How has President Obama done so far?

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A Brief Review of Obama’s performance for 2009

See also the more recent review: How has President Obama done so far–a spent political force?

On 20 January 2009 the global economic and political community greeted the position of the US President Barack Obama clearly as a historic moment, given that it is the first African American President of the USA. At the same time, he came to the White House with the key election slogan “We can change”, with Americans and the world full of hopes. Over the past year Barack Obama has satisfied some, and disappointed more. During this time he managed to win the Nobel Peace Prize without having the time to apply his policies and accomplish actual results in the political life of the world. His personal popularity remains high, however his policies are not popular. He made several promises. Let’s see if he kept them.

Handling of the Economic Crisis

He promised to the Americans voters that the rescue of the US economy is the main priority of the White House. The American economy has bottomed out and returned to a slow growth.   Unemployment remains at the high rate of 10%.  The American firms do not seem willing to move forward in creating new jobs, while the average American consumer refuses to once again become the mainstay of the economy. The “bailout package” of 770 billion support dollars, indeed, saved banking system and motor industry. However the rescue of banks seems to have a flip side. Obama understands and decided to move to the offensive by proposing special taxes on profits and executive compensation of banks, to push for the  ban on commercial banks to invest in, or to support of hedge funds, in private investments (private equity) or to have an extensive investment activity in proprietary trading. The critics insist that this is not a president’s responsibility to save the banks.

Restructuring of Health Care

Particularly ambitious proved the objective to reform the health care system and to be accomplished in 2009. The recent victory of republican Scott Browne in the elections of Massachusetts (after the death of Ed Kennedy), with the result that Democratic Party losing the senate super majority of 60 votes, raises even greater obstacles in the reform of the system. However, the leading political analysts say that if it is able to “move” the reform of the health system, really Obama “will write history”.  It will be the largest reform of the health system of the USA since 1965, i.e. when the health care system Medic-care was created. Critics say that the president is misreading the public sentiment on the issue. The recent summit of the president with the congressional leadership of both parties gave a clearer picture of the difficulty in a compromise bill. It seems that the president is willing to take the political risk through the “reconciliation” process, or propose over time a series of bills that in total he accomplishes the same result that the present proposed and failed bill was designed for.

Iraq & Afghanistan

Obama has kept his promise to ‘planned’ US withdrawal from Iraq, changed the policy in Afghanistan. Some now characterize the whole case as “the war of Obama”.  His decision to send an additional 30.000 American troops in Afghanistan has been accepted by “mixed’ reactions. The conservative Americans applauded. The Liberal Americans (from which the Democratic Party derives its largest share of the voters) was disappointed.

Iran & North Korea

Obama promised that he will not follow the ‘policy of isolation’ applied by his predecessor, George W. Bush. He promised that he would dialog even with the most sworn enemies of the USA with his first choice to indicating a small ‘Opening’ for Iran, but maintained the traditional position of the USA that Tehran must abandon its nuclear program. It appeared – always compared with Bush, more conciliatory as to and North Korea. It remains to be seen, however, if North Korea will reciprocate. So far it has not. Iran has ignored the USA approach in halting its nuclear development program.

Foreign Policy

He abandoned the policy of George W. Bush. Obama wanted to “open channels of communication” with the Islamic world by making trips in several Muslim countries. He has not managed to achieve the promise of closure of Guantanamo Bay by the end of 2009 as he announced a year ago. He is, however, sufficiently close to that objective. The Americans consider that he ‘casts’ excessive weight in matters of foreign policy, while should have turned his attention – almost exclusively – on the problems of the American economy.

Terrorism

Despite the fact that the US has not faced with a strong threat until the Christmas day Delta Airline flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, this incident, despite being unsuccessful it restored the issue of terrorism in the spotlight. Obama took care to take responsibility for the lack of the appropriate reaction of the security services of the USA he did promise that there will be the needed changes and reforms.

Environment

He promised that the US will become the country-leader who campaigned against overheating of the planet and will help to save the environment. The non-binding agreement at the summit in Copenhagen for the climate clearly cannot be regarded as a success, neither for Obama nor for the other participating leaders. He promises that he will propose a series of measures for reducing emissions by the American industry and he will support non-polluting technologies and alternative forms of energy. In this field the achievements of the first year in power could be concluded as poor.

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