Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 21, 2016

You Think Obama’s Been A Bad President? Prove It

Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) — Tell me again why Barack Obama has been such a bad president? I’m not talking here about him as a tactician and communicator. We can agree that he has played some bad poker with Congress. And let’s stipulate that at the moment he’s falling short in the intangibles of leadership.

I’m thinking instead of that opening sequence in the show “Mission Impossible,” the one where Jim Phelps, played by Peter Graves, gets his instructions.

Your mission, Jim (and readers named something else), should you decide to accept it, is to identify where Obama has been a poor decision-maker. What, specifically, has he done wrong on policy? What, specifically, would you have done differently to create jobs? And what can any of the current Republican candidates offer that would be an improvement on the employment front?

I’m not interested in hearing ad hominem attacks or about your generalized “disappointment.”

I want to know, on a substantive basis, why you think he deserves to be in a dead heat with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and only a few points ahead of Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann in a new Gallup Poll. Is it just that any president — regardless of circumstances and party — who presides over 9 percent unemployment deserves to lose?

Left, Right, Center

Every day you’re pummeling him from the right, left and middle. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham even attacked the president for letting Libyan rebels take Tripoli instead of burying Muammar Qaddafi under American bombs months ago. Here we have the best possible result — the high probability of regime change for about one-thousandth of the cost of getting rid of Saddam Hussein and no bad feelings from the locals — and Obama gets savaged anyway.

Like everyone else, I’ve got my list of Obama mistakes, from failing to break up the banks in early 2009 to neglecting to force a vote on ending the Bush tax cuts when the Democrats still controlled Congress. He shouldn’t have raised hopes with “Recovery Summer” and “Winning the Future” until the economy was more durable. I could go on.

But do these miscalculations really mean it’s time for him to go?

Most of the bad feeling goes back to the first year or so of the Obama presidency. And in hindsight, those decisions really weren’t so bad. To prove my point, let’s review a few areas where he supposedly messed up.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2011 The National Memo
  • childofgod1948

    I agree with you 100%, Jonathan! I voted for Obama in our last election and……would not hesitate to vote for him again. My heart goes out to a man that would give all he’s got…and then be cut to shreds by the opposing party (for everything he does……even when it was initally their idea!) for no apparent reason but politics. The Republican Party and big business have done everything possible to make Obama look bad. Big money runs this country basically. If you dare to step on their toes( as Obama has at times) they are determined to destroy you in whatever way that they can. I personally don’t know how obama has the strength to keep going at times……and, gee, I wonder where all that gray hair came from. He has had very little (if any!) support from anyone …..even those that voted him into office. How sad!! If you want to see this country go completely downhill, let’s vote a Republican into office as President in 2012….or maybe a Tea Party person! What a joke. I give credit where credit is due. And, Barack Obama is certainly deserving of loads of credit. Do I wish that he had done more? Sure do!! But, in the same token, I certainly understand why that did not happen.

  • rcbCAL

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” MLK

  • CliffordSpencer

    In his personal memoirs, President Grant said that the Mexican War was unjust.
    Was he correct or not?
    What does the Tea Party thinki about it?
    Clifford Spencer

  • CliffordSpencer

    President Grant, in his personal memoirs, said that the Mexican War was unjust.
    He derided President Polk.
    Was he right or not?
    Clifford Spencer

  • jwozniak

    It’s about race. Right from the beginning, you saw the racially charged signs and heard the racially charged rhetoric. And I’m pretty sure it has had a deleterious effect on the President’s ability to push back against his critics and their tired old talking points. Personally, I’m tired of it. I’ll vote for Mr. Obama again, possibly campaign for him here in Pennsylvania, but I wish he’d be a bit more forthright in standing up for himself, and us, and stop compromising with the Tea Party. It is harming the country.

  • NeilTheis

    I think the biggest misunderstanding, of all who voted for President Obama or any president, is that a president cannot just say “I want this done” and it will be done. Doesn’t anyone remember their high school government classes? I also have not seen any president put his political career on the line just to try their best to get something done for the people like President Obama has. Did I want to see the Bush tax cuts extended for another two years? No. Did I want to see everything that we got in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts not get done ever? No. Have I forgotten that when we had control of the house as well as the senate and white house that we still didn’t have enough of a majority to get all of the things done that we wanted to? The answer is still no. Everyone who voted for President Obama needs to remember all of the filibusters and the members of our own party who voted with the Republicans almost all of the time. Blame them not President Obama. Also progressives like Adam Green need to stop cutting him down for things that are not his fault. I have never heard Adam Green cut down any of the Democrats in Congress who voted against the policies of President Obama. People like him have stepped over that thin line that separates left wing possessives and right wing extremists. And unless they want someone from the Tea Party as the next president they had better step back over that line and review exactly why everything didn’t go as they wanted it to.

