Obama’s Term is coming to an End – Was his Presidency a Success?

Barack Obama is experiencing renaissance. He has 15 months to go, but apparently he is far from having been a lame duck.

In the course of a few months, the President has managed to turn around U.S. relations with Cuba; has publicly accepted that there still is racism in the U.S. in general and in the police force in particular; issued instructions for limiting factory emissions in order to improve the climate; co-created a political atmosphere where the Supreme Court accepts gay marriage; and managed to produce an agreement with four other countries and Iran on curtailing Teheran’s nuclear ambitions for 10 – 15 more years.

Through these achievements, he has managed to link the afterglow of this second term with the rigor of his first. He also pushed a broader healthcare provision through man obstacles, pulled out troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, declared both a reset with Russia (that failed) and a pivot toward Asia (that remains uncompleted). On the other hand, he failed to get even a partial solution for the conflict in the Middle East.

Even with the successes listed above, vital business remains deplorably uncompleted: Guantanamo won’t be closed until Obama will have to leave office, and gun control is not on reach no matter how many deadly incidents have happened.

How do you asses the – still preliminary – balance of the Obama administration? Do you give an A, B, C, D or F? Why?

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  1. Justas Paleckis 2 years ago

    During the remaining 15 months of being in power many things can still happen, but I am convinced that Barack Obama’s presidency has been successful. He fulfilled his promise and managed to reduce US involvement in military conflicts in various parts of the world. On the other hand, the US position was pivotal in the NATO’s response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine in quickly expanding rapid reaction forces – this is especially appreciated in Eastern Europe. Yes, the reset policy with Russia has not reached its goal, but the attempt of it I would also value as a positive thing. With the President Obama’s initiative two historical steps in the domestic policy were taken – the introduction of broader health care provision system and issued instructions for limiting factory emissions of factories. His statement that climate change is the greatest challenge for humanity, more dangerous than other threats is highly regarded. Although the same was announced by the European Union only 7 years earlier. However, very little has been done and there is a risk that also in the future the local conflicts and crises will redirect attention away from this fatal problem for mankind.
    Barack Obama did not manage to fulfill all the pre-election promises. But he will leave the White House as more socially just and overall will leave having created a more peaceful America.

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  2. Alexei Voskressenski 2 years ago

    I believe that Mr. Obama’s Presidency was generally successful – even if he did not manage to finish some issues from his agenda he managed to turn USA in the right overall direction – the USA generally is in better shape now than after the former Presidency. The future is opened for better choices and the world could be changed in a benign manner. We all have the chance to see a better future.

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  3. Hildegard Müller 2 years ago

    From the start, the expectations held by the public to Obama were extremely high. In regards to external relations, he is faced with a large mess in Syria and Afghanistan. The potential successes of the Iran Agreement are yet to present themselves. Contrary to what was promised, Guantanamo is not yet closed. Regarding internal relations – which is an important area of measure for most US presidents – Obamacare and the legalization of gay marriage will leave a huge mark in the history of the United States. The Clean Energy Act and overall acceptance of often times dismissed but pressing realities allow for Obama to end his rocky first term with a significant second term. Grade: B

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  4. Dorothea Schäfer 2 years ago

    The Obama Administration gets a C from my side for the following reasons:
    – It seems to me that discrimination and racism has increased during the two terms.
    – Almost nothing has been done to make private ownership of guns and other weapons much more difficult.
    – The Obama administration has failed in radically shifting the US-business model. There is still a growing inequality among the population. Government debt on the one hand still increases and on the other hand the structure of the fiscal income has not been substantially reformed yet. In particular the administration failed in substantially increasing the tax for the rich US-citizens to make the budget more sustainable.
    – The financial crisis starting from the US has led to very low interest rates around the world. Of course this low interest rate environment works in favor of debtors and sets incentive to continue with debt accumulation also in the private sector. This is a problem in itself since US-households are traditionally heavily indebted.
    In these days everyone talks about the FED returning to higher interest rates. It seems to me that neither the US-government can afford higher interest rates nor the private households in the US. E.g. higher interest rates would mean more government debt service, and this would not only tear huge gaps into the yearly central governmental budget but also into the budget of the federal states. As long as taxes, in particular for the rich, are not substantially increased I do not see a solution to this budget problem. Likewise with higher interest rate US private households may be doomed to fall into the same interest rate trap as in 2006/2007.
    – Some US-banks are so huge and powerful that one may have doubts that these financial institutes are controllable and resolvable. I do not see that this has changed during the years of Obama administration.

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  5. Shen Dingli 2 years ago

    President Obama’s balance sheet is quite a mixed one. On the plus side, he has achieved quite a bit on both the domestic and external fronts. Unlike John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, he has managed to move forward with the ObamaCare plan, making America the last developed country with a universal healthcare program. Though this plan is still politically controversial, the presidential legacy he thus leaves could rank him highly in a future period. On the international front, his leadership on climate change will also drive the world community to move ahead sustainably. Largely he has delivered on his promise to withdraw GIs from Iraq, and is likely to do the same this year from Afghanistan.

