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Was Obama a good President?

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, November 10th, 2016 - 65 comments
Categories: International, us politics - Tags:


Not since 1993, when FDR took office at the depth of the Great Depression, has a president confronted such a grave and profound economic crisis on the first day of office. Over that first year, many wanted greater intervention, or less, from his responses to it. But the results are that his policies were more successful than Roosevelt’s. Obama ended the recession, and disengaged the nation out of two foreign wars.

After FDR, President Reagan has long been considered the best modern president for national economic performance. But job creation under President Obama kept unemployment from peaking as high as it did under Reagan. He promoted more people into the workforce than under Reagan. Under Obama, the US has had the best private sector jobs creation performance in modern history. The decline in labour participation rates has been largely due to male and female baby boomers retiring. Sharemarket listings and performance have gone through the roof under Obama.

The federal deficit is down 70%, from $1.4 trillion when he started to $439 billion in 2015.

US taxes are as low or lower than at any point in the last 50 years. Except for the 2% over $400k, who pay more now.

Dependence on foreign oil has shrunk. The US now exports more oil products than it imports. Renewables are seriously challenging coal across many fronts.

At least 20 million more US people now have health insurance than before Obama. Sure, it needs fixing. But the Affordable Healthcare Act built on Hillary Clinton’s efforts, and has been a massive policy breakthrough.

The US currently has fewer soldiers, sailors, and air force in foreign war zones  than they did under either of the Bush presidencies. He brought the troops home. He suppressed almost all new domestic terrorism and killed the terrorist super-villain Bin Laden, after near-nationwide panic only a few years earlier. He was spectacularly dove-ish compared to all presidents since Carter.

Obama cut groundbreaking deals on Cuba, Iran, and climate change.

But he didn’t close Guantanamo Bay. Not for lack of trying, but fail mark there.

No meaningful immigration reform was passed. No difference whatsoever on gun control either.

He made valiant but futile attempts to change the political logjam of Washington. It got worse.

But the biggie is racial inequality. The wealth gap between US black and whites has grown. Tension between black people and the police has gone truly bad. The US proved it could elect its first black into what Muhammed Ali called “The Black House”, but overall this didn’t improve the lives of black people particularly in justice issues.

But Obama never promised radical change. He was never in a position to achieve that anyway. What he did do was stop a whole bunch of things from getting worse, and set in place a set of major policies that will continue to pay off for the medium and long term, both domestically and internationally.

He was thoughtful, progressive, rational, super-calm, fact-focussed, and could take and give good jokes. The epitome of campaigning in high poetry, and governing in cold black prose. He was exceedingly well supported by a very, very clever and telegenic First Lady in Michelle Obama. Scandal free, high in delivery, and got better and better. He was highly successful in the economy, in social policy, and in international affairs.

That’s a pretty high benchmark to follow.

65 comments on “Was Obama a good President?”

  1. TheExtremist 1

    I think history will remember him well

    • Morrissey 1.1

      If you think well of someone who presided over more arrests of government whistleblowers than all previous presidents added together; if you think well of someone who after every Israeli massacre in Gaza expressed sympathy and support for the perpetrators not the victims; if you think well of someone who has done nothing while Chelsea Manning rots in prison, Julian Assange is forced to take sanctuary in London [1] and Edward Snowden in Russia; if you think well of someone who is perhaps the world’s most unconvincing method actor [2] then, yes, Obama has been a “good president.”

      [1] http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/16/12939232/julian-assange-wikileaks-chelsea-manning-obama

      [2] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-23116760

    • Colonial Viper 1.2

      In two or three decades, Barack Obama will mainly be mentioned, whenever he is mentioned, as the largely mediocre prologue to that remarkable President who made America great again – Donald J Trump.

      • One Two 1.2.1

        Obama is already in the books as a failure there is no need to wait for the institute of controlled academia to catch up and confirm it as such

        The comment about Trump I highly doubt, and despite your backing him to become POTUS (which I understand) I can’t imagine you sincerely believe he can deliver

        Do you actually believe he can and will “make America great”?

