Nine Months ≠ One Year

Lots of “Obama at one year” articles out, which is a little funny because the man hasn actually been president for only nine months. Yes, was elected a year ago. But then there was that whole three-month “not actually president yet” thing. Which means the one-year evaluations are a little premature. By, er, three months. Approximately.

And you ask, how do I feel about the president at nine months (or, if one absolutely must, one year)? I feel fine about him. As this bit from Esquire notes, the idea that the man has been a do-nothing president is a little goofy; he’s done a lot in a little amount of time, much of which I generally approve, although some of which I do not. And while there are some things that I wish he would get to more quickly, I also recognize he’s got a lot to deal with, and that his priorities as regards which to focus on first are not mine. And as we are nine months into his administration, I’m willing to give him a bit more time to get to them before I write him off as entirely useless on those things.

The other part of the equation here is that Obama’s general style suits me just fine. He’s deliberate and calm and doesn’t lose his mind, and even when he or his people are engaging in political knifework, they handle it with bland equanimity, which makes his/their opponents subsequent fits more embarassing by contrast. I like this. It’s like a variation of Kipling’s poem: “If you can keep your head while making those who oppose you lose theirs…”

Now, I understand this style doesn’t play well for some other folks, who would rather see the man get angry or at least worked up from time to time. But, you know. It’s not like he’s changed his style. This is who he was when he was running for president. I’m a little confused why people seem to think he should have gotten a personality transplant when he stepped into the Oval Office. If the man all of a sudden got angry all the time, I’d want a cat scan to see if he had a tumor.

So, overall, the man gets a solid B+ from me for his nine months in office. If they held a snap presidential election tomorrow, I’d vote for him again, and at this point he’s my default choice for the election which occurs about three years from now. Mind you, a lot can happen between now and then, because it’s three years from now. But by that time, I’ll have more information about whether he deserves my vote a second time. More than I have at nine months in office, in any event.

56 thoughts on “Nine Months ≠ One Year

  1. November is the new January? Although it appears most of the articles do note that it’s one year after the election, they don’t do much to dispel the notion that he’s been in the office a full year.

    I doubt the readers are incredulous enough to be fooled, and wonder how mad they are at the writers for their attempt at deception. Is deception too strong a word?

    In any event, I think the President is doing a very good job and I wish the media would stop the HS bickering and focus on the real issues at hand.

  2. Dang it, think one thing type another please note i meant credulous and not its opposite :(

    Yes, there’s a preview button down there for a reason.

  3. I keep coming up with not quite TEN months. I even counted on my fingers. The over-all point remains the same though.

  4. michael @ 1:

    I wish the media would stop the HS bickering and focus on the real issues at hand.

    I wish I had a pony.

    There’s no motivation for MediaCorp to focus on the real issues. It would take more time and more (& better) staff, and therefore cost more money. At the same time, dealing with real issues would too often tread dangerously close to the toesies of their owners and/or their advertising customers.

  5. Bearpaw @ #6: “There’s no motivation for MediaCorp to focus on the real issues.”

    That’s because the population has little interest in the real issues.

    BTW, which issues are the ‘real’ ones, again? I can never keep that straight.

  6. I agree with your assessment of the Current Occupant pretty much; I do wish he’d quit trying to play quite so nice with the Ultra-Righties, since they aren’t planning on playing nice no matter what. He could probably ignore them with great abandon and get the same stuff done.

    The main problem the President has is the right-wing of his own Party, particularly those down South here, who seem to forget from time to time which Party they actually belong to. There’s plenty of moderates down here to keep them in office if they’ll quit kissin’ up to the Vocal Minority of the GOP.

    As to the election results last night, you’re right about New Jersey–Corzine lost, not so much as a sign of widespread dissatisfaction with the Prez as it was with HIM; I did think the Republican winner’s speach was interesting, however, as everytime he tried to be gracious to Corzine, a few yahoos in the crowd starting saying some really ugly stuff, given the guy’s expression as he tried to shut them up before the cameras recorded something good for YouTube.

