Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Audacity of asking people to Hope

Barack Obama has been President of the United States of America for a whole year now. 365 days.

Remember this time last year? The inaugural address. The inspired scenes. Massive crowds. Words warm enough to break the chill of a Washington January day. That last one is perhaps poetic licence, but work with me here - President Obama's inauguration was a big deal. His election was "change you can believe in". Whenever he asked if he could do something the response was "Yes we can".

So, one year and one Nobel peace prize later, what has President Obama actually achieved?

  • He set a deadline for the closure of Guantanamo Bay (Jan 2010) then admits that it won't close then.
  • The US are still fighting wars in Iraq (despite Obama formally announcing a withdrawal) and increasing troops in Afghanistan... and still losing support.
  • He has passed some healthcare reform through Congress... but the two bills in the House and Senate respectively are vastly different and may not find common enough ground to make the difference Obama's healthcare package was supposed to. Especially in the Senate.
  • He has presided over an economy that saw a 9 month rise in unemployment in the US from 7.6% to 9.8% (Jan-Sept 2009).
  • He promised (again) to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the US military, but sets no timeline or deadline.
  • He's lost a Senate race in Massachusetts (well, he didn't, his party did) costing an opportunity to pass healthcare reform.

Of course I'm maybe being slightly harsh here. He has also reversed the Bush decision on stem-cell research, signed a stimulus package, helped out banks and car industry and, erm, got a dog for his kids. I'm sure there is more. Actually, I'm not sure... but there must be. Any Americans I've pissed off with this post should feel free to give me a list of achievements...

Maybe I'm just a born cynic, but I don't think its unfair to have expected more from the first year of his presidency. Or was the "change you can believe in" merely a symbolic change?

A change is gonna come, but it might be a long time coming...


James Mackenzie 20 January 2010 at 12:20  

The only part I think is unfair is the bit about presiding over a rise in unemployment. Seriously, he was handed a turd in a bap there by his predecessor.

Also, I don't really count the stimulus package as a win. Aside from that, though, I am feeling significantly less HopeFul too.

Malc 20 January 2010 at 12:25  

You are right on the first bit. And as much as you can blame G.W. for, I'm not sure that unemployment is one. Presidents don't create jobs, but if they are going to take credit when they are created on their watch, then they should take the blame when things go the other way too.

If I'd voted for him (which, obviously, I couldn't) I'd feel decidedly short changed.

James 1 February 2010 at 03:24  

I don't consider the stimulus package a positive. Obama signed a $787 billion behemoth of a bill (loaded with pork for his supporters), claiming that it would provide a "jolt" to the economy and keep unemployment no higher than 8%. (What's more, he argued that it would reach 9.5% if the government did nothing.) Here we are a year later, with a much larger budget deficit thanks to that bill, and unemployment is at . . . 10%. And now Obama is calling for ANOTHER hugely expensive stimulus bill (to go along with the even more hugely expensive health care bill, which won't "reform" anything). Naturally, the issue of our country is supposed to actually pay for all this debt we're running up is conveniently ignored. How did Einstein define insanity again?

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