  2. Crashcart 2

    A pretty rosy picture that ignores some of the more horrible sides of his presidency.

    He launched more drone strikes than any previous President and took the extrajudicial killing of US citizens abroad to new heights. you can argue they were terrorists all you want, they never got a trial.

    He bailed out the banks to a huge level with no requirement for that investment to flow through to the regular mortgage holder who ended up losing their home.

    He instituted limp regulation around banking that has seen banks that were to big to fail only become bigger.

    Finally he made progress in the right direction with Obama care how ever how quickly can that be undone. The US will now have a President who has said he wants to repeal it and a Senate that has tried numerous times only to be vetoed by Obama. How long until millions of Americans lose the insurance they got from Obama’s one true success.

    • Garibaldi 2.1

      Don’t forget his promise to rid us of nuclear weapons, then going on to spend more on them than any other President…..oh, and his admission that the only thing he was really good at was killing people.

    • rocco siffred 2.2

      “He launched more drone strikes than any previous President and took the extrajudicial killing of US citizens abroad to new heights”

      He didn’t think through what that power means when Trump takes the keys to the drone garage now did he? Despite the many warnings.

      • Ad 2.2.1

        The administrative failure there was to not constrain the CIA drone programme and the Pentagon drone programme into a single regime with public scrutiny. CIA successfully resisted and the White House gave up trying to control it.

  3. gsays 3

    while no u.s. politics scholar, i see obama’s legacy intrinsically linked to the election of trump.

    obama essentially kept the same financial heads at the table that bush had appointed, inequality gap got bigger and dissatisfaction for the establishment grew.

    undoubtedly a great orator, intelligent and engaging, obama showed how hard progress is, when fighting with a republican held senate.

    • Morrissey 3.1

      undoubtedly a great orator

      Wrong. Martin Luther King, who Obama shamelessly imitated, was a great orator, whose speeches were full of content and substance, not just sound. Obama’s vacuous “hope and change” rhetoric in 2008 was perfectly sent up by Sarah Palin a couple of years into his regime. When you’re owned by Sarah Palin, you’re actually the antithesis of a great orator.

      • gsays 3.1.1

        hi morrissey,
        ok, would competent, engaging speaker suit you better?

        • Morrissey

          Yes, on a personal one-to-one level, I can see what a pleasant, engaging person Obama is. And he does speak well, undoubtedly. But he was not a great or inspiring speaker—his speeches during that “inspirational” 2008 campaign struck me as bombastic in the extreme.

          No amount of rhetorical window-dressing can disguise the gloomy fact that he has presided over seven wars in the Middle East, the extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of Pakistanis, Yemenis, Iraqis and Afghans, the continual undermining and destruction of democracy in Brazil, Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela and many other countries, and of course the persecution and jailing of democratic activists in the United States itself.

          Perhaps the moment that sums up Obama best was this cowardly display in Havana. Undoubtedly he feared that fronting up and shaking hands like a man would have been pounced on by Fox News and the other jackals he seemed to respect more than anyone else….

  4. Manuka AOR 4

    He was never in a position to achieve that anyway.
    Very true.
    And now a bloody racist has free rein/ reign and massive power.

    Generally agree with your assessment Ad.

  5. esoteric pineapples 5

    Obama’s big mistake was always trying to find the middle ground with the Republicans. He had an opportunity in the first six months of his Presidency to make radical progressive changes. After that his hands were tied.

    Also, he has had almost a year to appoint a new Supreme Court judge which he had every right to do, and yet he left that till after this election which means abortion could become illegal in the US amongst other things.

    Now, nearly everything he achieved is vulnerable to being trashed.

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    My Koreans students liked the rhetoric. Within a year we’d concluded nothing was happening.