  7. Well, there you go, spoiling everything by being all reasonable, level-headed and practical about things.

    Don’t you know that minute-by-minute who’s-winning-and-who’s-losing scorekeeping is ABSOLUTELY CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to the workings of our government and the day-to-day lives of each and every citizen? The news media says so!

  8. What I find most annoying is the fact that the guests on these shows complaining about the fact that he’s “getting nothing done” are generally people who are, in fact, actively preventing him from getting anything done.

    Yet they never get asked “Well, what are you doing get health care reform passed if it’s bothering you that Obama hasn’t done so?”

  9. melendwyr @ 7:

    That’s because the population has little interest in the real issues.

    It rarely makes any difference when they do. Besides, it’s hard to be interested in things that you haven’t heard about.

    BTW, which issues are the ‘real’ ones, again? I can never keep that straight.

    The ones that aren’t fake.

  10. “But, you know. It’s not like he’s changed his style. This is who he was when he was running for president.”

    This the thing that has surprised me the most in much of the commentary. For or against, satisfied or dissatisfied, I really haven’t felt like anything he has done has been out of character from the persona he presented whilst running.

    That said one of the things that made his campaign successful was to make everyone feel vey personally included. Which can have the tendency to come with some blowback once the election is won.

    Blowback in the sense of frustration that people feel as though they were made to feel so included and then are angry when their personal issues are not addressed quickly enough.

    Note that this isn’t a commentary on whether any of those issues should have been done sooner, just that this campaign style is ripe for blowback in this fashion.

    Here I am, thinking Obama and I are eye to eye old friends and then all of a sudden I realize it’s all just a myspace friend sham. And out comes the burn book.

    I guess I feel like dissatisfaction with what has been qccomished since January is sort of high school musical conflict. Once we get three years on the books and campaing season is in full swing, let’s talk about levels of satisfaction with the incumbent and then compare that to the expectations associated with the opponent.

  11. At the end of the day, Democrats have 2 more votes in the US Congress, another state with expanded rights for gays & lesbians, and shot down 2 Republican anti-tax revenue proposals, but lost marriage while keeping domestic partnership rights. Republicans gained 2 governors–1 of whom faces an extremely hostile legislature–and a marriage action likely be to be reversed again in the next few years. Plus, the NRSC is no longer supporting or funding GOP primary candidates because they’re afraid of the wingnuts.

    Call me Pollyanna or short-sighted if you want, but that’s not bad for what is supposed to be a strongly anti-incumbent, referendum on Obama, “death to taxes” off-year election. If I was Obama or any other Dem, I’d take that over winning the news cycle any day.

  12. He’s deliberate and calm and doesn’t lose his mind, and even when he or his people are engaging in political knifework, they handle it with bland equanimity

    I think you’re mistaking tone for effectiveness, John. Take, for example, the recent White House response to the Cash-for-Clunkers analysis article at car info site Edmunds.com. I agree that the response was calm and measured. It was also far, far below the the pay grade of anyone at a cabinet-level or above position to have ever merited a response. We should not expect that, because a grade-schooler writes, “the President is a doody-head,” there will be a cool nine-paragraph rebuttal from the Press Room podium — and yet, that’s increasingly the image.

  13. I’d rather be kinda disappointed by Obama than ashamed, embarrassed and enraged by Bush, so unless Obama suddenly shoots a senator in the face or invades another country, it’s pretty much a win.

  14. I’d agree with your assessment Jon. There are some things that I have qualms with, but there’s a good number of efforts that seem to have really taken off.

    I concur about his style. His chief campaign advisor, David Plouffe put it very succinctly on “The Daily Show” saying that Obama is a “Chess player in a town filled with checker players”. That’s why you don’t see David Axelrod screaming for Lieberman’s head or Robert Gibbs howling for the blood of of the “blue dog” Democrats. I wager Obama works the phones, makes things clear in private, and lets the work speak for itself. More go than show, and I like that.

    My only real disappointment is on GLBTQ rights. The Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill was a great step, ending the HIV travel ban (a homophobic and panicky act if there ever was one) was another. He’s given great speeches to the HRC and honored Harvey Milk. But “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is on track to kick out another 600 or so service personnel this year. And a disturbingly high number of them will be women, if trends follow history.

