Power-wash the graffiti from the Republican message boards that declare Obama the “Worst President Ever.” Underneath, an essential truth shines through: Obama will likely be seen as delivering more lasting achievements than any President of his generation.
That doesn’t make him the greatest President ever, only one of the most influential.
It is undeniable that Obama has turned around the economy. While there are still troubling realities, his restoring order to a chaotic economy is a signature accomplishment.
With brave support from out-going President Bush, Obama passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to spur immediate growth amid the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
He won an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans to return us to fairer tax rates of the Reagan era.
He won a bailout of General Motors that allowed for total recovery and a path to American supremacy in the auto industry.
Even his detractors grudgingly admit a conservative push for the White House will be more difficult with the remarkable progress made on the economy.
Obama succeeded in getting private lending out of the student loan business, ending decades of subsidizing banks; that saved taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and is providing billions in student aid instead of windfall bank profits.
Obama won authorization to triple the size of the old AmeriCorps at a time opponents were smacking their chops hoping to ax a Clinton achievement.
He served up a generation of more healthful school menus for students by mandating a huge boost in higher nutritional food and health standards.
Obama added protections from hate crimes to include crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability, in addition to the established federal protections of race, color, religion or national origin.
Obama successfully outlawed Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy and removed sexual orientation as a barrier to military service.
A long-term benefit of Obama’s election is that America proved its ability to instantly overcome racism and discrimination that is so pervasive around the world.
Obama’s election inspired jubilant celebrations among subjugated people around the world and restored America’s moral leadership as a nation of opportunity and hope.
He ended the practice of torture of our perceived enemies, returning our country to compliance with the Geneva Conventions.
Obama has been a success in using military diplomacy to assure a safer world into the future.
He signed a new START Treaty with Russia that substantially reduces strategic warheads and launchers while reestablishing a transparency program through which each country can monitor the other.
The President kept his first major campaign promise and ended the war in Iraq by ordering all U.S. military forces out of the country; and pulled our troops out of Afghanistan.
Oh, yes, and he killed Bin Laden.
Obama has made monumental contributions to saving our country and planet from the ravages of climate change and air pollution.
He ordered his EPA head to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant, allowing the agency to regulate its production, and with it, created a measurable basis for future climate strategies.
Obama kept his campaign promise to impose fuel-efficiency standards that will double fuel economy for cars and trucks by 2025.
He expanded wilderness protection by designating more than two million acres as wilderness; created thousands of miles of recreational and historic trails; and protected more than 1,000 miles of our rivers.
His signature air quality achievement imposes new restrictions on mercury and other emissions from power plants, likely to lead to the closing of up to 230 coal-fired power plants that have no place in our energy strategy any more.
In December, at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change meetings in Peru, Obama single-handedly engaged China to agree for the first time to substantial carbon reduction goals.
This one action is likely to have more effect in mitigating climate change than all the symbolic climate actions taken to date.
Obama reformed American healthcare.
He famously proposed and ultimately signed the Affordable Care Act, covering 32 million uninsured Americans beginning in 2014. Love it or hate it, this is a lasting achievement that numerous presidents tried to accomplish for over a century—and failed.
I haven’t liked everything President Obama has done—or not done. His public relations and communications skills with Congress and the public have hurt his ability to lead. Early in his Administration he was too eager to kowtow to the right without assurances of mutual commitments, leading to lost opportunities for progressive policies.
Almost unforgivably, Obama has not acted on public demands to go after the several hundred Wall Street jackals who brought down the economy. Despite the Dodd-Frank reforms, the wolves of Wall Street are feasting on the spoils of their old tricks, manufacturing financial products designed to fatten their own wallets and exploit consumers.
Obama never should have let them off the hook.
We can leave the corrupting problems on Wall Street for the future President Elizabeth Warren to fix.