  7. TheExtremist 7

    He is definitely the funniest president in recent memory (I mean purposely funny – unlike Bush who was incompetently funny)

  8. Morrissey 8

    Now that he’s officially a lame duck, now’s the chance for him to actually do something worthwhile. Honoring some real heroes might be a good start….

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would turn himself in to US authorities if President Barack Obama grants clemency to Chelsea Manning, the organization said on Twitter Thursday. WikiLeaks’ statement was released one day before a Swedish appeals court decided to maintain a warrant for Assange’s arrest over a 2010 rape charge. Assange has said that extradition to Sweden would lead to his eventual extradition to the US, where he could face charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of secret government documents.

    “If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to US prison in exchange — despite its clear unlawfulness,” WikiLeaks said in a tweet on Thursday. The tweet included a link to a letter from Assange’s attorney, Barry Pollack, calling on the Justice Department to be more transparent about its investigation into WikiLeaks.


    • Siobhan 8.1

      As the owner of a second hand book shop I’m expecting to have banana boxes of Obamas ‘The Audacity of Hope’ that no one will ever want to read again.
      They can sit next to the Lance Armstrong books in the ‘crap’ legacy shelf.
      Or maybe I’ll hide them in the ‘Political Arseholes’ corner with the Hillary and Thatcher books, next to Kissinger’s wee gems. So many decisions to be made….

      • Morrissey 8.1.1

        That sounds like a wonderful collection of books, Siobhan! I might come in some time and see if you have Richard Prebble’s comic masterpiece I’ve Been Thinking, Bill Clinton’s Giving, and Tony Blair’s sinister A Journey.

      • Lanthanide 8.1.2

        Have you made a fort out of Fifty Shades of Grey?


        • Siobhan

          Noooo, don’t touch that stuff myself…but I did consider a padded cell made from Dan Browns ‘Da vinci Code’.
          Though I’ve seen enough of Prebbles book to pave the barbecue area.

          Fun fact…he sent that book out during the 1996 Election with a cover letter describing it as a ‘loan’, to unsuspecting recipients as a way to get around Electoral advertising restrictions.

          There’s probably a bunch of old ladies down in Wellington living in fear of Prebble jumping out of the bushes and asking for his book back.

      • rocco siffred 8.1.3

        “I’m expecting to have banana boxes of Obamas ‘The Audacity of Hope’ that no one will ever want to read again.”

        Did anyone read it the first time?

    • The New Student 8.2

      I don’t know why that guy just doesn’t front up. A real hero would take the rap

      • Morrissey 8.2.1

        Someone calling itself “The New Student” seems a little bewildered.

        I don’t know why that guy just doesn’t front up.

        Then you shouldn’t be commenting.

        A real hero would take the rap

        This, and this alone, is why the U.S. and its vassal the U.K. are seeking to exact vengeance on Julian Assange….

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    Obama ended the recession, and disengaged the nation out of two foreign wars.

    They’re actually still in recession and they’re still in the ME – it’s just a little more covert.

    How do I know that they’re still in recession? Because the people at the bottom are still becoming worse off while the rich get richer. No, it’s not the official definition but it’s probably a lot more accurate. In a properly functioning economy the reverse happens and then stabilises to everyone having a similar income.

    Sharemarket listings and performance have gone through the roof under Obama.

    That’s what happens when the Fed is printing money hand over fist and giving it to the private banks. Under the circumstances, It’s not an indication of a working economy but one that’s falling over.

    At least 20 million more US people now have health insurance than before Obama.

    A well functioning society neither needs nor has health insurance.

    Of course, there was no way that any good policies were going to get through – only heavily compromised policies. The Senate and Congress would have stopped any good policies that Obama tried to get through.

    • Rae 9.1

      Unless the US radically reforms its political system, nothing will ever change, it was deliberately set up not to, now they have a centuries old system that is creaking and groaning under the pressure of modernity, where everyone gets a vote not just free, white men

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1

        The US system, and representative democracy itself, was designed to prevent the people having power. Set up, in fact, to protect the rich and to ensure that they kept power. Indications are that Washington and many of the other Founding Fathers wanted an American aristocracy but they weren’t going to get one with all of the armed peasants around who wanted democracy.