    I get it, health care is pressing, but the huge majorities in the house and senate are likely to shrink, even just a little, at the mid-terms. I’m hoping the 2010 sees some follow-through for a President who, as a candidate, vowed to be a fierce advocate for the GLBTQ community.

  15. Gerrymander:

    “I think you’re mistaking tone for effectiveness, John.”

    I think you’re mistaking Macon Phillips, the author of that blog post, for Obama, Gerrymander. Also I’m not 100% convinced the White House Director of New Media is “at a cabinet-level or above position.”

  16. @13: “It rarely makes any difference when they do.”

    Of course it does. You cannot complain that the news is being influenced by advertisers without acknowledging that the advertisers’ behavior is determined by what the people actually watch.

    The value of ad space is determined by the number of people who will see it and their purchasing habits. If people ignored “news” outlets that had no substance, the ratings of such programs would be terrible. But people watch anyway.

    It’s the law of the minimum yet again.

  17. Obama’s Vulcan-like (Vulcanic?) qualities make him remarkably well-suited to the job. Alas, the GOP’s possible contenders are likely ‘too liberal’ for the party base.

    I still fail to see how any remotely intelligent individual (on the left or right) can think that being ‘folksy’ is more important than being ‘intelligent’. Sure they call it ‘elitist’. But isn’t that okay for the President of the United States?

  18. MG Farrelly @ 19:

    That’s why you don’t see David Axelrod screaming for Lieberman’s head or Robert Gibbs howling for the blood of of the “blue dog” Democrats. I wager Obama works the phones, makes things clear in private, and lets the work speak for itself.

    All things considered, you might want to pick a different example. ‘Cause I’m underwhelmed by what that work has to say along those lines.

    My only real disappointment is on GLBTQ rights.

    I’m also disappointed in that, but I’m also quite disturbed by Obama’s continuation of Bush-era policies having to do with unlawful detention, abuse of the “State Secrets” privilege, and other related civil-liberties issues. Also disturbing is the fact that his administration has encouraged averting our eyes from the crimes of the previous administration.

    “Looking forward, not back” is a great way of not learning from past mistakes. If we don’t understand where we’ve been, there’s no way to know which direction is truly forward.

  19. I didn’t expect the ship of state to make a 180 degree turn on January 21, 2009 so the reality so far has pretty much met my expectations.

    For what it’s worth, I’m disappointed that the President set his priorities in a manner that put fixing the problems of the health care system above coming up with a coordinated, integrated, and effective national energy policy designed to wean the country from its addiction to foreign oil. (Yes, I’m aware he’s made some gestures in that direction.)

    On the whole, I agree that a solid B or B+ would be the grade … so far.

  20. You cannot complain that the news is being influenced by advertisers without acknowledging that the advertisers’ behavior is determined by what the people actually watch.

    Judging people by the choices they make isn’t very meaningful when those choices are limited by corporate-centered structure of society.

    When the choices for news that most people know about boil down to the equivalent of “Which corn-syrup-loaded cereal would you like for breakfast?”, it’s not surprising that some corn-syrup-loaded cereal will be their favorite.

    Yes, yes, people can theoretically make their own granola, and some do. But there are reasons why most people don’t that are more complicated than just writing them off as too lazy.

  21. @ Bearpaw 19:

    Nah, having Axelrod or Gibbs out there puffing up over the quaverings of the blue dogs or Lieberman’s sad little stand (he’s quite literally in bed with the insurance/pharma lobby) is only going to feed a conflict.

    It’s like how they handled the Iranians and the facility at Qum, backchannels. Lieberman probably had any number of long conversations with Rahm Emmanual or Obama, who likely gave him the out of making the rounds as he has but eventually coming home to caucus. The Blue Dogs know where the money comes from and being on the wrong side of a very popular President’s first major policy push is a very good way to end up floating in a void.

    Team Obama is looking at the long game. They’ll get healthcare reform through this year without ripping the party apart. The Republicans are devouring each other and looking to talk radio hosts and populist demagogues for policy points. It’s a good time to move carefully.