  • innluck

    While I was reading the intelligent analysis of Alter an ad by Bachman asking to sign her petition to make President Obama a one term President. NOW THAT WILL CREATE JOBS OR HELP OUR ECONOMY! She and all Republicans never talk about how they would run the Country. This negativity is not helpful and will destroy our Country.

    One of the best Presidents we have had. Imagine a thinking, kind, analytical even professorial person for President, how lucky can we be! But he is constantly criticized even for wanting to enact items that the Republicans were for but now against just because President Obama suggests it.

    He gets no help. Remember the people who gave President Bush positive Press saying “he is doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time”. When almost everything he did led us to our current disastrous state. But the positive Press helped President Bush keep his power.

    The Republicans in this phase of their history are anti facts, science and policies that would help get us out of this total mess. President Bush did leave two wars, an economy on the brink of bankruptcy and tax cuts to make matters even worse.

    Their stated goal is to make President Obama a one term President. Now that would be disastrous!

  • lllindsey

    Mr. Alterman’s article is the best I have seen written by any pundit in the Presidents 2/1/2 years in office. I wholeheartedly agree with one of the other comments, “Its all about race”. How any reasonable thinking person could vote republican at all is mind boggling. You heard it here first the republicans hate President Obama because he is black and smarter than all of them. The republicans are willing to destroy the people in the american economy just to get elected. That to me is evil. Strong words but thats what I believe. You dont hear these words often, but the President needs to use the power of the executive order whenever he can because the republicans are all about “HATE”.

  • peteserb

    Only a Progressive (liberal) could write this non sense extolling the virtues of the Obama administration.There never has been a less experienced egotistical person than this fool in the White House.

  • Fay Brugger

    I am so puzzled and amazed that intelligent people who saw what Obama inherited when he became president could be so set on tearing him apart with all kinds of criticism. Most of them are Republicans. I bet if the next president is a Republican he would be torn apart just as much and would not do a good job. Can’t people see that Obama cares more about helping the citizens of this country than helping his own career? Can’t they see that he held out to save Social Security for people who would have been devastated without that monthly allowance? Are people so blind that they can’t see that the Republicans do not have their best interest at heart? Can’t they see that any decision the President wants to enact is put to a vote and cannot be carried out unless the vote is in his favor? For the first time in a long time we have a President who thinks more of his country than of himself. He has said that many things take time to change. Folks, wake up and realize that this is a good, caring, unselfish man in the White House and you need to stop critizing him, look at your true enemies–the Republicans–and vote for him again for a second term. I certainly will vote for him. Personally, I would not run again after seeing the gross ingratitude and fickleness of the American public. Those against him expected miracles which cannot be accomplished when he is constantly being torn apart with criticism. Wake up folks and smell the roses. Look what he inherited. The Republicans damaged the country and he inherited the problems they caused and now he is being blamed. I am thoroughly disgusted with all those against Obama. I consider them small minded ignoramuses who need to shut the hell up and give support to the leader of their country. Try to recognize the good he has done.

  • dcole

    The negativity in our country needs to stop. Any politician that makes their top priority “to make Obama a one term President” has got his or her priorities out of line. The top priority should be the welfare of the country and the world around us. There are many things that Obama has done that are in the best interest of the country and should be recognized. Bush did good things while in office, but he also followed some poor advice. Starting a war in Iraq without understanding the culture and history of that area was a big mistake, especially since Bin Laden had nothing to do with Iraq. Giving breaks to the rich was wrong–it did not create jobs–it eliminated many.
    We are developing a big divide between the rich and the poor in this country, and the middle class is being “squeezed out”. We are a country of high ideals, and we need to remind ourselves of that–equality for all and freedom of speech AND RELIGION are paramount to what we stand for. There is no reason our national and political discourse should be filled with such hate. That is not who we are (I hope).
    My son lost his job and his home during Bush’s term. The company is slowly coming back and he is starting to gain some financial security. It would be a lot faster for him and others if Congress would focus on rebuilding our infrastructure as Obama has asked over and over again. We need better transportation systems, better energy efficiency, more research funded–and that takes tax dollars. It would put people to work and would better our standard of living.
    In my younger days I considered myself a Republican–fiscally responsible. I have long since become an independent. And I am greatly turned off by the negative campaigning and “dirty tricks” that I see come mainly from the Republican party. I do not see fiscal responsibility in the Republican party–I see deals for the wealthy–tax cuts and loopholes. Why do the oil companies all show high profits during this time of recession? I thought they were supposed to help pay for the “war in Iraq”. If oil companies are truly receiving subsidies or tax breaks from our government, it should stop.
    We need the Tea Party to focus on constructive, not destructive issues. I really like the message that Obama has been giving–I wish more people would listen to his words and not put “sinister” meanings behind them. He is a good man and his words are inspiring.

