Through the years
Here’s evidence of what the toughest job in the world can do to a president. President Obama, top left, during his 2008 campaign and, bottom right, in September. He was 47 when he was elected and turned 55 last August.
Some of President Obama’s successes
in his eight years in office.
In February 2009, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 billion stimulus package meant to provide relief from the Great Recession. It included funds for infrastructure, education and energy.
Obama signed a law in October 2009 making it a federal crime to assault someone because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. He said it would protect people “from violence based on what they look like, who they love.”
Creating “Obamacare,” in March 2010 he signed the Affordable Care Act. It mandated health coverage, set up insurance exchanges and provided subsidies. Insurers had to accept all applicants. The 2016 uninsured rate was a record low 8.6 percent.
Congress in December 2010 voted to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay men, lesbians and bisexuals from military service. In July 2011, Obama formally certified that the military was ready to implement the changes.
Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaida, which carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, was killed in May 2011 by Navy SEALs in an operation ordered by Obama. “Justice has been done,” he told the nation in a televised address.
The last convoy of U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in December 2011, ending almost nine years of war that cost almost 4,500 American lives. There are now almost 5,000 U.S. troops there helping to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
“I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama said in May 2012, becoming the first sitting president to express that view. In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must allow same-sex marriages.
In December 2015, the representatives of 195 countries, including the United States, agreed in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature increases. Obama also authorized regulations to cut carbon emissions.
The national jobless rate when Obama took office in January 2009 was 7.6 percent. It rose to 10 percent in October of that year, but since then it has remained in the single digits. The most recent rate, in November 2016, was 4.6 percent.
Some of President Obama’s goals
were not fulfilled or went awry.
Obama inherited a mess and stabilized the economy and the jobless rate. Some economists said 30 percent fewer jobs were created than would have been in a healthy economy, and many were lower-paying service positions.
On Jan. 22, 2009, Obama issued an executive order calling for the closure of the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. He did reduce the population and transferred 19 detainees just last month. But it’s still open and has 40 occupants.
The Affordable Care Act broadened health coverage, but 2017 premiums soared and some insurers dropped out. Before Election Day, polls showed that most Americans wanted changes and Democrat Hillary Clinton was promising to “fix” it.
Some 2016 voters were turned off by Obama’s handling of race issues and defense of Black Lives Matter. After Trayvon Martin’s 2012 death, Obama said the teen could have been his son, seen by some as criticism of the acquittal in the case.
Critics say Obama’s rejection of a forceful U.S. role in Syria’s civil war prolonged it and contributed to more deaths and a refugee crisis. In 2012 he vowed action if Syria crossed a “red line” and used chemical weapons; he later changed his mind.
Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are ramping up, not ending. U.S. advisers and special operations troops are trickling back into Iraq. Obama pledged to have 5,500 troops in Afghanistan by the end of his term but upped that number to 8,400.
Obama called the six-nation 2015 deal that curtailed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief an investment in peace. But Republican critics say Iran remains an enemy and terror sponsor. Donald Trump vowed to dismantle it.
Obama promised a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In 2013 senators proposed an overhaul of immigration laws that included such a path. House GOP leaders refused to schedule a vote and it stalled.
Obama leaves office with a job approval rating topping 50 percent, but an average of December polls found that almost 57 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Just 31 percent said it’s moving in the right direction.
Obama’s legacy in Minnesota
From a health care overhaul to student-debt relief, President Obama’s policies had a significant impact on the lives of many Minnesotans.
Minnesota was an early adopter of Obama’s health care overhaul, bringing the number of uninsured residents in the state to an all-time low. But it also brought soaring health insurance rates.
The administration blocked development of Twin Metals’ proposed copper and nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and took steps to ban mining in a larger area.
The Obama administration’s new transportation spending included money that helped pay for light-rail in the Twin Cities and the restoration of the Union Depot in St. Paul.
Obama ensured that school lunches are healthier, tobacco manufacturers can’t market “light” cigarettes and fast-food restaurants are required to post nutrition information.
Obama’s overhaul of college lending will continue to have a huge impact for borrowers, particularly in a state where residents ranks near the top nationally in student debt load.
President Obama signed a massive education overhaul that gives local officials more control of schools and decide for themselves how to gauge whether students are really learning.