  10. s y d 10

    pffft…Chris Hedges has him down

    “he functioned as a brand for the corporate state”


  11. JoeTheLion 11

    He was black. Thats all that mattered right?

  12. b waghorn 12

    1993?? 1933 maybe

  13. Peter Swift 13

    Like usual, the more hysterical Morrisey gets with his ‘contributions’, the more inclined I am to take a differing stand.
    Obama was a much better president than any I can remember before him, and certainly an epoch greater than the crazy clown they’ve just elected.
    Hindered at the start by the GFC and blocked at every turn by the republicans playing obstinate politics following, he was always going to be up against it, and he was.

    His biggest mistakes were not having the conviction to implement plans to assist the popular uprisings during the arab spring, and letting the gangster president of Russia get balshy in Syria, when he should have put troops on the ground to take out Assad from the get go.

    • Chris 13.1

      So deep.

    • One Two 13.2

      So you rubbish Morrissey as well as CV, while actively choosing to take a “differing stand”

      How very immature an approach , Peter

      Followed up by advocating for the destruction of yet another sovereign nation by the nobel peace president

      Does being a chicken hawk keyboard warrior make you feel more of a man?

      • Peter Swift 13.2.1

        More of a man than the one who orders and the one who enables chlorine attacks and barrel bombs on innocents including children. 😉
        Go on, condemn Assad and Putin and then we’ll talk about my failings and contemplate immaturity.

        • Morrissey

          You should give up now, Mr Swift. You’re way out of your depth.

          • Peter Swift

            That might work when you bully women but not with me, mate.
            Bring it and write another dodgy review, if it makes the night pass easier, but do or don’t, you’re wasting your time stalking time. I got your card marked.

            • Morrissey

              I bully women, do I? You really have made yourself into a laughing stock here.

              And, by the way, here’s a little friendly advice: You need to edit what you write, and in particular check the spelling. Your posts need all the help they can get.

              There’s a good fellow.

              • Peter Swift

                There’s no laughing I see. A bit of weeping, sure, you guarentee it, but regardless of that, I’m confident/arrogant enough to not give a sh1t anyway, even when you use spell checker fails and imagined spelling mistakes to make a victory out of mind numbingly shocking defeats.
                You on the other hand, you’re all over the place when your cred is called into question. The weak left I call your types.

                Speak to the points made or get the spare sock from the draw and wipe away.

        • One Two

          The situation is an abomination but I do not pretend to be an oracle on events

          I draw conclusions through the reading I’ve done in the situation, which I assume is similar to your level of involvement

          The difference appears to be that I don’t presume my conclusions are ‘reality or factual’ because I’m not on the ground doing independent investigative work

          Neither are you, yet you make statements as if you have factual information to the extent that you advocate further war crimes by The USA to destroy yet another sovereign nation…

          So not only are your comments immature, it appears you’re also woefully informed and illogically arrogant, simultaneously…

          I’d not be at all surprised if your handle is simply a bullshit artists dribble!

          • Stuart Munro

            Do ‘sovereign nation’ and ‘military dictator’ really fit in the same sentence? If you let a murderous fellow like Assad off the hook, why not Obama?

            • One Two

              I’ve pondered briefly if yourself and Peter are infact one and the same

              The writing style and point of view are remarkably similar in some ways

              Moving along to your comment in case you are also Peter Swift…

              1. Syria is a sovereign nation there is nothing more to it than that
              2. Only Russia are operating ‘legally’ inside Syria, which makes any and all actions performed by every other entity inside Syrian borders, “illegal’. Its as simple as that

              I make no specific statement about who is doing what because it would only be my opinion, not a statement of fact

              Which is the premise of my reply to Peter….don’t pretend you know what’s going on. You don’t!