  • BUCK_E

    I guess If someone put a gun to my head and made me choose my political “alignment”, I’d have to go with republican. In fact that’s how I’m registered. My problem with the whole situation Is that what I see, and it’s all I’ve seen for some time now is these “clowns”(sorry if I’m insulting any of the ones that wear make-up and sport big red noses,didn’t mean to do that!) in this circus they call “congress” LOL..base their vote on what advances or serves the associated political party FIRST. Who cares what is better for the country.
    I never used to be ashamed to tell anyone that asked which political party I was a member of but now I’d be ashamed to claim ANY of them. How about just claiming to be American, and base any decisions on bettering the country rather than advancing their political party.
    By the way, If you must know, I’m a white male over 40 and voted for Obama because in my opinion he was the best of all choices for someone to lead my country.I’m an equipment mechanic/comm. tech. by trade off work because of this slump, but even I’m smart enough to see that Obama is only dealing with the mess left behind by several of our previous “elected leaders” and has done a remarkable job considering the “politicians” (am I still allowed to say that “P” word or is this gonna be cut because of offensive language??)he’s stuck with.And that’s all our faults for allowing them to carry on this way!! And at this point if the election was tomorrow he’s got my vote again.
    PS: I’d never make it as a politician because it must take years of training to be able to accept a paycheck cut from taxpayers pockets knowing all the things I could/would of done if I actually earned it, and yet be able to keep a straight face while its being handed to me.

  • kylindy

    Hear, hear Mr. Alter. Thank you for standing up for our president. Very few voices in the media defend Obama these days. Obama has my vote and the vote of many people I know who respect him as a person and all of the hard work he has done.

  • Fay Brugger

    Well spoken. The above comments are beautifully expressed. Hopefully a lot more people will eventually see and accept the truth of our politics. It is refreshing to know that there are some very intelligent people out there who are not mislead by self-serving, selfish politicians.

  • joe barry

    Everyone who voted for President Obama needs to remember all of the filibusters and the members of our own party who voted with the Republicans almost all of the time. Blame them not President Obama. Also progressives like Adam Green need to stop cutting him down for things that are not his fault. I have never heard Adam Green cut down any of the Democrats in Congress who voted against the policies of President Obama. People like him have stepped over that thin line that separates left wing possessives and right wing extremists. And unless they want someone from the Tea Party as the next president they had better step back over that line and review exactly why everything didn’t go as they wanted it to.

  • caseydc2

    His EO’s take rights away from Americans. How about those electric plants in Texas that got shut down because they burn coal, even though they put clean air out with the scubber they have in order to meet EPA rules. His comment is “let them burn coal we’ll bankrupt them. He says he wants transparency but blocks any attempt to get any information on him or his actions. How about not stopping the illegals from crossing our borders and then making thous here legal. He promised to get us out of Iran and Afghanistan, gets the Noble Peace Prize and then okays bombing in Afghanistan and sends in a seal team to kill someone without their knowledge or approval. How about the bombings in Yemen by the US? How could he use the war powers act to send our planes into Libya when we where not being threatened. If we had been being threatened it would of been all over the news and there was nothing! Why did NATO bomb military equipment and sites in Libya with our help when the rebels where suppose to fight the troops. I do not blame him for us being in Iran or Afghanistan, just for us still being their. Expanding to other places and still going. He said that President Bush was wrong an unpatriotic for adding four trillion to the debt and yet look at what he himself has done. I would not vote a second time for any president with that kind of record, I do not care what his/her party!!!

  • Fay Brugger

    caseydc2, you are one of those stupid, opinionated illiterates who just do not understand what Obama is trying to do. You are one of those people whose thinking will only harm this country. You are one of those people who jump to conclusions and make snap judgements without thinking of the consequences. You go right ahead and vote for someone else. I bet if the person you want to be the next president does win, after a few months you would be tearing his policies apart also. It is so sad that people like you are citizens of this country. You are so full of hate and self righteousness. You pass judgment on the president without really trying to understand his actions and why he does them. Why don’t you just shut up and stop spouting off!