    The minus side of his score sheet is that he has remained unable to achieve fiscal balance. In actual fact, the US debt is likely to double in his tenure, as it has already risen from $10t in 2009 to $18t this year. Despite his efforts to redefine international trade rule, his administration has not been able to finalize his deal on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). During his two terms commanding the White House, he has not reassured the world of a benevolent America – his “resetting” of relations with Russia has been broken; the emergence of ISIS in the Middle East has forced American armed forces to return to the region and hence, his Asia Pacific “rebalance” appears quite unrealistic in its ability to assure the relocation of American military assets to East Asia.

    Currently, a number of Obama’s top policy initiatives have been not attained, or have yet to be implemented well, or cannot be assessed for another decade. Firstly, his administration has yet to finalize the TPP. Secondly, the US forces have not yet been withdrawn from Afghanistan. Thirdly, he still has to push for a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol which could be achieved at COP21 in Paris. Finally, the results of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program cannot be assessed for many years. Overall, Obama’s balanced grade might be somewhere around a ‘B’.

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  6. Dmitri Mitin 2 years ago

    Barack Obama gets a solid B- from me and a satisfactory grade for above-the-average track record. The performance of the current administration as well as its likely legacy have to be assessed relative to other presidencies. Obama, in my opinion, stands out in terms of the consistency and effectiveness of his foreign policy, while his domestic results, especially in the economic realm, are not as disappointing as critics insinuate.

    Focusing specifically on foreign policy, I agree that there are valid reasons to criticize the administration’s equivocation on Syria and its failure to devise countermeasures to state failure in Iraq and the spread of ISIS. However, the long-term impact of these crises, weighed against other priorities, may be limited. Furthermore, a more assertive reaction to the developments in the Middle East would have produced a host of complications of similar or greater proportions. In general, Obama’s policy can be characterized as reliably pragmatic, in line with the fundamental tenets of realpolitik that highlight the importance of balance of power and a recognition of one’s own limitations, rather than purely strength. Strategic disengagement and pursuit of negotiated settlements with intractable opponents are from the playbook of Kissinger and Nixon. So is a policy detached from the ideological zeal that characterized the Bush Doctrine. Miscellaneous setbacks notwithstanding, the overall policy vector is appropriate in the context of current political constraints.

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2 Comments

  1. Wisam Salih 2 years ago

    Goodness! History will look very, very favourably on President Obama. I strongly believe he is one of the greatest presidents the United States has ever had. He was under an immense pressure and was handed a sea of problems and challenges from his predecessor. Rightly so, expectations were very high following the election of his first term in office. However, those expectations were placed on him – largely, he has done very well. Universal healthcare, restoration of relations between the US and Cuba; averted war with Iran through the US P5+1 negotiations; legalization of homosexual marriage; and guiding the US through a very difficult economic recession.

    Another area where I believe he really shines is that Obama’s ability to recognize his administration’s shortcomings. For example, he was very candid about the US torture policy. Finally, the environment will be one of his last challenges. He’s already got a head start by releasing the recently announced environment strategy.

    That said, Obama has failed to close Guantanamo Bay prison – however, we can reasonably believe that he’s given it a shot. He’s learned very quickly the difficulty in dealing with prisoners who sit in legal limbo.

    Finally, it should be mentioned that even if internal politics within the United States prevent the Iran Deal from being ratified (which is unlikely given the Presidential Veto), the deal will still prove to be successful in that A) it avoided war, B) the rest of the major world powers can still ratify and implement.

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  2. Torge Matthiesen 2 years ago

    In my view, the presidency of Barack Obama can be – by and large – described as two terms in which to US sought more political integration, common sense approaches and less unilateral action. And that means it has been and continues to be a good presidency.

    I think we have to give credit to Obama for a foreign policy that was not afraid to challenge entrenched narratives of enmity. And which in the end has led to successes in the P5+1 negotiations (which in my view will still be a long-term success even if Congress disapproves) and the re-inception of diplomatic ties with Cuba.

    Internally, economic indicators are more than upbeat. The US economy, mortgage and labour markets are in a much better position than the beginning of his presidency. And he has tried to overcome entrenched positions on gun control (unsuccessful), social protection (successful) and gay marriage (successful).

    On the downside, Obama has pulled back troops from Afghanistan and Iraq at a time that has to be labeled as way too early. And he has failed to curtail an ill-fated intervention in Libya that has wider repercussions in the sphere of international law and which has de facto created a breeding ground for instability on the southern coast of the Mediterranean. This intervention has basically killed the legal concept of R2P and in turn has contributed to the impossibility of a more robust intervention to end the conflict in Syria under a mandate of the UN Security Council.

    When approving military interventions, the Obama administration has generally relied on airpower but has shied away from putting boots on the ground. An approach that now clearly shows its limitations. And which, in the absence of plans how to shape / influence the political landscape in countries like Libya, repeats some major mistakes of his predecessor.

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