© 2015 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.
I am a pessimist when considering humanity’s future. I believe the chance for our survival for even another century is less than fifty percent. Therefore, I will acknowledge before writing any further that the assertions in this letter will probably be moot in a few decades or less. I simply want to argue that future historians—if there are any—will reach a consensus that Barack Obama was the greatest American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Here are the reasons why:
Obama faced an extremely antagonistic Congress when he was first elected in 2008, yet he tried to negotiate and compromise with the Republicans in the beginning. At the outset, Speaker John Boehner declared he and his henchmen would insure that Obama’s first term would be his last. The Republicans in general “pulled at his pants legs”, placed stumbling blocks in his way, continuously. They blocked or stalled his appointments time after time. They sought out every little flaw in his proposals and, instead of taking rather simple steps to rectify them, used them as excuses to toss out the entire proposals. (I am thinking specifically of the Affordable Care Act here.) It was classic racism from the get-go.
Nevertheless, Obama, in his first year on the job, went so far in accommodating the Republicans that he began to worry me and other liberal supporters, including New York Times columnist and Harvard economics professor Paul Krugman: we felt Obama was “giving away the store”. However, the President grew out of that mindset before his first term was over and began to hold his ground more firmly until, in his 2015 State of the Union address, he really became feisty. Many people, including some TV commentators, thought he went a little overboard there, espousing goals that they viewed as a “bucket list”. I did not. I saw it as a range of desirable goals we all should work hard to achieve.
Obama and his team managed to track down and kill Osama bin Laden, a task which George W. Bush shunted not many months after a blustery vow to subdue the master terrorist. Over an eight-year period, the George W. Bush apparatus never caught or killed Osama bin Laden. The terrorist was killed during the night of May 11-12, 2011—the third year of Obama’s first term.
Obama patiently led the nation during a long and frustrating campaign to dig us out of the worst recession since the 1930s. Our economy is generally healthier now than it has been since Bill Clinton’s presidency. Unemployment has declined to a manageable level, our trade deficit has improved, and our national debt has begun to recede. Obama worked against strong resistance and great technical difficulties to create a national health program. Similarly he struggled to solve the immigration problem while Congress deserted Washington, heading for the hinterland to fight for their continuances. These were tasks several past presidents and Congresses promised to address; but, except for Clinton’s failed effort, none of them ever did.
We still have problems with social class and wealth disparities, low wages, and an increasing number of homeless people. However, these are problems Obama—and to some extent even Bush—inherited; the difference is that Obama has tried to push Congress above sloganeering and into practical actions to eliminate those problems.
I am not claiming that Obama is perfect. I have read and heard reports that he is aloof, even arrogant, but so was Lyndon Johnson. (Hell, for that matter, so am I.) He has been criticized for indecorous moments—such as saluting with a cup of coffee in his hand and wearing denims in his office. I think his aides should have prevented the first, and the second complaint is silly: I don’t care if Obama works in his office in his pajamas, as long as he is not engaged in an official meeting there. Now, the third such incident—his entering an international conference room while chewing gum—did strike me as uncouth. But then I recall Tom Jefferson’s two-faced conniving, bankrupting spending habits, and slave-ownership; and Obama’s little peccadilloes don’t seem worth noting.
But the most admirable of Obama’s achievements has been what I perceive to be his unflappable patience. After having read about and witnessed the endurance of most of our Black folk over the centuries, I have reached the point of believing endurance and patience are part of their genetic makeup.
Although I recognize and try to accept that we do not have enough future left for any potential historians to agree with the above remarks, because too many of us humans—everywhere—are ducking our heads in the sand, I feel some gratification in having this opportunity to share my applause for Obama with the community.
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