Andrew Sullivan: How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics – The Daily Beast

You hear it everywhere. Democrats are disappointed in the president. Independents have soured even more. Republicans have worked themselves up into an apocalyptic fervor. And, yes, this is not exactly unusual.

A president in the last year of his first term will always get attacked mercilessly by his partisan opponents, and also, often, by the feistier members of his base. And when unemployment is at remarkably high levels, and with the national debt setting records, the criticism will—and should be—even fiercer. But this time, with this president, something different has happened. It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong.

You’d think, listening to the Republican debates, that Obama has raised taxes. Again, this is not true. Not only did he agree not to sunset the Bush tax cuts for his entire first term, he has aggressively lowered taxes on most Americans. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts, affecting 95 percent of taxpayers; he has cut the payroll tax, and recently had to fight to keep it cut against Republican opposition. His spending record is also far better than his predecessor’s. Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms. Under Bush and the GOP, nondefense discretionary spending grew by twice as much as under Obama. Again: imagine Bush had been a Democrat and Obama a Republican. You could easily make the case that Obama has been far more fiscally conservative than his predecessor—except, of course, that Obama has had to govern under the worst recession since the 1930s, and Bush, after the 2001 downturn, governed in a period of moderate growth. It takes work to increase the debt in times of growth, as Bush did. It takes much more work to constrain the debt in the deep recession Bush bequeathed Obama.

The great conservative bugaboo, Obamacare, is also far more moderate than its critics have claimed. The Congressional Budget Office has projected it will reduce the deficit, not increase it dramatically, as Bush’s unfunded Medicare Prescription Drug benefit did. It is based on the individual mandate, an idea pioneered by the archconservative Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich, and, of course, Mitt Romney, in the past. It does not have a public option; it gives a huge new client base to the drug and insurance companies; its health-insurance exchanges were also pioneered by the right. It’s to the right of the Clintons’ monstrosity in 1993, and remarkably similar to Nixon’s 1974 proposal. Its passage did not preempt recovery efforts; it followed them. It needs improvement in many ways, but the administration is open to further reform and has agreed to allow states to experiment in different ways to achieve the same result. It is not, as Romney insists, a one-model, top-down prescription. Like Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative, it sets standards, grants incentives, and then allows individual states to experiment. Embedded in it are also a slew of cost-reduction pilot schemes to slow health-care spending. Yes, it crosses the Rubicon of universal access to private health care. But since federal law mandates that hospitals accept all emergency-room cases requiring treatment anyway, we already obey that socialist principle—but in the most inefficient way possible. Making 44 million current free-riders pay into the system is not fiscally reckless; it is fiscally prudent. It is, dare I say it, conservative.

On foreign policy, the right-wing critiques have been the most unhinged. Romney accuses the president of apologizing for America, and others all but accuse him of treason and appeasement. Instead, Obama reversed Bush’s policy of ignoring Osama bin Laden, immediately setting a course that eventually led to his capture and death. And when the moment for decision came, the president overruled both his secretary of state and vice president in ordering the riskiest—but most ambitious—plan on the table. He even personally ordered the extra helicopters that saved the mission. It was a triumph, not only in killing America’s primary global enemy, but in getting a massive trove of intelligence to undermine al Qaeda even further. If George Bush had taken out bin Laden, wiped out al Qaeda’s leadership, and gathered a treasure trove of real intelligence by a daring raid, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now. But where Bush talked tough and acted counterproductively, Obama has simply, quietly, relentlessly decimated our real enemies, while winning the broader propaganda war. Since he took office, al Qaeda’s popularity in the Muslim world has plummeted.

via Andrew Sullivan: How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics – The Daily Beast.

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2 thoughts on “Andrew Sullivan: How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics – The Daily Beast

  1. [...] Andrew Sullivan: How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics – The Daily Beast (tribuneofthepeople.com) Rate this: Share this:ShareLinkedInDiggFacebookStumbleUponEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Posted in Politics | Tagged al-Qaeda, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Grover Norquist, Heritage Foundation, Ronald Reagan [...]

  2. In my opinion, that honor belongs to George W. Bush, surpassing the previous holder of that dubious honor, James Buchanan. Hardly a day passes without someone on the web stating that Barack Obama is the worst president ever. Their assertions are usually a laundry list of some of the false assertions made against the President. In other words, a pack of lies.

    Those false assertions started me thinking about all the ways in which Bush contributed to the present sorry state of the US and the world. Let me count the ways:

    The housing bubble and the aftermath could have been decreased in magnitude and the severity of the aftereffects if Bush and Alan Greenspan had taken action sooner or at all. All homeowners or those who want to be are poorer because they did not act.
    The Global War on Terror could have ended at Tora Bora, Afghanistan in late 2001 if Bush had pursued bin Laden and al-Qaeda with greater vigor when most of them were surrounded. Instead al-Qaeda still exists, and their existence is used to justify all sorts of intrusions in our daily lives. Such as airport screenings, monitoring of electronic communication in all forms and unjustified wars in Iraq and elsewhere.
    The Bush tax cuts were designed to reward the 1% and at the same time make Grover Norquist’s goal of a small government a reality. Ronald Reagan tried to accomplish this in the 1980s using the Heritage Foundation’s blueprint, but he failed because he lacked the current GOP’s ruthlessness. Those of us who rely on the government safety net are going to find that it no longer exists.
    Bush used a record number of signing statements to enlarge the powers of the presidency at the expense of the other two branches of government. In 1776, we declared our independence of King George 3. In his reign, George W. Bush attempted to reinstate a monarchy in the US.

    Barack Obama has the unenviable task of fixing what Bush damaged or destroyed. His task reminds me of Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill during the day and watching it roll downhill at night, only to repeat the uphill push the next day. Barack’s task is even more difficult because he has the current GOP on the uphill side pushing against the rock to make the task even harder. Rather than criticizing Barack for his limited success, those of us who support him should be helping him by putting our shoulders to the rock and aiding in the uphill push. We can succeed if we join in his efforts.

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