Editorial: Obama’s First Year in Office Reply

I began writing this article with the full intention of providing an unbiased, objective review of Obama’s first year in the White House.  As I began doing research and once my brain started functioning normally from whatever state it had been operating in before, I realized that this would be impossible.  This is because different people say that he has done different things.  For instance a majority of the far right Republican Conservatives believe that he has destroyed the economy, taken away all of our freedoms and that he is a fascist planning to euthanize all of our grandparents.  However the left wing liberal democrats will tell you that Obama has done nothing at all.  They (I) am upset that he has not come across harder on many issues other than healthcare, and just how effective the healthcare reform will be is questionable as well.  One year is not enough to judge a president, but it is enough to start forming some opinions as both the radical right and the radical left have already pointed out numerous times.  I am determined to try to stay as objective as possible.  So here it is, 2009, a year in review.
What has changed since 2009?  What has president Obama done?  There is only one way to address this question and that is to look at specific issues individually and from there, try to draw a generalization, which may be impossible in the end.
One issue that many Americans are concerned about is the economy.  The economy, that rollercoaster much scarier than anything I have seen at Six Flags, has been the source of chaos in Americans’ lives since late 2008.  Many right wingers will attack Obama on this issue, claiming that he has gone about handling this crisis in completely the wrong way.  Obama has shelled out hundreds of billions of dollars to keep the banks afloat and this has added to the national debt.  But wait one second.  In late 2008, Obama was not even president yet.  That office still belonged to a certain George W. Bush.  Furthermore, as many mistakes as Bush may have made, I would not say that he was responsible for the recession we are suffering from, though he had ample time to prevent it.  No, to understand the source of our wretched economy you would have to go back over half a century ago to the invention of the credit card.  Others say that the crisis started with Ronald Regan and his deregulation of the market.  Others still, claim that it was Clinton who failed to pass credit and mortgage legislation.  Few would attribute it to Bush and even fewer to Obama.
It is important to understand this because it is unfair to blame Obama for not responding appropriately to a problem he didn’t create.  There were two options at the beginning of this whole mess; let the banks go under, or keep them afloat.  We chose the latter, and whether it worked or not will not be clear for years.  It is far too early to call the outcome.  Liberals will tell you the state of the economy is not Obama’s fault and that they (I) have been right for years.  People are greedy and deceiving and will do anything, no matter how destructive, so long as they benefit from it in the immediate future.  But everyone is entitled to his/her views and there are those who believe that Obama has singlehandedly doomed the country by adding to the deficit, the same deficit which seemed to pose no threat whatsoever when it was being built up thanks to a “dirty little war.”
That brings us to point number two, the war in Iraq.  It is hard to believe that this war is still going on, but it is.  However, according to CNN, Obama announced to Congressional leaders last Thursday that he is planning to have all troops out of Iraq by August of 2010.  Having studied the Vietnam War, only briefly, I am quite distrustful of troop withdrawal deadlines; after all, the first time the war in Iraq was proposed politicians promised that it would take only a week.  But living in the shadow of Iraq all this time was a country that has seen very little attention for eight years, Afghanistan.  This is where we “defeated” the Taliban, where Osama Bin Laden was hiding out.  This was the first place we invaded, shortly after 9/11.  Obama has emphasized that we have been fighting the wrong war all this time.  Apparently we should have been focusing on Afghanistan all along.  But now that we have moved more troops into Afghanistan we have begun to see the same patterns that have become so clear and entrenched in Iraq.  We can’t win.  The insurgency can always fall back and go underground for weeks, months, or years if need be.  Our soldiers are constantly being blown to bits by devastating car bombs and other IEDs (improvised explosive devices).  I need to break now from the “objective” view I have tried to hold through this whole article for just a second.  We cannot win guerrilla wars in Asia, and the sooner our government and the hawks understand this, the fewer                     American soldiers and innocent civilians will die.  Over the past half a century we have fought in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan again and Iraq again.  In none of these wars have we come out having actually reached some pre-established goal, with the possible exception of the first time we went into Afghanistan in an attempt to help them fight off the Soviets.
Returning to objectivity, I would say it is at least reasonable, if not necessary, for Americans to be skeptical about any new or expanded wars we commit ourselves to.  That being said, at least Obama is more transparent about his intentions that Bush ever was.  It is my belief that Americans who follow politics and foreign policy know more now than at any point during the Bush administration.
Obama has made one definitive commitment: healthcare reform.  It seems he is truly determined to fix our healthcare system and it is about time.  All through Europe people enjoy free or low cost healthcare.  They are taxed more, but many of them never see a medical bill in their lives.  We are not ready to make any such change.  But the first step is a public option, which Obama is intent on providing.  That is the first step.  I wrote in depth about the issue of healthcare in the previous issue of the Bacc Rag, so I will not go into great detail here.  Suffice it to say that House passed its version of the reform bill, and the Senate is expected to pass its version before the New Year.  It seems that healthcare reform may actually become a reality.  If it does that will be the biggest change that Obama has instituted since his inauguration.
There are many other issues that the Obama Administration has been stagnant on.  Gay and lesbian rights have not come far.  Prisoner treatment is still abominable in many facilities.  Most rehabilitation programs for drug addicts are jokes.  There has been no real effort to fix climate change as the US has still failed to sign any international agreements.  We still torture and harass people without giving them the right to any due process of law.  These issues and many more remain in the background while war, the economy and healthcare make the front pages.
In the end Obama is really stuck between a rock and a hard place.  The left wingers want radical change and the right wing republicans don’t want anything to change.  Obama is trying to appease both sides, and though I may not necessarily agree with that strategy I admire the fact that he is attempting bipartisanship.
That being said what is the final verdict for 2009?  Economic growth went up 3.5% last quarter, but that really means nothing because unemployment has topped 10% and the banks are still recovering from the overdose of funding we used as a defibrillator to bring them back to life.  Healthcare may be close to passing, but we still could be months away, and lots of issues remain untouched.  What’s changed in 2009? Eh, not too much.


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