[Editor's Note: I have published this list - followed by a progressive critique - as a counter-pole to the anguish progressives and leftists feel right now, on the eve of President Obama's announcement of additional US troops being sent to Afghanistan. Some progressives are ready to throw Obama out of office because of his Afghanistan "surge." This is basically a list of positives and there are many items on this list that progressives will disagree with, will consider to be cosmetic, or will fault for a lack of follow-through -- and there are without doubt a lot of negatives not included. But we think this is an impressive list just the same.]
A Grade for Obama: First six months’ record
By Robert P. Watson
I am always being asked to grade Obama’s presidency. In place of offering him a grade, I put together a list of his accomplishments thus far. I think you would agree that it is very impressive. His first six months have been even more active than FDR’s or LBJ’s — the two standards for such assessments.
Yet, there is little media attention given to much of what he has done. Of late, the media is focusing almost exclusively on Obama’s critics, without holding them responsible for the uncivil, unconstructive tone of their disagreements or without holding the previous administration responsible for getting us in such a deep hole. The misinformation and venom that now passes for political reporting and civic debate is beyond description.
As such, there is a need to set the record straight. What most impresses me is the fact that Obama has accomplished so much not from a heavy-handed or top-down approach but from a style that has institutionalized efforts to reach across the aisle, encourage vigorous debate, and utilize town halls and panels of experts in the policy-making process. Beyond the accomplishments, the process is good for democracy… and our democratic processes have been battered and bruised in recent years.
Let me know if I missed anything in the list (surely I did).
Here is a list of Obama’s accomplishments as of August 2009.
1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending;
2. Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices;
3. Instituted enforcements for equal pay for women;
4. Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq;
5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover A.F.B.;
6. Ended media “blackout” on war casualties; reporting full information;
7. Ended media “blackout” on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover A.F.B.; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier’s family;
8. The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act;
9. Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible;
10. Limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House;
11. Limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration;
12. Ended the previous “stop-loss” policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date;
13. Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren’t even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan;
14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research;
15. Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research;
16. New federal funding for science and research labs;
17. States are permitted to enact federal fuel efficiency standards above federal standards;
18. Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants…) after years of neglect;
19. Funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools;
20. New funds for school construction;
21. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out;
22. US Auto industry rescue plan;
23. Housing rescue plan;
24. $789 billion economic stimulus plan;
25. The public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (the new plan can be completed in one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying;
26. US financial and banking rescue plan;
27. The “secret detention” facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed;
28. Ended the previous policy; the US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards;
29. Better body armor is now being provided to our troops;
30. The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010;
31. Restarted the nuclear non-proliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols;
32. Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic;
33. Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions;
34. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office;
35. Successful release of US captain held by Somali pirates; authorized the SEALS to do their job;
36. US Navy increasing patrols off Somali coast;
37. Attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles;
38. “Cash for clunkers” program offers vouchers to trade in fuel inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars; stimulates auto sales;
39. Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government;
40. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children;
41. Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program;
42. Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return “home” to visit loved ones;
43. Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions;
44. Expanding vaccination programs;
45. Immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters;
46. Closed offshore tax safe havens;
47. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals;
48. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back;
49. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry’s predatory practices;
50. Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources;
51. Lower drug costs for seniors;
52. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings;
53. Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel;
54. Improved housing for military personnel;
55. Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses;
56. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals;
57. Increasing student loans;
58. Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program;
59. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy;
60. Established a new cyber security office;
61. Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force… this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.;
62. Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts;
63. Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness;
64. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient;
65. Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans refinanced;
66. Improving benefits for veterans;
67. Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than previous administration;
68. Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud;
69. The FDA is now regulating tobacco;
70. Ended previous policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules;
71. Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports;
72. Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by Pres. Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons;
73. Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Sen. Jim Webb to secure the release of an American held captive;
74. Making more loans available to small businesses;
75. Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare;
76. Appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court;
77. Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans;
78. Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000;
79. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel;
80. Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan;
81. Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan;
82. New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid, development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans;
83. Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production;
84. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters;
85. Paid for redecorations of White House living quarters out of his own pocket;
86. Held first Seder in White House;
87. Attempting to reform the nation’s healthcare system which is the most expensive in the world yet leaves almost 50 million without health insurance and millions more underinsured;
88. Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform;
89. Has announced his intention to push for energy reform; and
90. Has announced his intention to push for education reform.
Oh, and he built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office!
[Robert P. Watson, Ph.D. is Coordinator of American Studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. This list covers Obama's presidency through August, 2009.]
Betty DuBose Hamilton’s additions:
91. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act.
92. Discovery and publicizing of Medicare fraud, making the public more aware of not turning a blind eye to such fraud.
A progressive critique of the report card
By Betty Dubose Hamilton / The (Austin, Texas) Rag Blog / Originally posted November 16, 2009
With his list of 90 accomplishments, Dr. Robert P. Watson of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, has graded Barack Obama on his first six months in office. I think the list is invaluable even though, as a progressive, I don’t believe things are quite as rosy as Dr. Watson’s inventory might suggest.
For instance, I have been extremely disappointed with the president on health care reform and was completely shocked when he took single payer out of the mix from the very beginning. Even I, an unseasoned political person, did not (and do not) trust health insurance, big pharma, and AMA to make our costs less expensive.
I wholeheartedly agree that defending Obama on effectively false grounds will help neither him nor us. But I believe the list can be helpful, as a starting point for analyzing his presidency so far.
He has certainly disappointed us in a number of areas, but I do think it important that we acknowledge his positive actions. Let’s add to the list as more accomplishments come to light. And if we think certain items are misleading, we can make note of them. We’ll send him The Rag Blog with our additions.
I am saving the list in a file and using appropriate parts for different blogs. For example, in the Lubbock paper there was recently a comment about President Obama not being deserving to be Commander-in-Chief of the military. I went through the list and picked out all of the items that pertained to what he has done for our soldiers and their families and posted them in the comment space. Some of these items I was already aware of, some I was not.
Although I knew that the president had lifted the veil of secrecy (with appropriate family permission) over the returning war dead that had been established by both H. W. Bush and G. W. Bush, I was not aware that the expenses for families of the fallen soldiers are now covered so that they could be at Dover A.F.B. when their loved ones came home (#5). I am also grateful that he is phasing out the “back-door draft” caused by the stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq-Afghanistan longer than their tours of service (#12).
I believe that numbers 1, 2, and 9 were instrumental in exposing the Medicare fraud recently publicized in Florida. Even though I was aware of the rules limiting lobbyists in the White House (#10, 11), I am glad to be reminded and to have them in a list that I can go to for reference.
I read certain newspapers and blogs religiously, and will use the various items in the list to support my arguments against the propaganda perpetuated by other bloggers who merely repeat pundits’ talking points.
I am so tired of the swiftboat types cherry-picking words and using them as sound bites that I try to back my statements with examples (such as what he has attempted for the military). The sound bite I hear the most in my part of West Texas is that President Obama says we are “no longer a Christian nation.” FactCheck.org has the quote from his speech that says we are “no longer JUST a Christian nation,” but that doesn’t mean a thing to the groups I am addressing.
Note that I’ve added a couple of items at the end.