Strief is a senior political science major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
As Des Moines commuters know, cruising on Interstate 235 at 5 p.m. on a weekday is near impossible as scores of frustrated drivers attempt to return home at the lightning speed of 30-40 mph. One Tuesday afternoon, I absentmindedly joined these commuters for what could have been the longest, most agitating Walmart run of my life.
Fortunately, in the last fleeting moments of my sanity I turned on the radio. Low and behold, Bachman-Turner Overdrive came to the rescue with their hit single, “Takin’ Care of Business.”
Though I immediately engaged in the most epic of jam sessions, the song’s title resonated with my subconscious so strongly that later in the evening I found myself pondering it in general context. Suddenly, a story about President Barack Obama appeared on the 10 o’clock news. I couldn’t help but wonder, since coming to office, has President Obama been “takin’ care of business”?
You get up every morning from your alarm clock’s warning, only to find out delivering campaign promises is anything but easy. Some readers may claim this as a reason for avoiding comparisons between Obama’s pledges and his actions thus far, and it is true he has only been in office for about 60 percent of his term.
However, several key areas of differentiation between campaign pledges and actions should be highlighted. Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of lacking follow-through comes from Obama’s initiative to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Despite campaign trail promises, an official announcement during his first week in office and multiple inquiries since the announcement, the facility remains operational.
Another issue worth mentioning is the Afghanistan military surge conducted under President Obama’s orders. During his presidential campaign, Obama attacked former-President George W. Bush’s Iraq surge multiple times, but once in office, he has relied upon Bush’s playbook for his Afghan military strategy.
Scott Stanzel, former deputy press secretary for President Bush, may have summarized Obama’s situation best: “Once in office, President Obama has clearly found that the commitments he made on the campaign trail aren’t as easily implemented as he thought… Despite his instincts to institute liberal policies, there are many more examples of President Obama finding that his campaign rhetoric didn’t match an achievable reality.”
The reality is that the position of the U.S. president is one of the most intensive and hard-to-anticipate jobs in the world. Despite discrepancies, we cannot solely base our evaluation of Obama’s performance on his campaign promises, especially since every presidential candidate has encountered similar follow-through problems once in office. Let us move to a second tier of analysis: major policy initiatives and foreign policy.
President Obama has failed to adequately address several key issues facing our nation, despite promises at the beginning of his presidency to address these issues. Education reform and illegal immigration are some of the most glaring issues.
On the other hand, Obama has also had policy success stories. The most obvious example is the Health Care Reform Act, in which almost every citizen can find some positive benefit (though there are imperfections). At the same time, other major policy efforts by Obama again follow those of his predecessor, with the stimulus aid package and Bush Tax Cuts continuation as examples.
In the realm of foreign policy, the Obama administration has a mixed record of success. The Free-Trade Agreement with South Korea, ratification of the new START Treaty with Russia and the formation of an Iraqi government all constitute major successes in foreign policy. On the other hand, Obama has had his share of blunders, such as the failure to manage Israeli-Pakistani peace and the cryptic, constantly changing position of the White House in regards to Egypt’s recent revolution.
Taking care of business every day. Taking care of business every way, is what Obama better focus on in the remaining year and a half. President Obama’s policy stances and actions may qualify him as a centrist Democrat, as he’s granted some consensus to the right. However, this does not mean the administration has been effective, regardless of how centrist it appears. President Obama clearly has a large amount of room for improvement in policy formation and execution. At the end of the day, though, President Obama has only finished 60 percent of his term. The time necessary for him to do more as president still remains.
For our nation’s sake, I hope that he’ll use that 40 percent of time left in office wisely. Then, maybe the next time I’m stuck in my car on Interstate 235 with Bachman-Turner Overdrive on the airwaves, I’ll know he’s “taking care of business and working overtime.”