  22. Personally, I’ve had enough (16 years worth) of hot headed presidents. Reagan was calm. Bush Sr. occasionally got a little cranky, but was a calm realist. I want to see neither some dude getting his knickers in a twist because he got caught with his hand in the intern’s panties or stammering because someone asked him a question that suggests maybe he screwed up.

    Plus the meltdowns are good for the GOP. Eventually, they’ll either find someone calm and steady to take the helm or they’ll dissolve, the Dems will fragment into a bunch of parties, and we can stop pretending that the two-party system actually works. (It doesn’t.)

  23. My biggest gripe is Obama has continued Bush’s State Secrets defense of torture. Obama supported Bush’s state secret defense in Maher Arar’s case and even extended it. The courts just ruled that Arar has no right to sue for being tortured for a year, even if he was innocent.

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/11/03/arar/index.html

    Obama briefly toyed with the idea of taking Bush’s rendition rules for keeping prisoners without observing the Geneva Convention, and making them officially sanctioned by congress, but last I heard he backed off that idea.

    My second biggest gripe is that he came into office demanding that Israel stop constructing illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Clinton just visited Israel and announced that settlements aren’t that big of a deal any more. So, we went from maybe actually holding Israel accountable for its actions to maybe sliding back to Bush’s “hands off” approach to Israel.

    I’m pretty sure Israel liked the “hands off” approach, so long as it means we veto any and all resolutions at the UN that might condemn or even glare angrily at Israel.

    I was thinking Obama might actually get some progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he’s already backpedaled, so I’m not holding my breath.

    My third biggest gripe is Obama seems to worship “bipartisanship” even more than “good governance”. This ludicrous posturing the Democrats are doing to try and get Olympia Snow to vote for HCR is ludicrous. The republicans wont vote for anything that resembles a good bill. They want Obama to try very hard to achieve reform and fail, so they can win the next elections. They have zero concern for people who’ve actually lost their medical insurance, been rescinded, had the exuse of preexisting conditions be implemented to stop their benefits, etc. The republican proposed health care bill has all the compassion of an Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan offspring raised by wolves.

    He’s holding fast to the Iraq drawdown. And he’s delaying a decision on Afghanistan, hopefully because he doesn’t want to send another 60,000 troops and keep them there for another 5 years as the generals are predicting. So that looks good.

  24. I’m by no means a single issue voter, and I’d vote for Obama again, when he said
    “As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.”
    I kinda thought he actually meant it. So far, he’s done *nothing* to live up to that claim.

  25. “So far, he’s done *nothing* to live up to that claim.”

    That’s not true, Josh; no other president has ever come out and said gays should have equal rights before, that I remember. I don’t think this will be his last action on the matter.

    The man has to sleep some time, you know?

    I love how Democratic voters are lining up to back-stab Obama. Did people think he had magic powers? Or do only Republicans understand presidents still contend with real-time transaction speeds and the laws of physics?

  26. I love how Democratic voters are lining up to back-stab Obama.

    I love how criticizing a democratically elected leader suddenly gets termed “back stabbing”.

    Apparently, people are allowed to vote for the candidate they want, and then they’re supposed to shut the hell up until the next election.

    What’s even funnier is the republican antithesis of this. i.e. republicans refused to criticize Bush, no matter how badly he fucked up this country.

    You know what? If the options are limited to nothing but “backstabbing” or “lemmings-level obediance”, I’ll take backstabbing for five-hundred, thank you very much.

  27. As out of touch as those are who think Obama has been president for a year, they are way ahead of one voter we had yesterday. She voted the small municipal ballot, then asked me, “Isn’t there anybody for president?”

  28. Tom – That’s not true, Josh; no other president has ever come out and said gays should have equal rights before, that I remember.

    This is true. He’s not Bill Clinton. But has he used his office as a bully pulpit? No. He’s ducked the issue. He jumped all over a crappy candidate in NJ, but couldn’t even spare a staff member for Vermont.

    I love how Democratic voters are lining up to back-stab Obama.

    I love how you’re unable to comprehend the difference between criticism and back stabbing. It allows me to dismiss you as having no useful opinions on the topic.