  • marty

    I am constantly amazed how people can have such different insights. Is Obama a good President? Lets see… he created the most divisive racial dialogue in decades. He promised transparency and bipartisanship, but gave us insulated unaccountable Czars and mysterious back room deals. He promised that huge spending would keep unemployment down to 8% — that turned out wrong. He forced Socialized Health Care through a partisan controlled Congress, and now we’re in limbo with serious legislative challenges, market uncertainty and significantly higher costs. He promised to close Guantanamo. He said he quit smoking. He is a social buffoon, bowing to Sheiks, giving cheap egotistical gifts to important heads of state, and apologizing for America’s last century of progress. He speaks too soon, changes his mind, jumps to wrong conclusions, and shows his inexperience on a daily basis. I could go on. Re Elect this president? NOT.

  • different clue

    Your challenge is a fair one, Mr. Alter. It would take hours on a computer of my own, which I don’t have. Since I can only use workplace computers in odd moments of time, I will point you to a website containing articles which make the case against Obama. It is Naked Capitalism by Yves Smith (and sometimes guest posters).
    Here is an article referrencing Obama and Schneiderman specifically.
    It is called . . Power Politics: What Eric Schneiderman reveals about Obama. Link here: (By the way, it is by Matt Stoller who was one of Congressman Grayson’s senior staffers).

    I will cutpaste a few juicy paragraph bits just to give a flavor of the article and get a few Obama supporters so enraged that they decide to read the whole article so as to go to its comments section (which is open to all) to try and rebut the article. Ready? Here goes . . .

    “In all the absurdly stupid punditry, the simple application of free will to our elected officials goes missing. Yeah, Obama got money from Wall Street. But Obama is choosing to pursue a policy of foreclosures and bank bailouts not because of any grand corporate scheme. He just wants to. He thinks it’s the right thing to do, and he’s doing it. If you don’t think it’s the right thing to do, then you shouldn’t be disappointed in him any more than you might have been disappointed in Bush. Obama is not trying to do the opposite of what he’s doing, he’s not repeatedly suckered by Republicans, and he isn’t naive or stupid. Obama is simply doing what he thinks is right. So is Eric Schneiderman. So is Tom Miller. So are any number of elected officials out there.”

    and . . . “The banking system is really at the heart of our politics, which is why it’s such a great test of one’s political theory of change. I’ve been following the foreclosure fraud story for a few years now, because it’s the tail end of a massive economy-wide fraud scheme that started as early as 2003. The securitization chain failure can’t be put back in the bottle, the housing system it collapsed is simply too big to bail. So elites keep trying to patch this up the way they have everything else. It isn’t working. And their scheme has been obvious and obviously dishonest. Along with Obama (who I criticized as empty as early as 2004, ratcheting this up to dishonest and authoritarian by 2006-2007), I pointed out that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller was engaged in serious bad faith only a few months after the negotiations started.”

    and . . .”When you look closely at most significant areas of government, it becomes clear that the President and his administration are enormously powerful actors who get a lot done. Handing over our national wealth to the banks and to China is not nothing. These people are reorganizing the economy and the political system so that there are no constraints on the oligarchical interests that fund and pay them. That is their goal, it has been their goal from day one (or even before that), and anyone who says otherwise is just wrong or deluding him or herself. Obama spoke at the founding of Robert Rubin’s Hamilton Institute, and his first, and most important by far policy initiative, was his whipping for TARP, a policy that was signed by Bush but could not have passed without Obama getting his party in line. That was his goal, and he’s still pursuing it. The numerous “what happened to Obama” wailing editorials overlook the consistency of his policy agenda, which stretches back years at this point.”

    Oooh! Oooh! this one’s really gonna hurt . . .
    “If someone worked or works for the Obama administration, or the Department of Justice, or any other executive branch agency, they need to remember their service as a mark of shame for the rest of their lives. Remembering how they participated in this example of how to govern is literally the least they could do for the damage they have caused. I would leave out the small number of people who are there to overtly prevent as much damage as possible, and those who resign or are fired in protest.”

    So there you have a small taste, Mr. Alter. Why not, you know . . . click the link and read the whole article? Why not read some of the other articles there?
    And by the way, ask yourself how you spin Obama’s completely voluntary creation of the Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission, his completely voluntary attainment-in-law of
    a payroll tax “holiday” designed to starve Social Security of funds in order to make it more politically vulnerable to attack, his offer in the debt “crisis” talks to raise the medicare eligibility age to 67, and other such actions of his own free will? Like I said, if I had hours I could give you tens of links to a coherent set of case-buildingly specifics-loaded articles. But heck, you’re a journalist. You have the skillset to find these things out. So go thou forth, and do the research.

