatives. Cap and trade has had a troubled history, and I am not convinced it will actually encourage energy companies to invest in cleaner energy creation techniques-- I am also not convinced it will reduce CO(2) output.

2) Guns. Why the Brady bill was never renewed is beyond me. The fact that a normal average citizen can go out and buy a semi-automatic weapon is beyond scary. The President has decided not to tackle gun control. I understand the political reasons why, but it is disappointing.

In summary, there's no question to me that the President and his family represent this country superbly. And that just might be the most important box in my report card. While we still have a long way to go together, I say to my President, "Keep up the good work."

1 comment:

Josh Dawson said...

Great post, Ross. I agree with your assessment. Some good old Midwestern pragmatism!