  29. From what I see the economy has worsened, unemployment has increased, cash for clunkers most more than its’ worth and benefited foreign auto makers the most, stimulus as not lived up to its’ promise at all, we have debt that is stupid crazy, no health care reform, no improvement on the gay marriage, still in Iraq, prisoners in Cuba (which is fine with me), he has suffered one of the biggest drops in approval ratings in history and on and on. I think the man is pretty worthless.

  30. Josh -

    I’m not sure that he’s ducked the issue. I’ve seen comments from him over the last several months imploring congress to send him a bill to sign that would overturn DADT. As an example.

    At this point, given the legislation that needs to take place for this to happen, I think the criticism would be more rightly launched at the legislative branch than the executive.

    That said, he hasn’t made it his first priority. And I’m certainly not saying that activism and criticizing elected leaders on their lack of concrete action is out of bounds. I think it’s appropriate. I’m just not sure it’s currently targeting the business end of what needs to be done.

    As as his choice of candidates to support in yesterdays election, it seemed to me that he didn’t really provide much support to anybody. A couple of events for corzine and an event for deeds. But given that he spent time at all on it, I wonder why he chose the two least likely candidates to get elected to apply that time to.

    I haven’t seen any commentary from the white house talking about whythey didn’t do more to supportthe issue in Maine.

    Although, in that same line why is there a clamor to get a civil rights issue supported via referndum? If you can’t get the same people who voted to legalize medical weed to support gay rights at better than a coin flip, it seems more an example of why we shouldn’t let governments foist the political responsibility for civil rights resolution onto the population. 31 losses doesn’t say to me that they need to change their campaign, it says that isn’t how those issues *should* be decided.

  31. On January 20th, 2010, does he become accountable for his action or inaction, and effects, or does he get to blame his predecessor for another year or two?

  32. Other Bill @ 36 – I’m not sure that he’s ducked the issue. I’ve seen comments from him over the last several months imploring congress to send him a bill to sign that would overturn DADT. As an example.

    It’s a really safe thing thing to talk about, because he can’t actually *do* anything, just ask. But that’s not the same as actually getting on TV and saying that a popular vote overturning a legislative vote to decide who can and can’t be married is a good idea.

    All he had to do was take an hour out of a day somewhere along the line, and talk to Americans about laws like the one in Maine. Or even the one that got passed in Washington. He didn’t. He was silent on the issue. He didn’t even send an aide to put out a press release. What he has done is talk about Stonewall and Harvey milk. Which is nice to hear, but they’re in the past, and Harvey Milk is dead, so he can’t turn around and tell Obama that he’s full of hot air on the issue.

    As as his choice of candidates to support in yesterdays election, it seemed to me that he didn’t really provide much support to anybody. A couple of events for corzine and an event for deeds. But given that he spent time at all on it, I wonder why he chose the two least likely candidates to get elected to apply that time to.

    Yeah, he fell flat on that as well. I was disappointed for an entirely different set of reasons. But NJ politics is a swamp. People say it was the economy, but really, New Jersyites have good, local reasons to hate anyone incumbent on a regular basis just because they’re associated with the political process there.

    I haven’t seen any commentary from the white house talking about whythey didn’t do more to supportthe issue in Maine.

    No one I’ve seen form the WH talked about the Maine vote at all. Or the Washington vote. Or the Kalamazoo vote. Or the pending NY Vote.

    Amazing how silent they are on it. It’s almost like they’d prefer it didn’t exist. Some bully pulpit they’ve been. *feh*

    Although, in that same line why is there a clamor to get a civil rights issue supported via referndum?

    I think it’s been tried. Sometimes successfully. Sometimes not.

  33. Rob – I have a feeling it’ll take more than a year to undo the damage W did.

    like this bit of stupidity.

    W gave any world government a good excuse to kidnap anyone they want from foreign soil, and torture them. No trial needed. Just slap the label “terrorist” on them, and away they go.

  34. Josh @ 39 -

    “All he had to do was take an hour out of a day somewhere along the line, and talk to Americans about laws like the one in Maine. Or even the one that got passed in Washington. He didn’t.”

    Fair enough on that. I agree that isn’t a particularly impressive moment to put on his scorecard.

