Published October 22, 2012
Obama deserves the chance to fulfill his promises
There’s no telling what Barack Obama might have achieved in his first term if he had inherited a nation unencumbered by a global financial crisis and two wars draining the government’s cash reserves. Elected on hope and great expectations by people disillusioned after eight disastrous years of the Bush administration, Obama faced an insurmountable task: fulfilling voter’s aspirations with the economy crumbling beneath his feet. Obama’s first term provided a history lesson on the limit of presidential powers. Without a Congress willing to work together for the common good, one man alone cannot dictate prosperity. That said, Obama did not help himself by focusing on health care during a period of economic chaos. It was a battle better left for a second term. Despite the disappointments of his first four years, the president managed several remarkable achievements that in another time would have judged his presidency an unequivocal success. Among them are saving the U.S. auto industry, reforming Wall Street and health care, redirecting foreign policy to fit modern times, pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq and hunting down Osama Bin Laden, and abolishing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the military. Many other presidents have achieved far less, even in two terms. Although he hasn’t lived up to arguably unrealistic expectations, Obama deserves a second term unfettered by circumstances beyond his control. Obama is a better choice than Republican Mitt Romney, who would return the U.S. to policies that helped create trouble at home and around the world. Romney’s saber-rattling over Israel and the Middle East are worrisome, and his promise to pick a fight with China on his first day in office might lead to unfortunate consequences. On a tour last summer to showcase his foreign policy skills, Romney failed miserably. He offended our British allies over the summer Olympics and went on to make gaffes in every county he visited. Romney’s apparent willingness to use force, perhaps engaging the U.S. troops in new wars overseas, is disconcerting. Obama has appropriately refused to let Israel cajole us into a war with Iran, but Romney’s team has expressed willingness to join an Israeli strike. Obama must do more to curtail federal spending. In a second term, the president must generate bipartisan support for a long-term plan that brings down the national debt in predictable measures. The Romney-Ryan plan of assaulting Social Security and Medicare, while giving defense spending a pass, will not help America’s middle class move forward. Obama is more likely to lead the nation toward a sustainable and futuristic approach to clean energy. While Obama promotes alternative energy sources, Romney advocates opening up as much of America to drilling as possible. He wants to drill in more offshore locations, and exploit more federal land. Romney says the government should not pick winners and losers in the energy field – a critical reference to federal grants to failed solar power projects under Obama – but he would continue the existing sweetheart deals to oil, gas, coal and nuclear producers. A Romney government would still pick winners, just different ones than Obama. Obama and the first lady have made education reform a priority, promoting charter schools and placing a national focus on the important role of community and technical colleges. The Romney-Ryan ticket is full of promise, too, but is woefully short on specifics. To change course so dramatically now presents an unacceptable risk. The president should be given the opportunity fulfill the greatness anticipated by Americans four years ago. With a recovering economy and the withdrawal from foreign wars within his control, perhaps the expectations his presidency inspired will be within his reach.