  • kurt.lorentzen

    There’s no way to “prove” something so subjective. On a lot of fronts Mr. Obama has been stellar (even though his detractors would never admit it). But if there’s an area where he’s failed it’s in not considering more than one perspective. Let me say that every politician is guilty of surrounding themselves with like-thinking individuals who analyze, advise, and yes, suck up to their boss. But in the world of finance and the economy there’s no clear right or wrong way to do anything, and policy has to be flexible enough to change when there’s so strong a disagreement on how best to make things better by equally qualified economists on every front. From a common sense perspective, a little (or a lot) of everything is going to be required. The administration can’t just continue to print money and hope the influx of money trees will magically start to bear fruit. You need fertile soil for that. The “stimulus” is a band-aid, so let’s say it helped to prevent a bigger recession. Now we’ll need to work the production side as well. Another “stimulus” is counter productive. To be a success on this (the most important) front, Obama will need to realize that more needs to be done to stimulate the private sector (not just banks and wall street) and that means adopting many of the common-sense directions from non-Democrats (and not just Republicans). Failure to do so will amout to just that – failure.

  • caseydc2

    First Amendments rights to say what I think, feel, and believe and I DID IT WITHOUT INSULTS. I stated facts. Check his EO’s and read them with open eyes and mind then tell me honestly that most do not take away our rights. How about TSA and them taking the 4th amendment and destroying it with the illegal searchs of people? He likes writing EO’s how about one to stop them He pushed for his health care package and it has over three hundred items that have nothing to do with health care. It takes away your right to decide for yourself if you want health care insurance or not. You do not want it to bad we’ll take it out of your income tax return. I just realized nothing I just said will mean anything to you. This country had more freedoms in 1949 when I was born then we do now. Back then people did not think that they deserved welfare, they worked for what they wanted. We had fewer socialist programs, those where thought to be for communist countries like the USSR, Cuba, and China to name a few. How about the NLRB, which was created by President Obama, getting involved with Boeing building a plant in NC that was to employ over a thousand people, but only if they where Union. Why don’t the employees have the right to choice union or non-union.
    According to our founding fathers it is all AMERICANS RESPONSIBILITY to watch and criticize the elected officials, if we feel they are wrong, then they know we are watching. A government OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE. You seem to feel that our president is doing a good job and has great good plans for this country. Okay tell me what he has done and what the plans are and what the end will be.

  • fedupwithcons

    My God, Casey! You are either suffering from gross ignorance or gross delusion or both! TSA was created by the Republicans after 9/11! How many EO’s has Obama written compared with Bush Jr? The escalating health care cost was killing the American economy before the Affordable Care Act, with its several provisions such as the individual mandate that Republicans used to support, was enacted! It is not perfect, but it is trying to bring the costs and premiums under control. Only the communist countries had universal health care? What about Great Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and others? Those are all democracies where people can and do vote out the party in power, unlike the communist countries. If the single payer health plans there are too terrible as you believe, why didn’t the people there vote in the party that promised to repeal it, like the Republicans here want to do? There are conservative parties in those countries, you know, but they are not bunches of crazies like you and the American conservatives. Obama created the NLRB? What a hoot! Boy, your ignorance AND bias are really showing! Roosevelt created it in 1934!!! It gives the workers a level playing field in dealing with the management. Unions helped creating the middle class by getting the management to give the workers decent wages and working conditions. You’d rather that you and your loved ones live in squalor with a short lifespan like in late 19th and early 20th centuries? Do you really like child labor? Government of the people, for the people, by the people. That is a definition of democracy. Unfortunately, the Republicans prefer government of the people, for the wealthy, by the wealthy! In another word, a fascist plutocracy.

    Stop showing off your abysmal ignorance of history!

  • FranklinWheeler

    If Obama mocked and ridiculed Michele in public or if he sneared at her when she made a remark he disagreed with would he be considered a bad husband? Would he call her Michele names or look the other way when his friends did because she oppossed him on an issue would he be considered a bad husband? If Mr. Obama made utlimatums toward his wife with threat of public ridicule if she didn’t give him carte blanche on an issue would he be seen as a bad husband?

    The relationship between a president and the country’s citizens is like a marriage. President Obama regularily mocks fellow citizens for disagreeing with him on issues such as healthcare, immigration and the economy. He and his lackies are guilty of name calling and deminishing others with ridicule. Now his, “my way or else” approach to fixing the economy when most have concerns with the validity of his approach makes me believe Obama is a bad president.