    I do think the scorecard on this issue is bigger than that moment. But he certainly did fall flat with whatever strategy he had to push his agenda in this election cycle. In the very best light he missed a solid opportunity. In the worst light, well, like you said.

    I hope he learns some lessons for the 2010 cycle.

  35. Now I know he’s the US President, and I don’t get a vote from Australia, but there’s two things I’d like those of you who do get a vote to bear in mind:
    . What happens in the US is really important to your friends in the rest of the world; and
    . It is really nice to know that the adults are back in charge of the most powerful country in the world.

  36. AndrewMcK @ 42-

    “It is really nice to know that the adults are back in charge of the most powerful country in the world.”

    There are adults in charge of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick?

  37. Though, I completely support the right for gays and lesbians to marry, it is not surprising it isn’t high on his list right now. When he inherited two of the longest and most expensive wars in American history, along with the worst economy since the Great Depression, it is not surprising he hasn’t put his full weight behind the right to marry. I am all for him focusing on the two major events until they calm down a little.

    I would include healthcare as an economic issue and deserving of his focus.

    @33 JJS
    This is why there should be a basic test when you register to vote. I’m sure this would be abused, but damn, people are dumb.

    It reminds me of how my Republican friends conviently forget that Obama’s top economic advisor was actually appointed by Bush (Bernanke) and Obama can’t fire him until his Fed term is up (not that Obama will fire him, though I wish he would). People just don’t pay attention.

  38. Setting drapes on fire without hesitation is a sign of tough uber-Presidential manliness. Only un-American terrorist-lovers hesitate to set drapes on fire to keep America safe.

    Just ask Dick Cheney. They had a special supply closet in his undisclosed location just for replacement drapes.

  39. Oh for the days when a nation’s money problems could be solved by raiding and plundering the next-door neighbors…

    as a bonus, everyone would get horned helmets and big, cool battle axes.

  40. @49 Or a toga and and gladius. People forget that the Roman Empire was propped up by it’s constant imperialist expansions. And when it couldn’t expand anymore…

    I’m “meh” on Obama. I don’t think his policies have been as effective as advertised, but then again, I’ve never been a huge fan of the monolithic government. Hopefully the US is a better place in 3 years so that I might be willing to vote for him next time, but I severely doubt it. Such is life.

  41. On the gay rights issue, I really wish people would stop acting as though he’s abandoned it altogether. I don’t think the gay community should stop fighting by any means, but let’s be honest: Obama declaring gay marriage is recognized by the federal government, whether in legislation or simply by using his bully pulpit, would have immediate repercussions on everything he’s trying to accomplish. People are stupid on that issue, and they will shoot down other legislation out of fear and hatred and idiocy.

    Which means no solid strategy on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, no health care reform, no economic reform.

    And much as I wish that tomorrow we could wake up in a world where gay people could be legally married, I believe the President is correct to not throw away his hard work on fixing two wars, our health, and our ability to put food on the table just to get that for them. He’s moving along pretty fast on those issues, though, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised that once he’s gotten everything he needs from the conservatives in government, he comes out swinging on the gay marriage issue when they can’t threaten him with not supporting his other initiatives.

  42. You try to get the big stuff done early on in the first term.

    If you manage to do that, you get a second term.

    In the second term, you work towards the stuff that will be a hot-button for criticism, because you don’t have to worry about re-election.

    Like it or not, Gay Marriage is a hot-button issue for this fairly backward, started-by-Puritans country. I would expect that any overt action by the Administration on the topic has been action-item-listed for the (hopeful) second term.

  43. That Esquire article was great, it’s nice to hear an opinion of Obama that’s not manic bi-polar, for a change.

  44. It reminds me of how my Republican friends conviently forget that Obama’s top economic advisor was actually appointed by Bush (Bernanke) and Obama can’t fire him until his Fed term is up (not that Obama will fire him, though I wish he would). People just don’t pay attention.

    Good point, but he has also done a poor job, IMO, in regards to the SEC, Treasury, and other regulatory departments. Bernanke is not good (and was reappointed by Obama this past summer), but neither is Geithner.

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