              • Peter Swift

                “I’ve pondered briefly if yourself and Peter are infact one and the same”

                And just think, a little more pondering would have seen you reach the correct decision, saving yourself from the public humiliation that comes with making idiot pronouncements.

                Spectacularly embarrassing swing and miss, coming after – “it appears you’re also woefully informed and illogically arrogant, simultaneously”

  14. ianmac 14

    Can the President of USA actually cause much to happen? Or is it down to the shadowy back roomers and advisers. Yes Minister and all that. Let alone the elected House and Senate.

  15. Guerilla Surgeon 15

    To be fair, as far as domestic policy went he was hampered by the fact that the Republicans had gerrymandered their way into control of the Senate and the House and were determined to block every initiative he ever made.

  16. Adrian Thornton 16

    Under Obama Black Americans have lost ground in every major economic category, this fact alone speaks volumes about his non existent legacy.


  17. McFlock 17

    The drone programme, and its associated expansion of JSOC deployments across the globe, was smart but not really “good”.

    I won’t go so far as to paint it as evil, but it was a smart way of approaching realpolitik (heh actually kennedy-esque, given the creation of SEALS was by JFK). On the flipside the additional pressure on smaller number of troops puts an increasing burden on the small portion of the US population that is military – that pressure might get vented by people who are very capable at killing.

    But there are indications Obama did try to be objectively good where possible – efforts on healthcare and closing quantanamo are a case in point

    • Morrissey 17.1

      Our philosophical friend McFlock comments on the illegal assassination/terror program of the U.S. regime….

      “I won’t go so far as to paint it as evil….”

      Clearly this fellow is in possession of a very, errrr, “advanced” ethical system. I wonder if he would be as sanguine and philosophical if some rogue regime started killing hundreds of people in his own home town.

      • McFlock 17.1.1

        I ain’t your friend, buddeh.

        I wonder if you’d be such a sanctimonious prick if you knew what you were talking about.

  18. save nz 18

    Barrack Obama looks great on paper and he did achieve some good things.

    Unfortunately he also presided over the most assassination drones ever deployed.
    The most mass surveillance ever deployed.
    Worsen inequality through TPPA and other trade agreements.
    No prosecutions for torture.

    So maybe if you are Pakistan or Afghanistan you might not think he did a good job. Maybe Snowdon does not think he did a good job. Those people who were tortured against international law do not think he did a good job. The blacks shot dead by police do not think he did a good job. I don’t think many citizens in the rest of the world think he did a good job. Clearly many American’s did not think he did enough of a good job to trust Hillary Clinton and his endorsement of her.

    Obama being a great president on paper is like the dreamworld CEO did a good job and deserved her bonus because only a few people were killed on her watch . For many involved in the neoliberal business, death is just a side effect of increased profit and power.

  19. millsy 19

    I always thought Obama gave too much away to his opponents. Look at healthcare. He had a huge mandate to push through single payer health care, but somehow ended up with Obamacare which is probably more expensive for people.

    • rocco siffred 19.1

      He never had the slightest chance of getting a single payer health care system in place. Far too many democrats were against it.

  20. Chuck 20

    I don’t think Obama wants to be remembered for this…

    “The White House opened the door today to a pardon for Hillary Clinton for crimes she may have committed in connection with her secret server.”


    • Colonial Viper 20.1

      I seem to remember lefties telling me that there were no crimes involved…

      • McFlock 20.1.1

        Yeah, but a pardon would also cover crimes that trump’s political prosecutor invents or, er, trumps up…

  21. Paul 21

    He will be remembered as a fraud and a maker of false promises.
    He was a tool of the military industrial complex.

  22. Yup 22

    History will call him a puppet of the banking/warfare establishment overlords.

  23. Manuka AOR 23

    Posted elsewhere by Joe90, this belongs here:

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  • Speech by the Minister of Defence to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs
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  • New Zealand privacy law modernised
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